It is so rare in sports that a game that receives so much hype going in actually lives up to expectations.
With a spot in the Finals against Florida on the line, both teams called on their aces. LSU sent Paul Skenes, a likely top-three pick in next month’s MLB draft, to the hill to face Wake Forest on four days’ rest. The Demon Deacons countered with their own ace, Rhett Lowder, who went 15-0 this year and will also hear his name called very nearly in the draft.
Both were outstanding. Lowder went seven full innings, allowing just three hits and striking out six. Skenes matched him inning-for-inning, but faced the first real threat of the game in the top of the eighth. A leadoff walk followed by a sacrifice bunt put the potential first run of the game into scoring position. Skenes managed to strike out the next batter, Jack Winnay, but the pitch got past the catcher and Winnay took first on the dropped third strike. Justin Johnson, who drew the walk and was on second, advanced to third.
That gave Wake Forest runners at the corners, with just one out. Skenes was deep into the game now, having thrown 100 pitches on the night. With Wake Forest bringing No. 9 hitter Marek Houston to the plate, would they try something to manufacture a run against the LSU ace?
Perhaps a squeeze play?
Wake Forest did just that, but the LSU defense was ready.
And Tre’ Morgan turned in a play that will live on in Tigers’ history, regardless of how things turn out against Florida this weekend:
Morgan crashes towards home on the bunt, fields it cleanly, and immediately shoves the ball towards catcher Alex Milazzo at home. For his part Milazzo’s catch-and-tag to finish the play is just as impressive, as they cut down Johnson before he can score the go-ahead run.
Here’s a look at the tag from Milazzo:
The game would remain scoreless until the bottom of the 11th, when Tommy White walked it off against Cam Minacci, one of the best closers in college baseball this season. After the game White said he was looking for a fastball, did not get one, but somehow got his hands to it.
He sure did:
That moment will also live on in LSU lore.
But Morgan’s play in the eighth inning made it possible, and was one of the best defensive plays you will ever see.