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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

LSU will beat North Carolina Thursday

OMAHA, Neb. - Wednesday is day seven of LSU's trip to Omaha. The Tigers got here Thursday night. They went to Rosenblatt Stadium Friday afternoon, looked around, practiced, had dinner and went through the opening ceremonies. On Saturday, they watched a few innings of the College World Series opener between Stanford and Florida State and then practiced at their off-Rosenblatt home of Creighton University.

They've been to various steak houses. They went to the zoo on Wednesday after an extremely loose practice in which coach Paul Mainieri spent most of his time on the phone or doing interviews. They've lost a game, and they've won a game. The game they won - 6-5 over Rice Tuesday night with four runs in the bottom of the ninth, including a walk-off, three-run double by Blake Dean - was like so many they've won this season. It was particularly similar to the 5-4 win over South Carolina to start the Southeastern Conference Tournament last month. LSU trailed that game 4-0 going into the bottom of the ninth and scored four to tie before winning it in the 10th on a walk-off home run by Dean.

So, LSU is now at home in Rosenblatt and its surroundings. The novelty of the trip is over. The steaks are great, but some of the guys are considering lighter fare like chicken.

It's time to just play baseball. The seventh-seeded Tigers (49-18-1) play second-seeded North Carolina (52-13) at 6 p.m. Thursday in an elimination game. LSU lost to North Carolina 8-4 on Sunday as Tar Heel ace Alex White handcuffed the Tigers as well as any pitcher since LSU embarked on its 23-0 run in mid-April. White will not be pitching Thursday.

North Carolina will throw freshman All-American Matt Harvey, a right-hander who is 7-2 with a 2.52 ERA. He's a stud, but he's no Alex White. LSU will throw junior left-hander Blake Martin, who is 5-3 with a 4.89 ERA. LSU does not have a stud pitcher, but they have nearly a dozen good ones. Martin is one of the better ones, and he's a lefty. He also pitched a little Sunday just so he could toe the rubber at Rosenblatt to see what it feels like, Mainieri said.

Martin will not pitch great, but he'll keep the Tigers in the game, which is what Jared Bradford did on Tuesday. Bradford allowed seven hits and five earned runs, but he continually limited the damage through six and two-thirds innings and struck out 10 while waiting for the offense to arrive. Then LSU's bullpen, which may be the best overall contingent in Omaha, shut the door, and the bats finally woke up.

Coleman will likely pitch again Thursday. If Martin can go five or six, it would be ideal. Paul Bertuccini will be ready after pitching twice here already. He'll have the kinks out.

LSU for the first time since it arrived in Omaha will play a good game Thursday from start to finish, and that will be enough.

Tigers 8, North Carolina 6. LSU will advance to a 6 p.m. game Friday against Fresno State (44-29), which is 2-0. It's getting interesting.

As premium LSU baseball fan Marvin "Big Ragoo" Dugas said as he took his seat in Alex Box on the Sunday of the NCAA South I Regional in 1990 before LSU's first game with USC, which LSU had to win for a second one, "Y'all get comfortable now. Get comfortable. We're going to be here for awhile."

The Tigers are settling into Alex Box North.


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