LSU Returns to Omaha

The LSU Tigers begin their 26th trip to the NCAA College World Series on Sunday with a match-up against the UCLA Bruins.

Though the trip to Omaha is nothing new to an LSU program that is tied for the second most national championships of any NCAA baseball program, this season has been a banner season for the TIgers.

LSU enters the bracket with having set a record for most regular season wins in school history (48), and tied for most overall wins in SEC history (57). After defeating then number 1 ranked Vanderbilt to win the SEC tournament, and cruising through the Baton Rouge regional and super-regional opponent Oklahoma, LSU is perched in the #1 spot of three of the national college baseball polls.

LSU has made their mark both in the field at at the plate. According to the stats, LSU leads the CWS field in fielding percentage (.980), which is 5th nationally, walks allowed, and WHIP. They rank second in the CWS bracket in ERA (2.41), which is 3rd nationally.

On the mound, Austin Nola has led the staff like a true ace, posting an unbelieveable 12-0 record with a 1.68 ERA and 117 strikeouts. The rest of the staff hasn’t disappointed, with only 3 pitchers on the roster having an ERA over 3.0, and none higher than a 3.86. After the starters, the bullpen is one of the best in school history. Closer Chris Cotton has tied a school record with 16 saves this season with a 1.23 ERA. Cotton has been dominant this postseason, allowing only 1 hit and no runs during this run to Omaha.

At the plate, LSU continues to play the small ball that has been the M.O. during Paul Manieri’s tenure in Baton Rouge. Raph Rhymes and 2013 Freshman of the Year Alex Bregman have led the Tigers into Omaha. Both are batting over .400 during the NCAA tournament. As a team, the Tigers ranked 12th in the country in batting average, 15th in the nation in doubles, and 13th in walks. This demonstrates the club’s discipline at the plate, and ability to find gaps when they make contact.

That’s not to say that the Tigers have no power. LSU has the third most home runs of the teams in Omaha, with 46, which ranks 24th in the nation. Most of the pop in the line-up is provided by Mason Katz, who easily leads the team with 15 home runs.

To avoid the loser’s bracket, LSU will face another CWS mainstay in the UCLA Bruins, which has reached Omaha for the third time in four years.

The Bruins have a dangerous pitching staff. Baseball America considers their bullpen to be the best in the CWS field, and they have been able to advance to this point despite their line-up. The Bruins will struggle to score runs. They rank 253rd in the nation in batting, and do not have a batter with an average over .300 and only 2 player with more than 2 home runs, but no one with more than 5. This team could be dangerous if they get a great pitching performance in game 1.

LSU has played the part of a complete team that has a legitimate chance of winning the program’s 7th national championship. They can matchup with anyone, having quality pitching up and down the roster, as well as a variety of line-up options which makes them dangerous in any situation.

The Road through Omaha begins this weekend.