June 21, 2009

CWS Championship Series Notes

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Tigers and Longhorns to Decide National Title

By Phil Stanton

CollegeBaseballInsider.com Co-Founder


OMAHA, Neb. – These are two of the most successful college baseball programs in the country, and they are facing each other for the first time for the title.


Texas and LSU have been to the College World Series numerous times. The Longhorns are in their 33rd CWS, the most in Division I. UT made its first appearance in 1949. LSU has been to Omaha 16 times, tied for ninth, all since 1986.


USC has won the most championships with 12. Texas is second with six, while LSU is tied with Arizona State for third with five.


The Tigers are 5-0 in championship games, while the Longhorns are 6-5.


Texas has played 134 CWS games with 81 wins, both top marks. LSU has 52 games and 33 victories. The Tigers have the third-highest win percentage in the CWS at .635 (33-19), while the Longhorns are sixth at .604 (81-53).


“We’re excited about the opportunity to play Texas,” LSU head coach Paul Mainieri (right) said. “When you say the name Texas and college baseball, that represents excellence. It’s two great programs with great history, great tradition. The reality is that all of us that love college baseball know that LSU and Texas represent a lot of great things.”


The teams have continued the success this season. Texas is the top seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Longhorns won the Big 12 regular-season and tournament crowns. Texas is 8-1 in the NCAA Tournament, including 3-0 in the College World Series.


“It’s a unique match-up, No. 1 seed against No. 1 in the polls,” Mainieri said.


LSU is the No. 3 national seed and No. 1 in the national polls. The Tigers won the SEC regular-season and tournament titles. LSU is 8-0 in the NCAA Tournament and has won 13 straight. Its last loss was a 4-1 decision to Vanderbilt in the first round of the SEC tourney.


“We’re up against a great team,” Texas head coach Augie Garrido said. “They’ve clearly played the best baseball, the most consistent, in all phases. It’s going to be exciting. It’s going to be unpredictable. We know we’re up against a great opponent.”


Texas holds the advantage in the all-time series against LSU 22-8-1, but the teams have met just twice in Omaha. The Longhorns defeated the Tigers 12-7 on June 8, 1989, in the finals of Bracket 2. Texas lost in the championship game to Wichita State. LSU topped Texas 13-5 on June 10, 2000, in the first round. The Tigers went on to win their fifth title.


The current players understand and appreciate the history as well.


“It’s the experience of a lifetime to be here, especially for me,” LSU outfielder Ryan Schimpf said. “I grew up a Tigers fan. I lived an hour away. Just watching the players like Warren Morris and Brandon Larson win national championships here, it means a lot to be here. Hopefully we can do something special like they did.”  


This is Mairieri’s first trip to the CWS championship series. The 51-year-old Mainieri is in his third year at LSU after 12 seasons at Notre Dame and six at Air Force.


Garrido is looking for his sixth national title. He has won two in his 13 seasons with Texas (2002, 2005). The 70-year-old Garrido won three championships in 21 seasons at Cal State Fullerton (1979, 1984, 1995). He also coached San Francisco State for one year, Cal Poly for three and Illinois for three. Garrido is 6-4 against LSU, including 2-1 with the Titans and 4-3 with the Longhorns.


Game 1 of the best-of-three championship series is on Monday, June 22, at 6 p.m. CT at Rosenblatt Stadium. All games will be televised on ESPN.


(photo by Jimmy Jones)