UCLA swept Oklahoma to win the Women's College World Series softball title, but now our attention turns to the men. Only eight teams will earn spots in the 2019 College World Series, with opening ceremonies scheduled to begin on June 14 and Game 1 of the Championship Series starting June 24. The NCAA Super Regionals get underway this weekend, and maybe the most intriguing matchup pits the LSU Tigers versus the Florida State Seminoles.
In one dugout, FSU is the winningest NCAA Division I college baseball team ever in terms of percentage of wins (.725), but have never captured a championship. In the other, LSU is tied for the second-most national titles of any baseball program in the country (6, tied with Texas), most recently losing to the Florida Gators in 2017. They haven't won since 2009.
There is plenty to watch heading into this massive three-game series at Alex Box Stadium, Skip Bertman Field, but here is what's at stake for both programs and their fans.
Louisiana State University knocked on the door several times in the last 12 seasons under head coach Paul Mainieri, but they haven't captured a title since '09. Despite star players coming through the program like shortstop Alex Bregman (now with the Houston Astros) and pitcher Aaron Nola (an All-Star with the Philadelphia Phillies), elite success has eluded Mainieri's team since his early years in Baton Rouge.
LSU fans are thirsting for that seventh title, but can the Tigers deliver this year in Omaha?
At Florida State University, the 'Noles are trying to give 75-year-old coach Mike Martin the national championship he's never been able to capture. It's his 40th season coaching in Tallahassee, but despite being the only college baseball coach to win over 2,000 career games, Martin has never won that national championship. His teams finished as the national runner-up twice (1986, 1999).
Mike Martin Field at Dick Howser Stadium bears his name, but what will be his legacy without ever delivering a title in 16 trips to the CWS?
One Final Sendoff
Several key players on both teams are likely getting their last chance to wear their school colors before heading to Major League Baseball.
For LSU, five players, including the program's all-time hits leader, outfielder Antoine Duplantis, were selected in the 2019 MLB Draft and are likely going to turn pro.
- Josh Smith, SS, New York Yankees (2nd round, No. 67 overall)
- Zach Watson, OF, Baltimore Orioles (3rd round, No. 79 overall)
- Zack Hess, pitcher, Detroit Tigers (7th round, No. 202 overall)
- Todd Peterson, pitcher, Washington Nationals (7th round, No. 213 overall)
- Antoine Duplantis, OF, New York Mets (12th round, No. 358 overall)
Also, sophomore catcher Saul Garza was selected in the 32nd round by the Kansas City Royals, but he could return in 2020.
Four Florida State Seminoles were taken in the draft, each of whom have played integral roles in their team's success over the last few seasons. Perhaps most notable is starting pitcher Drew Parrish, an All-American in 2018 who ranks sixth in FSU history with 333 strikeouts heading into the Baton Rouge Super Regional.
- Drew Mendoza, 3B, Washington Nationals (3rd round, No. 94 overall)
- J.C. Flowers, pitcher, Pittsburgh Pirates (4th round, No. 124 overall)
- Drew Parrish, pitcher, Kansas City Royals (8th round, No. 229 overall)
- Mike Salvatore, SS, Seattle Mariners (9th round, No. 276 overall)
This is the last chance at glory for these guys, and you can guarantee they'll be playing with some added motivation when that first pitch is thrown on Saturday if this is in fact their last go-around before signing pro contracts.
For all intents and purposes, both FSU and LSU are climbing back from the dead in an attempt to reach the College World Series.
The LSU baseball team fought threw numerous injuries to their pitching staff throughout this season. Mainieri even admitted after LSU's shocking SEC Tournament win over Auburn that the Tigers couldn't have intra-squad scrimmages early in the season because so many arms were hurt. After losing five-straight regular season games in early May, making the NCAA Tournament felt like a long shot.
Yet here they are, two wins away from the CWS.
The FSU baseball team, which was nearly left out of the postseason altogether before sneaking in as a 3-seed for the NCAA Regional in Athens, whooped the Georgia Bulldogs all over Foley Field. Georgia was the No. 4 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, but FSU beat them twice in two days by a combined score of 22-4.
They're rolling, but the 'Noles next test might be their toughest.
FSU and LSU square off for Game 1 on Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. on ESPN. Game 2 is Sunday night at 6 p.m. on ESPN2, then Game 3, if it's necessary, will start at 8:30 p.m. on Monday.
Get ready. This one is going to be fun.