by Carl DuboisJune 25, 2009 1:10 AM
This team, LSU's sixth to win a baseball national championship, will keep you busy for some time refreshing, archiving and retelling your favorite snapshot moments of the program's return to elite status.
And that's just the sights and sounds on display Wednesday night in Omaha.
The Tigers jumped out to an early lead against Texas, then let the Longhorns tie the score before LSU shifted gears with seven unanswered runs for an 11-4 victory and the school's first College World Series championship since 2000.
“I’ve dreamt my whole life of having this moment,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “It’s almost surreal.”
LSU (56-17) ended the inaugural season of the new Alex Box Stadium by winning a national title in the penultimate season for Omaha's Rosenblatt Stadium, making it seem like Alex Box North all over again.
Senior pitcher Louis Coleman was on the mound for the first out of the new Alex Box in February, then closed out a season of milestones and transitions by getting the last out and throwing his glove high in the air in celebration.
A dogpile quickly followed.
Four other seniors -- Buzzy Haydel, Derek Helenihi, Chris McGhee and Nicholas Pontiff -- finished the game on the field with Coleman. Chad Jones and Jared Mitchell became the first student athletes to play for a BCS national championship football team and a national championship baseball team.
Mitchell, whose three-run homer in the first inning helped LSU take a 4-0 lead after two innings, was named Most Outstanding Player.
Texas (50-16-1) failed in its bid for a seventh national championship, enabling LSU to tie the Longhorns for second place in Division I history with six.
“LSU is a very talented college baseball team,” Texas coach Augie Garrido said. “I don’t think we lost the tournament. They won it. It was a well deserved championship for LSU.”
Texas has made a strong case for itself as the team of the decade at the CWS, with championships in 2002 and 2005 and runner-up finishes in 2004 and 2009. LSU, which won five titles from 1991-2000, had gone eight years without winning a game in Omaha before an elimination-game victory last year against Rice.
Before the game Wednesday night, Mainieri said it would be nice to update the Intimidator, the huge billboard at the old Alex Box Stadium listing those five national championships. He seemed to be suggesting LSU officials would see fit to move the iconic to the new ballpark if its history lesson featured fresh material.
Speaking of long waits, LSU fans remember the football program went 45 years between the 1958 and 2003 national titles. That's how long it was between Demie Manieri's championship run with Miami-Dade at the 1964 Junior College World Series and his son's celebration Wednesday night in Omaha.
“As we were getting the outs in the ninth, my thoughts were with my family,” said Paul Mainieri, who tearfully hugged his father immediately after the final out.
“My dad won this championship 45 years ago at the Junior College World Series. The Mainieri family has gone 45 years without a championship.”
LSU took care of that with another display of the ingredients that made it a preseason and postseason No. 1 team. The Tigers scored seven runs with two outs Wednesday night, and 14 of their 19 runs in the three-game championship series with Texas came after the second out of an inning.
Sean Ochinko was 4-for-5 with three RBIs and two runs scored, including a ninth-inning leadoff home run. Michell drew a walk to lead off the sixth, and Mikie Mahtook's double drove him in for a 5-4 lead, and the Tigers were on their way.
Anthony Ranaudo (12-3) started and won despite a 43-pitch third inning in which he struggled and gave up two runs and a fifth-inning that featured a two-run homer by Kevin Keyes for a 4-4 tie.
Ranaudo left with one out in the sixth inning and LSU leading 9-4. He gave up four runs on eight hits and five walks, and he struck out four.
“As the starting pitcher, the three-run home run in the first gives you a lot of room to go and compete and throw strikes,” Ranaudo said. “I didn’t have my best stuff today. That has been the story of the season for us: When the pitchers didn’t have their best stuff, the hitters picked them up, and when the hitting wasn’t going, the pitchers picked them up.”
Jones relieved Ranaudo and recorded five outs, two of them on strikeouts. Coleman pitched the last two innings and struck out four, including the last three batters of the game.
D.J. LeMahieu and Micah Gibbs each had two hits for the Tigers. Ryan Schimpf drove in two runs.
Mitchell was asked if there was a better way he could end his college career. He's expected to soon sign a contract with the Chicago White Sox, who selected him in the first round of the draft earlier this month.
“If there is a better way, write the story for me,” Mitchell said. “It’s been so much fun -- to accomplish something like this with these players.”
Brandon Workman (3-5) took the loss for Texas in relief of starter Cole Green. Garrido used four other pitchers in the game.
The Longhorns wasted bases-loaded situations to end the first and third innings, prompting a reporter to ask Garrido if he thought there was meat left on the bone in the early innings.
“Only if you’re talking about the six runners that didn’t score,” Garrido said. “That could have changed the momentum.
“I’m not willing to pick our team apart. They beat us. They did what they needed to do to win the game.”
Texas second baseman Travis Tucker said the Longhorns were excited when Keyes tied the score, saying they thought they'd continue to roll after that and win the national championship. The Tigers had other plans.
“They answered back,” Tucker said. “It was devastating. They got the momentum back. They’re a great ballclub.”
2009 College World Series
C -- Cameron Rupp, Texas
1B -- Dustin Ackley, North Carolina
2B -- D.J. LeMahieu, LSU
3B -- Kyle Seager, North Carolina
SS -- Tyler Cannon, Virginia
OF -- Kole Calhoun, Arizona St.
OF -- Jared Mitchell, LSU
OF -- Ryan Schimpf, LSU
DH -- Russell Moldenhauer, Texas
P -- Anthony Ranaudo, LSU
P -- Taylor Jungmann, Texas
Most Outstanding Player: Jared Mitchell, LSU
Carl Dubois began writing about LSU sports on a regular basis in 1999. He watched the game Wednesday night on ESPN and got player and coach reaction from the NCAA's Web site. He wrote this story on his replacement laptop, which has 6 GB -- one for every LSU baseball national championship. He thinks his friend Chris Mensman, an unapologetic numerologist, would find that interesting. Before the game Mensman added the numbers of the date and came up with six. Ever the skeptic, Carl looked for a flaw in the formula and added 6 (for June) + 2 + 4 (for the 24th) + 2 + 0 + 0 + 9 (for the year), and he came up with 23 -- the jersey number of eventual winning pitcher Anthony Ranaudo. Cue "The Twilight Zone" music. You can contact Carl by writing carl1061 'at' gmail.com.
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