LSU Tigers, Florida Gators and SEC Dominance at the College World Series
It was just a year ago when I wrote Once Again, the SEC Takes Over Omaha. In 2022, Ole Miss, Arkansas, Auburn and Texas A&M were in the College World Series. Ole Miss won the National Championship. This year it was LSU, Florida and Tennessee. The National Champion LSU Tigers captured their third title this century (2000, 2009, 2023) and seventh of all-time defeating the Gators in Game 3. Add in South Carolina (2010, 2011), Vanderbilt (2014, 2019), Florida (2017), Mississippi State (2021) and Ole Miss (2022) and SEC schools account for 10 of the last 22 titles (45%).
By capturing their seventh title in program history, the Tigers are now hold the second most championships in college baseball history. The USC Trojans have 12, but haven’t won it all since 1998. While the Bayou Bengals may have not come into the tournament as the favorite, they certainly entered the season that way. LSU was nearly a consensus preseason #1 in most of the polls. They took out the mighty Wake Forest Demon Deacons in the semifinals to secure a spot in the Finals against the #2 ranked Florida Gators.
While both LSU and Florida are among the leaders in regular season game attendance, the grandstands in Omaha were a sea purple. Certainly the proximity of Baton Rouge to Omaha played a factor, but LSU fans sure do travel well. The LSU program has produced some impressive major league ballplayers in recent years. DJ LeMahieu, Aaron Nola, Austin Nola and Alex Bregman come to mind. This year, center fielder Dylan Crews is projected to be the top pick of the MLB Draft. Winner of the Golden Spikes Award, Crews put on a show in Omaha that will likely reassure the Pittsburgh Pirates in the July draft.
National Champions!!! I am so proud of this team! pic.twitter.com/Gca5ibVh4i
— Jay Johnson (@LSUCoachJ) June 27, 2023
As I wrote in Projected Top MLB Draft Picks on Display in Omaha, both Crews and RHP Paul Skenes will likely be selected in the top ten. Also, as I wrote in The State of Florida Invades Omaha, 48 of 297 players (16%) of all players in the CWS are products of Florida high schools. While the Florida Gators team is basically an in-state All Star team, there are notably three LSU Tigers from Florida. They include Dylan Crews, a product of Lake Mary High School (near Orlando), Brady Neal and NCAA Baseball RBI leader Tommy White, both of IMG Academy (Bradenton).
Despite taking a beating in Game 3, the Gators put up 24 runs in Game 2, including two HR and 5 RBI from Jac Caglianone and a HR and 6 RBI from Wyatt Langford. Unfortunately for Florida, Caglianone (The Shohei of the Swamp) did not have his best stuff on the mound on Monday night. Wyatt Langford made his case in the CWS to secure a top three pick in the upcoming draft, blasting three homers in Omaha.
WYATT LANGFORD IS LOCKED IN 🔒
— D1Baseball (@d1baseball) June 26, 2023
How to Gauge Success
The big question is always, how does success at the college level translate to success at professional level? And, even if the SEC is the most dominant conference at the college level, how does that competition compare to Minor League Baseball? We can look to recent history for some clues.
As mentioned, the LSU program has produced a number of successful everyday MLB players. The same can be said of the Florida Gators, who can claim Pete Alonso, Brady Singer, Jonathan India and Mike Zunino. Vanderbilt, who produced Dansby Swanson, Bryan Reynolds, Kyle Wright and Walker Buehler. There’s Mississippi State with Graham Ashcraft, Nathaniel Lowe, Brandon Woodruff and Hunter Renfroe. And these are just to name a few.
There’s no doubt that high level, college baseball produces top tier MLB talent. The LSU Tigers will celebrate their victory down in Baton Rouge. Meanwhile, baseball fans all over the country are ready to see what future MLB stars we just witnessed on the field in Omaha.