OMAHA, Neb. - Two very familiar foes – who have combined to win their last 17 games - will get it on tonight at the College World Series with a lot on the line.
Simply put – the winner between the University of Arkansas (40-16) and LSU (52-16) at Rosenblatt Stadium in tonight's 6 p.m. game will need to win just one more win to play for the national championship.
The loser of the ESPN2 televised showdown between SEC West powers would have to win three, obviously a much harder route.
"This is a huge game for both teams and a great showcase for our league," Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. "We have great respect for their program and how they play the game, but we feel good about what we are doing right now."
The Razorbacks – winners of all six of their NCAA Tournament games - whipped Cal-State Fullerton 10-6 Saturday afternoon the event's opening game.
The Tigers are riding the nation's longest winning streak at 11 after actually using all three of their weekend starters while rallying to down Virginia 7-5 in Saturday's nightcap.
"I can ever remember doing that, but it was what we had to do to win tonight," Mainieri said Saturday night after the win. "You've got to take this one game at a time. We talk about the importance of today, but this next game is equally important when you are in a four-team, double elimination tournament.
"This game on Monday is absolutely huge," Mainieri added.
LSU and Arkansas played the first weekend in May with the Tigers talking 2 of 3 games.
The Razorbacks won 11-4 before falling 5-0 and 4-3 in the final two games with Andy Wilkins being the go-ahead run at the plate in the final one.
"(LSU) is just really, really talented obviously like everybody here," Van Horn said. "LSU has outstanding pitching and maybe the most talented professional style position players. A lot of those kids were drafted or going to be.
"They can beat you in a lot of ways," Van Horn added. "They can beat you with the long ball or with their legs because they can run. They can also shut you down so we are going to have to play like we did (Saturday). We are going to have to play an almost flawless game."
The pitching match-up will be Razorback right-hander Brett Eibner (5-4, 4.61) against LSU All-American Louis Coleman (13-2, 2.74), who has fanned 119 and walked just 25 this season.
Eibner got knocked out in the fourth inning in the third game of the series.
Coleman blanked Arkansas in the middle game of the series while allowing just two hits, walking one and fanning six.
"He is kind of – well, I guess hitters would call him filthy, especially to right handed hitters with that crossfire action," Van Horn said. "It looks like he is throwing it behind them and then he tries to locate it away. Very few guys can do that as consistently as he can and throw that fastball and slider on the outer half as he can to right-handers. The lefties see it a little bit better, but he tries to get up under their hands a little bit with that slider."
Van Horn has a lot of respect for the opposing hurler.
"He is just a good pitcher and a good guy," Van Horn added. "I had a conversation with him at SEC Tournament. I congratulated him on making all-conference. He just seems very humble and a good person."
Asked if Arkansas was happy to have another crack at Coleman, Van Horn wanted to describe it another way.
"I wouldn't say glad to have another crack at him," Van Horn said. "We're just glad where we are really. I am not going to say we are glad to have another crack at him, but we hope we can get him. We know we are going to have to take advantages of any mistakes he may leave out there for us."
Mainieri used Coleman in the eighth inning after his team regained the lead.
"I don't think it will effect him at all," Mainieri said. "He threw 17 pitches, which is just a little bit more than a glorified bullpen session, which he normally does. He's done this once or twice earlier this year and it didn't effect him much at all on Sunday.
"He is at that point now where he just wants the ball," Mainieri continued. "We'll keep close tabs on him, but I would venture to say that Louis is going to go out there and thrown the ball really well on Monday. He will be real honest with me on how he feels and he knows I will take good care of him as far as pitch count."
Coleman made it clear he is raring to go.
"My arm feels fine as it has all season," Coleman said. "Coach does a really good job with pitch count and making sure they we are healthy. He'll come over to you two or three times during the game just making sure you are good to go.
"That's not a big problem and I want to win a national championship so if I have to throw six times while I am here that would be fine," Coleman continued.
Mainieri made it clear in his post-game comments Saturday night that he had a lot of respect for the Razorbacks.
"When we played Arkansas earlier in the year in Fayetteville, I don't know if they were ranked number one in the country or just close to it," Mainieri said. "They were playing very, very well. They were in first place in the SEC West when we played them. They beat us the first game – (Dallas) Keuchel beat us and that was probably Anthony (Ranaudo)'s other sub-par performance of the year.
"Louis went out and pitched a great game against them in game two and then we had a hard-fought game three and we were able to win two of the three," Mainieri said. "That kind of started Arkansas in a little bit of a slide and they didn't play very well for about three weeks until they got to the SEC Tournament and they turned it on again."
He thinks he sees the real Arkansas team in postseason.
"They are back to playing now they way they had been playing before we first went into Fayetteville," Mainieri said. "We have a lot of respect for how they play the game – they play it hard and very aggressive and very fundamentally sound. It should be a great ballgame.
"Everybody is good when you get to this tournament as you know," Mainieri added. "I watched a little bit of their game (Saturday) and it look like they played a real solid game and we've got our work cut out for us."
Van Horn echoed those sentiments.
"They are a great team, but our guys feel like with the way we are playing we can beat anybody right now," Van Horn said. "Now they are going to go out and try to prove it once again."
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