Preview: Mississippi State
The Mississippi State Bulldogs (41-23) head to Omaha with a perfect record in the NCAA Tournament. They opened the tournament in the Tallahassee Regional with victories over Stetson (6-3) and defeated the host Florida State twice by scores of 3-0 and 9-4. The Bulldogs followed that up by heading home to host the Clemson Tigers in which they swept the Tigers behind a solid offense with victories of 8-6 and 8-5. Mississippi State is led by head coach Ron Polk who is making his sixth appearance with Mississippi State in Omaha and his eighth in his glorious 34 year career. Mississippi State is led by a solid offense which is headlined by Brandon Turner. He is hitting .397 on the year. Edward Easley has hit a team leading 12 homers on the year. Justin Pigott leads the pitching staff as he shut down the FSU offense for seven innings in the 3-0 shutout victory in the NCAA Regionals and pitched six effective innings in the Super Regional clincher over Clemson. Aaron Weatherford has become the shut down closer for the Bulldogs in the NCAA tournament as he has a season ERA of 3.20. The Bulldogs will be a tough out in Omaha behind the strong hitting that they possess and they have the genius coaching of Ron Polk on the bench.
Preview: Louisville Cardinals
The Louisville Cardinals are the Cinderella story of this NCAA tournament as they have made the College World Series with some impressive victories. Louisville headed out to Columbia (MO) for a NCAA Regional hosted by Missouri. The Cardinals won the first game of the regional over Miami by a score of 13-7 then played the host Tigers in which they lost 7-5. This set up a rematch with Miami which the Cardinals won 8-7 then on the same day knocked off Missouri 4-3 to force a decisive game. The Cardinals jumped all over the Missouri pitching staff for 8 runs in the first inning as they cruised to a 16-6 victory. Louisville was then named the host of their Super Regional showdown with Oklahoma State. Louisville took the opening game 9-0 then lost a heart breaker in game 2 by a score of 3-2 before beating the Cowboys in the decisive game 20-2 to clinch their first trip to the NCAA Tourney. They are led by first year head coach Dan McDonnell who inherited a senior laden team from Lelo Prado who left for University of South Florida. The offense is led by Boomer Whiting who is hitting .367 but has an outrageous amount of stolen bases with 73 in 86 attempts. Isaiah Howes leads the team in hitting with a .392 average and has a team leading 18 homers on the year. In the Super Regional clincher, Howes drove in six runs. The Cardinals pitching staff is led by the two headed monster of Zach Pitts and Justin Marks. Pitts was named the Big East Pitcher of the Year as he currently has a 10-3 record and a 2.23 ERA. Marks was named the Big East Freshman of the Year as he has an 8-2 record with a 2.54 ERA. The Louisville team has some solid players who have been playing extremely well throughout the year and should give any team fits in Omaha.
Preview: University of North Carolina
The North Carolina Tar Heels (53-13) are making their second consecutive trip to the College World Series after losing last season in the Championship Series to Oregon State. North Carolina started their run to Omaha by hosting a NCAA Regional at Boshamer Stadium. They swept through the Regional by defeating Jacksonville 6-0, East Carolina 11-10, and Western Carolina 6-5. The Tar Heels were then announced the host of their Super Regional match-up with South Carolina. North Carolina won the first game 9-6 after trailing the game 6-0 at one time. The Gamecocks came back to win Game 2 8-6 before the Tar Heels took the decisive game 9-4 as the Tar Heels got to the weak South Carolina bullpen. The Tar Heels rotation is led by senior Robert Woodard. He has a 10-2 record with a 3.01 ERA. He pitched in last years College World Series so he has experienced the atmosphere that the team will face in Omaha. The last two starters in the rotation are Luke Putkonen (7-1, 4.74 ERA) and Alex White (6-5, 4.22 ERA) who have struggled in the NCAA Tournament. The UNC bullpen is led by closer Andrew Carignan and reliever Rob Wooten. Carignan leads the team with a 2-1 record with 15 saves on the season with a minuscule ERA of 1.36. Rob Wooten has been used in 41 games this season out of the bullpen as he is the number 1 player to get called on by Head Coach Mike Fox. Wooten sports a 6-1 record with a 2.15 ERA. The offensive leader has been freshman Dustin Ackley who has a .416 BA. Reid Fronk leads the team with 11 homers on the year. The Tar Heels with the experience of some of their everyday players should not be in awe of the environment in Omaha and should be able to compete against any team in the country.
Preview: Arizona State
The Arizona State Sun Devils enter the College World Series after winning the Tempe Regional in three games and sweeping the Tempe Super Regional also. The Sun Devils opened the NCAA Tournament with a victory over Monmouth 5-3, then defeated UC-Riverside 9-2, and then in the Regional Championship knocked off Nebraska 19-7. The Sun Devils were then named hosts of the Super Regional match-up with Ole Miss which they swept in two games with a come from behind 4-3 victory and a 7-1 win to head to Omaha. The Sun Devils are led by 13th year head coach Pat Murphy who is the leading the Sun Devils to their third CWS appearance since he became the head coach. The Sun Devils are loaded on offense as they have nine players that are hitting over .327 on the year. They are hitting an outstanding .350 on the season as a team. Brett Wallace leads the team with a batting average of .423 and in homers with 16 on the year. The Sun Devils are not all about hitting as Josh Satow leading the pitching staff with a 13-3 record and a 2.41 ERA. Jason Jarvis is the closer on the team with eleven saves on the year with a 3.67 ERA. The Sun Devils will be an interesting team to watch to see if their pitching can handle the strong offenses in the CWS.
Preview: Cal State Fullerton
Cal State Fullerton ended the regular season with a record of 33-23 and in the Big West Conference; they finished fifth with a record of 10-11. Now, normally that kind of resume gets you a note saying that y’all will be spending the summer at home. However, Cal-Sate Fullerton has history on it side, they will be making their 15 appearances at the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska. Cal-State Fullerton and Omaha have become synonymous when talking about the College World Series.
Cal-State Fullerton entered the San Diego Regional as the two seed and had to travel to San Diego to play Fresno State the fourth seed, Minnesota, out of the Big 10 Conference, was the three seed and the Host San Diego, which had the number one seed. Cal State Fullerton won all three of its game to win the San Diego Regional. Cal-State Fullerton would get to host the Super Regional against the UCLA Bruins, which won the Long Beach State Regional. Cal-State Fullerton won the first game in convincing fashion 12-2 and then on Sunday night, it was a pitcher duel where the Titans prevail 2-1 to advance to the CWS for the 15th time in school history.
Leading the way for the Titans is the head Coach George Horton. Coach Horton has always been known for putting together a team that is known for its defense and pitching. Well this year is no difference than in years past. Leading the pitching staff are two very talented pitchers in Wes Roemer and Jeff Kaplan. Wes and Jeff is a combine 22-9 with an era of 3.2. The offense has struggle all year and when they got to the Tournament, it was a new year for the offense. During the tournament, Cal-State Fullerton’s offense batted a collective .336. During the regular season, it was at least 50 points lower.
With George Horton leading the way, Cal-State Fullerton has what it takes to make it back to the Championship Series at Omaha.
The Rice Owls are lead by Wayne Graham who is in his 16th season at the University. Coach Graham has turned the Rice Owls baseball program into one of the most respected in the business. Coach Graham has Rice playing in its 13 consecutive NCAA Tournament. The Rice Owls are in a Super Regional for the seventh time and they have been to the College World Series five times most recently during the ’06 season and winning it all in ’03.
This season Rice has an overall record of 54-12 and a conference record of 22-2. In the last 20 games, the Owls have only lost one game and that came during the conference tournament in Greenville, North Carolina. During the tournaments, the Pitching staff has given up a combine 8 runs total for an average of 1.6 runs a game. Wayne Graham has this Rice Owls playing like a champion. They do the little thing to get the win. They pitch, play defense and move the runners over on offense.
Rice Owls pitching staff is deep and talented as they are led by a group of guys that can get the job done. The key guy is Joe Savery he is 10-1 with an era of 2.78 and has started 17 games for the Rice Owls, he has pitched in 87 innings and the opposing team is batting .239 against him. Next is Ryan Berry who has a record of 11-2 and an era 2.71 and the opposing teams are batting against him is .240. Then there are Matt Langwell and Ryne Tacker as they are a combine 17-2. When these guys get to the late innings, they turn the ball over to Cole St. Clair. When he comes in Cole shuts the door down and finishes the game.
The offense is just has talented as the pitching staff. The same guy who leads the pitching staff also leads the offense, When Savery is not pitching he is playing first base. Savery is batting .360 and has driven in 57 runs. AS a team, the Rice owls are batting .310 and have hit 57 Home Runs. Rice will put the ball in play and force the opposing team defense to make the play.
Wayne Graham has this team focus and peaking at the right time and doing the small things that makes a Championship team. Look for this team to be in the Championship Series and for Rice to bring home the School second National Championship.
Preview: UC Irvine
UC Irvine will be making their first ever appearance at the College World Series in OMAHA. In FACT, UC-Irvine did not have a division 1 program up until 2002. UC-Irvine disbanded their baseball program in 1992. Up until that time UC-Irvine was a Division II Program and played very good baseball. In 2002, John Savage helped resurrect the program to a Division 1 status and UC-Irvine was up and running. After three years, John left for UCLA and UC-Irvine hired Dave Serrano. Dave came in with a resume that is a who’s who of college baseball. That list includes Wally Kincaid (Cerritos College), Augie Garrido (CS Fullerton), George Horton (Cerritos, CS Fullerton) and Rod Delmonico (Tennessee) with the last three all earning "National Coach of the Year" accolades. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the Anteaters have garnered national attention in just two years under Serrano's leadership.
With this being Coach Serrano 3rd year at the helm, he has his players playing the way that he was taught to him. Pitching, Defense, and small ball has paid huge dividends for this group of Anteaters. The Anteaters come into the College World Series with no experience playing on a stage this big. That is where Dave Serrano has really helped with this group of players with his coaching and playing experience. Dave has played and coached at Cal State Fullerton when they went to the College World Series. The last year that Dave was at CSF (’04) Cal State Fullerton beat Texas for the National Championship. Therefore, Dave has the experience and is able to take off the pressure of playing on the big stage. He allows his players to do funny skits to help them relax and to be kids.
The strength of the Anteaters is the pitching staff and defense. Wes Etheridge is 12-4 and has an era of 2.49 and opposing batters are batting .250 against him. Scott Gorgen is 12-2, his era is 2.68, and the opposing batters are hitting .234 against him. Wes throws not extremely hard but has great command of his strike zone he gets a lot of ground balls because of his splitter. Gorgen on the other hand is more of a hard thrower, comes right after you, and challenges you. The staff has a team era of 3.69 and when the it gets late in the ball game the staff will turn it over to the closer. Scott Erickson has 13 saves in 25 appearances and an era of 2.95 opposing batters is batting .195 against him for the year. This is probably the best 1-2 punch in this years College World Series with Etheridge and Gorgen starting and then Erickson coming in and closing it out for the Anteaters. The defense of the Anteaters is a thing of beauty to watch, the outfielders fly to the ball, the infielders cover the bases and make plays that help out the pitching staff. They have a fielding percentage of .976 while making only 57 errors for the season.
The offense of the Anteaters is lead by Cody Cipriano, who plays 2nd base, with a batting average of .338 and 12 home runs and 57 RBIs. When this team gets on the base path watch out, they will bunt you over and steal the bases. As a team they have 137 steals in 187 attempts to go along with that they have 114 sacrifice hits.
With Dave Serrano at the helm look for this team to be to make some noise at the College World Series. IF they can get a good start out of a third pitcher than this team is capable of making to the Championship Series.
Preview: Oregon State
Oregon State Beavers will be making their third straight trip to the College World Series. The Beavers are not normally known for baseball success up until three years ago the Beavers last visited Omaha was in 1952. In 2005 was the first time that they made it back to Omaha and they went 0-2. As they say it, are two and barbecue. In 2006, they defeated a very good ball club in North Carolina that was led by Andrew Miller.
Oregon State is coached by Pat Casey, which has built Oregon State into a baseball national champion. Casey and OSU wrote one of the great chapters in college baseball history in 2006, when the Beavers became the first-ever team from the Pacific Northwest to win the NCAA Division I College World Series. Pat has coached at Oregon State since 1995.
The Pitching staff has four proven starters who lead the way for this team. Jorge Reyes, pitched in the Super Regional on Saturday against Michigan, Jorge has a record of 5-3 with nine starts. The opposing teams are batting .238 against him. Daniel Thurpen is 9-1 with an era of 3.65 and opposing teams are batting .265. Joe Patterson is 10-6 with an era of 3.77 and opposing teams are batting .264. Mike Stutts has made 19 starts for OSU and has a record of 9-4 with an era of 4.06 and opposing teams are batting .234. When they get to the late stages of the games, they turn it over to the bullpen to close it out. The man for the job is Eddie Kunz he has 11 saves on the year.
As a team, the offense is batting .282 for the year. At the top are some very capable young men. Leading the way are Mike Lissman, Jordan Lennerton, and Mitch Canham. Those three combine have 24 of OSU 38 homeruns.
If OSU can get some quality starts from the pitching staff and with the way, the defense plays, 55 errors all year, look for this ball club to make some noise at OMAHA!
Both Brian and Donald cover college baseball for the College Baseball Blog.