It was pitching porn.
Just to set the stage for the uninitiated, LSU and Wake Forest each found themselves one loss away from going home, and one win away from playing Florida in the College World Series final. Rhett Lowder was on the mound for Wake Forest, who had been dominant for the Demon Deacons all season long. Wake Forest had yet to lose a game in which Lowder had started this year. On the other end, you had Paul Skenes, a future top draft pick who MLB.Com described as the best collegiate pitching prospect since Stephen Strasburg. It was two aces on the mound in an Omaha winner-take-all game. To say it lived up to the hype is an understatement. People can claim recency bias, but this was one of the most tense baseball games I’ve ever seen.
There’s something about pitching duels, man. I know there’s a contingency of people who believe low-scoring baseball games are boring. Those people just don’t like baseball. It’s as simple as that. Watching these two terms stand their ground on the mound was like watching Federer and Nadal continually hold serve against each other in the 5th set of Wimbledon back in 2008. Lowder commanded the strike zone and kept the pitch count down. He threw seven scoreless and exited after only 88 pitches. Paul Skenes did Paul Skenes things, going eight scoreless frames and striking out nine on 120 pitches. It was by no means a cakewalk, though. Skenes got into serious trouble in the 8th inning. With runners on first and third and one out, Tre Morgan (a player who impressed me as much as anyone this week) made one of the most clutch plays you’ll ever see by a first baseman.
The cherry on top of this baseball sundae is that neither starting pitcher will have an “L” by their name. These boys went out and shoved all night. This was an all-time staring contest, and neither pitcher blinked. It ended up coming down to the bullpens. Wake Forest’s pitching has been historically good this year. LSU’s bullpen, despite some struggles during the regular season, had put together some valiant efforts in the College World Series. Something had to give, and it finally did in the 11th inning. Future #1 pick Dylan Crews led off the inning with a single, setting the stage for Tommy White’s heroics.
What makes Omaha special is that it’s baseball in its purest form. We’ve come out of it in the last 6-7 years or so, but being stoic became the norm in baseball somewhere along the line. FUCK THAT. Flip your bat, pound your fist, and thump your chest. That’s how it should be. These teams know that. And there’s still a championship series that still needs to be played. We may still have more magic, but Thursday’s game will be the one people remember. At the very least, it’ll be the one that I remember. This was theatre from beginning to end. Only in Omaha…