OMAHA–In the 1990s, the Southeastern Conference left no doubt as to which was the best conference in college baseball.
Georgia broke the dam in 1990 with the first national championship in SEC baseball history, and Louisiana State became the second-greatest dynasty ever, winning five titles in 10 seasons from 1991-2000. As recently as 2004, four SEC teams reached Omaha, and the league is the only one to send nine teams into regional play in a single year.
This year, however, the signs pointed to an SEC on the wane. Just five teams made the regional field, the fewest since the 64-team tournament era began. Vanderbilt essentially dominated the league, winning the regular season and the tournament title. Then the Commodores lost, at home, in a regional to Michigan. The SEC champ losing a regional at home to a Big Ten team? That just isn’t supposed to happen.
Now Mississippi State, the lone SEC representative to reach Omaha, is gone, going 0-2 with a 12-4 loss Sunday at the hands of Louisville of the Big East. The loss extended the league’s losing streak in CWS play to six games, including Georgia’s 0-2 showing last year and Florida’s 0-2 showing in the ’05 championship series against Texas. [...] Continue Reading »
OMAHA–Easily overlooked in Louisville’s home run parade during Sunday’s 12-4 win against Mississippi State was a simple bunt that revealed more about the character of the Cardinals.
After slugging three home runs in Friday’s 15-10 loss to Rice, Louisville homered twice more in the first two innings of Sunday’s elimination game against Mississippi State, helping it build a 5-0 lead heading into the fourth inning. The Cardinals put runners on first and second with no outs in the fourth for second baseman Logan Johnson, who had gone deep twice Friday and crushed a two-run homer over the center-field batter’s eye in the first inning Sunday.
But rather than swing his hot bat, Johnson decided to lay down a sacrifice bunt without the knowledge of coach Dan McDonnell, and he executed it flawlessly. The message was clear: hot bat or no, five-run lead or no, the Cardinals were going to play solid fundamental baseball, and not fall in love with the fool’s gold that can be the long ball. [...] Continue Reading »
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 . . . [...] Continue Reading »
OMAHA–Wes Roemer will leave Cal State Fullerton as one of the most decorated players in the school’s illustrious history. The 2006 Big West pitcher of the year and first-team All-American became Fullerton’s all-time strikeout leader when he caught Scott Santschi looking on a fastball in the seventh inning of Saturday’s game against Oregon State. But for all of his impressive accomplishments, Roemer is in danger of finishing his career without a College World Series victory on his resume.
“I’d easily trade the strikeout record for a win, I wasn’t really keeping track in my mind,” Roemer said. “But it is quite an accomplishment for myself to have that record, I did pass a couple of really good pitchers in (Kirk) Saarloos and (Adam) Johnson this year. If I have the kind of career those guys had, I’ll be happy. But I would easily trade the strikeout record for a victory.” [...] Continue Reading »
OMAHA–For one day, the Pacific-10 Conference held sway over its plucky, non-football-playing neighbor, the Big West.
After Pac-10 champ Arizona State took down the Big West’s UC Irvine in Saturday’s opener, Oregon State opened defense of its 2006 national championship by beating Cal State Fullerton 3-2 in the nightcap. An overflow crowd of 26,559, the ninth-largest crowd in CWS history, took in a game that had little drama until a ninth-inning Beavers error that made things interesting. [...] Continue Reading »
OMAHA–Power proved the difference in Saturday’s UC Irvine-Arizona State game. The Sun Devils had the power bats and the power arm out of the bullpen, and that proved enough to overcome Irvine’s trademark high-pressure attack. ASU scored all of its runs via three homers, including Ike Davis’ game-winning solo shot in the eighth inning, and flame-throwing closer Jason Jarvis shut down the Anteaters over the final two frames to preserve a 5-4 Sun Devil victory. [...] Continue Reading »
Arizona State coach Pat Murphy has evolved over the years into one of the best interviews for those of us who cover college baseball. (My own personal tally of good-quote coaches would include Cal State Fullerton’s George Horton, Tulane’s Rick Jones and Florida State’s Mike Martin. I’m sure I’m leaving someone out but those guys are on any such list, for me.)
There’s no better stage for a coach to quip than the College World Series, and Murphy was close to an 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale for his quotability Saturday. Here’s a rundown of Saturday’s hits: [...] Continue Reading »
Game One: UC Irvine vs. Arizona State
If I’ve learned one lesson from yesterday, it’s that you can’t bank on good starting pitchers to shut down good offenses in the day game at Rosenblatt when the wind’s blowing out. The wind is once again gusting out today (to dead center field), which seems to favor Arizona State’s big bats and neutralize UC Irvine’s starting pitching advantage with All-American Scott Gorgen. This Irvine club can hit in its own right, and I saw Cody Cipriano tattoo the left-field video board in batting practice today, but I think Arizona State wins in another high-scoring game. John agrees. [...] Continue Reading »
OMAHA–Removed from their home field in Chapel Hill for the first time in the NCAA tournament, North Carolina quickly found a way to get comfortable.
It got behind.
For the sixth time in seven tournament games, the Tar Heels trailed early Friday night, falling behind Mississippi State 4-0 as the Bulldogs forced senior Robert Woodard–the Tar Heels’ career wins leader–into the earliest exit of his career. No matter. North Carolina again stormed back to victory, using outstanding relief pitching by Adam Warren and a six-run sixth inning to beat Mississippi State 8-5. [...] Continue Reading »
North Carolina’s program is at its real zenith these days–back-to-back College World Series trips for the first time ever, its first Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championship since 1990, an on-campus super-regional, and the impending construction of a new Boshamer Stadium are all signs that mark this as the golden age of Tar Heels baseball.
So naturally, the media in North Carolina has gotten wind of it, right? Well, not exactly. [...] Continue Reading »
OMAHA–While Louisville dazzled early in the opening game of the 2007 College World Series, Rice brought the house down with the grand finale.
The Owls overcame a 10-4 deficit with 11 unanswered runs in the final four innings of a 15-10 victory. It was a loud statement by a beleaguered Rice offense that entered the day averaging just 4.4 runs per game in the postseason and riding a 23-inning scoreless streak in Omaha, dating back to last year.
“Just a magnificent effort for our guys, and I couldn’t be prouder of them,” Rice coach Wayne Graham said. “They came in here with a stigma, 23 innings, but I knew they could hit. They sure proved that today.” [...] Continue Reading »
OMAHA–It’s been a trying couple of days for the Baseball America crew here in Omaha. John Manuel’s flight was delayed yesterday, so he spent a frustrating few hours in the world’s busiest airport in Atlanta. Meanwhile, my laptop decided it would refuse to power up yesterday, forcing me to scramble to get yesterday’s blog items posted on CSTV’s Matt Meyers’ laptop. The good news: the temperamental machine arbitrarily opted to start up today, so we’ll keep our fingers crossed that we’re out of the woods.
The 2007 College World Series is about to start up, so here are our picks for today’s game. [...] Continue Reading »
McNeese State had a trying season (as I’ve written before) that started with Chad Clement resigning as head coach five games into the season. The team rallied from a 3-22 start to go 17-12 in the Southland Conference and 21-35 overall. The Cowboys have reached into their past to kick-start their future, hiring ex-big leaguer Terry Burrows, 39, as their new head coach. [...] Continue Reading »
OMAHA–The day before games begin at the College World Series is like a more laid-back, far less congested version of Super Bowl media day. It’s a wonderful celebration of the game, as players sign autographs in between short practice sessions and coaches goof around for the last time before competition begins and the mood becomes more serious. But today was a little more businesslike than usual, as the NCAA held a state of college baseball press conference before the coaches’ press conference. Here are some of the highlights of the day. [...] Continue Reading »
Two of the nation’s most highly regarded assistant coaches became head coaches today. Florida hired Clemson assistant Kevin O’Sullivan to replace Pat McMahon, and Florida International tapped Arizona State assistant Turtle Thomas to replace Danny Price. O’Sullivan and Thomas are considered among the best recruiters in the nation, and both seem like outstanding hires. [...] Continue Reading »
USA Baseball has announced its 20-player roster for the 2007 college national team. The national team, coached this year by Long Beach State’s Mike Weathers, has a 20-man roster for the summer heading into its regular-season schedule and two international events–the Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and the World Port Tournament in the Netherlands. Team USA also will play host to Japan in the 36th annual series between the two nations’ college all-star teams.
Team USA’s roster includes three players from last year’s club: third baseman Pedro Alvarez (Vanderbilt), outfielder Roger Kieschnick (Texas Tech) and second baseman Jemile Weeks (Miami). Three other USA Baseball alumni from youth and junior national teams are on the 20-man roster in shortstop Danny Espinosa (Long Beach State), catcher Tommy Medica (Santa Clara) and righthander Tyson Ross (California).
The other 14 players include:
Ryan Berry, rhp, Rice; Jordan Danks, of, Texas; Ryan Flaherty, ss, Vanderbilt; Logan Forsythe, if/of, Arkansas; Brett Hunter, rhp, Pepperdine; Lance Lynn, rhp, Mississippi; Brian Matusz, lhp, San Diego; Jordy Mercer, ss/rhp, Oklahoma State; Petey Paramore, c, Arizona State; Josh Romanski, lhp/of, San Diego; Cody Satterwhite, rhp, Mississippi; Justin Smoak, 1b, South Carolina; Jacob Thompson, rhp, Virginia; Brett Wallace, 1b, Arizona State.
The College World Series field is set, and it will contain a few very familiar faces clad in orange and black. Oregon State cruised to an 8-2 victory over Michigan on Monday to earn its third consecutive CWS appearance. The Beavers are the only team to have reached Omaha each of the last three years.
OSU got big performances from a couple of its mainstays in Monday’s super-regional clincher. Junior shortstop Darwin Barney led the offense, going 3-for-5 with a double and three RBIs. And 2006 CWS hero Mike Stutes allowed just two runs on three hits over eight innings while striking out nine and walking one. Experience is invaluable in the postseason, and Oregon State stalwarts like Barney, Mitch Canham, Eddie Kunz and Mike Lissman are making their third consecutive trip to Omaha. Wow. [...] Continue Reading »
Two more teams punched their tickets to Omaha tonight; both are on the left side of the bracket, and both are from the Left Coast. Arizona State got a four-hit performance from first baseman Brett Wallace and 7 2/3 shutout innings from lefthander Josh Satow in a 7-1 win against Mississippi to clinch the Tempe super-regional. In the late game, Cal State Fullerton righthander Jeff Kaplan allowed just an unearned run over 6 2/3, and first baseman Matt Wallach singled home catcher John Curtis with the go-ahead run in the seventh inning to propel the Titans to a 2-1 win over UCLA. The Bruins got a wonderful outing from freshman lefthander Gavin Brooks in the loss–he struck out a career-high 12 over eight innings of work, but UCLA couldn’t get him any support. Timely hitting proved lacking, as the Bruins finished 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position. [...] Continue Reading »
In our super-regional preview this week, a coach whose team has faced North Carolina pegged Chad Flack. “Even though Flack’s numbers are down this year, he’s a clutch player,” the coach said. “How many kids can say they’ve hit a walk-off home run to go to the World Series?”
Flack can say that–he hit two home runs (including a walk-off shot) in the second game of the the 2006 Tuscaloosa super-regional against Alabama. And now he can say that he’s hit two game-winning home runs to send his team to the College World Series. Flack’s two-run shot off the net protecting the left-field scoreboard broke a 4-4 tie in the seventh inning and propelled the Tar Heels to a 9-4 win against South Carolina on Sunday night. [...] Continue Reading »
The NCAA’s about to find out if it overstepped its bounds in banning any reporters from live blogging from the NCAA Super Regionals. The Louisville Courier-Journal beat writer Brian Bennett was ejected from the press box during the fifth inning of Louisville’s Omaha-clinching 20-2 win over Oklahoma State on Sunday. [...] Continue Reading »
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