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Finish the Job

It ain’t supposed to be easy

2023 NCAA Division I Baseball Championship Photo by C. Morgan Engel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Let’s get what happened yesterday out of the way: it absolutely sucked shit.

With a national championship in their sights, and a 3-1 lead in what would have been the clinching game, LSU got outscored *deep breath* 21 to 1. The 24-4 loss is the most lopsided in College World Series final history.

But you know what Florida’s record breaking offensive explosion got them? One game in a three-game series. You know what those 24 runs amount to if LSU wins 1-0 tonight? Absolutely nothing. It’ll be a cool little factoid.

Florida could have beaten LSU 100-3 yesterday afternoon and it won’t matter at all come 6:00 tonight. The scoreboard will read 0-0 when the Tigers and Gators take the field. As long as LSU has one more run than Florida, Saturday will be forgiven. Run differential be damned.

Jay Johnson will never admit it, but it was clear when Bryce Collins came in, he was punting on Sunday and getting ready for Monday. With all due respect to the players, the arms Johnson turned to—Collins, Money, Little, Dutton—are the deepest part of LSU’s bullpen. The guys you’d see if LSU was up 24-4 or down 24-4. So sure give credit to Florida for having their own little home run derby yesterday, but keep in mind which pitchers they were teeing off on.

Here’s what I know: LSU has one game to win a championship and all of their best arms—sans Ty Floyd and Nate Ackenhausen—are available. I don’t know when we’ll see Paul Skenes, but make no mistake he’s taking the mound at some point. Maybe he starts and gives you a couple of innings to get the Tigers off on the right foot. Maybe he’s the bridge before handing the ball to Riley Cooper in the eighth or ninth inning. Or maybe he’s the closer to end all closers, and carries LSU home but the best pitcher in America is going to take the mound at some point and Florida had better be ready for it.

One game. You get one more game, one final chance to finish the job and bring home a championship. The high-powered LSU offense has largely been a no-show in Omaha, but more often than not they’ve made the plays necessary to get to this winner take all championship game. They don’t need to score 24—though if they do I won’t complain!—they just have to come through in clutch situations. Call me crazy but I have a feeling tonight, the last night of the season, the lineup will come back to life.

Sunday was an outlier, there’s no other way to look at it. Florida got two home runs that would have been fly outs to Josh Pearson on any other day. LSU has, as far as I can tell at least, a slight pitching advantage heading into tonight, and a massive crowd advantage.

Baseball’s a weird sport. One day, Ty Floyd is setting an LSU record for strikeouts, the next the Tigers are throwing their bottom of the barrel pitchers in a 24-4 ball game. But unlike football where you’re stewing on a blowout loss for an entire week, you have the chance to get out there the very next day and right yesterday’s wrong.

This championship series was never supposed to be easy. LSU’s reward for surviving two epic games with the No. 1 ranked Wake Forest Demon Deacons, was a three-game battle royale with the No. 2 ranked Gators, who had a few extra days to rest up for this series.

But after all this LSU team has overcome, there’s no other group I’d rather have in a winner take all game.