OMAHA—I confess, I still this blog headline from the Omaha World-Herald, which ran it over a giant picture of Kole Calhoun in today’s sports section. Calhoun is simply unconscious right now. The hero of ASU’s two wins against North Carolina this week is 3-for-3 with a walk and an RBI today. He put the Sun Devils on the board with an RBI single in the third, and he singled to lead off the ASU seventh, then beat out a potential 5-4-3 double play off the bat of pinch-hitter Zach Wilson. What a fun player to watch. Calhoun is now batting .600 with three homers and 11 RBIs through 15 at-bats here in Omaha.
OMAHA—LSU pitcher Anthony Ranaudo put a poor outing against Virginia behind him in today’s 14-5 win over Arkansas. Listen to what Ranaudo, Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn and LSU coach Paul Mainieri had to say about the righthander’s six shutout innings that helped the Tigers to the CWS Finals.
OMAHA—Smoke is billowing across the outfield here at Rosenblatt Stadium, a product of some grill blazing behind the left-field bleachers. Whatever’s cooking out there, it can’t be as good as what’s cooking on the field. Texas and Arizona State are locked in a 2-2 tie after five innings of a tight, crisp ballgame. ASU righty Mike Leake, working on two days’ rest, has been better than he was Tuesday against Texas, striking out six and working around seven hits to hold the Longhorns to two runs so far. He’s approaching the 80-pitch mark, and there was action in the ASU pen last inning, so I can’t imagine Leake will be in the game much longer.
Texas starter Cole Green has been solid yet again, using that devastating slider of his to rack up six strikeouts of his own. Green has already topped 100 pitches, but he’s considerably more rested than Leake. Still, I see action in the Texas pen as well, and I get the feeling Green’s outing is close to finished, too.
OMAHA—Louisiana State utterly dominated a depleted Arkansas team Friday afternoon, cruising to a 14-5 win to clinch a spot in the CWS Finals, which start Monday. The Tigers will play either Texas or Arizona State for the national championship.
More to come after postgame.
OMAHA—Word has it that Mike Leake will get the start for Arizona State tonight. If true (and I’m told the ESPN broadcasters have reported it), this move makes no sense to me. The Sun Devils must win today and tomorrow in order to reach the CWS Finals; winning just one game does them no good. Why bring back Leake on two days’ rest—when he threw 77 pitches Tuesday and coach Pat Murphy speculated he might be dealing with some tendinitis—when Seth Blair and Jason Franzblau and Matt Newman are fresh? Unless Murphy plans on using Josh Spence again tomorrow on one day’s rest, he’s going to have to start one of those other guys at some point. Why not do it today to give Leake an extra day of rest?
Considering Murphy talked a lot about Leake’s workload taking its toll after the Texas game, it’s surprising that he would bring back the righthander on short rest unnecessarily. I have a feeling it’s the wrong move for Arizona State, and I think it’s also the wrong move for Leake’s well being.
Of course, who knows what to believe out of the Arizona State camp? I can’t think of a coach in college baseball who uses misdirection and gamesmanship the way Pat Murphy does.
OMAHA—A night after Arizona State broke open a tie game against North Carolina with eight runs in the seventh inning, Louisiana State has used a big seventh inning to turn today’s game against Arkansas into a blowout. The Tigers batted around and scored five runs in the frame, a rally that started with Ryan Schimpf’s one-out homer that landed about four rows from the top of the bleachers down the right-field line. As with last night’s seventh, erratic pitching played a big part in the inning, as four Arkansas pitchers issued three walks and threw a wild pitch.
It’s now 11-0 LSU in the bottom of the seventh, and everything is setting up perfectly for the Tigers. With an 11-run lead, coach Paul Mainieri was able to replace starter Anthony Ranaudo with Austin Ross. Ranaudo threw just 77 pitches over six shutout inning, and now he’ll have three or four days to rest before earning a start in Game Two or Game Three of the CWS Finals. The Tigers can go to Louis Coleman on full rest in Monday’s Finals opener.
No matter who wins the other side of the bracket, I really like LSU’s chances to take home its sixth national title.
OMAHA—The wind has really been gusting out to right field for most of this afternoon, which is a switch from most of the first week, when it was blowing out to left. Louisiana State DH Blake Dean has taken full advantage today, cracking a solo homer to right field in the fifth. Dean also doubled and scored a run in the first, then drove in a run with a grounder to first base in the third. The wind calmed down for a moment in the sixth, and LSU’s Jared Mitchell hit an opposite-field homer to left-center. The Tigers are in complete control today, leading 6-0 heading into the bottom of the sixth.
OMAHA—I’ll admit, I was surprised to see Arkansas slide Zack Cox from third base to short and Andy Wilkins from first base to third today, but so far the move looks like a good one. Cox, playing shortstop for the first time since his junior year of high school, has been flawless on his first two groundball chances, throwing out Mikie Mahtook in the first and Sean Ochinko in the second. Wilkins, who has played third at times this year when Cox comes in to pitch, started a 5-4-3 double play on a Derek Helenihi chopper to end the LSU second.
Dave Van Horn went with this lineup, instead of starting Tim Carver at short, for offensive reasons, because Jacob House (playing first base) has a better bat than Carver. House just singled to center in his first trip to the plate, and the defense has looked good so far. Stay tuned.
It’s 1-0 LSU in the bottom of the second, and Tigers starter Anthony Ranaudo looks very sharp.
OMAHA—The grounds crew has finally rolled up the tarp covering the infield here at Rosenblatt Stadium. UPDATE: They just sung the national anthem at 3:27 p.m. CT, and first pitch is fast approaching.
NCAA officials say everything possible will be done to try to get two games in today, so one team doesn’t have to play two games tomorrow. So if a game needs to start at 9 p.m., so be it.
The field is covered—and the fans head for cover—during rain delay before a pitch had been thrown in today’s Arkansas-LSU game at Rosenblatt Stadium.
By Kirk Kenney
OMAHA—Members of the 9th Inning Ministry—"Christians who love baseball" it said on the side of their truck—were giving free bottles of water to people passing by at the corner of 13th and D streets an hour before today’s Arkansas-LSU game.
They never said anything about throwing in a free baptism along with it.
Rain drenched Rosenblatt Stadium and everyone in it who wasn’t fortunate enough to have a ticket under cover (that meant about 20,000 of the 24,000 people). Thunder and lightning accompanied the rain, forcing today’s first game to be delayed more than two hours.
According to Dennis Poppe, NCAA vice president for football and baseball, they are required to wait 30 minutes whenever there is a lightning strike within a six-mile radius of the ballpark. The last lightning strike I saw was about 10 minutes before today’s scheduled start (1 p.m. EDT). Most of the delay is required to prepare the field for play.
"I’m going to be pissed if I get hit by lightning," said an Arkansas fan while waiting to cross 13th Street to the ballpark moments after a lightning bolt lit up the sky a several miles to the north.
I would have used the word "steamed" or "fried" but whatever. [...] Continue Reading »
OMAHA—It’s raining here at Rosenblatt Stadium, and the start of the Louisiana State-Arkansas game will be delayed at least an hour. We’ve been very fortunate with the weather so far, as not one game has been delayed through the first six days, but Day Seven has gotten off to an inauspicious start.
Speaking of inauspicious starts, does anyone really care what teams I pick at this point? It seems everything I touch turns to ruin. But at least I went down with the ship yesterday, instead of deserting my national champion pick like some other picker. Let’s see what John’s got for us today:
OMAHA—Arizona State’s Kole Calhoun has three home runs and 10 RBIs in the Series, including a grand slam and six RBIs in Thursday night’s 12-5 win over North Carolina. Arizona State coach Pat Murphy couldn’t say enough about his outfielder after the game.
OMAHA—Kirk Kenney and I took a quick look back at Arizona State’s win against North Carolina and a peek ahead to Friday’s action.
OMAHA—Arizona State erased a four-run deficit on Kole Calhoun’s grand slam in the fifth inning, then exploded for eight runs in the seventh to eliminate North Carolina, 12-5. Calhoun drove in six runs by himself, but North Carolina’s erratic pitching accounted for a huge chunk of ASU’s offense. The Tar Heels issued 10 walks, uncorked five wild pitches and hit three batters.
Josh Spence was strong for ASU yet again, throwing 126 pitches over seven innings on three days’ rest. He picked up the win to improve to 10-1.
Dustin Ackley singled in the ninth to extend his CWS hitting streak to 15 games, one of the very few bright spots for UNC in this one.
Plenty more to come after postgame.
OMAHA—Arizona State has capitalized on North Carolina’s inability to throw strikes to break open today’s elimination game. When the Tar Heels have actually managed to throw the ball over the plate, ASU has pounded the ball. This game was tied 4-4 heading into the bottom of the seventh inning, but Arizona State has sent 13 hitters to the plate, scoring eight runs on four walks and five hits. In this game, UNC pitchers have issued 10 walks, unleashed five wild pitches and hit two batters. Ugly.
The Tar Heels are on their sixth pitcher of the game, but to coach Mike Fox’s credit, he has not brought back Alex White on three days’ rest after the ace righty threw 131 pitches against ASU on Sunday. Kudos to Fox for protecting White’s valuable right arm, even though the Tar Heels sure could have used somebody to stop the bleeding today.
It’s 12-4 Arizona State heading into the eighth. We’ll have plenty more on Kole Calhoun (who has six RBIs today) and the Sun Devils after postgame.
OMAHA—With five innings in the books, it’s official: Garrett Gore has played more College World Series games than any player in history. The North Carolina senior outfielder is playing his 21st game in Omaha, breaking a record set by Southern California’s Daryl Arenstein from 1970-’73. Gore is 1-for-3 with a run scored so far today.
OMAHA—Brian Moran’s struggles at Rosenblatt Stadium continue, and so does Kole Calhoun’s hot streak. Calhoun tied this game up with one swing of the bat, hitting a 3-and-2 pitch from Moran into the bleachers in right-center field for a grand slam. Calhoun is now 5-for-11 with three homers and eight RBIs here in Omaha.
Calhoun also hurt the Tar Heels in the 10th inning Sunday, smacking a three-run homer in the 10th inning. That one also came against Moran, whose career ERA in Omaha has climbed to 13.50 in seven appearances.
"Red head here decided he was going to show up," Sun Devils coach Pat Murphy joked about Calhoun after the game Sunday. "He didn’t show up until the 10th, but the first nine innings he was busy signing autographs out there and building friendships out there in left field for his next job. I’m proud of Kole . . . He’s a great competitor, and I think that was the difference in the game."
Today, he’s the difference between a 4-0 deficit and a tie game.
OMAHA—North Carolina sophomore righthander Matt Harvey hasn’t looked great so far, but he’s managed to keep Arizona State off the board for 4 1/3 innings. Harvey has allowed just two hits but has issued five walks, hit two batters and thrown four wild pitches—a College World Series record. A National League scout, watching the game on television, texted me last inning to say, "The changeup is the only pitch Harvey is commanding. He’s playing with fire. His changeup has been nasty, though. It’s saving him."
Now Harvey needs his bullpen to save him. Harvey loaded the bases on two walks and a hit batsman with one out here in the bottom of the fifth, and he has been pulled for lefthander Brian Moran.
OMAHA—Jacob Stallings entered Thursday’s game against Arizona State with three sacrifice bunts all season. He sure looked like a master of the art in the first four innings today. Twice Stallings came up with a runner at third base, and twice he laid down a perfect safety squeeze bunt with two strikes. Both bunts were placed between the pitcher’s mound and first base, and both were scored 3-4.
Stallings drove in UNC’s first two runs, and the Tar Heels expanded their lead to 4-0 in the top of the fourth on RBI singles by Mike Cavasinni and Ryan Graepel. But ASU starter Josh Spence escaped further damage by striking out Dustin Ackley looking on an 80 mph breaking ball over the inside corner, stranding runners on the corners. It’s not a good sign for the Sun Devils that Ackley and Kyle Seager have done very little so far and the Tar Heels have a four-run lead.
OMAHA—Pat Murphy said after Arizona State’s loss to Texas on Tuesday night that lefthander Josh Spence was very unlikely to be available today on three days’ rest. Apparently he changed his mind. About an hour ago, it was announced that the Sun Devils will indeed start Spence today against North Carolina, and not righty Seth Blair as expected. Spence threw 122 pitches over seven innings in Sunday’s win against the Tar Heels.
I think this is a mistake by Murphy, but then again, Dallas Keuchel and Danny Hultzen each threw very well on three days’ rest yesterday. But each of them threw 40-plus fewer pitches than Spence in their first CWS outings. Plus, Spence pitched very little over the last two months before racking up deep pitch counts in each of his last two outings. On the one hand, I guess that means his arm is fresher. On the other, it means he’s even less used to bouncing back so quickly. It will be fascinating to see how this move plays out.
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