OMAHA–For the third straight year, I’m spending Father’s Day at Rosenblatt Stadium and not with my old man or my step-father Jim. I’d like to wish both of them a very happy Father’s Day, and the same to every other dad out there.
Here in the press box, reporters are scrambling to find players with interesting fathers to write about–the two with big league dads (Matt Wallach and Andrew Romine) played yesterday. I haven’t run into any players’ dads yet this weekend, but I did run into the older brother of North Carolina freshman righthander Alex White, who will start today’s second game against Rice. His older brother Travis and their boyhood friend (also named Travis) said they had mixed feelings about the Tar Heels, since both were really more North Carolina State fans. They related stories about how they used to beat up Alex when he was younger–before his growth spurt, of course. At 6-foot-3, Alex now towers over his older brother. He’s got a power arm, too, and his matchup with Joe Savery this afternoon should be a good one. Smooth segue to today’s picks . . .
Game Five: Louisville vs. Mississippi State
For the third straight afternoon, the wind is gusting out today, toward left field. Both of these teams can hit, and I think this will be a high-scoring affair, but I like Louisville’s offense a bit more. I also like the Cardinals’ history in big elimination games this postseason–they have proven that they can rebound from a tough loss by jumping out to an early lead the next game, taking the pressure off their pitchers. That’s what they did after Trystan Magnuson blew a save in Game Two of their super-regional against Oklahoma State, and I think that’s what they’ll do today after Magnuson blew a save in Game One of the College World Series. If this game is close late, you probably have to give the advantage to Mississippi State, which has rested, quality relievers in Aaron Weatherford and Mitch Moreland. Magnuson worked one inning on Friday, but it was a long inning, as he was lit up for six runs.
John: Mississippi State
Game Six: Rice vs. North Carolina
It looks like Wayne Graham was smart to save lefthander Joe Savery for the Sunday game–he usually pitches on Sundays anyway, but I thought there was some merit to the notion of throwing Savery in the Friday game because there would be time for him to rest up between games. But today’s the payoff, because four of North Carolina’s top five hitters in the lineup are lefthanded. The Tar Heels hold their own against southpaws, but we saw lefty Justin Pigott keep them in check for a while Friday, just as South Carolina’s Arik Hempy did last weekend. The key to this game for UNC will be getting a better outing from its starting pitching so it doesn’t have to come from behind for a sixth straight postseason victory, because that will be really hard to do against Rice’s quality pitching. In North Carolina’s last six games (since their NCAA tournament-opening shutout against Jacksonville), its starters have allowed 32 runs in 24 1/3 innings; its bullpen has allowed just six runs in 28 2/3 innings. That’s a mind-boggling stat, and if White struggles again today, the Tar Heels will be in trouble.
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