Friday was one of the most memorable opening days of the NCAA tournament since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1999, and it sets up plenty of intriguing storylines for Saturday. We blogged about many of yesterday’s notable outcomes, but here’s a complete scoreboard, with a region-by-region look at what’s on the docket today. All times are Eastern.
(4) Lipscomb over (1) Georgia, 10-7
(2) Georgia Tech over (3) Louisville 8-5
3 p.m.: Georgia vs. Louisville
7 p.m.: Georgia Tech vs. Lipscomb
The Louisville-Georgia elimination game is one of the day’s best. All of a sudden, the Bulldogs find themselves in serious danger of going 0-2 at a home regional on the heels of an 0-2 showing at the SEC tournament. The Cardinals actually have a starting pitching edge today with senior righthander Zack Pitts on the mound.
Ann Arbor Regional
(1) Arizona over (4) Eastern Michigan 13-7
(2) Michigan leads (3) Kentucky 5-1 in the fifth inning before play was suspended by rain
11 a.m.: Michigan vs. Kentucky (resumption)
2 p.m.: Eastern Michigan vs. Michigan/Kentucky
7 p.m.: Arizona vs. Michigan/Kentucky
Kentucky caught a break when rain forced a suspension of Friday’s game, because righthander Zach Putnam was cruising for the Wolverines, allowing just one run on six hits through five innings. It would be shocking if Putnam went back to the mound today, and Kentucky’s chances are much better against the Michigan bullpen. Still, you’ve got to expect the Wolverines to hold on, setting up one of the day’s best pitching matchups: Arizona’s David Coulon vs. Michigan’s Chris Fetter. Both bullpens have been taxed after Arizona had to use all three of its big bullpen guns in relief of Preston Guilmet (4.1 IP, 6 ER).
Baton Rouge Regional
(1) Louisiana State over (4) Texas Southern, 12-1
(2) Southern Mississippi over (3) New Orleans, 13-6
2 p.m.: Texas Southern vs. New Orleans
7 p.m.: Louisiana State vs. Southern Mississippi
I still think New Orleans is the greatest threat to LSU in this regional, so the Southern Mississippi’s victory over the Privateers on Friday smooths LSU’s path. UNO showed how explosive it is in the opener, falling behind 6-0 but rallying to tie the score with a six-run sixth, but the Golden Eagles demonstrated their own oft-overlooked power potential, smacking three home runs. But USM has already used ace Barry Bowden and two relievers, while the Tigers have ace lefty Ryan Verdugo and all of their key bullpen arms rested and ready to go. Advantage: LSU. It will be very surprising if New Orleans doesn’t pound Texas Southern in the elimination game. Does UNO coach Tom Walter have the guts to save righthander Bryan Cryer for a more dangerous opponent Sunday and risk going 0-2 in a regional without throwing his ace? I believe he does, and it’s the right move.
(1) North Carolina over (4) Mount St. Mary’s, 16-8
(2) UNC Wilmington over (3) Elon, 5-2
1 p.m.: Elon vs. Mount St. Mary’s
5 p.m.: UNC Wilmington vs. North Carolina
The favorites took care of business Friday, setting up a nice matchup between North Carolina and UNC Wilmington today. The Seahawks have already used ace righty Bradley Holt, while North Carolina essentially staffed its opening win against Mount St. Mary’s. Give the Tar Heels a huge edge with ACC pitcher of the year Alex White on the mound today against soft-tossing senior righthander Jeff Hatcher. Hatcher’s a competitor, but UNC’s strong lefthanded bats could tee off.
College Station Regional
(1) Texas A&M over (4) Illinois-Chicago, 15-1
(3) Houston over (2) Dallas Baptist, 9-5
1:30 p.m.: Dallas Baptist vs. Illinois-Chicago
7:30 p.m.: Texas A&M vs. Houston
Freshman lefthander Brooks Raley reversed his late-season struggles with a gem for Texas A&M on Friday, allowing just an unearned run on five hits over eight innings against UIC. That keeps A&M’s bullpen fresh, which is key, because that bullpen is one of the Aggies’ strengths. Houston, meanwhile, used ace lefty Wes Musick (6.1 IP) and stud closer Chase Dempsay (2.2 IP) in its win against Dallas Baptist. Advantage: Aggies.
(1) Coastal Carolina over Columbia, 10-2
(3) Alabama over (2) East Carolina, 16-3
1 p.m.: East Carolina vs. Columbia
7 p.m.: Coastal Carolina vs. Alabama
We’ve talked about how dangerous the top half of Alabama’s lineup is, and Nos. 1-3 hitters Josh Rutledge, Ross Wilson and Alex Avila combined to go 8-for-15 with a homer in Alabama’s blowout of ECU on Friday. The Crimson Tide hammered Pirates freshman Seth Maness (2.2 IP, 9 H, 8 ER) while getting a strong outing from junior righthander Austin Hyatt (8 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 9 K). But Hyatt has been Alabama’s best starter all year; now it’s up to the rest of the staff to step up after an uneven performance during the regular season. And today, ‘Bama won’t be able to pick on a freshman (even a talented one like Maness), as Coastal will throw ace righty Bobby Gagg. Should be a fun game, but give the host Chanticleers the edge. East Carolina is a heavy favorite in the loser’s bracket game.
Coral Gables Regional
(1) Miami over (4) Bethune-Cookman, 7-4
(2) Missouri over (3) Mississippi, 7-0
12 p.m.: Mississippi vs. Bethune-Cookman
4 p.m.: Missouri vs. Miami
Bethune-Cookman was in position to pull off the big upset of the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed, briefly tying the score at 4-4 with two runs in the top of the sixth. The Hurricanes answered with one in the bottom of the frame and two more in the seventh to win it, but they had to use bullpen stalwarts Kyle Bellamy (2.1 IP, 0 R) and Carlos Gutierrez (1 IP, 0 R) to slam the door. That gives Missouri an edge over the Hurricanes in today’s marquee matchup. The Tigers got a complete-game shutout from Aaron Crow, which kept them from having to use Kyle Gibson in relief and allowed them to start Gibson today against Miami–with a fresh bullpen behind him. Expect Gibson to pitch deep into the game unless he gets chased early. Miami lefthander Chris Hernandez is awfully good and is coming off a dominant start in the ACC tournament, but he’s a freshman making his first regional appearance. Gibson is a supremely talented sophomore who could go in the top five picks of the 2009 draft. I’m picking the Tigers to pull off the upset today; but that doesn’t mean Miami can’t rebound to win the regional. In the loser’s bracket, Bethune-Cookman’s starting pitching has been more consistent than Mississippi’s all year, and an upset is very much within the realm of possibility.
(1) Cal State Fullerton over (4) Rider, 11-0
(2) UCLA over (3) Virginia, 3-2
7 p.m.: Virginia vs. Rider
11 p.m.: UCLA vs. Cal State Fullerton
The Bruins squeaked out a hard-fought win against Virginia on the strength of a strong start from ace lefty Tim Murphy (7.2 IP, 2 R, 1 ER) and an unearned run in the ninth inning. I watched the Cal State Fullerton game on ESPNU last night, and boy, were the Titans impressive. That offense is so much fun to watch, because every hitter can execute, there’s so much speed, and they’ve got plenty of pop as well. Righthander/DH Brian Wilson hit an absolute laser of a home run to right field, in addition to twirling a complete-game shutout with eight strikeouts in his first start of the season. Fullerton looks much stronger than UCLA heading into today’s action, and the Titans will have ace righty Jeff Kaplan on the mound. If UCLA is to win, it simply must execute against the clinical Titans. In the ninth inning Friday, the Bruins failed to sacrifice runners to second and third with none out, as Brady Dolan’s bunt resulted in a force out at third. They were bailed out by Tyler Cannon’s throwing error one batter later. Fullerton isn’t going to bail the Bruins out.
(1) Rice over (4) Sam Houston State, 3-2
(3) St. John’s over (2) Texas 2-1
3 p.m.: Texas vs. Sam Houston State
7 p.m.: Rice vs. St. John’s
The Owls and Red Storm won a pair of crisp pitcher’s duels Friday, and both burned their aces to do it–Ryan Berry threw six strong innings for Rice, and Scott Barnes went 7 2/3 for St. John’s. But the difference is Rice called upon junior righthander Bobby Bell–who had thrown just 11 innings all season heading into the game–for the final three innings, while the Johnnies had to use closer Colin Lynch. St. John’s has pitching depth, but Rice is a pitching factory, and bullpen aces Cole St.Clair and Bryan Price are fully rested. Savvy lefty George Brown might be able to keep Rice off balance Saturday, and he’s pitched better down the stretch than Chris Kelley or Matt Langwell. Then again, you might have noticed over the years that Rice is pretty good at Reckling Park. But St. John’s has at least a chance.
(1) Nebraska over (4) Eastern Illinois, 13-10
(2) UC Irvine over (3) Oral Roberts, 9-7
2:05 p.m.: Eastern Illinois vs. Oral Roberts
8:05 p.m.: Nebraska vs. UC Irvine
This regional has gotten ugly in a hurry. The top two seeds both advanced Friday, but Nebraska veteran Dan Jennings was hit hard (3.2 IP, 5 ER) by Eastern Illinois, forcing the Cornhuskers to use four of its five best pitchers in one game–Thad Weber, Mike Nesseth and Aaron Pribanic finished it for Jennings. The Anteaters, meanwhile, got just five innnings out of ace righty Scott Gorgen, forcing key relievers Christian Bergman and Eric Pettis to throw a combined 3.2 IP. Whoever gets a longer, stronger start today should be in good shape, and you’ve got to give Nebraska the edge with senior righty Johnny Dorn on the edge. But Irvine’s Bryce Stowell has the better arm and has pitched well down the stretch.
Long Beach Regional
(4) Fresno State over (1) Long Beach State, 7-3
(2) San Diego over (3) California, 5-0
The Toreros got a complete-game gem from Brian Matusz, leaving their bullpen rested behind standout lefty Josh Romanski; you have to like their chances. Long Beach State and California will face off in the day’s most compelling elimination game–it’s hard to believe one of these quality clubs will be going home today. Give the Beach a big edge thanks to a superior starter (Vance Worley), superior defense and a good home-field advantage.
(1) North Carolina State over James Madison, 6-2
(2) South Carolina over (3) Charlotte, 15-8
2 p.m.: Charlotte vs. James Madison
7 p.m.: South Carolina vs. North Carolina State
One of Saturday’s most anticipated matchups will pit South Carolina coach Ray Tanner against his old team, North Carolina State. It will be strength vs. strength: N.C. State’s pitching and defense against South Carolina’s big bats and, well, defense. Righthander Clayton Shunick gets the call for the Wolfpack, and his outstanding split-finger should allow him to keep the ball in the park against the Gamecocks. Of course, South Carolina can beat you without the benefit of the long ball.
(4) UC Davis over (1) Stanford, 4-2
(2) Pepperdine vs. (3) Arkansas, 4-3
4 p.m.: Stanford vs. Arkansas
8 p.m.: Pepperdine vs. UC Davis
Both of today’s matchups are interesting. Pepperdine has hinted it could start flame-throwing righthander Brett Hunter on Saturday, and nobody knows how Hunter will perform after working his way back from arm troubles. The Aggies are playing well and have a steady starter with good stuff lined up in Brad McAtee. The Cardinal started senior righty Erik Davis yesterday against Davis, leaving Austin Yount as the likely starter in today’s elimination game against Arkansas. Yount has been strong in the second half of the season, but Stanford’s superior offense could be the bigger factor today.
(1) Oklahoma State over (4) Western Kentucky, 5-3
(2) Wichita State over (3) Texas Christian, 8-5
2 p.m.: Texas Christian vs. Western Kentucky
8 p.m.: Wichita State vs. Oklahoma State
We knew the Shockers would have to get deep outings from their starting pitchers to win this regional, and lefthander Rob Musgrave delivered a complete-game victory Friday against TCU. The Cowboys got a deep outing of their own from lefty Tyler Lyons (8.2 IP, 3 ER), and they’ll have ace Andrew Oliver on the mound today against Wichita. But the Shockers are likely to counter with another impressive lefty of their own in Anthony Capra.
No. 4 Bucknell 7, No. 1 Florida State 0
No. 3 Tulane 7, No. 2 Florida 4
1 p.m.: Florida vs. Florida State
7 p.m.: Tulane vs. Bucknell
If you predicted Florida State and Florida would meet in the loser’s bracket Saturday, pat yourself on the back. Will the once-high-flying Seminoles be shut down for the second straight day? Don’t count on it. Meanwhile, Tulane’s looking pretty smart right now for throwing ace righty Shooter Hunt on Friday against the Gators. Lefthander Matt Petiton figures to have a better chance against Bucknell than he would have against Florida State. The Bison still have yet to use bullpen ace Jason Buursma on the mound, but don’t be startled if he gets the start today–he’s made eighth starts this year. Either way, he’ll be a difference-maker today.
(1) Arizona State over (4) Stony Brook, 9-7
(3) Oklahoma over (2) Vanderbilt, 8-5
5 p.m.: Vanderbilt vs. Stony Brook
10 p.m.: Oklahoma vs. Arizona State
Stony Brook gave the Sun Devils a scare before running itself out of the ninth inning Friday, but ASU should have its jitters out of the way. The Devils started Matt Newman (2 IP, 3 ER) and had to use bullpen stalwarts Stephen Sauer and Tommy Rafferty for a combined seven innings Friday, so expect Mike Leake to pitch very deep into Saturday’s game against Oklahoma. And expect both favorites to take care of business today.
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