OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Paul Mainieri can't think of a thing he would
change about the way his LSU Tigers are playing at the College
That's surely a scary thought for whoever the Tigers end up
playing in next week's best-of-three finals.
LSU used an impressive show of power and pitching to win Bracket
1 with a 14-5 victory over Arkansas on Friday. The Tigers hit four
home runs, raising their CWS total to nine in three games, and
Anthony Ranaudo bounced back from a subpar outing to throw six
"It's a dream come true that we got to this point," said
Mainieri, the Tigers' third-year coach. "When I say a dream, it's
not that I didn't think we couldn't. We thought we could when we
started the year. Now there's an opportunity for us, and now we'll
see if we can seize it."
The Tigers, playing for their sixth national title and first
since 2000, await either Texas or Arizona State in the finals
beginning Monday. The Longhorns and Sun Devils played Friday night.
Texas, 2-0 in the CWS, would wrap up its bracket with a victory. If
Texas loses, the teams would play a deciding game Saturday.
The Tigers (54-16) hadn't played since Monday's 9-1 win over
Arkansas, and they had to wait even longer because of a
thunderstorm that pushed back the start of Friday's game 2½ hours.
"They were chomping at the bit to get back out there on the
ballfield," Mainieri said.
Once out there, the Tigers showed no signs of rust against an
Arkansas team they dominated all year. Arkansas (41-24) was
outscored 23-6 by LSU in two CWS games, and the Razorbacks lost
four of five overall against the Tigers this season.
LSU scored in six of the nine innings Friday and shut out
Arkansas for 14 straight innings over their two meetings in Omaha.
The Tigers also beat Virginia 9-5 and have won 13 in a row.
"Up to this point, we've been rolling pretty well," said
designated hitter Blake Dean, who hit LSU's first homer in the
fifth. "We haven't reached a stress point in any game. Our
toughest game so far was Virginia. Up to this point, we've been
playing good hard baseball, and we're more confident than we ever
The Tigers went deep three straight innings to give Ranaudo
(11-3) a big cushion.
Ranaudo, who lasted 3 1-3 innings in last Saturday's start
against Virginia, allowed four hits and had five strikeouts against
no walks. Austin Ross took over to start the seventh with the
Tigers leading 11-0.
"I just flushed the last start," Ranaudo said. "I tried to
pound the zone early. With what the offense did by scoring runs
early, it gave me time to relax and throw strikes."
Mainieri, with the big lead, was able to go to his bullpen after
Ranaudo threw 77 pitches. He's the probable starter for the second
game of the finals Tuesday, and he'll go in with plenty of
"You saw the real Anthony Ranaudo today," Mainieri said. "He
looked like a major league pitcher, like a champion."
So did the rest of the Tigers.
Dean hit his second homer in three games, and 17th of the
season, off Mike Bolsinger in the fifth.
Jared Mitchell, the Chicago White Sox's first-round draft pick,
hit an opposite-field homer to left off former LSU pitcher TJ
Forrest the next inning.
Ryan Schimpf followed with his team-leading 21st, sending
Forrest's fastball near the top of the right-field stands and
starting a five-run seventh.
Tyler Hanover added a pinch-hit two-run homer in the ninth off
Zack Cox, the seventh of a CWS record-tying eight pitchers used by
the Razorbacks. The teams combined to use 13 pitchers, tying a CWS
Brett Eibner's two-run homer off Ross ended the Razorbacks'
scoreless-inning streak in the seventh, and Chase Leavitt hit a
three-run homer for Arkansas in the ninth.
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn decided to start his closer,
Stephen Richards, because No. 1 pitcher Dallas Keuchel had to work
the last four innings in the Razorbacks' 4-3, 12-inning win over
Virginia on Wednesday.
Richards (6-2), in his first start since April 2007, lasted two
innings. He gave up four hits and four runs, two unearned.
The Razorbacks went 2-2 in the CWS. They had staggered into the
NCAA tournament after a stretch of eight straight SEC losses and 10
defeats in 13 games.
Van Horn said the Razorbacks played more like the team that was
rated No. 1 in the major polls earlier in the season.
"We expected to be here even though we're fairly young," Van
Horn said. "The way we played in May, there probably weren't a
whole lot of people who thought we could get here except us. We
turned it around at the end of the season and made a nice run."
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)