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June 11, 2010

Campus Notes

Super Regionals Preview, Part 2

by Charles Dahan

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The first three days of the NCAA Tournament went largely as planned, with nine top seeds advancing and five of the seven regional finales featuring the top two seeded teams.  St. John’s and Minnesota were the only three and four seeds to finish the weekend 2-1 and force their regional hosts—Virginia and Cal State Fullerton—to play on Monday.  Moreover, all of the top seeds made it past the first weekend, and only one national seed dropped one of their first two games, thereby having to win twice Sunday, and it wasn’t much of a test for Coastal Carolina as it drubbed Stony Brook 25-6.  Two other hosts dropped their opening games and were forced to play sudden death doubleheaders Sunday as Auburn ousted Southern Mississippi and Cal State Fullerton finished of New Mexico in their respective first matchups of the day.  Then, Auburn, Fullerton, and Coastal Carolina all won their nightcaps against rested foes, each forcing decisive Monday finales for their respective regions. Louisville, Miami, Arkansas, Virginia, and Georgia Tech each failed to win their only games on Sunday that could have punched their tickets to a super regional.  While Coastal Carolina and Virginia managed to return to form on Monday and advance, regional host Auburn, as well as national seeds Louisville and Georgia Tech lost again Monday.  Arkansas’ loss doesn’t change any travel plans, but with the brackets established to result in the winners of the Auburn and Atlanta regional meeting in the second round, No. 2 seed Clemson will host fellow 2 seed Alabama, despite not hosting a regional.

Here is the look at the four best-of-three super regionals that will be played Saturday-Monday.

Tempe Super Regional

Arkansas (43-19) at Arizona State (50-8) (all times Eastern)

Saturday, 9 p.m.

Sunday, 10 p.m.

Monday, if necessary

Draft Picks

Arizona State

#46, St. Louis, Seth Blair (RHP)

#75, St. Louis, Jordan Swagerty (RHP)

#251, Tampa Bay, Merrill Kelly (RHP)

#264, Anaheim, Kole Calhoun (RF)

#274, San Diego, Joshua Spence (LHP)

#447, Pittsburgh, Andrew Maggi (SS)

#551, Tampa Bay, James Patterson (LHP)

#631, Arizona, Raoul Torrez (2B)

#694, San Diego, Xorge Carrillo (C)

#711, Philadelphia, Jacob Borup (RHP)

Arkansas

#25, St. Louis, Zack Cox (3B)

#54, Kansas City, Brett Eibner (CF)

#68, Detroit, Drew Smyly (LHP)

#158, Chicago White Sox, Andrew Wilkins (1B)

#451, Arizona, Michael Bolsinger (RHP)

#463, Detroit, Collin Kuhn (LF)

#493, Detroit, Jordan Pratt (RHP)

#677, Florida, Jeremy Heatley (RHP)

How they got here

Tempe Regional

1. Arizona State (3-0)

2. San Diego (1-2)

3. Hawaii (2-2)

4. Wisconsin-Milwaukee (0-2)

Game 1: Hawaii: 4, San Diego: 3.

Game 2: Arizona State: 6, Milwaukee: 2

Game 3: Arizona State: 12, Hawaii: 1

Game 4: San Diego: 22, Milwaukee: 1

Game 5: Hawaii 12, San Diego 9

Game 6: Arizona State 8, Hawaii 4

Fayetteville Regional

1. Arkansas (3-1)

2. Washington State (2-2)

3. Kansas State (1-2)

4. Grambling (0-2)

Game 1: Arkansas: 19, Grambling: 7

Game 2: Washington State 8, Kansas State 6

Game 3: Arkansas 6, Washington State 4

Game 4: Kansas State 9, Grambling 8

Game 5: Washington State 9, Kansas State 6

Game 6: Washington State 10, Arkansas 7

Game 7: Arkansas 7, Washington State 2

Preview

Tempe should be one of the most exciting super regionals, as Arkansas features the best hitters remaining in the tournament, while Arizona State has enough dominant arms to feature a pitcher who will get an opportunity at the next level during all 27 innings, if necessary. College’s best pure hitter, Arkansas' Zach Cox, stumbled in the draft due to concerns about his ability to switch to the middle infield from third base, despite dominating the SEC. If Arkansas pitchers beyond Drew Smyly can hold the Sun Devils offense in check, Cox, Brett Eibner, Andrew Wilkins, and Collin Kuhn could give the Razorbacks enough offense to make it to the College World Series in Omaha.  In Arkansas' rare losses this year, teams took advantage of a struggling pitcher, running up big innings rather than relying on manufacturing runs throughout the game.  Another concern for Arkansas is that if ASU can take the first game—as it has in all but one series this season—Coach Tim Esmay can utilize his bevy of dominant arms in any fashion he needs rather than keeping his staff in their traditional roles.  If Seth Blair can dominate Game 1, the opportunity to have Jordan Swagerty, Merrill Kelly, James Patterson, and Jason Borup each available to close out the series would make an upset by Arkansas very difficult and put a great deal of pressure on the Razorbacks' elite top pitchers to go deep into games. 

Arizona State, the nation’s top seeded Arizona State never had to face San Diego in the regional—the only team in Tempe that matched up reasonably well against the Sun Devils.  USD had a bevy of arms that will get a chance at the next level, yet fell twice to Hawaii.  There’s no reason to think the Sun Devils would have stumbled against the Toreros, who they defeated in their two matches during the regular season, as they only lost one series the entire year (2-1 at Washington State) and finished the season with a sweep at UCLA (by a combined 23-5) and series victories against Stanford, Arizona, Oregon, California, and Oregon State. Arizona State’s pitching staff is deep, experienced, and incredibly talented, with all four starters—Patterson, Borup, Kelly, and ace Blair --drafted this week, and a bullpen led by prospects Josh Moody and Swagerty (who also hit over .350 this season.)  Their lineup also has seven players whose OPS eclipses 1.000, as well as Zach Wilson with an OBP of .986.  This, of course, after last year’s ace Mike Leake left early and is already dominating major-league hitting, and third-round selection Josh Spence pinched a nerve in his throwing elbow which cost him all of 2010 and dropped him back to the ninth round of this year’s draft.

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Clemson Super Regional

Alabama (41-23) at Clemson (41-22) (all times Eastern)

Game 1, Saturday, 6 p.m.

Game 2, Sunday, 7 p.m.

Game 3, Monday (if necessary)

Draft Picks

Alabama

#64, Milwaukee, James Nelson (RHP)

#107, Colorado, Josh Rutledge (SS)

#308, Chicago White Sox, Ross Wilson (2B)

#471, Philadelphia, Jake Smith (3B)

#613, Detroit, Tyler White (RHP)

#791, Tampa Bay, Justin Woodall (LHP)

#927, Pittsburgh, Jason Townsend (RHP)

#973, Detroit, Clay Jones (1B)

Clemson

#26, Colorado, Kyle Parker (RF)

#331, Arizona, Michael Freeman (SS)

#411, Philadelphia, John Hinson (3B)

#810, Cleveland, Jeffrey Schaus (LF)

#880, Chicago Cubs, Casey Harman (LHP)

#1175, Oakland, John Nester (C)

How They Got Here

Auburn Regional

1. Auburn (3-2)

2. Clemson (3-1)

3. Southern Mississippi (1-2)

4. Jacksonville State (0-2)

Game 1: Auburn 9, Jacksonville State 7

Game 2: Clemson 10, Southern Mississippi 1

Game 3: Clemson 5, Auburn 2

Game 4: Southern Mississippi: 19, Jacksonville State 6

Game 5: Auburn 17, Southern Mississippi 8

Game 6: Auburn 11, Clemson 10

Game 7: Clemson 13, Auburn 7

Atlanta Regional

1. Georgia Tech (2-2)

2. Alabama (3-1)

3. Elon (0-2)

4. Mercer (1-2)

Game 1: Alabama 11, Elon 2

Game 2: Georgia Tech 10, Mercer 0

Game 3: Georgia Tech 5, Alabama 2

Game 4: Mercer 13, Elon 7

Game 5: Alabama 5, Mercer 3

Game 6: Alabama 8, Georgia Tech 1

Game 7: Alabama 10, Georgia Tech 8

Preview

Despite being the only regional to not feature a No. 1 regional seed, Auburn and Georgia Tech were certainly not pleased to see Clemson and Alabama placed in their regionals. Clemson finished atop the ACC Atlantic, at 18-12, and took series against South Carolina and Boston College as well as sweeping Virginia Tech and Florida State, while Alabama finished 15-15 in SEC play with series victories against The College of Charleston, Auburn, Vanderbilt, and Minnesota.

Clemson certainly benefited from the regional’s schedule and its defeat of Auburn in their first meeting Saturday, which forced Auburn to play three games in two days.  Auburn took two on Sunday to survive and force a seventh game against Clemson, but ended up surrendering 13 runs—its second-most all season.  Clemson’s strength is in its lineup, and the marquee game of the series will come in the opener, as the staffs of both the Tigers and Alabama have been streaky, with the exception of Crimson Tide ace and second-round pick Jimmy Nelson.  If Clemson can steal Game 1, Alabama will need exceptional performances from an otherwise shaky staff to pull out the series. 

The top of Alabama’s order—Taylor Dugas, Josh Rutledge, Ross Wilson, and Clay Jones—will put pressure on Clemson’s pitchers as they’ve done all season, and the Crimson Tide will need Nelson to put up another strong start and get through a significant number of innings, as their rotation after him is not tremendously deep. 

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Charlottesville Super Regional

Oklahoma (47-15) at Virginia (50-12) (all times Eastern)

Game 1, Saturday, 3 p.m.

Game 2, Sunday, 4 p.m.

Game 3, Monday (if necessary)

Draft Picks

Virginia

#74, San Francisco, Jarrett Parker (CF)

#164, Atlanta, Philip Gosselin (2B)

#167, Florida, Robert Morey (RHP)

#307, Cincinnati, Kevin Arico (RHP)

#327, Pittsburgh, Daniel Grovatt (LF)

#360, Cleveland, Tyler Cannon (3B)

#1057, Cincinnati, Philip Wilson (RHP)

#1064, Atlanta, Kenny Swab (C)

#1101, Philadelphia, Neal Davis (LHP)

Oklahoma

#437, Florida, Daniel Black (2B)

#527, Florida, Zachary Neal (RHP)

#556, Texas, Garrett Buechele (3B)

#661, Arizona, Jeremy Erben (RHP)

#843, Houston, Jason Chowning (RHP)

How They Got Here

Charlottesville Regional

1. Virginia (3-1)

2. Mississippi (1-2)

3. St. John’s (3-2)

4. VCU (0-2)

Game 1: Virginia 15, VCU 4

Game 2: Mississippi 10, St. John’s 5

Game 3: Virginia 13, Mississippi 7

Game 4: St. John’s 8, VCU 6

Game 5: St. John’s 20, Mississippi 16

Game 6: St. John’s 6, Virginia 5

Game 7: Virginia 5, St. John’s 3

Norman Regional

1. Oklahoma (3-0)

2. California (0-2)

3. North Carolina (2-2)

4. Oral Roberts (1-2)

Game 1: Oklahoma 7, Oral Roberts 6

Game 2: North Carolina 12, California 3

Game 3: Oklahoma 7, North Carolina 6

Game 4: Oral Roberts 9, California 8

Game 5: North Carolina 12, Oral Roberts 4

Game 6: Oklahoma 3, North Carolina 2

Preview

Oklahoma received a very favorable bracket, particularly considering it never had to face second seeded California or North Carolina ace Matt Harvey.  The Sooners swept their bracket, winning each game by the narrowest of margins, 7-6 over Oral Roberts and 7-6 and 3-2 against the Tar Heels.

Virginia, meanwhile, cooled off St. John’s, one of the nation's hottest teams, to reach the super regional.  St. John’s lit up Charlottesville on Sunday, dropping 20 run on 22nd-ranked Mississippi and eking out a 6-5 victory over UVA as freshman Jeremy Baitz hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning to force Monday’s regional finale, which the Cavaliers took 5-3.  Kevin Arico shut down St. John’s in relief, and is one of the tournament’s most dangerous weapons out of the bullpen. While UVA received a surprising fifth seed nationally after establishing themselves as a top-three team all season, a loss to Oklahoma would be a significant upset. 

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Myrtle Beach Super Regional

South Carolina (46-15) @ Coastal Carolina (55-8) (all times Eastern)

Game 1, Saturday, Noon

Game 2, Sunday, 1 p.m.

Game 3, Monday (if necessary)

Draft Picks

Coastal Carolina

#151, Arizona, Cody Wheeler (LHP)

#154, San Diego, Jablonski Noel (CF)

#455, Oakland, Scott Woodward (3B)

#498, San Francisco, Austin Fleet (RHP)

#772, Los Angeles Dodgers, Chance Gilmore (LF)

#841, Arizona, Keith Hessler (LHP)

#1008, San Francisco, Jesse Birmingham (LHP)

South Carolina

#126, Toronto, Sam Dyson (RHP)

#269, Kansas City, Whitney Merrifield (RF)
#361, Arizona, Blake Cooper (RHP)

#678, San Francisco, Robert Haney (SS)

#689, Kansas City, Steven Neff (LHP)

#929, Kansas City, Parker Bangs (RHP)

#1469, Kansas City, Jordan Propst (RHP)

How They Got Here

Columbia Regional

1. South Carolina (3-0)

2. Virginia Tech (2-2)

3. Citadel (1-2)

4. Bucknell (0-2)

Game 1: Citadel 7, Virginia 2

Game 2: South Carolina 9, Bucknell 5

Game 3: South Carolina 9, Citadel 4

Game 4: Virginia Tech 16, Bucknell 7

Game 5: Virginia Tech 4, Citadel 3

Game 6: South Carolina 10, Virginia Tech 2

Myrtle Beach Regional:

1. Coastal Carolina (4-1)

2. College of Charleston (2-2)

3. N.C. State (0-2)

4. Stony Brook (1-2)

Game 1: Coastal Carolina 6, Stony Brook 0

Game 2: College of Charleston 9, N.C. State 6

Game 3: College of Charleston 16, Coastal Carolina 6

Game 4: Stony Brook 6, N.C. State 2

Game 5: Coastal Carolina 25, Stony Brook 7

Game 6: Coastal Carolina 8, College of Charleston 7

Game 7: Coastal Carolina 11, College of Charleston 10 (10 innings)

Preview

Coastal Carolina dropped three straight to the College of Charleston—two regular-season matchups as well as the second game of the Myrtle Beach Regional—before eking out  two victories in eighteen hours against the Cougars (8-7, and 11-10 in 10 innings) to advance to host their first super-regional. Stony Brook blanked Coastal Carolina in the first two innings of Game 5, but the Chanticleers blew it open with a 10-run fourth inning. Good thing, as Coastal Carolina fans needed to save the heart medication for the twilight game.  Six lead changes in seven innings concluded with Rico Noel blasting a two-run walk-off homer.  In the tournament’s most exciting regional game in recent memory, Charleston led 5-3 after the top of the seventh, down 6-5 after the inning, came back to lead 7-6 by the end of the eighth, and finally lost 8-7.

Coastal Carolina dominated it conference with a perfect Big South record of 25-0, but finished only 3-3 against nationally ranked non-conference opponents Virginia, North Carolina, San Diego, and Clemson.  Conversely, down the stretch South Carolina was the nation’s hottest team in the deepest conference.  The Gamecocks finished the season with series victories against Auburn, Mississippi State, Mississippi, Alabama, sweeps of Arkansas, Georgia, and Tennessee, as well as 2-1 series losses against Kentucky and Florida. 

Key performers in this super regional look to be South Carolina’s Adrian Morales, who went 7-for-14 seven RBIs and a home run in each game of the regional, and starters Blake Cooper and Sam Dyson, who have shouldered most of the load this year, each pitching nearly twice the number of innings as any other Gamecocks hurler.  There’s a significant drop-off for South Carolina after Cooper and Dyson, and Coastal Carolina’s pitching depth gives it an edge if the series reaches a third game.

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