There is one thing that is certain about this year's College World Series championship round.
The Southeastern Conference will have bragging rights when the event concludes. That's because SEC kingpins LSU and Florida are competing in the best-of-three championship series that begins Monday night at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska.
The game will be televised by ESPN at 7 p.m. ET. Game 2 is scheduled for Tuesday at 8 p.m., and first pitch for Game 3 is the same time, if it is needed Wednesday to decide the championship.
LSU (52-18) and Florida (50-18) are familiar rivals, and the two teams tied for the SEC crown this year as both sported 21-9 conference records.
LSU will send senior right-hander Russell Reynolds to the mound against the Gators, and this clearly appears to be a bullpen game for the Tigers. Reynolds has a 1-1 record this season along with an 8.59 earned run average, and he has seen just limited action in the CWS.
Sophomore Brady Singer will take the mound for Florida, and he has been more successful this year than Reynolds. Singer has an 8-5 record and 3.18 ERA.
Singer pitched seven innings in Florida's win over Louisville last week, and he also earned a victory pitching against the Tigers in the regular season.
LSU head coach Paul Mainieri said the Tigers were hoping that Reynolds' experience level would propel the Tigers in Game 1.
"We're going to count on Russell's experience as a fifth-year senior," Mainieri said, per Sonny Shipp of 247Sports. "He's pitched very well the last few times out, and we feel like he gives us the best chance to get us off to a good start."
Michael Papierski hit two home runs Saturday for the Tigers and he has belted three home runs in the CWS. Center fielder Zach Watson is hitting .322 with 37 runs batted in.
Florida is led by Nelson Maldonado, who is hitting .303 and has 32 RBI. JJ Schwarz has belted 12 home runs for the Gators and knocked in 54 runs. Both are team highs for head coach Kevin O'Sullivan.
Michael Byrne and Tyler Dyson have been mainstays for Florida's bullpen. O'Sullivan acknowledged LSU's strong hitting attack and says the outcome of the series will be determined by overall execution.
"Obviously, we're both different clubs," O'Sullivan said, per Nick Suss of SEC Country. "They're probably a little deeper offensively than us. But we both played great defense. I know Paul likes to be aggressive on the basepaths and they hit a ton, so we'll have to do a good job there.
"Like I just said, it's going to come down to who executes."
Game 1 Prediction
Maneri may have tried to pump up Reynolds for the assignment, but the LSU pitcher appears to be in great difficulty here.
Singer has had a fine year, and he should be ready for the assignment against LSU's powerful attack. Look for Florida to get the jump in the series as the Gators take advantage of LSU's Game 1 starter.
LSU will have a chance in Games 2 and 3 (if necessary), but Florida wins Game 1.