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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

LSU crushes Florida 18-4 to win baseball national title


After Florida forced a winner-take-all Game 3 in the baseball College World Series championship series by scoring the most runs in tournament history Sunday, the Gators took a 2-0 lead over Louisiana State in the first inning Monday and seemed poised to capture the title.

That was until LSU’s bats exploded.

The Tigers scored six runs in the second inning and four in the fourth on the way to an 18-4 win over Florida on Monday in Omaha, Nebraska. It was LSU’s seventh national championship but its first since 2009, capping what had been a high-scoring, unpredictable College World Series.

LSU won the first game of the final series against Florida 4-3 in extra innings but couldn’t match the Gators’ historic hitting in Game 2, losing 24-4. The Tigers turned the tables Monday, led by a 4-for-6 performance from their star outfielder, Dylan Crews.

“This is what I’ve dreamed of ever since I was a freshman, holding this trophy,” Crews said in a televised interview after the game. “It’s the best feeling in the world.”

Florida’s pitching staff faltered at the worst time, after having allowed fewer than four runs per game in its five previous games at this CWS. Starting pitcher Jac Caglianone, who also leads the Gators in home runs hit, lasted just 1 1/3 innings and allowed six earned runs. The bullpen fared even worse, giving up 12 runs the rest of the way.

LSU had faced Florida in a CWS championship series before. In 2017, the Gators dispatched the Tigers in a sweep. With the seven CWS titles, LSU has the second most, behind only Southern California’s 12.

The series featured the three players expected to be selected first in this summer’s MLB draft: Crews; his LSU teammate Paul Skenes, a pitcher; and Florida outfielder Wyatt Langford.

Crews won the Golden Spikes Award on Sunday, crowning him the top amateur baseball player in the country. He proved why Monday, making two dazzling catches in the third inning — including one that required him to sprint to the left-field wall and leap to collect a long fly by Florida second baseman Kade Curland — and hitting a triple in the eighth.

The Tigers sealed their win in the fourth inning by extending their lead to eight runs, but it came with a loss — catcher Alex Milazzo had to be carried off the field after jumping over Gators catcher B.T. Riopelle to reach home plate and make it 10-2.

After committing two errors in Game 2 and struggling to find a rhythm, LSU shortstop Jordan Thompson redeemed himself in Game 3. Thompson was 0-for-9 in the first two games of the championship series, but he collected three RBIs on Monday while also making a number of defensive plays. By the time he stepped up to the plate in the top of the fifth inning, the crowd was chanting his name.

The Tigers’ pitching also stabilized after a Game 2 to forget. Right-hander Thatcher Hurd allowed a home run in the first but immediately bounced back, shutting out Florida over the next five innings and recording seven strikeouts, as the Gators struggled to hit his breaking ball.

“Probably more impressive than winning the national championship is that they were national champions every single day,” LSU coach Jay Johnson said after the game. “These guys had massive expectations all season long, and they met them. They met them every day.”

When Johnson began managing the Tigers last season, he started a new tradition: taking a team photo after every victory, regardless of the game’s consequence, to emphasize to his team just how hard it was to win a baseball game.

It had been 14 years without a national title win for LSU, but as the Tigers leaped into a dogpile Monday night, cameras were flashing.

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