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Peter Flaherty | National College Baseball Writer, Baseball America

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The Truth Network Radio
June 27, 2023 5:50 am

Peter Flaherty | National College Baseball Writer, Baseball America

Amy Lawrence Show / Amy Lawrence

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June 27, 2023 5:50 am

National College Baseball writer for Baseball America Peter Flaherty joins the show from Omaha, Nebraska to recap the College Baseball World Series!

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Amy Lawrence

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Peloton app available through free tier or paid subscription starting at $12.99 per month. Really excited to welcome Peter Flaherty of Baseball America who covers college baseball and was in Omaha for the College World Series, this incredible event that people really do flock to year after year. And Peter joining us now so that we can talk about this LSU title.

Peter, thank you for your time. The College World Series done again now in 2023. It's so popular, such a great atmosphere. What stands out to you about your time in Omaha? So it was my first time in Omaha and I gotta say it might be all downhill from here because, gosh, it was an unbelievable, I think it was 16, 15 or 16 games in every single one was absolutely fantastic. You saw so many close finishes, so many outstanding plays, outstanding players, culminating with LSU winning its first national championship in 14 years.

So every game had a little bit of everything and it was just an absolute blast. Ultimately, how did the Tigers prevail against Florida and against the rest of the field and earn the title of champion? Yeah, so for LSU, I mean, they started the season as the consensus preseason number one team. They had some of the highest expectations of any college baseball team ever, maybe the highest. And they started off strong, maintained that number one ranking, and then there were some questions about their bullpen, how that depth would play in a tournament-like setting.

And I mean, they cruised through regionals and super regionals where they combined 5-0 record, maybe two lane Oregon State twice to advance to super regionals and then swept Kentucky at the box to advance to Omaha. And then once they were in Omaha, well, it was kind of their offense that I think starred throughout the regular season outside of Paul Skeens and Ty Floyd. It was a really, really well-balanced pitching effort. You saw guys like freshman left-hander Griffin Herring, Riley Cooper, Thatcher Hurts, Gavin Guidry, so many guys on that staff. And of course, Paul Skeens, Nate Akenhausen, and Ty Floyd turn in quality pitching performances. So the bats weren't, I mean, they had a strong offensive showing in its first four games, but the pitching really carried the way up until this championship series and really just game three tonight. It was LSU's pitching that got them here. Skeens is the ace of LSU, throws 243 pitches over his two appearances. That's so anti-major league.

Pitchers don't throw that number of balls, right, over the course of two starts. What a workhorse. He's a generational type talent. He is the best college pitcher we've seen in quite some time, dating back to the likes of Stephen Strasburg and Garrett Cole, and I think Skeens will go down as the best and be talked about in the history books, really forever. He was an outstanding get for Coach Johnson in the transfer portal, and he hit the ground running for the Tigers 12-2 record this year.

1.690 RA. His 209 strikeouts are both in the SEC and an LSU team record. He was outstanding here in Omaha with 15-2 third innings pitch, 21 strikeouts, only 200 runs allowed. I mean, he's got an electric fastball.

He'll sit in the 98-101, 102 mile per hour range. And it's an offering he supplements with a 70-grade double plus slider and a double plus changeup, and I think one of the things that sets him apart is his makeup and mentality on the mound, and I think some of that can be attributed to his time at the Air Force Academy. You see him on some of the biggest stages in college baseball, whether it be at a packed road environment in the SEC or here in Omaha on literally the biggest stage in all of college baseball, and he is unfazed. He is blinders down and a world-class competitor, so he is just unbelievable in so many ways. And now the most outstanding player of the College World Series. We're excited to spend a few minutes in Omaha's side of this incredible event with Peter Flaherty, who's there for Baseball America's first time, so getting a taste of the pomp and the circumstances after hours here on CBS Sports Radio. How did LSU recover from what happened on Sunday against Florida in what was a Game 2 route by the Gators in which they gave up 24 runs?

I mean, it's a great question. I think everyone left the stadium wondering how and even if they'd be able to bounce back, but if there's any coaching staff in the country and any group of guys in the country that are going to bounce back how they did tonight, it's the 2023 LSU Tigers. Coach Johnson is an outstanding coach, and I know for a fact once he got in that clubhouse, it was like, hey, bad losses happen, we've got to flush it, and at the end of the day, we're still one win away from a national championship, which is our ultimate goal, so let's refocus, let's regroup, and just let's get after it tomorrow. Get after it they did with an outstanding showing, so I think it's a testament to the short memory that they had, just their ability to flush it and deal with failure in a game that's really, you're going to fail most of the time, an outstanding bounce back effort by the Tigers. And how much do you think it mattered that they brought back a real significant core from last year's team? I think it mattered a lot. They had a great blend of, obviously you talk about the transfer editions with Tommy White, Paul Skeen, Thatcher Hurd, those notable guys, but having a core of 2023 Golden Spikes winner now, Dylan Cruz, Kate Beloso, Trey Morgan, Gavin Dugas, a veteran, Jordan Thompson, it's an outstanding blend of guys.

So while a lot can be attributed to that transfer class, that core group of guys who have spent every second of their playing career at Baton Rouge, they don't win the national championship without them. I know that Alex Milazzo was actually celebrating with the Tigers on the field, but what do we know about his ankle? Man, the second he landed on home plate, it looked and felt awkward for him. Yeah, no, credit to Alex Milazzo, both all of this season and out here in Omaha, I think he's one of LSU's unsung guys, and when we talk about this 2023 national championship team, they certainly don't win it without him.

He only played, he only started 25 games, but he had 290. His ability to call a game as a catcher, the way that he knows his pitchers, an excellent defender we saw tonight, a couple of excellent blocks on balls in the dirt, previous night, same thing. He moves really well laterally, and he's clearly a leader that guys look to, and on tonight's, Cade Beloso's single, he was off on the pitch, so he was running, saw the ball, kind of split the gap a little bit in the outfield and never broke stride and kind of leapt in awkwardly to home plate, and it was brutal to see him go down with an injury, but he was on the field celebrating.

I actually know nothing about his injury, literally nothing other than that he was on crutches, but he is one of the many heartbeats of this team. Peter Flaherty is with us from Omaha for Baseball America, LSU winning its first title since 2009, though they do have the women's basketball national championship as well. I saw Kim Mulkey there in the crowd, mug the crazy Tiger fans, it's after hours on CBS Sports Radio. What impressed you about Florida and their run to this point, forcing a third game of the championship series? Florida didn't get here by accident. They throughout the year also proved that they were in the top tier, the upper echelon, kind of the class of college baseball along with LSU, and coming into this championship series, I think many people thought they were the favorites. They were playing really good baseball, having just come off a sweep of South Carolina in the super regionals.

They relied a little bit on the home run ball in their first three games in Omaha, but they just found a way to win with three consecutive one-run wins. For the Gators, again, I think it was a super, super balanced attack led by potential number one overall draft tech this July, Wyatt Langford, and then obviously Jack Caglione, who finishes the season with 33 home runs, which is the most in the BD Corps era and atop the home run leaderboards nationally. They led the offense along with Josh Rivera, who it's great to see him hit his stride this year after a couple of slower seasons for the Gators, but he had a career year in which he had 348 with 19 home runs, and then obviously on the pitching side of things. That rotation of Waldrop, Sproat, and Caglione is one of the most formidable, if not the most formidable in the country.

It's premium stuff with Waldrop and Sproat, thunderous velocity with all three of them, and it's different looks with all three. Caglione is upper 90s from the left side, Sproat and Waldrop each with elite fastballs and excellent off-speed stuff, and kind of looking towards the bullpen, it's spring nearly holding it down in the back end, so anywhere you look, it's really hard to poke holes in this Gator team. It's hard to expose them, and they have a young core that they're going to be able to build around, and I wouldn't be shocked in the slightest if they're right back here next year and playing for another national championship. I like how you point out on your Twitter that Ty Evans had four home runs before the College World Series, and then he had five in Omaha, so fans got a chance to see him put on a show. So yeah, the way that the Gators forced a deciding game is cool, and the offensive explosion from Sunday served notice, at least, that they need to be part of the equation, even in a stacked SEC.

Yeah, absolutely. With Coach O'Sullivan and his staff around him, as well as the players that they bring in on a year-to-year basis, they're going to be talked about as potential SEC champions, potential national champions, really for the foreseeable future, I think. So how strong is the SEC compared to the other conferences in college baseball, Peter? I mean, they've won five of the last six national championships for a reason. They are the class of college baseball right now, and it would have been six in a row. They're one pitch away from six in a row in 2018, but it is...every look, it's stacked.

This year, obviously, you get the top. You kind of...LSU in Florida will get the shine, but then you also have quality programs like Tennessee, who is also out here in the College World Series. Vanderbilt is outstanding year in and year out. South Carolina with Coach Kingston is in a really good spot. Kentucky and Coach Mangione, they had a fantastic season, winning 40 games for the first time in a while.

There is really no weak link in the SEC, and every year, there seems to be one surprise team that sort of comes out of nowhere to make a serious run at it, but the SEC is the class of college baseball. If you're talking to a sports fan, or maybe it's not even a sports fan who knows nothing about the College World Series or Omaha, what would you tell them about why this event is so popular, especially now that you've experienced in person? It's second to none, and I actually think it's one of one in all of sports.

You don't really know how to describe it unless you've been out here, and I know that sounds like making an inside joke, being a part of an inside joke, whatever, but it's just truly, truly unbelievable. Between the teams that are out here, the quality of play on the field year in and year out, and I love the fact that it's in Nebraska, in Omaha, right in the heart of the country. When you come to Omaha, which is a great city, you eat, sleep, and you read baseball for two weeks, so for any baseball junkie, any sports lover out there, this is a must-attend type of event, and once you get out here and experience it firsthand, you'll see why. I mean, walking down to the field after the national championship, it almost brought tears to my eyes. It's just such a special culmination of the college baseball season. So what comes next now that the World Series is done, Peter? Yeah, so for Baseball America, I also cover the MLB draft, along with Carlos Collazo, who's our lead draft guy, the Cape League with the outstanding Jeff Ponce, and then the college offseason with the transfer portal, the coaching carousel. There will be plenty of college stuff throughout the offseason as well, and then as you get into the fall and fall practices. So there's a little bit of a break here, but I'm going to keep going full steam ahead.

So really cool to get the landscape from Omaha and the College World Series as LSU is a champion for the first time since 09. Great photos and videos on Peter's Twitter. You can find him there at Peter G. Flaherty, F-L-A-H-E-R-T-Y, a national writer and analyst for Baseball America and the upcoming draft in the offseason. Peter, great to have you on the show for the first time. Thank you so much for a couple of minutes. Oh, thank you so much for having me.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-06-27 06:30:15 / 2023-06-27 06:37:20 / 7

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