The big day is finally here. This afternoon, LSU’s quest to advance to the College World Series continues when the Tigers take on the Anteaters on ESPNU at 5 pm.

I’ve broken down the keys to victory for both teams over the past few days and now it’s time to put all of the talk aside and play ball.

LSU junior Ryan Verdugo will take the mound for LSU in the opener and will be opposed by UC-Irvine ace pitcher Scott Gorgen. Gorgen is a first-day draftee and will figure to come into the game looking to throw a gem, so the Tigers’ hitters must be patient and take what Gorgen gives them. Because the Anteaters pitcher is so dominant, LSU must also execute the little things like base running and bunting when they do get runners on base. LSU must make every opportunity count.

For Verdugo, the key to the game is throwing “good” strikes. Walks have not been a problem for Verdugo throughout the season, but when the junior has been hurt, it has been when he has left pitches in the heart of the plate.

All-in-all, I see a low-scoring, pitchers duel game and an overall good baseball game to watch.

For many teams, the Super Regionals began today and here were Friday’s results with the opening day being the day of the visiting team with three of the four road teams winning Game 1.

No 8 Georgia 11
NC State 4 Georgia leads series 1-0

Arizona 6
No. 1 Miami 3 Arizona leads series 1-0

Stanford 4
No. 5 CS Fullerton 3 Stanford leads series 1-0

Wichita State 10
No. 4 Florida State 7 Wichita State leads 1-0

The draft is over and seven Tigers have decisions to make following the season. Juniors Ryan Verdugo, Matt Clark, Louis Coleman, Blake Martin and Jordan Brown joined seniors Michael Hollander and Jared Bradford as LSU’s selectees. Verdugo and Clark were the two highest selections going in the ninth and 12th rounds respectively and I suspect they are the only two Tigers who are likely to leave early. All-in-all, I expected more damage to be done to the LSU roster and I suspect Paul Mainieri will be breathing a little easier.

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This weekend is the weekend of the small sport across America. With the NBA Finals on hold until Sunday, horse racing and the French Open finals have the eyes of this sports fan on Saturday and Sunday.

Big Brown drew the #1 position in this weekend’s Belmont Stakes, the last leg that needs to be completed for the horse to achieve the Triple Crown.

I am not a horse racing expert, by any means, but I have been told that the #1 position will be a test to Big Brown. But the undefeated horse has shown an extra gear in the first two legs of the Triple Crown and I suspect that Big Brown break the 30 year Triple Crown drought.

Whether of not Big Brown’s accomplishments for the sport are a good thing is another question in itself. The horse’s trainer Rick Dutrow has been nothing but a classless headcase throughout the entire process and has made the quest more about himself and less about the horse. Dutrow has done nothing but guarantee victories, put down opposing horses and trainers and openly admit to injecting Big Brown with steroids on the 15th of each month.

But regardless of whether Big Brown’s handlers play nice or not, any time you get an opportunity to see a once-in-a-lifetime feat like a Triple Crown, it is must-see TV and I will be tuned in.

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The French Open finals are set and both matchups should be thrillers.

In the men’s draw, No. 1 seed Roger Federer will again take on No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal in the finals. I have to think this is going to be Federer’s last stand if he wants to ever win the French Open title. While the big Swede is still the best player in the world, he has lost his strangle hold on the sport and every year that he has to wait 12 months for the next French Open, his skills will be more and more diminished. Nadal has swept through the tournament winning all 18 sets he has played with 10 of those being either 6-0 or 6-1.

Federer has had a more difficult time in a more easy road than Nadal. Nadal has faced four seeded opponents in six matches, where Federer has only faced one. The world’s No. 1 player has lost three sets in the tournament so far, but still has not legitimately been challenged yet in the tournament.

The world’s two best players have squared off twice this year in the clay court season with Nadal winning both matchups, the first 7-5, 7-5 and the second 7-5, 6-7, 6-3 and I suspect much of the same this weekend.

Prediction: Nadal in 4 sets.

In the women’s draw, No. 2 seed Ana Ivanovic and No. 13 seed Dinara Safina will square off in the finals. This matchup is an absolute disaster for the sport of women’s tennis, as is any final that doesn’t involve either Williams sister or Maria Sharapova.

Ivanovic has risen to the number two player in the world despite having not won a tournament all season. The Serbian player was also just 3-2 in the clay court season prior to the French Open. But in France, she has dominated her competition and has advanced to her second straight Grand Slam final.

Safina is a more decorated clay-court specialist having a 14-2 clay record this season including a championship at the Qatar Telecom German Open in which she defeated then No. 1 seed Justine Henin and No. 5 seed Serena Williams. Safina defeated fellow Russian Sharapova in what is probably the match of the entire tournament, defeating the tournament’s No. 1 seed 6-7, 7-6, 6-2 in the fourth round.

Prediction: Ivanovic in 3 sets.

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In NFL news, there will be no holding out for Raiders running back Darren McFadden as the Arkansas standout signed a six-year, 60 million dollar contract with $26 million guaranteed.

Let me first say that I am very happy for McFadden and the Raiders, because they got an excellent player who will be a force in the NFL. But let me also say that the NFL rookie paying scale is atrocious. Each year, unproven commodities are drafted high and are made some of the NFL’s highest paid players without ever having stepped foot on the field. It’s gotten to the point to where it is more of a cap hit to have a top 10 pick than it is to have a top 20 pick.

If I were Commissioner for a day, I would switch the NFL to a system similar to the NBA in which rookies are slotted to a certain amount of money with no negotiation. This would end holdouts and protect teams from ruining their franchise with a single pick.

Anyway, that’s all for me.
For those going to the games this weekend, be safe on the road. For those who are not, have a safe and joyous weekend.

-Casey

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