OMAHA—John and I are still below .500 in our picks, but TCU's comeback victory salvaged a 2-0 Wednesday for me and helped John and I both climb closer to .500. Kirk Kenney and I had a chance to save a little more face for Baseball America at Shoreline golf course today, where we took on Doug Kroll and Kevin Scheitrum of NCAA.com in a team match. After a rough start, Kirk and I stormed back to win the front nine by four strokes thanks to Kirk's wizardry around the green and my four straight pars to close the front. Doug and Kevin surged back into the lead on the back, but Team BA answered the bell again, and the match was all square heading into the 18th hole. The four of us matched each other chip-for-chip and putt-for-putt on the 18th, and the match ended in a hard-fought draw. And I finished with the day's low round—91.
Now it's time to carry that momentum over to the picks:
John: It figures the the CWS' best game would be the first full one played after I leave town. I better go back "My Name Is Earl" style and get my karma right before next season's CWS. It was exciting TV last night, but obviously would have been greater to experience at Rosenblatt.
I managed to keep my composure in my last night at the 'Blatt, and tonight will be the last game there for either Oklahoma or South Carolina. The Gamecocks are going back to ace Blake Cooper, who threw fewer than 70 pitches two days ago, in a move that depicts exactly what Aaron Fitt wrote about with South Carolina all year. Cooper and Sam Dyson are a dynamite 1-2 punch, but the Gamecocks have struggled to find a third starter this season, and if they had one they truly trusted, they'd be using him today. Of course, the flip side to that argument is that it's possible for South Carolina to get perhaps five innings or more out of its ace today, and it is an elimination game, so perhaps a heightened sense of desperation is warranted.
I think the Gamecocks simply are in the latter camp, while OU can go with rested Zach Neal, who's a command guy and the Sooners' leader in innings pitched. I'm picking South Carolina because even on two days' rest, I prefer Cooper to Neal, who may have had too much rest now that he hasn't pitched since June 13. If the Gamecocks win, it will set up a situation much like 2002, when South Carolina has to beat its in-state rival, Clemson, twice to reach the championship game. The Gamecocks did it that year, and that was a better Clemson team, with Khalil Greene and Jeff Baker and Matt Henrie and Steve Reba on the mound. But it also was a better South Carolina team too. I'd just love to see the Palmetto State rivals go at it with so much on the line again.
John's Pick: South Carolina.
Aaron: On paper, I think Oklahoma has the edge with a rested Zach Neal on the mound, but I like what I've seen from South Carolina's offense, and Sooners coach Sunny Golloway has expressed frustration with his hitters' plate discipline. Maybe Oklahoma's bats will heed Golloway's "lay the bat down" message, but I'm going to ride South Carolina's hotter offense today. I have a feeling Cooper will pitch well, and even if he doesn't I like South Carolina's ability to mix and match with the bullpen for five or six innings.
Aaron's Pick: South Carolina.
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