2014 College World Series Preview

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After two weeks of wild Regionals and Super Regionals where we saw national seeds falter and underdogs battle to move on, the 8 team field is finally set for the 2014 College World Series.  This years field features: Texas, Texas Tech, TCU, Virginia, UC-Irvine, Louisville, Ole Miss, and Vanderbilt. Let’s take a look at how each of the 8 teams got to Omaha.

Texas Longhorns (43-19)

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The Texas Longhorns are headed back to Omaha for a NCAA leading 35th time, and are looking to win their 7th national title.  After defeating Texas A&M in the Houston Regional Championship, the Longhorns surprisingly earned the right to host a Super Regional vs the Houston Cougars, who defeated LSU in the Baton Rouge Super Regional. Texas went on to sweep the Cougars winning Game 1, 4-2 and Game 2, 4-0 shutting down a good Cougar offense.  For the Longhorn offense, it’s all about the fundamentals, get on, get them over, and get them in. With their 2 sacrifice bunts this past weekend, they’re up to an NCAA leading 96 sacrifice bunts on the year, and they love playing small ball, or as they call it, “Augie-Ball.”  Their unquestioned offensive leader is Mark Payton, has reached base in 101 consecutive games and will look to extend that streak this weekend. On the year, Payton is hitting .326 with 2 home runs and 38 RBI’s.  As a team the Horns are hitting .268 and have 74 steals in 88 attempts, which helps them score runs, while still playing small ball.  On the mound, Texas is very talented, and is able to back up that offense no matter how few runs they score.  They’re led by ace, Nathan Thornhill, who is 8-2 with a 1.57 ERA, striking out 59 in 97 2/3 innings.  The 2nd starter for the Horns is right hander, Parker French who is very talented, totaling a 6-5 record with a 2.45 ERA in 17 games.  The Texas bullpen is one of the best in the country led by John Curtiss, who in 25 games has a record of 2-2 and ERA of 2.05 and a team high 9 saves.  Along with Curtiss, is lefty Travis Duke, who has even better numbers, in 26 outings, has allowed only 1 earned run, which equals an ERA of 0.34.  Though the Texas staff has a team ERA of 2.32 which is good for 6th best in the country, it’s only 3rd best in Omaha.

Texas Tech Red Raiders (45-19)

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For the 1st time in school history, the Texas Tech Red Raiders are headed to the College World Series.  After going through the Coral Gables (Miami) Regional, the Red Raiders found themselves hosting a Super Regional vs College of Charleston, after the Florida Gators were eliminated early in the regional.  They went on to sweep The College of Charleston beating them 1-0 in both games.  At the dish, they’re led by Sophomore first baseman, Eric Gutierrez, who leads the team in average (.312), home runs (12), RBI’s (58), hits (74) and runs scored with (46). He is their leader and when he goes, so goes the Red Raider offense. In the Super Regional, he went 2 for 6 with a walk. Along with Gutierrez, is the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, Adam Kirsch, who went 2 for 7 with one of the 2 RBI’s over the weekend. On the season, Kirsch, is 2nd on the team with a .300 average, 10 home runs and 51 RBI’s.  Freshman, Stephen Smith, is the table setter for the Red Raiders, hitting .282 on the season, but has an on base percentage of .414, leads the team in walks (36) and 2nd on the team in runs with 41.  On the mound, Texas Tech has a very solid pair of starting pitchers in Dylan Dusek who is 8-0 with a 1.94 ERA in 14 starts. Similar to most of the other Tech starters, he doesn’t go very deep in games, only totaling 74 1/3 innings and striking out 38.  The Red Raiders have chosen to start Chris Sadberry in their opening game, and he’s  been consistent throughout the year going 5-3 with a 3.17 ERA, striking out 60 in 88 innings.  The rock of the Raider bullpen is Jonny Drozd, who in 26 appearances is 7-0 with a 2.00 ERA in 72 innings, striking out 48.  They don’t have a true closer and often go by committee, but another talented arm is Cameron Smith, 8-2 with a 2.81 ERA in 67 1/3 innings, and has proven he can start and go the distance if necessary, as he did in the regional versus Miami.

TCU Horned Frogs (#7 National Seed) (47-16)

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The TCU Horned Frogs head back to Omaha for the 2nd time in school history, and their 2nd time in 4 years, hoping to have better success than their last trip.  After sweeping their regional 3-0, they drew the Pepperdine Waves in the Fort Worth Super Regional.  It took a 2 run top of the 9th, and holding off a Pepperdine rally to clinch their spot but they got it done, and are headed to Omaha.  Boomer White, is the Horned Frog offensive leader, leading the team in hits (81), and 2nd in average (.318) and runs with 48.  In the 3 games vs Pepperdine, White struggled going 1 for 11 but was picked up by several of his teammates, including Garrett Crain and Cody Jones. On the year, Crain is the Horned Frogs leading hitter at .335 and Jones is the table-setter for TCU. On the year, Jones is only hitting .269, but he gets on base at a .396 clip and leads the team with 28 stolen bases.  To open their CWS run, TCU has announced 2x Big 12 Pitcher of the Year, Preston Morrison will get the start.  On the year, Morrison is 9-4 with a 1.32 ERA over 122 1/3 innings. This comes as kind of shock to me, as first round draft pick, Brandon Finnegan has been the regular #1 starter throughout the year for the Frogs.  On the year Finnegan is 9-3 with a 2.12 ERA, striking out 129 in 97 2/3 innings. Along with Finnegan and Morrison, TCU has another great starter with Tyler Alexander, who is 10-3 with a 2.16 ERA. All 3 TCU starters are capable of going the distance, and can shut you down in the process.  The TCU bullpen is led by closer, Riley Farrell, who features a fastball at about 97 and a nasty slider that he can retire you on.  On the year, Ferrell has an outstanding 0.68 ERA in 29 appearances, with 15 saves, and 64 punchouts in 39 2/3 innings.

Virginia Cavaliers (#3 National Seed) (49-14)

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After sweeping their regional, the Cavaliers drew their ACC rival, Maryland Terrapins in the Virginia Super Regional.  After dropping Game 1 5-4, the Cavs had their backs against the wall, and had to rally, and rally they did, taking Game 2 7-3, and in Game 3, they just dominated, winning 11-2, clinching their spot in Omaha.  In their 3rd trip in school history, this could be the best chance Virginia has had at winning the national championship.  They’re a very balanced ball club that can do it all offensively and defensively.  At the plate they are led by offensive stud, Mike Papi, who leads the team in just about every offensive category and just went 7 for 13 this past weekend, driving in 3. Papi is hitting .311 on the year with 11 home runs, 54 RBI’s, 69 hits, and 53 runs, while also walking 55 times.  Along with Papi in the middle of the UVA lineup is Joe McCarthy, hitting .305 on the year with 6 home runs and 46 RBI’s, and he leads the team with 11 stolen bases in 12 attempts.  On the mound, the Cavaliers pitching staff is one of the best in the nation with a team ERA of 2.31 That pitching staff is led by left-handed ace, Nathan Kirby, who will take a 9-2 record with a 1.73 ERA into Omaha and hopes to have his success continue.  Kirby struggled a bit against Maryland, giving up 5 runs on 7 hits in just 4 2/3 innings of work, and will have to pitch better than that to give the Cavs a shot.  Along with Kirby is another sophomore left hander, Brandon Waddell, who is 9-3 with a 2.66 ERA and has struck out 63 in 98 innings.  He gave his team a big boost when he went into the 6th and gave up just 1 run in Game 2.   The bullpen is very much like the starters, consistent and strike throwers, with a bullpen ERA near 2.40, and they’re led by closer Nick Howard. Howard, who has 19 saves in 28 appearances, holds a 2-1 record with a 2.05 ERA, striking out 51 in just 30 2/3 innings.

UC-Irvine Anteaters (40-23)

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From one of the last 4 teams selected to play in the postseason to defeating the #1 overall national seed, Oregon State, to going to Stillwater and defeating Oklahoma State, the UC Irvine Anteaters are headed back to Omaha for the 2nd time in school history. Pitching, pitching, and more pitching is how UC-Irvine has got it done in the postseason.  As a team, the Anteaters have a 2.76 ERA, good for 20th in the nation, but as of late, they’ve been even better.  Led by ace Andrew Morales, Irvine will be looking to get off to a hot start.  On the year, Morales is 11-2 with a 1.53 ERA, striking out 136 in 129 2/3 innings and most recently pitched his team into Omaha, by throwing a complete game shutout in game 2, as Irvine clinched the series with a 1-0 victory.  Along with Morales, Irvine will run out Elliot Surrey, who has posted an 8-4 record with a 1.99 ERA.  In the super regional, Surrey threw 7 innings, allowing no earned runs, while striking out 5 en route to a Game 1 victory.  Sam Moore, the Irvine closer, has been outstanding all year, and any lead is basically safe with Moore. On the year he’s posted 23 saves in 31 appearances with a 1.88 ERA.  Offensively, the Anteaters aren’t very explosive and are more stagnant than anything, hitting .272 as a team, but are led by stud first baseman, Connor Spencer, who’s hitting .370 on the year and leads the team with 88 hits and 44 RBI’s.  Along with Spencer, is 3rd baseman, Taylor Sparks, who is hitting .307 and tied for the team lead with 5 home runs and 2nd in hits with 74. If Irvine wants to be successful in Omaha, they’re going to have to get the bats going in that big ballpark, and score more than just 1 or 2 runs.

Louisville Cardinals (50-15)

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Louisville’s run in the postseason has gone about as smooth as any team could ask for, going 3-0 in the regional, and then sweeping Cinderella, Kennesaw State in 2 games and they’re headed back to Omaha for the 2nd straight year. For the Cardinals, once they’re on base, they’re looking to run, and then run some more.  Their game is to steal bases, and try to put pressure on the defense, and they’ve done a good job doing so this year, stealing 132 bases in 166 attempts, good for 2nd in the country.  Cole Sturgeon is the leader at the top for Louisville, hitting .331 on the year which leads the team with 86 hits (25 extra base hits) and has 19 stolen bases on the year.  The big bat in the Cards lineup is cleanup hitter, Jeff Gardner, who’s hitting .321 on the year with 9 home runs and 68 RBI’s (6th best in the country), and he’s 2nd on the team in hits with 75.  The speedster in the Cardinals lineup is Sutton Whitting, who is hitting an abysmal .212, but he has an on base percentage of .367. When Whitting gets on base, you can expect him to try and swipe a base as he leads the team with 37 steals on just 43 attempts. Kyle Funkhouser is the leader on the bump for Louisville, going 13-2 with a 1.73 ERA and striking out 117 in 114 1/3 innings. Behind Funkhouser, normally is Jared Ruxer who is  7-1 with a 2.27 ERA, striking out 68 in 75 1/3 innings, but suffered an elbow injury and had to undergo Tommy John Surgery. With Ruxer out, Anthony Kidson has really stepped up in a big way, going 9-0 with a 3.54 ERA. The bullpen is also very good, led by closer Nick Burdi, who easily sits in the upper 90′s and touching triple digits.  Burdi is 3-1 in 30 games with 0.51 ERA and 18 saves on the year, striking out 62 in 35 1/3 innings. They also get good stuff out of Cole Sturgeon, a top offensive player for the Cards, who is 3-0 in 25 games with a 1.98 ERA.

Ole Miss Rebels (46-19)

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After rolling through their Oxford regional, the Ole Miss Rebels then had to go into Lafayette and “The Tigue” to face the offensive juggernaut that was the Louisiana Lafayette Ragin Cajuns.  After dropping game 1 to the Cajuns, their backs to the wall, the Rebels found a way to get the monkey off their back and take games 2 and 3 to head to Omaha for the 1st time in 42 years!  Offensively, the Rebels are no slouch either, hitting .303 as a team slugging out 42 home runs, good for 16th in the country. At the top, they’re led by Braxton Lee and Austin Bousfield, who upon getting on base look to run, as they’re a combined 47-53 in stolen base attempts.  Bousfield, the Rebels top offensive hitter leads the team with a .349 average and a team high 96 hits and 58 runs.  After those 2 at the top, catcher Will Allen, leads the team with 30 extra base hits and a team high 61 RBI’,s while the big 1st baseman, Sikes Orvis leads the team with 14 home runs, and is playing with a chip on his shoulder after going undrafted in the MLB Draft.  The ace of the Rebels staff is Chris Ellis, who on the year is 10-2 with a 2.45 ERA and has struck out 64 in 106 2/3 innings pitched.  Though Ellis is the ace, the Rebs have elected to start Christian Trent in their opener vs Virginia. Trent on the year is a perfect 9-0 with a 2.21 ERA striking out 80 hitters in 102 innings.   Josh Laxer, is the Rebels go to reliever appearing in 22 games, posting a 2-2 record with a 1.32 ERA and 6 saves (the most on the ballclub.) Scott Weathersby, has also been good for the Rebels at 3-1 with a 2.00 ERA in 18 games. As a team, the Rebels have posted a 2.72 ERA which is good for 16th in the country, and could be key in the big ballpark in Omaha.

Vanderbilt Commodores (46-19)

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After rolling through the Nashville regional, the Commodores of Vanderbilt ran into a bit of a test against the PAC 12’s Stanford Cardinal having to win a decisive game 3, to earn their berth to Omaha and the College World Series. Similar to their opening round opponent, Louisville, the ‘Dores like to run and put pressure on the opponent, stealing 103 bases in 143 attempts.  At the top they’re led by Darby Swanson, who is hitting .335 on the year with 29 extra base hits and a team high 58 runs scored and 18 stolen bases.  Bryan Reynolds is a very good freshman, who is hitting .343 with 24 doubles, 4 home runs, and 52 RBI’s, and has swiped 13 bases. He’s swinging a very hot bat, as he lead the ‘Dores this past weekend going 8 for 12 with 2 walks.  On the mound, Vanderbilt has a ton of power arms on the roster that can hit the mid to upper 90s with consistency.  That starts at the top with ace, Tyler Beede, who is 8-7 with a 3.58 ERA striking out 108 in 103. The one problem with the 14th overall pick in last week’s MLB Draft, has been his consistency this year, as his record indicates.  That inconsistency showed in game 1 vs Stanford as he was nearly unhittable for 3 innings, but then struggled and couldn’t get through the 5th inning.  With Beede’s struggles, Tim Corbin has elected to start another stud, Carson Fulmer in the opening game against Louisville. That’s not a big step down, as Fulmer on the year is 6-1 with a 1.78  in 23 appearances and just 7 starts as he’s converted from closer to starter towards the end of the year. The Vandy bullpen is very good as well, led by Adam Ravenelle, who is 3-2 in 21 appearances with a 1.56 ERA striking out 33 in 34 2/3 innings. As a team, the ‘Dores have a team ERA of 2.75 which is good for 19th in the country, and opponents are only hitting at a .208 clip off the staff.

Opening Round Picks:

UC-Irvine vs Texas: Texas

Louisville vs Vanderbilt: Vanderbilt

Texas Tech vs TCU: TCU

Ole Miss vs Virginia: Virginia 

Champion: Virginia. I think this UVA team is just so balanced offensively and defensively.  They have the pitching to keep teams scoreless in that big ballpark, and the offense has plenty of firepower to get it done against the other 7 teams.

5 DAYS and counting

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Continuing on from my articles earlier this year, here are my picks (Based on my picks) for the Knockout rounds*.

Round of 16:

Brazil v. Netherlands: Tough fight, but Brazil is at home and that is enough to see them push through a tough Netherlands team 3-2.

Greece v England: Greece is a master at parking the bus and almost pulls out another shocker result, but the Three Lions are just too talented for Greece in the end. 1-0 After Extra Time.

Switzerland v B&H: I wasn’t quite sure how this was going to go originally, but the more I thought about it the more I realized, Switzerland has a pretty good team, as does B&H, but their experience proves the difference maker and B&H can go home proud of their first World Cup appearance. 2-0 Switzerland

Germany v Belgium: This match is very similar to the one above. A pair of talented teams matching up, but once again experience is the deciding factor. Germany just has too many weapons in too many places who have been here before and know what it takes to get through a round of 16 match. Belgium heads home, but with this experience look to be a WOW team in 2018. Germany 3-1.

Chile v Croatia: Closest match in this round. Chile has been on a roll, and Croatia is very talented, In a tough match, extra time ends 0-0 so it goes to the heart stopping kicks from the mark. Its basically a crapshoot at this point, and I have Chile (and home continent advantage) moving on 0-0 (4-3) on kicks.

Colombia v Italy: Italy is another team that knows what it is doing here, we’ve all seen the traditional Italian style, clamp down, don’t make mistakes, and get out of there with a 2-1 or 1-0 win. However I don’t think that will work vs. Colombia this year. The Colombians just have too many talented attacking options, and I don’t think the Italians can match firepower of that magnitude after trying to clamp down most of the game. Another victory for a South American side 2-1

Argentina v Ecuador: The most lopsided of these R16 matches, I really think if this is the matchup Argentina in a walk. Ecuador is good, but Argentina just has that thing about them going into this tournament (Even more than Brazil in my opinion) that they are NOT going to be stopped. Argentina wins 4-1

US v Russia: Its the cold war all over again! Russia v the US, Rocky v Drago, “good” vs “evil”. The hype machine would be in full swing for this match, but when it comes down to it, neither of these teams particularly impress me. Sure they made it through to the knockouts, but I expect a rather boring match, both teams playing somewhat carefully and not having much in the way of a free flowing attack. I think the US moves on 2-1 namely because I think their counter is better than the Russian counter.

Round of 8:

Brazil v England: This is going to be a fun match to watch, two very solid teams, two teams who know how to attack, and in the end, a 2-1 Victory for Brazil in front of a raucous home crowd!

Germany v Switzerland: Another match that would be great to watch. I expect it to be quite open, and but for a few bounces Germany could blow this open, I think their quality would just be too much for the Swiss. Germany 2-0.

Chile v Colombia: Now here is one that could be tough. Both teams are great on the attack, both teams have home continent advantage. What this one comes down to is form and history. Colombia is in their first world cup in 16 years! Chile was here in the KOs as recently as 4 years ago. Chile has also been having a nice run of form as of late too. I have to give the edge to Chile, 1-0 over Colombia.

Argentina vs US: Argentina gets the easiest matchup for them again. I love the US, but I see this ending badly unless the team can pull off a shocker on level with beating Spain in the 09 Confederation Cup. For the US to have a chance at advancing they are going to have to find a way to shut down Argentina’s multifaceted attack and do just enough to squeak on by. I have Argentina winning 3-1

Semi-Finals:

Brazil v Germany: Wow, this is the match of the cup for me. Amazing quality all around, I have them tied 2-2 after extra time, and That’s why I have Germany winning 5-4 in the shootout. Because if I know one thing about International Soccer it is that Germany. Does. Not. Lose. In. Penalty. Kicks. Period.

Argentina v Chile: In the first tough match Argentina has had really all tournament, they are nearly upended by Chile who have been tested throughout.  I have Chile scoring in around the 75th minute, and Argentina pressing for the equalizer, nothing seems to be happening, but then, Argentina and Messi get that one magic moment and get the equalizer in the 89th minute. Shocked at being so close to advancing Chile fails to get back on defense and Argentina slip one by in Stoppage, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat in a 2-1 match that is even closer than the score line would dictate.

3rd Place Match and Finals:

Brazil v Chile: In the third place match, Chile are no match for an enraged Brazil who are furious at letting the golden chance slip from their hands. Brazil wins 4-1 and the country is left to wonder “what if…”

Argentina v Germany: Against anyone else, Argentina makes a game of it. But the final is an anticlimactic battle that Germany dominates from start to finish. Every team has that one opponent that just has your number no matter what you do, and for Argentina that team is Germany.  Not much else to say, as Germany hoists the trophy with a 3-1 Victory.

Individual Awards:

Top Scorer: Miroslav Klose (5 Goals)

Best Player: Lionel Messi

Best Young Player: Julian Green

Best Goalkeeper: Manuel Neuer

The Road To Omaha: Super Regional Previews (Part 2)

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College of Charleston Cougars (44-17) at Texas Tech Red Raiders (43-19)

Game 1 (Saturday): Noon (ESPNU)
Game 2 (Sunday): 2 p.m. (ESPNU)
Game 3 (Monday, IF necessary): Noon (ESPN2)

The Red Raiders of Texas Tech advanced to the Lubbock Super Regional by winning the Coral Gables Regional, defeating Miami, Columbia, and Bethune-Cookman. Although they weren’t planning on hosting, as they were paired up with the Gainesville Regional, where Florida was the #2 National Seed, College of Charleston had other ideas.  The Cougars, as the 4 seed in the regional, were able to pull the upset in the opening game vs Florida, then go on to defeat Long Beach State in the Regional Championship to move on.  CofC becomes the 4th 4 seed to advance to the Super Regional round, and hope to have the success of the 2008 Fresno State Bulldogs, who were also a 4 seed and went on to win the National Championship.  Offensively, the Red Raiders are outstanding at the plate, hitting .289 as a team and are 11th in the country with 120 doubles.  They’re led by Sophomore, Eric Gutierrez, who’s hitting .312 on the season with 12 home runs and 58 RBI’. Gutierrez is the not the only big bat in the Tech lineup, as Big 12 Newcomer of The Year, Adam Kirsch is also a big bopper.  Kirsch on the season, is hitting .300 with 10 home runs and 50 RBI’s, along with 20 doubles.  Stephen Smith is the table-setter for the Red Raiders, hitting .283 but gets on base at a .420 clip and has scored 40 runs. Another bat that has come on of late is Tyler Neslony, who’s hitting .393 and slugging at a huge number of .614 in just 39 starts.  On the mound, Texas Tech features a solid Friday night guy in Dylan Dusek who is 7-0 with a 2.03 ERA in 13 starts. Similar to most of the other Tech starters, he doesn’t go very deep in games, only totaling 69 1/3 innings and striking out 36.  The Red Raiders #2, Chris Sadberry, has been consistent throughout the year going 4-3 with a 3.49 ERA, striking out 52 in 80 innings.  The rock of the Raider bullpen is Jonny Drozd, who in 24 appearances is 7-0 with a 2.09 ERA in 69 innings, striking out 46.  They don’t have a true closer and often go by committee, but another talented arm is Cameron Smith, 8-2 with a 2.86 ERA in 66 innings, and he just threw a CG shutout to close out the regional.

The College of Charleston Cougars are not the best offensive team, hitting a putrid .258 on the season, with just one guy over the .300 clip.  Their leader is Gunnar Heidt who is hitting .335 with 15 extra base hits and 30 RBI’s and has scored 39 times.  Unfortunately, nobody really knows if Heidt will play this weekend, as he missed several games down the stretch including all of the Gainesville Regional, with broken bones in his right hand. If he is able to go that will be a huge boost for an offense that needs all the production it can get.  Whether or not Heidt is able to go or not, the lead-off man, Blake Butler will have to get the Cougars going, and has done that throughout the year, hitting .286 and getting on base at a .343 clip scoring 48 runs. On the mound, College of Charleston is very talented and often times bails the offense out. As a team, the Cougars are 20th in the country with a 2.78 team ERA and hold opponents to a .225 batting average. Freshman, Bailey Ober is the leader of their staff at 10-2 with a 1.55 ERA striking out 81 in 98 2/3 and opponents are only hitting .190 on the year.  Behind Ober, is another talented starter, Taylor Clarke who is 10-3 with a 2.62 ERA, striking out 89 in 96 innings.  If the Cougars and Raiders go to a decisive game 3, they have a trusted #3, Tyler Thornton who is 7-5 with a 3.03 ERA, and is coming off a complete game vs Long Beach State to win the regional.  The bullpen is solidified by closer, Michael Hanzlik, who is 2-1 in 31 games with a 3.35 ERA and 16 saves on the season.  He strikes out almost 1 per inning, as he’s got 37 K’s in 37 2/3 innings of work.

My Pick: I’ll take the Red Raiders in 3 games.  I can see CofC starting pitchers back the putrid offense for 1 game, but just don’t see them doing enough to slow Texas Tech down to win the series.

Maryland Terrapins (39-21) at #3 Virginia Cavaliers (47-13)

Game 1: 11 a.m. (ESPN2)
Game 2: 11 a.m. (ESPN2)
Game 3: 3 p.m. (ESPN2)

What was seen as somewhat of a shocker, the Maryland Terrapins rolled through the Columbia Regional, going 3-0, eliminating South Carolina, Old Dominion, and Campbell.  At the plate the Terrapins aren’t going to blow you away, but they do just enough to get the job done. As a team they are hitting .271 and 7 guys hitting above that team average with 108 doubles and get on base at a .381 rate. When the Terps are on base they aren’t scared to put guys in motion and try to steal a bag, as they are 84 for 113. They’re led at the top by Charlie White, who can grind out at-bats, bunt for a hit, hit a double, or do just about anything. On the year, White is hitting, .284 with 15 extra base hits and 29 RBI’s, while scoring 47 times, and is the Terps leader in steals with 24.  Brandon Lowe is a solid and consistent bat in the middle of the order, where he led the Terps with a .339 average with 15 extra base hits and 39 RBI’s.  Their best power threat is probably Jose Cuas, who hit .271 and led the team in both home runs and rbi’s with 5 and 42, respectively.  For Maryland on the mound, they’ve got two front-line arms who can really bring it, with Jake Stinnett and Mike Shawaryn.  Stinnett, is 7-6 on the year with a 2.65 ERA and struck out 130 over 112 innings of work. Stinnett can run his fastball up to 95 or even 96, but will sit consistently at 92-93 and have some tilt on his fastball and then will come at you with a filthy breaking ball.  The freshman, Mike Shawaryn is very talented, totaling an 11-3 record with a 2.81 ERA in 86 1/3 innings.  He’s got a fastball that’ll sit in the low 90’s and a straight change that will strike the best hitters out.  The bullpen is fairly consistent and they are led by closer, Kevin Mooney who is 1-2 in 24 games with 12 saves and an ERA of 4.05.  He’s got a good power fastball with a sharp 12-6 curve, which he can throw at any point in the count.  As a team, Maryland has a team ERA of 3.36 and teams are hitting the Terps at a .232 clip.

For the #3 National Seed, it was business as usual in the Charlottesville regional, going 3-0 beating Arkansas, Bucknell, and Liberty, outscoring their opponents 22-3. They might be the most balanced team left in the field, as they can hit for power, hit for average, pitch well, do just about everything well.  Offensively, their leader is “Mr. Do It All,”  Mike Papi, who is hitting .297 and leads the team in home runs (11), RBI’s (51) and runs (51). Joe McCarthy is very good for the Cavs as well, leading the team in hitting at .303 with a team high 67 hits and also a team high 22 extra base hits and 45 RBI’s.  As a team overall, Virginia is hitting .277 with 33 home runs and they will run occasionally as they’ve stolen 60 bases on the year, yet also a patient team at the plate, working 262 walks.  Branden Cogswell is a guy at the top of the lineup who will grind out at bats and find a way on, hitting .294 and getting on base at a .394 rate. On the mound, Virginia is just as consistent as they are at the plate and have a set of talented arms.  They’ve got the 3rd best ERA in the country at 2.29, and the best WHIP in the country at 1.02.  They’re led by the sophomore left hander Nathan Kirby, who is 9-1 on the year with a 1.36 ERA, striking out 102 in 99 innings, and opponents are only hitting Kirby at a .170 rate.  Their #2 is another sophomore left hander, Brandon Waddell, who is 8-3 with a 2.73 ERA and struck out 63 over 92 innings.  They then can go to either Josh Sborz or Artie Lewicki, who are a combined 10-5 with a 2.63 ERA and are both very consistent.  The bullpen is very much like the starters, consistent and strike throwers, with a bullpen ERA near 2.40, and are led by closer Nick Howard. Howard, who has 19 saves in 27 appearances, holds a 2-1 record with a 2.15 ERA, striking out 50 in just 29 1/3 innings.

My Pick: I’ll take the Cavaliers to head to Omaha in 2 games. While Maryland looked very good last week in Columbia, I’m not sure they can match that outing against the talented arms Virginia has.

Pepperdine Waves (42-16) at #7 TCU Horned Frogs (45-15) 

Game 1 (Saturday): 3 p.m. (ESPNU)
Game 2 (Sunday): 5 p.m. (ESPNU)
Game 3 (Monday, IF necessary): 6 p.m. (ESPNU)

The Pepperdine Waves sent shock waves along the west coast, as they went into the San Luis Obispo regional as the 3 seed, and proceeded to go 3-0 winning the regional, eliminating Cal Poly, Arizona State, and Sacramento State.  The Waves are led by two-way player, Aaron Brown, who is the ace of the Wave staff, and also the best overall hitter for the team.  Offensively, Brown is hitting .310 with a team high 12 home runs and a team high 47 RBI’s. Freshman, Aaron Barnett, leads the Wave offense with a stellar .373 average and a team high 79 hits.  Barnett, is the table setter for Brown and Hutton Moyer, who is hitting .311 on the year with 28 extra base hits and 28 RBI’s. Moyer is also the team leader in steals, swiping 15 on 19 chances.  As a team, Pepperdine is hitting a steady .284 with 99 doubles and gets on base at a .346 clip.  On the mound, the Pepperdine Waves are very consistent, posting a 2.52 team ERA, which is good for 10th best in the nation.  As stated earlier, Aaron Brown, is the ace of the staff, going 12-1 with a 2.07 ERA, striking out 100 in 108 2/3 innings.  The lefty won’t overpower you, as he sits around 91-92, but has a sharp breaking ball that he mixes in with a changeup as well.  Corey Miller, is right up there in talent with Brown, going 9-4 with a 1.75 ERA striking out 80 in 113 innings.  The thing with Miller, is he won’t walk too many guys, walking only 29 on the year so far. He’s a strike thrower, who pitches to contact, and rarely touches 90 on the radar gun. Eric Karch is their closer, and best arm out of the bullpen, and also the one you’ll see most often, as he leads the team with 28 appearances. In those 28 appearances, Karch is 4-1 with a 1.69 ERA and 15 saves in 32 innings of work. You’ll also see a couple of set-up guys as well, Chandler Blanchard and A.J. Puckett. Through 78 innings of work, they’ve struck out 63 and have a combined ERA of 2.42.

For the #7 National Seed, TCU did go 3-0 in the Fort Worth Regional, defeating Sam Houston State, Dallas Baptist, and Siena, but it wasn’t easy. After defeating Siena in their opening game, they then battled with Sam Houston State for 22 innings, before finally pushing through to win 3-2. Boomer White is the most reliable bat in the Horned Frog lineup, and often is found coming through in clutch situations.  On the year, White is hitting .328 with a team high 80 hits, 15 of those the extra base hit variety and a team high 45 RBI’s. Cody Jones,  the TCU lead-off man, is often the table setter, with a .404 on base percentage and leads the team with 27 steals in 32 attempts.  Kevin Cron, is the power bat in the TCU lineup, leading the team with 4 home runs and 38 RBI’s. On the mound, the Horned Frogs, feature the nation’s best team ERA at 2.14 and their ace, Brandon Finnegan, was a 1st round selection in last night’s MLB Draft.  On the year, Finnegan is 8-3 with a 2.07 ERA with 122 strikeouts in 91 1/3 innings. Here’s the scary part, the Big 12 Pitcher of the Year isn’t Finnegan, but Preston Morrison.  Morrison, is 9-3 with a 1.24 ERA, striking out 79 in 115 2/3 innings.  If it goes to a decisive game 3, it won’t get any easier for Pepperdine, as they’ll run into Tyler Alexander, who is 10-3 with a 1.94 ERA. All 3 TCU starters are capable of going the distance, and not giving up a run in the process.  If TCU has to turn to the ‘pen, it won’t be a bad thing as they are very good there too. Closer, Riley Farrell, leads the Horned Frog pen, as he’s 1-1 in 27 appearances with a 0.75 ERA and 14 saves. Farrell has electric stuff and it shows in his strikeout numbers, striking out 58 in just 36 innings of work.  Along with Farrell, you’ll see Trey Teakell, who is 6-0 in 23 appearances with an ERA of 2.26.

My Pick: TCU in a sweep. They’ve got too many arms and Pepperdine’s struggling offense, will struggle even more in the super regional.

 Ole Miss Rebels (44-18) at #6 Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns (57-8)

Game 1 (Saturday): 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Game 2 (Sunday): 8 p.m. (ESPN2)
Game 3 (Monday, IF necessary): 6 p.m. (ESPN2)

Boy, oh boy, if you had the option to go to any Super Regional this weekend, “The Tigue” in Lafayette is the place to be. Ole Miss rolled through the Oxford Regional going 3-0, while the Ragin’ Cajuns had to fight their way through the losers bracket following an opening game loss to Jackson State.  The SEC West Regular Season Champions will have their hands full as they head into Lafayette.  Offensively, the Rebels are a very talented bunch, hitting as a team .305, which is good for 11th best in the country.  From 1 through 9 in the lineup, they might be the most consistent, and that gets started at the top with Braxton Lee. On the year, Lee is hitting .297 and is 2nd on the team in runs scored with 53, and leads the team in steals with 30 on 35 tries.  Behind Lee, is the Rebels top hitter, Austin Bousfield, who leads the team in average (.352), hits (89), runs (54) and is second on the club with 17 steals.  Then come the big hitters in the Ole Miss lineup, with catcher, Will Allen and Sikes Orvis.  Allen, a Johnny Bench Award Finalist, leads the team with 28 extra base hits, 7 of those being home runs, and has a great average at .350 and leads the team with 59 RBI’s, while Orvis leads the team with 13 home runs and has a steady average of .300 and a slugging percentage of .552. On the mound, the Rebels are led by ace, Chris Ellis, who is 10-1 with a 2.16 ERA, striking out 62 over 104 1/3 innings. Behind Ellis, is another formidable starter, Christian Trent, is perfect on the year with a record of 8-0 and an ERA of 2.44 over 88 2/3 innings. Josh Laxer, is the Rebels most used reliever appearing in 21 games, posting a 2-2 record with a 1.47 ERA and 5 saves (the most on the ballclub.) Scott Weathersby, has also been good for the Rebels at 1-1 with a 2.51 ERA in 16 games. As a team, the Rebels have posted a 2.75 team ERA which is 18th best in the country, and they’ll have their hands full with this ULaLa lineup.

You want to talk about some explosiveness? Then make sure you’re watching when the Ragin’ Cajuns lineup comes to the plate.  On the year, ULaLa is hitting .319 as a team, which is good for 2nd in the country, and they have 8 players hitting over .300.  They are 2nd in the country with 66 home runs and also 2nd in doubles with 134. That’s not all the Cajuns can do though, as they love to run to, and are 4th in the country with 107 stolen bases. The offense is led by Jace Conrad, who is hitting .377 on the year with 20 doubles, 9 home runs and a team high 65 RBI’s, and leads the team with 22 stolen bases.  While Conrad is the spark-plug of the lineup, Caleb Adams is the best overall hitter on the team. Adams leads the Ragin’ Cajuns with a .387 average, a team high 11 home runs, 17 doubles, and 7 triples, to go along with a team high 66 runs scored and the 3rd highest slugging percentage in the country at .687.  They have 6 players who’ve scored 40 or more runs, 6 players with 40 or more RBI’s, While most teams seem to focus on the explosive ULL offense, teams often forget about how deep their pitching staff is. After missing a few starts, Austin Robichaux is back as the team’s #1 starter, and on the year is 7-3 with a 2.83 ERA. Sun Belt Conference Pitcher of The Year, Carson Baranik, follows Robichaux, with a near perfect 11-1 record and a 3.27 ERA, striking out 70 in 99 innings. Lefty, Cody Boutte, could be the best #3 starter in the country and his unblemished record of 9-0 with an ERA of 3.09 would not tell you otherwise. The bullpen is also very good, led by Matt Plitt, who has appeared in 25 games, totaling a record of 2-0 with a 3.67 ERA over 54 innings.  Ryan Wilson is the Cajun closer, and has been very good on the year, sitting at 6-0 in 22 games (6 starts) with 7 saves, and an ERA of just 1.95 over 60 innings.

My Pick: This series is the one to watch, if you can only pick one, DO NOT MISS IT. I’ve got to take the Ragin’ Cajuns from Lafayette to advance to Omaha, but it’ll take all 3 games, and all 3 games will be exciting. With all 3 games being night games, you can expect the ULL fans to be liquidly lubricated and that environment  at “The Tigue” will be electric!

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