Kent State vs. Arkansas
South Carolina vs. Florida
Today's games have an undercard and a main event. Arkansas and Kent State probably know they are not the day's sexy matchup, but that doesn't mean it's not a good one. The two clubs set up fairly similarly as pitching-and-defense teams. Kent State's defense is superior to that of Arkansas in terms of the numbers, the consistency and recent history. The Golden Flashes made several key defensive plays to win a super regional at Oregon and will have to continue to defend at a high level to win in Omaha. Their best chance to win here appears to come today against Arkansas' D.J. Baxendale, who has had an erratic junior season and relies more on competitiveness and location than pure stuff. For the most part this season, Baxendale has beaten decent teams and lost to the good ones; I consider Kent State a good team with just a decent offense, and I think Baxendale will rise to the occasion and deliver a big performance for the Razorbacks. I'm picking them, but if you can't tell, I don't have a ton of confidence in the pick.
South Carolina and Florida is the main event of the entire weekend. I happen to think it's the first of three matchups the teams will play here this week. I know this will be an unpopular sentiment with some, but at some point, I think Michael Roth's magic has to run out. He's had an amazing college career by locating pitches, mixing his pitch patterns, varying arm angles and out-thinking hitters. If he pitches as well in this year's Series as he has the last two, he'll go down in history as the most successful pitcher in CWS history. I just don't think he can keep doing it to the Gators, who have veteran hitters who have seen him over and over and who got some good swings off him when I saw the two teams in Columbia in late March. Brian Johnson has been at his best lately, and I like the confidence coach Kevin O'Sullivan is showing in his team to shake things up a bit and not start either Hudson Randall or bazooka-armed Jonathon Crawford in this one.
I admit it's fairly ridiculous to pick against South Carolina at this point. Let's sit back and marvel at their winning ways in the postseason the last three years, and acknowledge that if they do it again here in the 2012 CWS and win a third straight national championship that Ray Tanner is the best college baseball coach of our time. Only Skip Bertman could rival Tanner, but three in a row without a parade of future big leaguers would give Tanner the edge in my book.
As usual, I think John's analysis is spot-on for both of these games. I do believe Arkansas is the more talented team, and its depth of quality arms will be a significant advantage in the late innings, because I wasn't blown away last week by a Kent State bullpen that coughed up two late leads and nearly blew a three-run ninth-inning lead in the opener against an Oregon team that is not overly offensive. Kent State starter David Starn has won a lot of big games over his sterling four-year career, and the Golden Flashes will need him to pitch deep into this game to have a chance. But I'm not sure he's a great matchup for Arkansas—as a mid-80s, low-slot lefty, his style reminds me quite a bit of Roth's, and Arkansas has handled Roth ably over the last two years, rapping out 10 hits to beat him in 2011 and scoring six runs against him this year. The better way to beat Arkansas is with velocity, and Starn doesn't fit that mold. So I'll suppress my suspicion that the Golden Flashes could make some noise, and I'll follow my head—give me the Hogs.
In the night game, it really is silly to bet against Roth and the Gamecocks in Omaha, but I think John's got it right—if any team can beat him on this stage, it is the Gators, who just have so much familiarity with him. I just feel like Florida's got some unfinished business to address here in Omaha, and it starts tonight. The Gators are the most talented team in this tournament, and they're also the most experienced (South Carolina has its core of key CWS holdovers, but it also relies on significantly more first-year starters than Florida does). So I'm taking the Gators—fully prepared for the Gamecocks to make me look silly again.
John's Picks: Arkansas, Florida.
Aaron's Picks: Arkansas, Florida.
Comments will be monitored prior to being added to the site. Comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be rejected. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed.
We have chosen to open up commenting to everyone, so comment away! We want to hear from each and every one of you! Leave a comment.
About This Blog
Syndicate This Blog
Search This Blog