You read that right. Tennessee Baseball got exactly what it wanted with the chance to face the same team that beat them in the opening game of the College World Series, and it’s not just because this can be a revenge game.
The Vols, who beat the Stanford Cardinal 6-4 in a win-or-go-home matchup Monday, will face the LSU Tigers in another win-or-go-home matchup Tuesday. LSU lost 3-2 to the Wake Forest Demon Deacons Monday night.
UT lost to LSU 6-3 last Saturday. However, LSU had the hottest pitcher in baseball on the mound for that game, their ace Paul Skenes. That’s not a draw that anybody in this series wants.
If LSU had beaten Wake Monday, Tennessee Baseball would have had to beat Wake Tuesday and then beat LSU twice this weekend, which means they would have certainly faced Skenes again if they had to. Now, though, depth will tell the story.
When it comes to going deep into the rotation and a bullpen, that favors Rocky Top. Remember, in the final game of UT’s three-game matchup with LSU in the regular season, they won 14-7. They lost the first two with Skenes and Ty Floyd on the mound.
Floyd pitched Monday, so he won’t be pitching Tuesday. Simply put, the Vols have the advantage based on how much deeper they can go into their pitching staff.
Heck, you don’t even have to go that far back. Just look at Stanford. As mentioned, the Vols were facing another ace, and their starter, Chase Dollander, allowed four runs in three innings.
However, their ability to go deeper into the rotation while Quinn Mathews didn’t have much help, forcing up his pitch count the past two weeks, allowed UT to stage its comeback. Deeper into the CWS, that can become a bigger deal.
Now, this also means they have to beat Wake Forest, the top seed in the CWS, twice. However, Wake has aces down the line, and the timing of when they face Wake is irrelevant.
As a result, the best chance for Tennessee Baseball to go far in the CWS is to face LSU without Skenes and then find some way to beat Wake Forest twice this weekend. Given what UT did against Stanford’s ace Monday, that’s possible.
Of course, there’s still the fact that depth isn’t as crucial in postseason ball, particularly if the Vols get to this weekend or the championship series. However, that was always the case. The question was their path there, and facing LSU improves their chances by a lot.