LSU routs Arkansas, advances to CWS finals

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 20, 2009

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Paul Mainieri can’t think of a thing he would change about the way his LSU Tigers are playing at the College World Series.

That’s surely a scary thought for their opponent, the Texas Longhorns, in next week’s best-of-three finals.

LSU used an impressive show of power and pitching to win Bracket 1 with a 14-5 victory over Arkansas on Friday. The Tigers hit four home runs, raising their CWS total to nine in three games, and Anthony Ranaudo bounced back from a subpar outing to throw six shutout innings.

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‘‘It’s a dream come true that we got to this point,’’ said Mainieri, the Tigers’ third-year coach. ‘‘When I say a dream, it’s not that I didn’t think we couldn’t. We thought we could when we started the year. Now there’s an opportunity for us, and now we’ll see if we can seize it.’’

The Tigers, playing for their sixth national title and first since 2000, will play Texas in a match-up of college baseball powers.

The Longhorns used two homers in the bottom of the ninth inning to beat Arizona State 4-3 and advance to the championship series.

The Tigers (54-16) hadn’t played since Monday’s 9-1 win over Arkansas, and they had to wait even longer because of a thunderstorm that pushed back the start of Friday’s game 2 1/2 hours.

‘‘They were chomping at the bit to get back out there on the ballfield,’’ Mainieri said.

Once out there, the Tigers showed no signs of rust against an Arkansas team they dominated all year. Arkansas (41-24) was outscored 23-6 by LSU in two CWS games, and the Razorbacks lost four of five overall against the Tigers this season.

LSU scored in six of the nine innings Friday and shut out Arkansas for 14 straight innings over their two meetings in Omaha. The Tigers also beat Virginia 9-5 and have won 13 in a row.

‘‘Up to this point, we’ve been rolling pretty well,’’ said designated hitter Blake Dean, who hit LSU’s first homer in the fifth. ‘‘We haven’t reached a stress point in any game. Our toughest game so far was Virginia. Up to this point, we’ve been playing good hard baseball, and we’re more confident than we ever have been.’’

The Tigers went deep three straight innings to give Ranaudo (11-3) a big cushion.

Ranaudo, who lasted 3 1-3 innings in last Saturday’s start against Virginia, allowed four hits and had five strikeouts against no walks. Austin Ross took over to start the seventh with the Tigers leading 11-0.

‘‘I just flushed the last start,’’ Ranaudo said. ‘‘I tried to pound the zone early. With what the offense did by scoring runs early, it gave me time to relax and throw strikes.’’

Mainieri, with the big lead, was able to go to his bullpen after Ranaudo threw 77 pitches. He’s the probable starter for the second game of the finals Tuesday, and he’ll go in with plenty of confidence.

‘‘You saw the real Anthony Ranaudo today,’’ Mainieri said. ‘‘He looked like a major league pitcher, like a champion.’’

So did the rest of the Tigers.

Dean hit his second homer in three games, and 17th of the season, off Mike Bolsinger in the fifth.

Jared Mitchell, the Chicago White Sox’s first-round draft pick, hit an opposite-field homer to left off former LSU pitcher TJ Forrest the next inning.

Ryan Schimpf followed with his team-leading 21st, sending Forrest’s fastball near the top of the right-field stands and starting a five-run seventh.

Tyler Hanover added a pinch-hit two-run homer in the ninth off Zack Cox, the seventh of a CWS record-tying eight pitchers used by the Razorbacks. The teams combined to use 13 pitchers, tying a CWS mark.

Brett Eibner’s two-run homer off Ross ended the Razorbacks’ scoreless-inning streak in the seventh, and Chase Leavitt hit a three-run homer for Arkansas in the ninth.

Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn decided to start his closer, Stephen Richards, because No. 1 pitcher Dallas Keuchel had to work the last four innings in the Razorbacks’ 4-3, 12-inning win over Virginia on Wednesday.

Richards (6-2), in his first start since April 2007, lasted two innings. He gave up four hits and four runs, two unearned.

The Razorbacks went 2-2 in the CWS. They had staggered into the NCAA tournament after a stretch of eight straight SEC losses and 10 defeats in 13 games.

Van Horn said the Razorbacks played more like the team that was rated No. 1 in the major polls earlier in the season.

‘‘We expected to be here even though we’re fairly young,’’ Van Horn said. ‘‘The way we played in May, there probably weren’t a whole lot of people who thought we could get here except us. We turned it around at the end of the season and made a nice run.’’