When LSU and Wake Forest were put in the same bracket, people were looking for one thing and one thing only: a pitching duel with LSU’s Paul Skenes and Wake Forest’s Rhett Lowder.
Skenes is the dealiest pitcher in college baseball and has a fastball that can reach 100 mph, no matter if its the first inning or the last. Lowder, who arguably has the best hair in all of baseball, has a perfect 15-0 record. It’s the War Machine vs The Hair, literally. It seems like a fairytale for many baseball fans. However, it is very real.
Skenes (12-2) will most likely be the No.1 pitcher taken in this year’s MLB draft. Skenes, who was awarded the Dick Howser Trophy and is the SEC Pitcher of the Year, has a 1.81 ERA with 200 strikeouts and just 19 walks.
Lowder (15-0), who is an All-American and the ACC Pitcher of the Year, is undefeated with a 1.99 ERA with 137 strikeouts and 22 walks. Lowder will most likely be the next pitcher taken in this year’s MLB Draft after Skenes.
However, it’s not as simple as you may think. LSU head coach Jay Johnson will probably pitch Skenes, but that isn’t a given. Skenes would lose two days of rest that could be needed for the championship series if LSU makes it that far.
Skenes last pitched in Saturday’s game against Tennessee in the College World Series opener where LSU won 6-3. SKenes went 7.2 innings, struck out 12, and gave up two runs on five hits. Skenes’ final pitch count was 123.
After Wednesday’s game, Jay Johnson was asked if Skenes would be available for Thursday’s matchup. Johnson said he has to go through a process Wednesday night into Thursday before determining his availability.
“We’ll talk to him tonight,” said Johnson. “I think it’s a day-by-day deal. We have a pre-throw process that we go through with pitchers and their availability and testing and recovery and all of those types of things. So we still need to go through that tomorrow before we make any decision.”
As for Lowder, it is also not a given, but it looks like it might happen as well. However, the same thought process that LSU and Skenes are going through is the same one Wake Forest and Lowder are going through right now.
But just like Skenes, Lowder pitched on Saturday in Wake Forest’s College World Series opener against Stanford. In that game, Lowder went 5.1 innings, struck out six, and gave up two runs on seven hits. Although it wasn’t a great performance, I don’t think anybody will see Lowder pitch like that again because it was most likely a one-off.
“We’ll have to talk to him and see how he feels tomorrow and make a decision on that,” said Wake Forest head coach Tom Walter. “Knowing Rhett he’ll probably be on the board tomorrow. But we’ve got Minacci and Roland and Massey and Ray and Crum and Mascolo. We’ve certainly got plenty of pieces tomorrow.”
Whatever happens, expect both of them to pitch tonight. Skenes and Lowder will start on the mound because this is a game with a lot on the line. Both teams are desperate to move on the finals and will do whatever to win this game.
If I’m Johnson or Walter, I’m pitching my guys as long as possible until you have to because of pitch counts or unless you have a sizable lead.
Men and women, boys and girls, get ready to see the greatest show on the mound.