Super Weekend Ahead
If college baseball needs anything to truly succeed on a larger scale, it's: 1) Cinderella stories in their postseason tournament, 2) big stars to follow. While the latter is hard to come up with given baseball's current draft system, last weekend sure provided some good team stories.
Manhattan almost had their dream regional come true, as the Jaspers nearly won their regional after shutting down Nebraska in the opener. The Cornhuskers struggled in both of their games, exiting days after their stock to win it all had been going up. Nebraska joined multiple top seeds in the ugly weekend, namely the defending champion Texas Longhorns.
Texas lost their Saturday game to a red-hot Stanford team, and then were shocked the next morning with a late-game loss to the N.C. State Wolfpack. Top seeds Oklahoma State and Kentucky both saw smaller schools -- Oral Roberts and College of Charleston, respectively -- come to play against the big boys, dominating the weekend.
And as far as most exciting goes, we had a fantastic Pepperdine regional, as Missouri rebounded from a Friday loss to the Waves to win the regional. While it looks like the seeding committee didn't do their job with so many upsets, such is the nature of college baseball. This is why, if you're smart, you'll keep your eyes glued to the TV this weekend.
So after a dismal weekend on the prediction front last week, I'm back at it again, with your Super Regional preview.
Oklahoma at Rice
Offense should be on hand this weekend in Houston, as both squads averaged more than eight runs per game in 2006. The difference maker should be that, in addition to hitting well, Rice's pitching staff had just a 3.02 ERA this season. Cross your fingers that we have an all-senior pitching match on one day, as Rice's Eddie Degerman and OU's Daniel McCutchen are an interesting pair. Degerman's odd delivery wins out in the battle, as does the whole Rice pitching staff, right down to closer Cole St. Clair.
He might not be a secret, but watch out for Joe Savery as the Owls' weapon this weekend. The future 2007 first rounder is great at the plate and on the mound, and Savery could spell the Sooners' demise this weekend. While I may have said differently last week, until Rice shows signs of weakness, it's pretty difficult to pick against them.
South Carolina at Georgia
One player I missed talking about in my draft review was Joey Side, one of the sixth round's best finds. Side was fantastic in the Bulldogs regional, hitting a home run in every big opportunity. The weekend pushed his OPS north of 1.000, and I should also mention that Side is a good defensive center fielder. Watch out for Side this weekend, who is just one of three Georgia double-digit home run hitters, along with freshman SS Gordon Beckham and first baseman Josh Morris (23 jacks!).
The Georgia offense is a deadly weapon, but the Gamecocks can hit as well. Senior outfielder Michael Campbell puts constant pressure on the defense with a fantastic contact rate, and freshman Justin Smoak does nothing but hit the ball far. Smoak is just one of a few freshman on the team, which could play a role this weekend.
The winner of the Brooks Brown-Mike Cisco match could very well determine this series, but in the end, I'll go with the club that offers the most pitching depth - SC.
Pick: South Carolina.
Miami at Mississippi
Inspired by Bill Simmons, I can hear the promotions for this series already. "Coghlan! Jay! It's Miami and Ole Miss! The Super Regional, only on ESPN U!" The two juniors are the big names of this series, but underclassmen middle infielders - freshman 2B Jemile Weeks for Miami and sophomore SS Zack Cozart for Miss - might have the bigger impact on the weekend.
In the end, I like the advantage that Miss has in the power and bullpen departments. While Chris Perez is as dangerous a player as there is in this series, the Rebels bullpen goes five players deep. If any of Mississippi's freshman starters struggle, look for the bullpen to stymie the Hurricanes.
Stanford at Oregon State
On paper, this series isn't close. Oregon State is nearly a point better than the Cardinal in ERA, and .060 points better in OPS. But while we were all anticipating an OSU-Texas Super Regional, Stanford decided to play its best baseball of the season last weekend. At its best, Stanford is a deadly team, anchored of course by second overall choice Greg Reynolds. However, this team simply doesn't have enough power and enough pitching to win.
Oregon State, at least, has the pitching. While Dallas Buck is no longer the pro prospect he once was, the junior has the pitchability to beat a lot of guys. Behind him on the staff, famously, are Jonah Nickerson and Kevin Gunderson, two top-ten round players. Oregon State is a tough team to beat at home, and led by Cole Gillespie, the Beavers will be making a return trip to Omaha at weekend's end.
Pick: Oregon State.
Oral Roberts at Clemson
I admit we didn't give Oral Roberts enough attention last week. The Golden Eagles then went out and played great baseball, led by an offense that is, on paper, better than Clemson's. Andy Bouchie is as good a hitter as we will see in this series, so look for Clemson to avoid him whenever possible. Letting Bouchie beat you would be stupid. But, if anything, Clemson has the pitching staff to beat him. Few rotations have been as productive as Faris, Berken and Cribb, and the bullpen can handle any pressure situation.
The Clemson offense is also dangerous, led by surprise first round pick Tyler Colvin. While most scouts may have thought of Colvin as a second- or third-rounder, he's a great college threat with power and fantastic baserunning instincts. The whole Clemson team is well coached on the basepaths, stealing about 1.5 bags per game at a better-than-80% clip. Clemson cruises.
College of Charleston at Georgia Tech
My prediction, not-so-bold, is that sophomore Matt Wieters will have the largest role in this series. Wieters is a fantastic player, a potential top ten pick next June, that doubles as a catcher (1.072 OPS) and reliever (2.67 ERA). But while we knew his bat and arm would both have influences, its his arm behind the plate that may define his series. If College of Charleston does anything well, it's swipe bases, going 124-for-158 on the bases this season.
While Tech's offense offers power, with five guys in double figures, Charleston will play small ball, offering the better team average and five double-digit SB runners. If the series comes down to pitching, Charleston has the advantage, especially with Nick Chigges (11-1, 1.32) on board. The club may not have faced the best talent this season, but Charleston is ready to make their move to Omaha.
Pick: College of Charleston.
Missouri at Cal State Fullerton
My predictions didn't go great last week, but if I take anything from the article, it's the Missouri-to-win prediction. The club was obviously the best fourth seed in the tournament, and they overcame a loss in Max Scherzer's start to win the regional. Kudos to coach Tim Jamieson, back-to-back complete games, and Nate Culp, the junior southpaw that pitched on Saturday and Monday. The Tigers have the arms, but perhaps not the bats, to move on.
However, Fullerton will take their arms against anyone. Cal State had just one guy over 6 home runs on the season, and a team slugging percentage of just .445. But their pitching staff has a 2.62 ERA, thanks to just 119 walks in 532 innings. Friday starter Wes Roemer was responsible for just 6 of those in 133.2 innings, and gives the Titans a decent chance to beat Scherzer.
I'd like to pick Missouri as my continued sleeper, and I'm not a huge CSUF believer, but the top seed gets it done here.
Pick: Cal State Fullerton.
North Carolina at Alabama
We end with the weekend's most exciting regional. While the Tide would be favorites in Vegas, the super regional host, it sure doesn't seem like that coming into the weekend. All people can talk about are the arms in North Carolina, and they do have them, led by (obviously) Andrew Miller and Daniel Bard. In the bullpen, watch out for Jonathan Hovis and Andrew Carignan. Quite a group.
Alabama has some good arms themselves, but the problem is, they have less experience. Tommy Hunter has first round upside, but his start should come against Bard, the more experienced pitcher. However, 'Bama gets more consistent hitting, as UNC's powerful showing in their regional was not indicative of the season they had with the bat.
Alabama was my pick to win it all a week ago, and while I had first-hand good impressions of North Carolina last week, things won't change yet.