Friday, June 26, 2009

Championship special for Mainieri, father

Pat Borzi
New York Times News Service

OMAHA, Neb. — With a gold streamer from the victory celebration dragging behind his left foot, LSU coach Paul Mainieri yelled for his players to gather for the College World Series championship trophy presentation. Then he started looking around.

“Where’s my dad?” he said.

Demie Mainieri stood about 15 feet away in a CWS championship cap, but Paul could not find him in the crowd. In the aftermath of LSU’s 11-4 victory against Texas in Game 3 of the championship final, Demie Mainieri — the longtime coach at Miami-Dade North Community College who won a national junior college title in 1964 — beamed as he watched his son and the Tigers players celebrate.

“This is really something, isn’t it?” Demie Mainieri said. “This was his dream, and I’m so happy for him. It wasn’t something that was easy for him.”

Especially Wednesday night.

The Tigers led by 4-0 after two innings, with the tournament’s most outstanding player, Jared Mitchell, pulling a three-run homer inside the right-field foul pole in the first.

But Texas, which rode a streak of improbable victories and late magic through the NCAA tournament, rallied against the LSU sophomore right-hander Anthony Ranaudo. Kevin Keyes, who slammed his bat in the first after striking out with the bases loaded, tied the game with a two-run homer in the fifth.

The Longhorns (50-16-1) discombobulated in a sloppy five-run sixth inning. A throwing error, a passed ball and two hit batsmen led to four unearned runs as LSU won its sixth national championship since 1991 and its first under Mainieri.

Reliever Brandon Workman, after three scoreless innings, walked Mitchell, a No. 1 pick of the Chicago White Sox, leading off the sixth. Catcher Cameron Rupp mishandled a high fastball for a passed ball. Mikie Mahtook, who at first tried to sacrifice, doubled in the go-ahead run.

A throwing error by Austin Dicharry, who relieved Workman, on a Micah Gibbs bunt kept the rally going. Derek Helenihi drove in a run with a sacrifice fly, and LSU (56-17) tacked on three more with two outs against the Longhorns’ closer, Austin Wood. Wood hit consecutive batters to force in a run before Sean Ochinko’s two-run single made it 9-4.

“I knew, once they tied the score, we’d be OK if we could go out and get a run or two,” Gibbs said. “To go out and put up a five-spot was incredible.”

Chad Jones, an outfielder who lost his job after leaving for spring football but returned as a situational left-handed reliever, retired five of the six batters he faced after replacing Ranaudo with one out in the sixth. Louis Coleman, who started Game 1, worked the final two innings. After striking out the side in the ninth to finish off the game, Coleman threw his glove so high that Gibbs grabbed him before it landed.

Wednesday’s loss denied Texas coach Augie Garrido his sixth national title. The Longhorns have lost twice in the final since the CWS switched to a best-of-three format in 2003, and won in 2005. But it enabled Paul Mainieri to match his father’s national championship with his own, 45 years later.

“In the ninth inning, all I could thing about was he and my mom, said Mainieri, who embraced his father and his mother, Rosetta, on the field shortly after the trophy ceremony. “This afternoon, I thought about how disappointed it would be for my mom and dad not to see us win a national championship.”

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