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College World Series: Florida Gators, LSU Tigers Square Off In Best-of-Three Final

 Leif Skodnick  |    Jun 23rd, 2023 4:00pm EDT

Justin Johnson of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons is tagged out at home by Alex Milazzo of the LSU Tigers during the eighth inning at Charles Schwab Field on June 22, 2023 in Omaha, Nebraska. LSU Tigers defeated Wake Forest Demon Deacons to advance to the NCAA College World Series Finals. (Photo by Jay Biggerstaff/Getty Images)

By Matthew Tallarini
World Baseball Network

OMAHA, Neb. – The last two programs standing at the 2023 NCAA Division I College World Series are the Florida Gators and their Southeastern Conference rival, the Louisiana State University Tigers.

They’ll play in the best-of-three final series, with Game 1 starting on Saturday at 7 p.m. EDT on ESPN.

This is the second time that Florida and LSU are playing in the College World Series final. They previously met in the 2017 College World Series, with the Gators winning their most recent national title.

LSU has not won the national championship since beating Texas during the 2009 College World Series final under former head coach Paul Mainieri, and they’re looking to claim their seventh title in program history. 

This will be the first time that Florida and LSU will play during the 2023 season. LSU is 4-1 and Florida is undefeated at 3-0 entering the College World Series.

The national championship series will feature three players that are projected to be drafted in the first 10 selections at the 2023 MLB Draft next month, according to MLB Pipeline. That group includes Gators center fielder Wyatt Langford, Tigers center fielder Dylan Crews, and LSU starting pitcher Paul Skenes.

Langford will be a key lookout for major league scouts during the next few days batting .363 with a 1.251 OPS starting in 61 games with 223 at-bats recording 81 hits, 25 doubles, 19 home runs, 49 RBI, and 54 walks so far the season.

Gators shortstop will be a great bat to work around for the Gators offense batting .361 with a 1.108 OPS playing in 67 games with 241 at-bats recording 87 hits, 19 home runs, drawing 45 walks, and driving in 71 RBI for the season.

Two-way star Jac Caglianone has been a big key to the Gators pitching staff and offense this season. Caglianone is batting .325 in 48 games, with 87 hits, 13 doubles, 31 home runs, and leads the Gators with 84 RBI.

Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan in his 15th season with the program has certain expectations of what to expect from the Bayou Bengals on Saturday.

“The days off are fine, but you have to be able to turn the switch back on because LSU is now coming off an incredible win last night, an emotional win that will help them be at the highest level as far as feeling good about themselves going into Saturday’s game,” O’Sullivan said during Friday’s media availability.

“LSU’s a historically blue blood program in college baseball. They always have been. I feel like they always will be, their program is in great hands right now with a great coach, Jay Johnson,” said BT Riopelle. “They play with a lot of passion, a lot of fire. They feed off their crowd that they have. Every night when they play at home and their crowd travels well when they play on the road.”

LSU head coach Jay Johnson is in his second season at the helm in Baton Rouge and has two players on his roster that are among the finalists for the Golden Spikes Award, which will be announced on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. EDT on ESPN. Sunday’s game will start at 3 p.m. EDT. Center fielder Crews and starting pitcher Skenes are two of three finalists, along with Florida’s sophomore two-way superstar Caglianone. 

Crews is tied for fourth in the nation in batting average, hitting .423 with 102 hits through 67 games, with 16 doubles, 18 home runs, drawing 68 walks, and 69 RBI.

Thursday night’s hero, LSU third baseman Tommy White, will be another player to watch for the Bayou Bengals during the best-of-three national championship series. He’s hitting .370 playing through 63 games with 95 hits, 23 doubles, 23 home runs, 100 RBI, and 22 walks.

It’s been a “really good week that we put together to get back to this point. And now it’s about moving forward. Wanted the players to feel good about what they accomplished last night. And something we’ve talked about all year is mastering moving forward, moving on to the next step, whether that’s through success or adversity,” LSU head coach Jay Johnson said Friday.

Two of the best teams in college baseball will be on the biggest stage Saturday night, giving fans a rematch of the 2017 final and bragging rights to hoist the national championship trophy this weekend.