OK, so this LSU-Texas shindig didn’t live up to its billing as the greatest thing since fried fat.
So far, it’s better.
We had an ESPN Classic College World Series game, a 7-6 Tiger victory in 11 innings, and it’s only the first night.
We had wild, woolly and weird stuff.
We had a home run off one of the flagpoles in center field.
It came in the bottom of the fourth, when Texas’ cleanup man, designated hitter Russell Moldenhauer, hit the first of his two home runs in the game.
The left-handed Moldenhauer, who has hit three home runs all season — all of them in Omaha — reared back and crushed a fastball that hit the Virginia flagpole on the fly. Nobody in the press box knew how far it went. It was clearly over the 408-foot wall and probably at least 430 feet.
All I know is, if it hadn’t hit the flagpole, it would have landed in a lemonade stand sponsored by the Sword of the Spirit Christian Church.
This was no night to be busting up any lemonade stands.
We had Louis Coleman, the LSU ace and SEC pitcher of the year, giving up five dingers in one game.
Perhaps there was no surprise. In Omaha’s outdoor sauna next to the Missouri River, the ball was flying out. It was a five-pound night. Most folks had lost five pounds of sweat by the fifth inning. An hour later, it was probably 10.
Welcome to the South Omaha Diet.
We had the heavyweight bout we expected. Both teams trading lightning bolt shots. Both coaches pulled out every ace, every stop, trying to secure game one.
We had Texas magic, then LSU magic. We had the Tigers down two in the ninth against the Longhorns’ best bullpen arms. We had LSU tying the game with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Then the Tigers winning it with two outs in the top half of the 11th.
Mostly we had Texas coach Augie Garrido doing what he does best: pushing lots of buttons. A lot of those moves were responsible for taking a young Texas team to this championship level.
Not Monday night.
Garrido played the percentages. He lifted starter Chance Ruffin with two outs and two on in the sixth for left-hander Austin Wood — with a left-hander coming up. That left-hander, Jared Mitchell, then tripled.
Wood was cruising into the ninth with a 6-4 lead when Garrido played the percentages again. With one out and one on and three right-handers coming up, Garrido lifted Wood for right-handed Taylor Jungmann.
It’s not like Wood was tired. Wood, who threw 13 innings (167 pitches) against Boston College in the Austin regional, had thrown only 42 pitches. He had at least 120 more in his arm.
Jungmann, a freshman All-American, couldn’t find the plate. Five of his six pitches were balls. He wasn’t close.
Time for the next freshman All-American, Austin Dicharry. Garrido’s pitching well is deep. But LSU dug deeper. With two outs and two on, D.J. LeMahieu doubled into the left-field corner to tie the game.
“We played that card. It did not work out,’’ Garrido said of bringing in Jungmann. “In hindsight, if you take the cards back we might not do that. The pitching moves I made did not work out.’’
Garrido rolled the dice with his lineup, too. When LSU’s terrific left-handed reliever, Chad Jones, replaced Coleman in the seventh, Garrido took out Moldenhauer and Kevin Keyes — who had combined for three homers in the game — to put right-handed hitters in.
Why? Moldenhauer’s power surge was uncharacteristic. But maybe a career night continues anyway.
Give LSU credit. The Tigers have a tendency to make an opposing coach look bad. And helpless.
On this night, Garrido’s endless supply of perspective seemed appropriate.
“It was an incredible game,’’ the veteran coach said. “Two teams that were doing unbelievable things in an effort to win. The team that lost that game was going to feel the wrath of baseball.’’
You can put the Tigers in the driver’s seat now. But be careful. The drivers changed places more than once on Monday night.
“That was probably the most courageous, never-say-die, resilient effort I’ve ever seen out of one my teams in 27 years,’’ LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “It was one for the ages.’’
The second one comes tonight.
Contact the writer: