Stony Brook vs. UCLA
Arizona vs. Florida State
John: I'm taking the Pacific-12 Conference teams today. UCLA has the most complete team in the field for me, and Bruins coach John Savage is loving the attention showered on the Seawolves. Can Stony Brook keep up its high level of play despite all the pressure and scrutiny of college baseball's biggest stage? Even if it does, it has to beat the Bruins, who pitch, defend and hit with equal aplomb.
Florida State assistant coach Mike Bell told me during practice yesterday that he considers the Seminoles and Wildcats to be very similar teams. Florida State already put a hurting on one Pac-12 team by dismantling Stanford last weekend, and if Arizona's Kurt Heyer pitches as poorly as Mark Appel or Brett Mooneyham did for the Cardinal in the super regional, the Seminoles will roll.
But Heyer won't pitch as poorly. He's a strike-thrower with stuff who wasn't rattled by giving up 17 hits while pitching into the 10th inning against St. John's last weekend. The Wildcats' overall athleticism and defensive acumen makes them well-suited for TD Ameritrade Park Omaha, and with Heyer on the mound, they should prevail today.
Aaron: While I believe each of these four teams is entirely capable of winning this bracket, somebody has to win and somebody has to lose. I don't expect Stony Brook to be overwhelmed by nerves playing in Omaha, but I do like the CWS experience on that UCLA roster. But I really like UCLA righthander Adam Plutko, a flyball pitcher who should be well suited for this park, even though the wind is blowing out slightly to center field a half-hour before first pitch. Can Tyler Johnson turn in another gem for Stony Brook, or will his huge workload over the last two weeks finally catch up with him? I believe in Johnson, but I must admit, I have my concerns about potential fatigue. Should be a fun game, and it could go either way, but I'll go with the Bruins.
In Friday's second game, Arizona would seem to have the advantage at first glance because it has a proven big-game ace in junior Kurt Heyer taking on a freshman in Brandon Leibrandt. But Leibrandt has actually pitched better in the postseason than Heyer, and has not been as heavily taxed. I expect Leibrandt to come up big today—he'll pitch to contact and let FSU's veteran infield gobble up ground balls. I also give Florida State a significant edge in the bullpen, where it has experience, depth and a great power-armed stopper in Robert Benincasa. And I just can't shake the feeling that Florida State is going to continue its stellar super regional play this week. The Seminoles have got to be tired of hearing all the 2-and-'cue jokes, and I expect them to play with serious focus and resolve.
John's Picks: UCLA, Arizona.
Aaron's Picks: UCLA, Florida State.
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