OMAHA–There’s something in the air here in the Rosenblatt Stadium press box, and I don’t mean Beaver Fever. I and no fewer than six other media members have come down with some kind of nasty flu-like bug, after we all felt just fine as recently as Friday. I decided to combat the disease by sleeping in all morning, emerging for lunch, then heading back to the hotel for another hour of shut eye before Game Two of the CWS finals tonight. I’m feeling somewhat refreshed now–but if you see me in the street, give me a wide berth.
A few thoughts before we get to Sunday’s picks:
Paterson is durable, but he’s now he’s not as fresh as he could have been. Paterson is Oregon State’s most reliable arm out of the bullpen, and he’s even more important as the Beavers’ only go-to lefty against a UNC team stacked with dangerous lefthanded hitters. This could be a factor in the late innings today, because North Carolina’s top two relievers (Rob Wooten and Andrew Carignan) have had two days to rest up.
That said, I still think it was legitimate to ask Fox if he saw any tightness in light of UNC’s 1-for-10 performance with runners in scoring position Saturday. We can’t see from the press box if any of the players are pressing, but Fox is in the dugout. Even players who are relaxed all season long can tighten up in big spots (see: McNabb, Donovan, vomiting on the field during the Super Bowl), and the only way we can find out if that’s the case is to ask the coach or the players. If the answer is no, that’s fine, but I was surprised to see Fox react so strongly. A simple, “No, I didn’t see any tightness” probably would have been much more convincing . . .
Game 15: Oregon State vs. North Carolina
The Beavers sit just one win away from their second straight national championship, prompting many folks around here to start cautiously throwing around the word “dynasty”. In this age of parity, three straight trips to Omaha and back-to-back titles might indeed qualify as a dynasty, but that’s a discussion for another time, because both John and I agree the Tar Heels are going to force a third game tonight.
Oregon State has the more consistent pitcher on the mound in junior righthander Mike Stutes, who also pitched Game Two against UNC in last year’s finals, allowing four runs on seven hits over three innings before lefthanded closer Kevin Gunderson bailed the Beavers out with 5 1/3 strong innings of relief. UNC will counter with righthander Luke Putkonen, a third-round pick who finally pitched up to his talent in a win against Louisville on Tuesday. It will be essential for Putkonen to have his curveball working so he can mix speeds and locations, because the Beavers are too hot to be shut down by a one-pitch guy, even if that one pitch is a 93-94 mph fastball.
Expect Fox to lean heavily on bullpen stalwarts Rob Wooten and Andrew Carignan at the first sign of trouble for Putkonen–it’s do or die time, and Fox has to feel good knowing he might not need his bullpen for long Monday with senior ace Robert Woodard scheduled to pitch.
Aaron: North Carolina
John: North Carolina
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