CWS title will return to storied program
LSU, Texas bring long NCAA baseball histories to Game 3 of CWS finals
OMAHA, Neb. -- LSU and Texas have combined to win the College World Series 11 times.
The Tigers were the dominant college baseball team of the 1990s, winning five national championships from 1991 to 2000. The Longhorns have been better recently, winning CWS titles in 2002 and 2005.
On Wednesday night, one of the storied programs will win the national championship again.
Texas beat LSU 5-1 in the second game of the CWS championship series at Rosenblatt Stadium on Tuesday night, forcing a winner-take-all game Wednesday night (7 ET on ESPN, ESPN360).
"There were 288 [college baseball teams] that started," Texas coach Augie Garrido said. "Two are left with one game to play. It's pretty awesome."
College baseball couldn't have written a better script for the next-to-last College World Series played at storied Rosenblatt. The championship tournament returns here again next year, before moving to downtown TD Ameritrade Park in 2011.
It's almost a shame that the Longhorns and Tigers aren't closing out the Blatt with Wednesday night's Game 3.
"Who could have asked for a better script?" LSU coach Paul Mainieri said Tuesday night. "It's one game to one. It's one game for the national championship. It's going to be hard to sleep tonight. We'll be excited."
Everything had come relatively easy for the Tigers in the College World Series until Tuesday night. The loss ended LSU's 14-game winning streak and was the SEC champion's first defeat since a 4-1 loss to Vanderbilt on May 20.
Taylor Jungmann pitched the first complete game at the CWS since 2006 and limited the Tigers to one unearned run and five hits. He struck out nine LSU hitters.
"It just wasn't our night tonight," Mainieri said. "We're not going to make more out of it than that. Obviously, the stakes were high. Their pitcher was great and we made a few mistakes. But we're going to turn the page and get ready for tomorrow night."
Who could have asked for a better script? It's one game to one. It's one game for the national championship.
--LSU coach Paul Mainieri, on Game 3
Mainieri, who is trying to win his first national championship as LSU's coach, still likes his team's chances. He opted to rest starting pitcher Anthony Ranaudo on Tuesday night, instead of using him on three days' rest. Ranaudo, a right-handed sophomore from Jackson, N.J., was LSU's regular Friday night starter during SEC play and has already started two CWS games. He pitched 3 1/3 innings in a 9-5 victory over Virginia on June 13, and came back to throw six shutout innings in a 14-5 win over Arkansas six days later.
"If I could have told [our kids] back in August that we could have one game left in the season for the national championship and they had Anthony Ranaudo on the mound, I think they'd probably take it," Mainieri said. "I like our position. I think there are a lot of schools out there that would change positions with us."
One of the reasons Mainieri rested Ranaudo an extra day was because he remembered his father, former Miami-Dade North Community College coach Demie Mainieri, used a starting pitcher on three days' rest during the Junior College World Series.
Miami-Dade North lost the game 2-1. His father's team lost the next night, too.
"I saw how it demoralized his team the next night," Mainieri said.
Mainieri wasn't second-guessing his decision to hold Ranaudo even after the Tigers lost to Texas on Tuesday night.
"He would have had to pitch a shutout for us tonight because of the way their kid shut us down," Mainieri said.
The Longhorns, the NCAA tournament's national No. 1 seed, have become used to playing under pressure. They won an epic 25-inning marathon against Boston College in the second game of the Austin Regional and then needed a walk-off grand slam in the ninth inning to beat Army the next day. In the Austin Super Regional, Texas had to win a deciding game at home to beat TCU and advance to the CWS for a record 33rd time.
"Honestly, I think we play better when our backs are against the wall," Texas outfielder Preston Clark said. "I think we play better when we're down and things count more."
In Omaha, Texas had to come from behind in the eighth inning and used a walk-off walk to defeat Southern Mississippi 7-6 in its first CWS game. The Longhorns twice rallied against Arizona State to reach the CWS championship series, erasing a 6-0 deficit in a 10-6 victory and getting solo homers from Cameron Rupp and Connor Rowe to beat the Sun Devils 4-3.
After losing to LSU 7-6 in 11 innings in the first game of the championship series Monday night, freshman Jungmann pitched a complete game Tuesday night to force a deciding third game.
"We've created yet another little bit of drama," Garrido said.
Texas will try to become the third national champion in four seasons to win the title after losing the first game of the championship series. Oregon State did it against North Carolina in 2006 and Oregon State accomplished the feat against Fresno State last year.
The Longhorns will go with right-handed sophomore Cole Green, who started two of their previous CWS victories. He pitched seven innings against Southern Miss, allowing six hits and three earned runs. Green pitched six innings in the 4-3 victory over Arizona State, allowing eight hits and two earned runs.
"He's been effective and has been first in our rotation," Garrido said. "That started in the Big 12 tournament. Now, he's in the position we put him in a month ago. He's what we've got and he's been effective. All of our players have confidence in him."
Both coaches are confident their teams will be ready to play with so much on the line Wednesday night.
"Whoever wins it is going to earn it," Mainieri said.
Only one team will leave Rosenblatt Stadium as college baseball's national champion.
"Somebody is going to be a legend tomorrow," LSU pitcher Nolan Cain said. "Hopefully, that's us."
Mark Schlabach covers college sports for ESPN.com. You can contact him at email@example.com.
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