College World Series - 8 schools have 90 appearances; Walker to start for LSU on Monday

OMAHA, Nebraska - They know where the steak houses are.

Four of the top 13 visitors in the 71-year history of the College World Series are here this weekend.

Florida State, which was scheduled to play LSU at 7 p.m. Saturday night at TD Ameritrade Park, is the leader of the eight teams competing with 22 appearances and is fourth overall.

The No. 4 seed Tigers are tied for second here with 18 appearances and for seventh overall with Cal State Fullerton, which opened the CWS Saturday afternoon with a 6-5 loss to No. 1 seed Oregon State in Bracket 1.

No. 3 national seed Florida, which plays in Bracket Two against No. 6 seed TCU at 6 p.m. Sunday, is 13th in appearances all-time with 11. No. 7 seed Louisville and Texas A&M, which play at 1 p.m. Sunday, are the greener of the participants, and they still have 10 appearances between them with the Aggies in their sixth CWS and Louisville in its fourth.  

LSU is also tied for second with Texas for national championships with six, while Cal State Fullerton is sixth with four. Oregon State is the third former champion in the field with two. Those three schools have combined to win four national championships beginning in 2004. 

The Tigers and Cal State Fullerton are eighth and ninth in most CWS wins with 36 and 34, respectively. Oregon State is third in CWS history in winning percentage at .636 with a 14-8 mark. LSU is seventh in that category at .600 with a 36-24 mark, and Cal State Fullerton is 14th at .540 with a 34-29 mark.

TCU, meanwhile, is tied for third in all-time consecutive appearances with its fourth.

"The deck's stacked pretty good," Oregon State coach Pat Casey said at the Bracket 1 press conference Friday.

"The blue bloods of college baseball seem to have made their way to Omaha this year," LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “It’s so unusual, surprising, to me because the parity is so great in college baseball now when you see the Coastal Carolinas or Kent States or Stony Brooks. We’ve just been seeing a lot of those types of teams getting there"

Coastal Carolina won the national championship last year after beating LSU in the Super Regional round, but Cinderella was not invited this year.

The eight teams in the 2017 group have combined to make 90 College World Series appearances and win 12 national championships.

"It's never old hat," TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said. "The stress gets bigger every year."

This is why Mainieri, who is in his fifth appearance with LSU and sixth overall as he took Notre Dame in 2002, tries to enjoy at least a part of every one of his Omaha trips.

"It's really an amazing accomplishment to get here," he said. "There are 300 Division I playing baseball schools, and there are eight teams remaining. Every team has won championships. We've won five already this year - the SEC West, the SEC regular season, the SEC Tournament, a Regional and a Super Regional. So what happens is you come here, you lose, and everybody thinks you're a failure. So you have to have a great sense of accomplishment when you come here. Look, we have all been here. Hopefully, we'll come back in the future. But for these kids, they might get one time here, two times, if they're lucky. So they need to enjoy the experience."

WALKER TO START MONDAY: Regardless of whether LSU wins or loses Saturday night, freshman right hander Eric Walker will replace senior left-hander Jared Poche in the rotation as the No. 2 starter when the Tigers play Monday, Mainieri said.

An LSU victory over Florida State Saturday will advance it to a 6 p.m. game Monday on ESPN against Oregon State (55-4) in the winner's bracket. A LSU loss to Florida State will put it in a 1 p.m. loser's bracket game against Cal State Fullerton (39-23).

Walker (8-1, 3.46 ERA) has been the Tigers' best starter in recent weeks and did not get to pitch in the Super Regional last weekend as LSU won it in two games. Walker has allowed just two earned runs in three of his last four starts and has won three of those, going eight innings, seven and two-thirds innings and eight innings, respectively, while allowing 13 hits with 19 strikeouts and four walks. His last loss was at Kentucky on April 23.

Walker experienced some forearm pain after pitching in a scrimmage last week, but Mainieri said Saturday that he is "100 percent."

Poche (10-3, 3.42 ERA) has not been able to get to the sixth inning in his last two starts. He gave up four earned runs on four walks and two hits in two and a third innings against Mississippi State last weekend. He pitched four and a third innings against Texas Southern on June 2 as he allowed five hits, three walks and an earned run.

Mainieri said before Saturday's game that Poche was available for relief in that game and possibly on Monday. Mainieri had hinted before the Super Regional that he may use Poche in relief.

Q&A With Paul Mainieri on Pitching

"If we're fortunate enough to get to Omaha, there may be some strategy," he said. "Do you want to use Poche or Walker out of the bullpen in game one because the games are so spread out? Who's better equipped to come out of the pen? Who would you prefer to have starting in the second game?"

 

© Gannett Co., Inc. 2017. All Rights Reserved


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