LSU walks it off vs. Wake Forest in MCWS classic

OMAHA, Neb. — 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 Men’s College World Series finals.

The win sends the Tigers (52-16) to the best-of-three MCWS 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 Demon 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.

It was a fitting end to one of the most anticipated non-championship MCWS 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 Wake Forest’s Rhett Lowder set this one apart from the first two. The two are projected top-10 overall picks in next month’s amateur draft — ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel has Skenes going fifth and Lowder going ninth in his latest mock draft — and they matched zeroes deep into the game. Wake Forest came in 18-0 in games Lowder had started.

It was the fourth game in MCWS history that was scoreless through 10 innings (and first since Arkansas’ 1-0 win over South Carolina in 14 innings in 1985). It also was the fourth time since aluminum bats were introduced in 1974 that both starting pitchers threw at least 7 scoreless innings in a MCWS game.

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 SEC’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 than in the eighth inning when Justin Johnson drew a leadoff walk and ended up on third on a wild pitch.

Johnson started running for home when Marek Houston bunted to the right side. First baseman Tre’ Morgan charged, picked up the ball and made a diving flip to catcher Alex Milazzo, who tagged Johnson for the second out. Skenes got out of the inning when left fielder Josh Pearson, playing shallow, caught Tommy Hawke’s liner.

Wake Forest also had some anxious moments in the eighth. Cole Roland took over for Lowder and issued a leadoff walk to Pearson, who moved to second on Milazzo’s sacrifice.

Massey relieved, and he pitched to Crews with first base open and one out. Massey struck out the projected No. 1 draft pick and then intentionally walked White to get to Morgan, who flew out to center.

The Demon Deacons played without Nick Kurtz, a .353 hitter with 24 home runs. He aggravated a rib injury in pregame warmups and was scratched from the lineup 20 minutes before first pitch.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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