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A Game of the Century delivered, and then some.
Former No. 1 LSU met present No. 1 Wake Forest in the College World Series Bracket 2 championship game Thursday night in Omaha, Nebraska, with a date in the national championship series on the line.
The two best pitchers in the nation – LSU’s Paul Skenes and Wake’s Rhett Lowder – went heat-for-heat.
And regulation couldn’t contain them.
Skenes, projected to be the first or second pick of the Major League Baseball Draft on July 9, allowed two hits and zero runs with nine strikeouts over eight innings. He also broke the SEC record for strikeouts in a season with his 203rd and finished with 209, breaking the mark of 202 set by LSU’s Ben McDonald in 1989. Lowder, projected to be the eighth pick of the first round, allowed three hits and no runs with six strikeouts over seven innings.
It came down to LSU’s Tommy “Tanks” White, who fired a two-run home run in the bottom of the 11th for a dramatic 2-0 win in front of 25,000 satiated fans at Charles Schwab Field. The No. 5 seed Tigers (52-16) rock on to the best-of-three final series against No. 2 seed Florida (53-15) on Saturday (7 p.m., ESPN).
LSU’s Tommy White Guessed Wrong On Critical Pitch
“I was guessing fastball. Didn’t get a fastball,” said White, who unloaded on a hanging breaking ball. “I was so amped up. I just threw my hands at it. I’m lost for words. I’m excited. Wow.”
Thatcher Hurd relieved Skeens to start the ninth. He shut out the Demon Deacons on one hit through three innings for the win to go to 7-2 on the season.
Wake Forest (54-12) could have won it in regulation had it been able to get in a runner from third with one out in the top of the eighth. Justin Johnson drew Skenes’ only walk of the game to lead off the inning. Bennett Lee bunted him to second, and Johnson reached third on Skenes’ wild pitch. Marek Houston attempted a squeeze bunt toward first base.
But LSU first baseman Tre Morgan made the defensive play of the game, charging in as if his hair was on fire. He fielded the bunt in his glove, quickly grabbed it and pitched it like an option quarterback – only forward – to catcher Alex Millazo. He tagged Johnson, and the call stood after review. Tommy Hawke lined out to left for the third out, and the score remained 0-0.
“I was like, ‘Oh God, they’re going to score.’ But he came flying out of nowhere,” White said.
“I think he showed everyone in the country that he’s the most athletic first baseman out there,” Skeens said. “Picked me up.”
LSU won its third elimination game in three nights. Wake Forest lost back-to-back games to the Tigers. White hit his 23rd home run of the season and collected his 99th and 100th RBIs.
LSU-Wake Forest Stage College World Series Thriller
Game broadcasters were already calling it the greatest College World Series game they had seen.
“The best pitched college baseball game I’ve ever seen from both sides,” LSU coach Jay Johnson said.
“It was unbelievable. That was something special. It was awesome,” White said. “Pitching was unreal. Oh, I mean, you just knew whoever would score first would win that game. Unreal pitching. Lowder was unbelievable.”
LSU’s Dylan Crews – the projected No. 1 or No. 2 pick in the draft – led off the bottom of the 11th with a single to left. Camden Minacci relieved Michael Massey, and White launched Minacci’s first pitch over the left-center field wall – a 398-foot shot.
“Minacci’s one of my good friends. We’re both from Tampa,” White said. “Awesome pitcher. Awesome guy. Just a special moment. My heart’s beating a thousand million miles a minute. I’m gassed.”
White never actually saw his home run leave the park.
“I saw my first base coach say it was out,” he said. “And I just started jumping,”
Go ahead, and jump.
“Sorry for the delay,” Johnson said as he arrived late to the press conference. “It’s one of the greatest moments in my life, honestly. Number one.”