Wow. Just a day after the Tigers struck for one of the biggest rallies in program history, LSU picked up right where they left off Monday night, absolutely bulldozing UC Irvine 21-7 to advance to the College World Series for the 14th time in the final LSU game ever played in Alex Box Stadium.

LSU struck for six runs in the first inning to take all drama out of the ball game early. Blake Dean, Micah Gibbs and Matt Clark hit back-to-back-to-back shots in the opening frame off Anteaters hurler Blake Stowell who came into the game with a 2.77 ERA, but was unable to complete the first inning.

The Tigers continued to pour it on the rest of the way, getting 24 hits from 12 different players.

Blake Dean tortured the Anteaters pitching staff to rebound from his poor Game 1 and went 5-5 with 3 RBI.

The one sour note of the game was an injury to centerfielder Leon Landry, who injured his eye/cheek after being hit in the face by a fly ball at the fence. Landry’s eye immediately closed shut and I certainly hope the Baton Rouge native will be available next weekend at the College World Series.

The Tigers will take on No. 2 seed North Carolina in opening round play, but much more about that later in the week: For now, we will savor the incredible weekend series against the Anteaters.

The weekend was special for many reasons, none of which are more important than it being the final weekend in the stadium’s history. The Box has been around for 70 years and has seen five national championship teams, 14 College World Series teams and even more SEC Championship teams. As LSU proved Sunday in their 3-run comeback, they were not going to allow their monumental stadium to go down with a fight. But what surprised me the most about the pride the team played with is the age of the roster. Looking around the starting lineup, five of the Tigers nine position players were not on the roster this past season, so for such an inexperienced team to embrace LSU tradition this quickly speaks volumes about how deep the tradition and how contagious the LSU baseball tradition truly is.

The second storyline most intriguing to me and which gave me Goosebumps watching from home was seeing the Skipper, Skip Bertman, sitting in his usual perch outside the LSU dugout, just days after suffering a heart attack. Bertman, 70, has been such a huge part of LSU tradition the past 25 years and has made LSU baseball into what it is today. For him to be able to witness such a priceless ending is just that: Priceless.

I was also happy for the players who were able to finish the ball game for LSU. With the Tigers holding a commanding lead, Paul Mainieri was able to go to a largely reserve roster, so I am glad that the kids who maybe do not get as much recognition as the Hollanders, Deans and Clarks were able to be at the bottom of the pile as LSU celebrated its amazing feat.

For a team that was 6-11-1 and in 11th place in the SEC standings at one point in the season, I’d think it is safe to say the Tigers have recovered from their low point and will be as tough an out as anyone in the College World Series.

Our attention here at the Sports Palace now turns to North Carolina. Tomorrow, I will break down the Tar Heels phenomenal squad beginning with their infielders. Wednesday, I will tackle their outfielders. Thursday, I will take care of relief pitching before handing starting pitching on Friday.

We been counting down all week. Withoutfurther adieu, here is your 2008 CWS field:

 

Bracket 2:

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The NBA was busy Monday as two new teams got head coaches with a third team reportedly close to filling its vacancy. The Suns hired Terry Porter today, while the Pistons hired Michael Curry. I will reserve judgment on each hire as I do not know much about each candidate, but I will say that I trust Pistons President Joe Dumars and I expect Curry to be fine. As far as Suns GM Steve Kerr? I don’t trust him nearly as much as he is the same guy who traded Shawn Marion for Shaquille O’Neal. How did that work? The Suns went from first in the Western Conference standings to sixth and an eventual 4-1 first round loss to the Spurs.

The Bulls are also close to hiring their new coach as reports out of Chicago say they will name Vinny Del Negro as be Chicago’s new coach. Del Negro was a smart and savvy player, so if he coaches the way he played, it could be a good fit, but what the Bulls need above all else is a teacher as their roster is filled with players in their 20s who need direction. Also add to that mix the first pick in the NBA Draft, who will be joining their roster next season, whomever that may be.

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This weekend, Bears running back and former Top 5 pick in the NFL Draft, Cedric Benson was arrested for the second time in a few weeks for driving under the influence of alcohol. The Bears countered Benson’s irresponsible behavior today and released their starting halfback. I am indifferent toward the Bears and toward Benson, but the Bears have become the NFL’s poster-boys for no-tolerance having released Tank Johnson a year ago and well, to be frank, Benson has acted like an idiot and deserves everything he gets.

The boating incident 5 weeks ago is one thing and heck, you had me convinced that maybe you were innocent on that one, but after this, I think you have lost all credibility and now, you’ve lost your job, too. Looks like Benson will be another in the long list of nut-cases to come out of the Texas football program. (See also: Ricky Williams and Vince, I want to retire as a rookie, Young).

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Also in the NFL, Giants defensive end Michael Strahan “retired” on Monday, ending what will be a sure-fire Hall of Fame career. I put “retire” in quotes, because I have heard this song and dance before. Let us not forget that Strahan is the same guy who missed all of training camp this past season because he was contemplating retirement.

But if the Giant great is telling the truth, it was a fabulous 15-year run that say him surpass LT as the Giants leading sack man, piling up 141 ½ sacks in his career, including an NFL season record 22 ½ in 2001 (thanks to a dive by Brett Favre).

First-ballot Hall of Fame? I do not know, but I am certain he will be there someday.

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There are big-time trade winds blowing in the fighting world. Following Floyd Mayweather’s retirement from boxing this past week, the undefeated champion specifically said he was retiring from “boxing,” and not “fighting” in general.

UFC President Dana White has scheduled a press conference for Thursday and rumor has it that it may be to announce that Mayweather has signed a contract with the UFC. Again, this is purely internet speculation for now, but I, for one, would love to see how boxing’s biggest loudmouth would fare with some of the other best fighters in the world.

The MMA rumors for Mayweather have been long going as he has continuously feuded with UFC’s best fighters saying that MMA fighters are only in the UFC because they are not good enough to box. Money Mayweather has also flirted with Mavericks owner Mark Cuban in the past about beginning a MMA venture, so even if Thursday’s announcement has nothing to do with Mayweather, this rumor may have legs in the future.

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That’s all for me. What a cap to a fabulous weekend of college baseball action. Here’s to another great weekend and week next week.

God Bless,

Casey

 

 

 

 

 

 

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