OMAHA, Neb. — Paul Mainieri wasn’t afraid to admit he had a rooting interest in the late game on Saturday.
Mainieri’s LSU Tigers had just eliminated Oregon State from the College World Series 6-1 and back in the team hotel he tuned in to watch the Florida Gators take on TCU.
“Truth be told, I was rooting for Kevin and the Gators last night. I just think it’s an awesome thing that these two SEC schools get to play for a national championship.”
This is LSU’s seventh trip to the CWS Championship. The previous six times the Tigers have played for a National Championship they’ve come away as Champions. Conversely, this will be the third time Florida plays for a title but the Gators have never won a championship series game, losing twice to Texas in 2005 and twice to South Carolina in 2011.
The two teams played each other back in May. Florida won that series two games to one but neither team really resembles the team they were back at the beginning of the season. If anything, playing a familiar opponent might serve to calm the nerves of the players, as they get ready to play on the biggest stage college baseball has to offer.
“I also think we’re both very different teams and we both have lots of different dynamics,” JJ Schwarz said. “But at the same time that series has no bearing on this series and there’s a lot more at stake for this one.”
It’s the fifth time in CWS history that teams from the same conference have squared off in the CWS final and the third time it will be SEC teams that do it. SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey must be delighted.
For the players, heading into the finals games of a season that began back in the fall, it doesn’t feel like they’re in Omaha anymore. They just feel like it’s another SEC weekend.
“They’re great competitors and so are we. We tied in the SEC this year so this is, I guess, probably what both teams wanted,” Alex Faedo told Gator Country. “To see who the champion is. Those are great players over there. We know a lot about them and they know a lot about us. It should be a lot of fun.”