June 15, 2000
By Mark Long
OMAHA, Neb. – Brad Cresse couldn’t wait any longer.
Cresse jumped on Blair Varnes‘ first pitch, ending an 0-for-9 slump at the
College World Series and starting an eighth-inning rally for the LSU Tigers as
they beat Florida State 6-3 Thursday night to advance to the championship game.
“Obviously I hadn’t gotten a hit all series long. I hadn’t gotten a pitch
to hit and I had been swinging at bad pitches,” said Cresse, who led LSU with
a .400 batting average, 30 homers and 104 RBIs this season.
The Tigers (51-17) advanced to the title game for the fifth time since 1991.
LSU, which won championships in each of its other four championship game
appearances, plays Stanford on Saturday. The Cardinal beat Louisiana-Lafayette
19-9 en route to their third title game.
It marks the first time since 1996 that both teams entered the championship
“We’ve got a great team and we’ve got a great chance to win it,” said
LSU’s Brad Hawpe, who was 2-for-3 with two RBIs.
The Seminoles, meanwhile, haven’t won a championship in 18 trips to the CWS,
the most by any team without winning it all. Coach Mike Martin has fallen shot
in all 12 of his appearances at Rosenblatt Stadium.
“Golly bum, did we get after it all year long,” Martin said. “To get out
here, that’s what it’s about. God’s going to give it to me one day because I
started hard praying in 1980.”
LSU scored a run in three of the first five innings to take a 3-0 lead, but
the Seminoles (53-19) tied the game with a two-run eighth. The Tigers answered
with three runs in the bottom of the inning.
Weylin Guidry (1-2) pitched two-thirds of an inning for the win, while Trey
Hodges got the final two outs for his second save.
Mike Fontenot got LSU’s eighth-inning rally started with a one-out single
under a diving Marshall McDougall.
Cresse, hitless with six strikeouts when he stepped to the plate, drove
Varnes’ first pitch off the left-field fence. Cresse raised an arm in the air
after the hit, thinking it was a home run.
“Unfortunately, the wind knocked it down,” said Cresse, who settled for a
double. Fontenot stopped at third.
Varnes intentionally walked Hawpe, who provided LSU’s first two runs, to
load the bases. Then Varnes hit Blair Barbier, scoring Fontenot.
Varnes (11-4), who took the loss in last year’s title game against Miami,
fell to 0-3 in the CWS. He gave up eight hits and six runs in 7 1-3 innings.
With two outs, Cedrick Harris singled off reliever Matt Lynch, scoring
Cresse and Hawpe to make it 6-3.
“That was probably the big hit,” Martin said of Harris’ single. “It made
it a three-run ballgame and we now have to get two runners on base to tie it.”
The Seminoles stranded 13 runners, including nine in scoring position.
“I didn’t do my job all day long,” Florida State first baseman Ryan
Barthelemy said. “We had many opportunities to put ourselves in a better
position, and I take partial blame for it.”
The ‘Noles, though, tied the game in the eighth.
The Tigers took an early lead with three runs off Varnes.
Fontenot drew a walk from Varnes in the first, stole second and scored on
Hawpe’s single to right.
Hawpe led off the third with his third home run in his last five at-bats and
12th this season. He had two homers in the Tigers’ 10-4 win over Southern
Ray Wright, FSU’s No. 9 hitter, homered to right in the fifth, his fourth
“I’ve felt pretty good at the plate this tournament,” Hawpe said. “It was
nice to get on the board first. It helped the pitching out, helped the team out
and really relaxed us.”