OMAHA, Neb (AP) — Tommy White hit Camden Minacci’s first pitch into the left-field seats for a two-run homer in the 11th inning, giving LSU a 2-0 walk-off victory over No. 1 national seed Wake Forest on Thursday night and clinching a spot in the College World Series finals.
The win sends the Tigers (52-16) to the best-of-three CWS championship series against Florida beginning Saturday night in a rematch of the 2017 All-SEC final that the Gators won for their first national title.
LSU became the first team to hand Wake Forest (54-12) consecutive losses this season. The Tigers had won 5-2 on Wednesday to set up a second bracket final.
Dylan Crews singled to left leading off the bottom of the 11th against Michael Massey (3-1), prompting Deacons coach Tom Walter to call on his star closer. Minacci’s first pitch to LSU’s home run leader was a 90 mph slider, and White sent it out for his 23rd homer of the year and the 50th of his career. White hit an NCAA freshman record 27 home runs for NC State in 2022 before transferring to LSU at the end of last season.
It was a fitting end to one of the most anticipated non-championship CWS games. LSU was the consensus No. 1 team in the major polls from the start of the season until May 8. Wake Forest was the consensus No. 1 the rest of the way. The teams split their first two games here this week.
The pitching matchup between LSU’s Paul Skenes and Rhett Lowder set this one apart from the first two. The two are projected top-10 overall picks in next month’s amateur draft, and they matched zeroes deep into the game. Wake Forest came in 18-0 in games Lowder had started.
Skenes allowed two hits and walked one before turning the game over to Thatcher Hurd (7-3) to start the ninth, and his nine strikeouts made him the Southeastern Conference’s single-season record holder. Skenes has 209 strikeouts in 122 2/3 innings; previous record holder Ben McDonald had 202 in 152 1/3 for LSU in 1989.
Skenes’ fastball was a tick down from Saturday, when he hit at least 100 mph 46 times against Tennessee, but it was still plenty good — as were his slider and changeup.
Lowder mixed his mid-90s fastball with a sharp slider and allowed three hits, walked two and struck out six in an efficient seven innings. Of his 88 pitches, 63 were strikes.
Skenes was backed up by a spot-on defense, never more…