Without throwing a pitch, LSU’s Skenes left one more lasting impression

OMAHA, Nebraska — Paul Skenes didn’t take the mound Monday night. Not in the traditional sense.

LSU’s All-American ace never got the call to come out of the bullpen into the winner-take-all game against Florida. His immense talents were not needed, but Skenes still found himself heading toward the mound at Charles Schwab Field.

After the final out was recorded in LSU’s 18-4 annihilation of Florida, Skenes triumphantly hoisted his injured teammate Alex Milazzo, confined to crutches, onto his back for a jog out to the mound for the obligatory dogpile.

It was a touching storybook moment to end a remarkable championship season — the program’s seventh College World Series title and first since 2009. LSU opened 2023 as the consensus No. 1 team in every poll, and not without abundant drama, ended it as the national champ.

The Skenes piggyback wasn’t the only marquee moment that stands out from the Tigers’ championship victory.

After spotting Florida a two-run lead in the first, LSU got things going in the second and it was courtesy of an unlikely hero, Jordan Thompson.

The  shortstop entered Monday’s game having gone 1-for-30 in the CWS, including 0-for-9 in the first two games of the title series. Compounding his struggles, Thompson was seriously shaky with the glove in Sunday’s 24-4 drubbing and in the aftermath, many LSU fans called for his benching. Apparently none of those were in Omaha.

Greeted by a rousing ovation and cheers as he stepped in for his first plate appearance, Thompson drove a single to left field that scored the Tigers’ initial run, ignited the massive fan base in the stadium, and launched a massive six-run second inning that floored Florida. In the field, he looked worthy of a Gold Glove Monday night.

Starting pitcher Thatcher Hurd had gotten off to a scary first frame by giving up a two-run home run and throwing a wild pitch. Yet Hurd, who weathered a rough patch of the season to become one of Jay Johnson’s most trusted arms, quickly settled down and subsequently silenced the Gators.

After the first-inning homer, Hurd retired the next eight hitters, didn’t surrender another hit in five innings, struck out seven and earned the victory.

Of course, one can’t discuss Monday’s championship win without mentioning Dylan Crews, who went 4-for-6 with three runs scored in his final game in purple and gold. The 2023 Golden Spikes winner finished the season with a .426 batting average and the CWS crown that he coveted when he skipped last summer’s MLB Draft.

The soon-to-be Top 3 MLB draft pick also continued LSU’s developing tradition of cementing legendary status with a hand gesture.

After leading off the eight with a standup triple, Crews took a moment to point to his ring finger — the same sign of impending victory flashed previously by fellow Tiger national champions Angel Reese and Joe Burrow.

Of course, the title run wasn’t just what happened on Monday night.

There wouldn’t have been that dogpile without Ty Floyd’s 17-strikeout performance propelling LSU over No. 1 Wake Forest and into the CWS finals. Or Tre’ Morgan’s game-saving defense at first base or Tommy White’s clutch home runs or Josh Pearson making catches in leftfield in the shadows when it mattered most.

From start to finish this season, everyone contributed to the Tigers’ title run, which made watching Skenes carrying his injured teammate to the dogpile just so perfect.

Contact Raymond at sportswithrp3@gmail.com or on Twitter @RPIII_Sports 

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