North Carolina hadn’t hit a home run the entire College World Series. A grand slam had not been hit in the College World Series in more than five years. LSU’s best pitcher was on the hill with the bases loaded and two outs. Advantage LSU, right? Wrong.

Thanks to a grand slam home run by North Carolina catcher Tim Federowicz, the Heels finished off LSU’s magical season last night 7-3.

The Tigers opened up Friday’s restart as better than any doctor could order, inducing an inning-ended first inning double play to keep the Tar Heels’ lead at just two runs early.

Senior Jared Bradford was brilliant for LSU on short rest, keeping LSU within striking distance in five and two-thirds innings and left with LSU trailing 3-1 in the sixth inning.

The nation’s best home run hitter Matt Clark drew LSU even with a 2-run jack later in the game, taking the game tied into the ninth where the Heels won it.

LSU had a last-ditch effort in the ninth inning to rally, but the Tigers were retired quietly by ACC Pitcher of the year Alex White, who recorded his second win of the CWS against LSU.

LSU had a chance to take the lead in the eighth inning with the bases loaded and only one out, but DJ LeMahieu and Leon Landry were harmlessly retired with no harm done to the Heels.

All-in-all, what a season for LSU. Buried in the pits of the SEC halfway through conference play, LSU was left for dead. I can recall sitting in the press box in Alex Box Stadium and fellow writers jokingly saying that LSU would host a regional to save the Box.

Six weeks later, the joke was on them as LSU made a memorable postseason run with an undefeated Regional and a dramatic Super Regional win to send the Box out in style.

LSU is a young team with just two seniors who play significantly and only a few “signable” drafted prospects.

Ryan Verdugo was the first LSU player drafted, but a poor end to his season has my sources indicating that the left-hander is leaning towards returning to school, because of the San Francisco Giants’ unwillingness to give him top-dollar money.

Matt Clark is the other most likely candidate to move on, but as an 11th round pick, the nation’s best slugger could also be better suited with another year and would most likely be a first-round pick next season.

It may be wishful thinking, but I think both Verdugo and Clark will return to school.
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For LSU to take the next step in their push towards another national championship, LSU has a fairly clear blue-print of what they need to get done.

1. Pitching– LSU’s pitching kept the team afloat during the beginning of the season, but down the stretch, the Tigers’ lack of depth became a black-eye as the team gave up seven or more runs in five of their last six games. With virtually the entire staff returning minus Bradford and a stellar class coming in again, LSU should be more heavily ready to rock ’n’ roll. Anthony Ranaudo, Austin Ross and Daniel Bradshaw will be big-time out-getters next year for LSU with Ryan Byrd also returning to last year’s form as a dominant pitcher. If the pitchers progress like they’re capable, LSU can have as good a staff as anyone in the country.

2. Baserunning– Baserunning is something the casual fan takes for granted, but how many times did the Tigers make critical errors on the base paths this season? I can think of 4-5 plays just in the College World Series that hurt the Tigers. When you have such a slugging lineup like LSU has, you can not afford to take the bats out of hitters hands on the bases.

3. Replace Rooney– Possibly the most important one of all. Terry Rooney has been a recruiting machine since at LSU and has done real well with the pitching staff. For the long-term stability of the program, LSU coach Paul Mainieri needs to find a viable option coaching the hurlers, because as LSU found out the hard way tonight, great pitchers win championships.

All-in-all, this is the best shape the program has been in since the days of Ole Man Smoke, so LSU fans have good reason to be excited about another possible CWS run next season.

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We have gone through three athletes in our Top 10 list. So far, we’ve had a football great, a cycling hero and a controversial ball-player. Today we will tackle track and field.

No. 7 athlete of all-time: Carl Lewis

Lewis was “da man” amongst men throughout his career, winning a dominating nine gold medals in four different Olympics throughout his career. Lewis’ repertoire consisted of the 100m, the 200m, the 4X100m and the Long jump. The dominant sprinter also wasn’t half-bad in other arenas, either, getting drafted by the Chicago Bulls in the 1984 NBA Draft by the Chicago Bulls and the 12th Round of the 1984 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys.

Most of Lewis’ world records have gone by the way-side as track and field has evolved, but the gold medals and the longevity speak for themselves.

Why he could be higher?

1. Dominance among his sport – Lewis once skipped his final three jumps of the long-jump in the Olympics out of certainty that no one would be able to top his first jump. Lewis was right and won by 30 cm. The man was the king of the Olympics from 1984-92.

Why he could be lower?

1. Controversy – Lewis was not the most popular figure during his run, especially among those inside his own sport, because of his flamboyance following a race win. Track legend Edwin Moses was the most critical of Lewis, putting his public reputation in a bit of bad light.

Four down, six to go in our countdown. This has been fun so far. J
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Headlines:

Schilling’s year done, possibly career, too– The Sox had no expectations for Schilling, so it’s not much of a blow to their season. But the bigger debate begins if Schilling’s career is over. Is he a Hall of Famer? It’s really, really close for me. Dude is a douche-bag loud-mouth, but is also one of the most clutch pitchers of all-time. He gets in on my book.

Jays fire Gibbons – Geez, do bad things happen in threes or what? First the Mets, then the Mariners, now the Jays. Toronto is in the horrible position of being an AL East team, where it’s damn near impossible to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox year in and year out. They have a good club. Just not good enough.

NBA sues Donaghy for $1.4 million – David Stern needs to drop it. Why anger the wild, poisonous beast who knows all of your secrets? The NBA has an officiating problem and I think what Donaghy has to say needs to be heard.

That’s all for me. Today was my birthday, so I had a long day. I’ll be back tomm with more.

P.S. I ran over my word count with baseball ending, so I pushed back the Eastern Conference Central Division to tomorrow.

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