Today begins the 2008 College World Series, so we're gonna make this final part short and to the point.
In this preview, we take a look at one team with a ton of history in Omaha and another that has no business being here.
(48-17-1, #7 National Seed, 14th CWS Appearance, 5 National Championships)]
Goodbye Alex Box, Hello Omaha!!!! That was the headline as the Tigers ended their era at Alex Box Stadium by rolling over UC-Irvine in Game 3 of their Super Regional match-up 21-7.
After missing the NCAA Tournament last season, the Bayou Bengals are back in Omaha for the first time since 2004 and they are back to their "Gorilla Ball" hitting ways. By the way, if any LSU fan would like to inform me on what that means, please let me know.
As I was saying, the Tigers are a threat to put up 10 runs in an inning at any time with their powerful lineup, led by Blake Dean (.359 BA, 20 HR, 70 RBI) and Matt Clark (.347, 26, 61). Keep an eye out for Ryan Schimpf (.321, 12, 54) and D.J. LeMahieu (.340, 6, 42) who will be asked to provide some depth in the lineup if their two big boppers hit a funk.
As a team, LSU has 97 home runs and 144 doubles on the season (maybe that's what they mean by Gorilla Ball), but they also have 92 steals on the season.
Pitching-wise, LSU doesn't ask for much when it comes to their staff; just protect the lead that offense gives them.
Ryan Verdugo (9-3, 3.90 ERA) and Jared Bradford (10-4, 4.50, 5 Saves) head up their starting staff, with Blake Martin and Jordan Brown also providing strong numbers, as they are a combined 10-2.
Bradford also doubles as their closer, along with Daniel Bradshaw (4-5, 4.12, 4 Saves), who has been solid in their last 10+ innings of work versus the Anteaters. They will need more of the same if they want to knock off the Heels later on today.
Fresno State Bulldogs
(42-29, WAC Tournament Champions, 1st CWS since 1991, 1st 4th Regional Seed to make CWS under current format)
Every year, there's always that one team that makes it to Omaha and you say "How did THEY get here?" Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Fresno State Bulldogs.
A team who many figured at the start of the tournament would be 2-n-BBQ are now one of the last eight teams playing in Omaha. The Bulldogs are coming off what may be the biggest upset in college baseball history as they knocked off No. 3 national seed Arizona State 12-9 in their winner-take-all showdown in Tempe.
While the Bulldogs may not have the offensive firepower of Miami and LSU or the pitching proficiency of UNC and Rice, they have nothing to lose in this spot.
The heart and soul of their team is OF Steve Susdorf (.345 BA, 11 HR, 81 RBI), who stayed in school for his senior season after being drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the 2007 MLB Draft.
The offensive sparkplugs of this team are Alam Ahmady (.384, 12, 84) and Tony Mendonca (.282, 15, 59) who lead a Fresno State offense that won't wow you with their power, but does the little things well to win baseball games.
The pitching staff has had to battle throughout, since they lost ace Tanner Scheppers to a shoulder injury in mid-May.
Brandon Burke (4-5, 3.15 ERA, 12 Saves), Clayton Allison, Justin Wilson, Holden Sprague and Justin Miller (combined 21-15) have filled the void in his absence en route to Omaha. If I were Rice, I remember; A dog with nothing to lose is a very dangerous dog.
At the start of tournament, I said that it would be Miami and Arizona State in the CWS Championship Series, but with them out, I'll plug in LSU in their place. However, when it's all said and done, the Hurricanes led by Blake Tekotte (my pick for CWS Most Outstanding Player) will win their third national title under Jim Morris in a thrilling three-game series and get payback for Warren Morris.