OMAHA, Neb. — Were you surprised? Really?
Be honest. Were you astonished when the first game of the best-of-three 2023 Men’s College World Series finals between LSU and Florida on Saturday went into extra innings? Truly?
Were you caught off guard with how it was ultimately won, when Cade Beloso, a guy nicknamed the Creole Bombineaux, who’d already blasted a three-run homer to save LSU from elimination two games earlier, mashed a shot over the right-field bullpen in the top of the 11th? Were you? Seriously?
Were you shocked when you heard that LSU starter Ty Floyd struck out 17 Gators, a mark reached by only two hurlers in 76 years of the MCWS, another 17-count posted in 1972 and a 20-K 15-inning effort in pre-pitch count 1965 … and Florida starter Brandon Sproat gutted his way through 111 pitches and 25 batters but surrendered only two runs … and yet both failed to factor in the final decision? There’s no way that could have left you taken aback, right?
LSU’s Ty Floyd racks up 17 K’s to tie MCWS 9-inning record
LSU starter Ty Floyd is on fire as he strikes out 17 batters in Game 1 of the Men’s College World Series final.
Were you honestly stunned when LSU looked like it might blow it open early but left 10 runners stranded during the first four innings? When the Gators had two men on in the bottom of the 10th with Wyatt Langford and Jac “Jactani” Caglianone, next month’s predicted No. 3 MLB draft pick and next year’s presumed No. 1 pick, respectively, both coming to the plate and both came up empty?
Well, no offense, but you shouldn’t have been. Not about any of it. Not during this wackiest of Omaha Junes. Not after the 13 games that led us into this title bout, an MCWS week that produced more records, catches and one-run nail-biters than some entire 64-team NCAA tourneys.
Now they will meet again on the same field Sunday afternoon, at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN, this time playing in the hair-dryer-in-the-face daytime heat that has baked Omaha all month. It will be barely 14 hours after pinch hitter Deric Fabian was left looking at the strike that finished Game 1.
Sunday’s contest will be punctuated with the period that is an LSU dogpile celebrating a seventh MCWS title, or the comma of going back to the sweat-covered drawing board to prepare for a title-deciding third game on Monday night.
“You can throw out all the talent, you can throw out everything else. All that matters right now is if you execute,” said Florida catcher and clubhouse leader BT Riopelle, speaking to that clubhouse through a news conference microphone. “Make the pitch when it matters, or the at-bat when it matters or the defensive play when it matters. Because if you don’t, you’re going to lose to a good team like LSU.”
“We’re going to do the same thing we’ve done all year. It’s working for us and we’ll stick to that approach,” said LSU lefty Riley Cooper, who earned the win after three sparkling innings in relief of Floyd. “But yeah, it’s fun to think about playing for a national championship when just chilling in the hotel room.”
“We have had to fight every inning since we got here and we have had to face ridiculously good pitchers since we got here, maybe the toughest lineup of pitchers in College World Series history,” LSU head coach Jay Johnson said. “We don’t get rattled. Even when it looks bad. You know, like leaving all those guys on base early. So, there’s nothing we’re going to see or a pitcher we’re going to see that’s going to catch us off guard.”
“We have Hurston [Waldrep] going tomorrow and we’ll do everything we can to win tomorrow for sure,” Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said flatly, speaking of his regular-season Saturday starter who owns a 10-3 record with 154 strikeouts. “Game 3. That simple.”
Simple. Sure. Seems simple, right? But this is the 2023 Men’s College World Series. There has been nothing simple since eight teams arrived nearly a week and a half ago. So, there’s no reason to think it’ll be simple in the 15th game of this most wild of series.
And if anyone walks away shocked on Sunday evening, that’s on them. Clearly, they haven’t been watching what has been happening here in Nebraska. The only surprise would be if we didn’t see something that we’ve never seen before.