IRVINE, Calif.—Baseball America scout Dave Perkin, sitting to my right, put it this way: "It looks like somebody kidnapped the real Strasburg and put this guy in his place."
Perkin said San Diego State ace Stephen Strasburg looked a bit off in his bullpen, throwing very few fastballs and appearing to cut off his delivery. Virginia has been all over his fastball, which has ranged between 94-98 mph in the first two innings. Phil Gosselin hit a first-pitch 97 mph fastball off the left-field scoreboard to put the Cavs on the board in the second inning, and the Aztecs called more sliders and changeups than heaters after that. By my count, Strasburg has thrown 26 offspeed pitches and 13 fastballs since giving up the home run, and he worked in the 92-95 range in the second inning. He struck out the side in the second on two sliders and a 92 mph heater, but in between the Cavs scratched out an unearned run to build a 2-0 lead through two innings.
Not surprisingly, with this game being played in Scott Boras’ hometown of Irvine, Boras himself is on hand, sitting behind the plate with a number of other Boras Corp employees.
Higher seeds fared better in many of the early games, but lower seeds slugged their way to wins in three games that just wrapped up. In the wildest game of the day so far, third-seeded Southern Mississippi jumped out to an 8-1 win against second-seeded Elon, but the Phoenix stormed back to tie the game at 9-9 in the sixth. The two teams exchanged blows over the next three innings, but when the dust cleared, the Golden Eagles had won 17-15.
In Clemson, third-seeded Oklahoma State topped Alabama 10-6 behind six RBIs from Tom Belza. This one was only too predictable; it seems the teams that earn controversial at-large choices often play with an extra chip on their shoulders in regionals (see: Oklahoma, 2008).
And in Fort Worth, third-seeded Oregon State nearly blew a 9-1 lead over Texas A&M after six innings but held on for a 9-8 win. Brooks Raley’s struggles down the stretch continued for the Aggies, as he lasted just two innings, allowing four runs (one earned). A&M had to use Alex Wilson for four innings in that one, taking a bite out of its vaunted pitching depth. [...] Continue Reading »
A number of today’s early games are over, and higher seeds have won in six of the first seven games to finish. The one exception came in Austin, where third-seeded Boston College overcame a 5-2 deficit against Texas State with six runs in the ninth inning. John Spatola’s three-run homer was the big blow. Texas State scored twice in the bottom of the frame on Paul Goldschmidt’s two-run homer, but BC held on for the win.
Some other observations:
• Coastal Carolina cruised to an 11-3 win over Kansas behind a strong outing from Nick McCully, and the Chanticleers have sophomore lefty Cody Wheeler waiting for a potential winner’s bracket game tomorrow against North Carolina, whose struggles against southpaws have been well documented. Coastal’s got a real chance there.
• Kansas State crushed Xavier 16-8, and the Wildcats did it without star righthander A.J. Morris, who is now looming for a potential winner’s bracket showdown against his former high school teammate, Rice righty Ryan Berry. The Owls will start righty Mike Ojala today against Sam Houston State.
CHAPEL HILL, N.C.—Senior first baseman David Anderson hit a three-run home run in the first inning to stake Coastal Carolina to an early 3-0 lead over Kansas. Nick McCully took it from there.
The second seeded Chanticleers piled on the offense to top third seeded Kansas 11-3 in the opening game of the Chapel Hill Regional, but the three in the first were plenty for the junior righthander McCully.
IRVINE, Calif.—I went down to the field during batting practice to chat with the coaches, and Virginia’s Brian O’Connor said he’s turning to sophomore righthander Robert Morey (2-0, 3.25 with 70 strikeouts in 53 innings) tonight against San Diego State righty Stephen Strasburg. O’Connor said the decision came down to Morey or freshman lefthander Danny Hultzen, but he went with Morey for a few reasons: First, Morey has power stuff (89-93 with a vicious 82-84 slider) and gives UVa. the best chance to shut down the Aztecs in a game where runs figure to be at a premium. Secondly, Morey has been Virginia’s most consistent starter over the last month or so. And third, he’d like to have Hultzen for a potential matchup against UC Irvine, because Hultzen is a premium athlete who fields his position very well and can help negate the bunting game.
It’s an interesting gambit, and it makes a lot of sense to me. We’ll see how it plays out.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—Ohio State had high hopes entering the opening game of the Tallahassee Regional. However, the Buckeyes fell behind early and trailed 10-2 going into the bottom of the fifth. The game has been suspended by rain since 1:48 p.m., and we have been in a recurring lightning delay since with a restart time finally coming at 7:00 p.m.
Sophomore righthander Alex Wimmers and Ohio State are the No. 3 seed in the regional, coming off of a regular season Big Ten Title. Georgia is the No. 2 seed, but the Bulldogs have struggled down the stretch, going 4-13 and losing their final four weekend series of the regular season.
Wimmers had posted a 9-1, 2.68 record in 15 starts for Ohio State and was stellar in his final three starts of the regular season, posting a 2.25 ERA. Every sign pointed to the Buckeyes having an excellent shot at pulling off the upset.
But Wimmers ran into a Bulldog offense ready to break out of its slump. [...] Continue Reading »
Maybe falling out of contention for a home regional was the best thing that ever happened to Georgia. The Bulldogs jumped on Ohio State ace righty Alex Wimmers for eight runs in the first inning in Tallahassee, and they lead 10-2 in the bottom of the fifth. UGa. coach David Perno has expressed frustration and bewilderment this year with his team’s struggles at home, where the Dawgs lost three of their last four conference series. Maybe the change of scenery is exactly what Georgia needed.
Elsewhere, Miami is in control against Jacksonville. The Hurricanes lead 6-0 through five innings, and they got four scoreless innings from freshman Travis Miller. If the ‘Canes hold on to win this game, things set up very nicely for them, because they’ll have ace lefty Chris Hernandez ready to go in their next game, potentially against top-seeded Florida.
IRVINE, Calif.—San Diego State pitching coach Rusty Filter confirmed this morning that junior righthander Stephen Strasburg will start today against Virginia at 4 p.m. PT. The Aztecs gave serious thought to starting junior righty Tyler Lavigne, who might have been able to come back on short rest if needed Monday, while Strasburg will only pitch once this weekend to protect his $20 million to $50 million arm. But winning the first game is critical, and Virginia has a very dangerous offense, so throwing Strasburg today is the right move. San Diego State’s coaching staff had kept its thinking close to the vest until this morning, but you can put the speculation to rest.
CARY, N.C. — Well we’ve finally got our two teams for the Division II world series — and it only took 12 hours at the ball park.
Lynn (Fla.) University took out upstart Belmont Abbey (N.C.) 7-5 to advance to the final, winner-take-all game against Emporia State (Kan.) on Saturday.
Daniel Flores had the go-ahead homer, a two-run shot just over the right center field wall.
The game was originally scheduled for 8:15 p.m., but rain delays pushed the start back to 11:15. Give some props out to Charlotte Observer stringer Rachel Ullrich, who stayed with me through the game (it finished up around 2:30 a.m.) Now that’s some serious dedication.
CARY, N.C — And we’ve got one half of the Division II championship game, as Emporia State (Kan.) downed top-ranked UC San Diego with a walk-off homer, 5-3.
The hero for the day? Kellen Lane, senior left fielder. The kid wasn’t exactly a slugger coming into the game, batting .290/.355/.336. He came to the plate in the bottom of the ninth with the go-ahead run on board, just looking for a base hit, a fastball outside to put in play.
He got a breaking ball inside, and somehow, adjusted his swing to make contact — and boy what contact. Lane’s first career home run couldn’t have come at a better time, and sends his Hornets into the championship game.
Now, Emporia State just has to wait on the winner of Belmont Abbey (N.C.) and Lynn (Fla.). Should Belmont Abbey win tonight, the two teams will play again Friday.
But for the moment, there’s lightning in the area, and as much as I love blogging, I’m not trying to die in this metal tent in Cary. Drama all around at the D-II World Series.
If you want to see Stephen Strasburg pitch, you’ll need to have ESPNU this weekend. ESPN will feature the Tallahassee and Irvine Regionals for the only national coverage of the NCAA baseball tournament regionals, but this weekend all games will be on ESPNU. When the Super Regionals arrive next week some of the coverage will move to ESPN and ESPN2.
Only one days is left. You’re running out of time to enter your bracket in the 2009 Baseball America College Baseball Bracket Challenge, brought to you by DeMarini. Test your knowledge of college baseball against Baseball America staff, celebrity guest participants and other fans like yourself.
The winner will be awarded a prize package from Baseball America (Retail value $30.00.) and a DeMarini bat (Retail value $300.00.). Eight additional winners will be drawn from all eligible entries and will receive a prize package from Baseball America (Retail value $30.00 each.).
All entries must be received by 11:45 a.m. ET on Friday, May 29, 2009 to be considered eligible. The Regional round kicks off at noon ET on Friday, so don’t miss out on your chance to join in the fun!
CARY, N.C. — Once again, the Belmont Abbey Crusaders (N.C.) have pulled off an upset to stay alive in the Division II world series. Belmont Abbey knocked off the top seed in bracket one, Mesa State (Colo.) Wednesday night, by a score of 9-2.
This time, it was second baseman Carlos Vasquez with the three-run homer in the first inning, taking the first pitch he saw out of the ballpark. It was his first hit of the series — and just his third home run of the year. The best part? Vasquez’s homer came literally as a fellow writer turned to me and said "this guy doesn’t look like a good hitter."
Belmont Abbey gives the D-II series some of the best oddball bits of character: the coach is named Kermit Smith, and he insists on bringing his toddler son to every post-game press conference "I started doing it in the regional, and we haven’t lost since," he said. Left fielder Tyler McKenzie continues to wear the same lucky pants every game, despite the ever-growing tear in the left leg. He’s worn them since the conference championship game, and every time he takes the field they get a little more tattered.
Another interesting note; while Belmont Abbey is the lowest-seeded team remaining, they have the strongest crowd following. Since all the other teams are from out of state and the Crusaders hail from nearby Charlotte (just two and a half hours down the road from Cary) Belmont Abbey fans show up in relative force.
But for the moment, Belmont faces it’s toughest test when it faces a Lynn University (Fla.) team that looked dominating in two previous wins, Thursday at 7 p.m.
CARY, N.C. — University of California at San Diego’s Vance Albitz is listed as a gracious 5-foot-8, 160-pound shortstop from Torrance California. Upon further examination Albitz is probably in the 5-foot-5 to 5-foot-6 range and weighs around 145-150 pounds.
“I don’t feel like I’m one of the smaller players. The only time I see that is when I’m looking at video of the game or if I see a picture of me standing next to one of my teammates.”
But that didn’t stop Albitz from leading the Tritons past Dowling (N.Y.) in the Division II world series. Albitz went 3-6 with two RBIs in UCSD’s 13-1 win.
CARY, N.C.—West Chester (Pa.) and UC San Diego were two of the highest-ranked teams in Division II entering the World Series. However, they both dropped their first game in the Series and came into Tuesday’s game with one guaranteed to go home.
For UC San Diego it was especially bittersweet as it was appearing in their its Division II World Series in the school’s history. West Chester had appeared in the 2006 series and went 1-2 before going home, and the Tritons had to sweat it out to hold on for an 8-6 victory, staving off elimination.
Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) doesn’t just dominate NAIA; besides winning 16 championships over the last 30 or so years, LCSC also has become the host site of the NAIA World Series, and gets a bid to the tournament as host.
But LCSC won’t win it all this year. The Warriors were ousted Monday by Southern Poly (Ga.), losing 9-6 to go 0-2 in the event. The Warriors had won three straight titles, but injuries and suspensions had diminished this year’s team, which finished just 40-15 after losses to Southern Poly and Oklahoma City in the World Series.
Southern Poly got a 5-for-5 day from Jono Waugh and the 11th win of the season from junior righty David Harden, a Mercer transfer.
CARY, N.C.—It happened in the second inning of Emporia State’s game against Mesa State in the Division II World Series: With starter Tyler Aplehans struggling, Emporia State called in the relief early after Mesa State put up two runs in the second inning.
In came the submariner. Emporia State brought in righty Ben Graham, who proceeded to torpedo Mesa State’s vaunted offense (the Mavericks are batting .383 as a team, the highest team average in the series) pitching 6 1/3 shutout innings in Emporia State’s 5-2 win. He also struck out five batters and walked just one. [...] Continue Reading »
CARY, N.C.—And five games into the Division II World Series, the walk-off finally shows up!
Belmont Abbey continued its bracket busting by knocking off Grand Valley State in the first elimination game of the series, 5-4. The Crusaders gave up four runs in the top of the ninth inning as Grand Valley tied the game, but they answered with three hits of their own in the bottom of the ninth, culminating with Spencer Sobol’s walk-off single through the left side of the infield.
Belmont Abbey is starting to get a reputation for clutch performances with wins like this. The Crusaders won the Aiken regional as the No. 6 seed, beating host South Carolina-Aiken at home—twice. [...] Continue Reading »
Jim Foster couldn’t have put it any better.
When informed that Oklahoma State won just two of its nine conference series and finished in ninth place in a 10-team league, but still earned an at-large regional bid, Rhode Island’s coach had some choice words for the Division I baseball committee.
"They should be locked up for that one," Foster said. "That’s a crime."
Foster’s Rams actually went 1-1 against the Cowboys in Stillwater back in March. URI also notched wins over Miami and Ohio State, part of a very solid nonconference schedule that boosted the Rams to 57th in the Ratings Percentage Index, according to warrennolan.com. To put that into context, it’s just two places below Southern Mississippi, which gets an RPI boost just by rolling out of bed in the Southeast. It’s much, much more difficult to build that kind of RPI as a New England team in the Atlantic 10 Conference—especially with a program that isn’t fully funded, with just 2.6 scholarships spread over the entire roster. But the Rams fell to Xavier in the finals of the A-10 tournament, and the committee chose not to reward them for their 37-win season. [...] Continue Reading »
We’ve got plenty of opinions on the NCAA Tournament field. Let’s focus on some of the facts and figures for a minute, provided by the NCAA’s J.D. Hamilton, with some editing and commentary here. [...] Continue Reading »
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