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Kings for a day

This football-crazy city became baseball wild Sunday as Louisiana State's national champion team returned home. Motorists honked as the team bus lumbered through the city, heading for the Alex Box baseball stadium, where fans had been asked to gather.

Hundreds lined the street near the campus, unable to get into the stadium that holds 6,000 and sits in the shadow of Tiger Stadium, the 80,000-seat facility for the sport that is No. 1 _ football.

"Stepchild no more," Baton Rouge attorney Bert Garroway said. "We'll have more seating before it's over. We may have to move into Tiger Stadium."

Garroway was among a group of 200 who decided a few years ago to create a baseball booster club.

The team gathered in the infield, facing one of the largest crowds ever to grace the facility. Kids sneaked from the stands holding baseballs to be autographed.

"Yesterday, when I took the mound, I wasn't this nervous," pitcher Chad Ogea told the crowd. "It's unbelievable all of you people who are here to see us come home."

The Tigers (55-19) won the College World Series Saturday, beating Wichita State 6-3 at Omaha, Neb.

"This program, this facility was nowhere near what it is now when coach (Skip) Bertman came here," Ogea said. "What else has changed is the fan support. You're the greatest college baseball fans in the country."

Bertman came eight years ago when LSU was accustomed to one coach, an unpaid assistant who slept in the dressing room, and fans who often were outnumbered by those on the field.

Bertman, a former Miami assistant, has taken LSU to the CWS five of the past six years. He wasn't sure the team was going this season.

Just over a month ago, the team was slumping, having lost six of its previous 10 games. It won the Southeastern Conference, but lost to Florida in the SEC tournament.

Then the Tigers went undefeated in the regionals and in the CWS, with the help of some lusty hitting.

The Tigers' 48 runs and 12.0 runs-per-game average was a record for the CWS, breaking the 11.0 average by Notre Dame in 1957.

The nine home runs in four games tied a record set in 1981 by Arizona State, which took six games to do it.

LSU committed only one error in its four-game sweep to the title _ a .993 fielding percentage.

"The explanation is that confidence just spread through the lineup," Bertman said. "It was just a matter of belief."

Notes: Shortstop Kevin Polcovich and designated hitter Mario Linares of Florida were named to the College World Series All-Tournament team. Gary Hymel of national champion Louisiana State was named the tournament's most outstanding player.

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