CHAPEL HILL, N.C.—No. 6 national seed North Carolina needed every bit of its vaunted bullpen to put away pesky Cornell, champion of the Ivy League, in the NCAA tournament opener for both teams.
No. 1 seed North Carolina won a 7-4 game against No. 4 seed Cornell in game two of the Chapel Hill regional led by a strong pitching effort from Hobbs Johnson. The sophomore lefthander threw five innings, giving up two runs and surrendering six hits while striking out five Cornell batters. It was Johnson's seventh win of the season.
After getting on the board for the first time in the second inning, the Tar Heels really took control in the fourth inning. With one out North Carolina pieced together four consecutive hits, including an RBI triple by Parks Jordan and an RBI single by Adam Griffin. With two outs Colin Moran and Jacob Stallings hit back-to-back RBI singles, putting the Tar Heels up 5-0. That would mark the end of the day for Cornell's Rick Marks, who pitched 3.2 innings and gave up five runs (four earned) as well as nine hits in the loss.
[...] Continue Reading »
You know it was a magical day in college baseball when the second-longest game in NCAA tournament history might not even be the day's top headline.
That honor has to go to Florida sophomore Jonathon Crawford, who threw the first no-hitter in the NCAA tournament in 21 years. And wouldn't you know it, even Crawford's no-hitter was overshadowed by the first no-hitter in New York Mets history by Johan Santana.
If that's not enough for you, consider this, from ESPN stats and research: the last NCAA tournament no-hitter was also thrown by a Gator (John Burke), on May 23, 1991. That same day, there was also a no-hitter in the big leagues, by Tommy Greene of the Phillies.
Crawford was the model of efficiency in his no-hitter, needing just 98 pitches (70 for strikes) and issuing just one walk in the Gators' 4-0 win against Bethune-Cookman. He struck out five and did a good job pitching to contact, keeping his pitch count down.
"My defense played really well," he said afterward. "I threw one changeup, but it was pretty much fastballs and sliders. When I came in after the eighth, it kind of hit me and I got really excited and nervous all at the same time."
Second baseman Casey Turgeon saved the no-hitter with a leaping catch on a line drive to end the game.
The other game that had Twitter buzzing Friday was the opener at the Gary Regional, where third-seeded Kent State knocked off second-seeded Kentucky 7-6 in 21 innings—the second-longest game in NCAA tournament history. [...] Continue Reading »
LOS ANGELES—Adam Plutko was made for pitching under the Friday night lights.
UCLA coach John Savage has said a number of times over the last two years that he was impressed by how effective Plutko was as the Sunday starter as a freshman last year, because Plutko is a flyball pitcher and the ball carries better during the day. Once the damp coastal air rolls into Jackie Robinson Stadium at night, fly balls tend to fall harmlessly into outfielders' gloves. So a move into the Friday starter job as a sophomore has suited him; he carried a 9-3, 2.79 mark into regionals.
On Friday, facing a Creighton team that lacks offensive punch, Plutko could be particularly aggressive, attacking the zone with his fastball. The result was a dominant two-hit, complete-game shutout, leading UCLA to a 3-0 win in its postseason opener.
"Coach and I talked before the game, and we really wanted to attack them and make them prove that they could hit my fastball," said Plutko, a sophomore righthander. "So we just attacked them and went right at them, and it was working."
Plutko retired the first nine hitters of the game, seven of them on flyballs (six of which did not leave the infield). He got 14 flyball outs in the game, excelling by elevating his 86-90 mph fastball. [...] Continue Reading »
RALEIGH, N.C.—North Carolina State found its offense in its opening game at the Raleigh Regional, routing an overmatched Sacred Heart squad 16-5.
The top-seeded Wolfpack came into the game looking to get its bats going after scoring just six runs in three games at the ACC tournament last week. The 'Pack matched that total by the end of the third inning Friday.
Fourth-seeded Sacred Heart scored twice in the top of the first against Wolfpack starter Vance Williams, but any thoughts of an upset were squashed quickly. Wolfpack sparkplug Trea Turner started the bottom of the first by pulling a ball down the left-field line for a double, and N.C. State kept the line moving from there. NCSU’s first five men reached to start the frame, highlighted by a titanic home run by DH Ryan Mathews, who turned around a Troy Scribner fastball and sent it deep beyond the left-field fence.
“(Mathews’ homer) picked the team up a little bit.” N.C. State head coach Elliot Avent said. “Not only the home run, but maybe how far he hit it. It was an absolute shot.”
LOS ANGELES—The Los Angeles Regional opener showcased two of the nation's premier sluggers: sophomore third basemen D.J. Peterson of New Mexico and Kris Bryant of San Diego.
Both righthanded mashers are among the 30 semifinalists for the Golden Spikes Award, and both showed why Friday, going a combined 7-for-8. But Peterson (4-for4) had the bigger game, blasting a mammoth two-run homer in the ninth inning to punctuate third-seeded New Mexico's 4-0 win.
"The first pitch, my coach told me, 'Swing for it. Let me see what you got,' " Peterson said of his final at-bat. "So I swung and missed. I got to two strikes, and to be honest I was just trying to punch something through the right side, but it was in, and I just stayed inside and hit it good enough to let it get out."
USD coach Rich Hill describes Peterson succinctly and effectively: "D.J. Peterson is one of the primetime players in college baseball."
Peterson is now hitting .427/.496/.751 with 17 homers and 78 RBIs. He is a fearsome presence in the heart of one of the nation's best lineups, but he is quick to spread the credit around to his teammates.
His teammates sure deserved their share of credit Friday. The Toreros also have a potent offense, but low-three-quarters righty Austin House shut them down for seven scoreless innings, scattering six hits and two walks while striking out five. House got 10 groundball outs thanks to his lively mid-80s sinker and darting changeup, and New Mexico's solid infield played errorless defense behind him. [...] Continue Reading »
BY MIKE LEMAIRE
PALO ALTO, Calif.—All season long, shortstop Zach Vincej and second baseman and West Coast Conference Player of the Year Joe Sever have carried the Pepperdine offense. But with both players held in check by the Michigan State pitching staff, the Waves needed other players to step up with the bat, and fortunately for them, the unlikeliest of sources answered the call.
Pepperdine's first six hitters went just 4-for-21 on the day, but the team’s seventh, eighth, and ninth hitters – Matt Forgatch, Miles Silverstein, and Matt Gelalich – combined to go 6-for-11 with three runs scored and five RBIs, helping the Waves beat Michigan State 6-2 in the opening game of the Palo Alto Regional.
The trio entered the day with just 41 combined RBIs on the season, but they stepped up when their team needed them to. Gelalich, who entered the game hitting just .202/.264/.350, led the way with three RBIs, including a two-run double in the bottom of the sixth inning that gave the Waves a comfortable cushion. They cruised from there.
“Isn’t that awesome? Those are blessings for us,” Pepperdine coach Steve Rodriguez said when asked about the production from the bottom of the order. “We know they pitch Joe Sever really well and they were going to be cautious because he is an outstanding hitter. But that’s why this is called a team sport. In order to win championships, you have to have guys step up. It can’t be the same guys every single day. Today we were really fortunate that we had some guys do that.” [...] Continue Reading »
RALEIGH, N.C.—Vanderbilt surged into the NCAA tournament as one of the nation’s hottest teams and showed no signs of slowing down in its opening game as the No.2 seed in the Raleigh Regional, taking down third-seeded UNC Wilmington 8-2.
The Commodores aren’t a team that sits back and waits for the three-run homer, having hit just 26 long balls as a team in 59 games entering the regional, but they thrive on putting relentless pressure on opposing defenses, terming it their “motion offense,” to borrow from basketball jargon. They famously pulled off a triple-steal and stole seven bags in an SEC tournament game against Florida, and they one-upped that total on Friday, stealing eight bases against Wilmington.
“It’s like driving a car as fast as you can through green lights, red lights, yellow lights,” Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin said. “Sometimes you look good. Sometimes you crash.”
CHAPEL HILL, N.C— In the opening game of the NCAA Tournament, junior righthander Kyle Hansen provided St. John’s with 7 1/3 quality innings for the Red Storm, as they beat East Carolina 11-3 in the first game of the Chapel Hill Regional.
In a rematch of last year’s Charlottesville Regional, Hansen shut out the Pirates for the first six innings while the offense was firing on all cylinders—pounding out 16 hits, six of which went for extra bases. Hansen (5-5, 3.48) ran out of gas in the eighth, but got ahead of nearly every batter and commanded the strike zone very well. He gave up three runs on eight hits, while striking out eight and not issuing a walk.
“It sets us up very good," St. John's coach Ed Blankmeyer said. "They gave us the length of the game and Stephen (Rivera) did a nice job to come in and finish up.” [...] Continue Reading »
Aaron Fitt is previewing the NCAA regionals over on the Baseball America College Page, but he and John Manuel also sat down to give their thoughts on each regional for a pair of podcasts. The “right bracket” podcast can be downloaded here or you can subscribe at iTunes. It breaks down half of the regionals. The previous podcast with the left bracket is available here.
0-4:26: Intro & Update on left bracket
4:26: Los Angeles Regional: UCLA, Creighton, New Mexico, San Diego
11:19: College Station Regional: Texas A&M, Dayton, Ole Miss, Texas Christian
21:18: Coral Gables Regional: Miami, Stony Brook, Missouri State, Central Florida
35:47: Baton Rouge Regional: Louisiana State, La.-Monroe, Belmont, Oregon State
48:36: Chapel Hill Regional: North Carolina, Cornell, St. John's, East Carolina
53:54: Tucson Regional: Arizona, Missouri, Louisville, New Mexico State
1:04:24: Palo Alto Regional: Stanford, Fresno State, Michigan State, Pepperdine
1:12:52: Tallahassee Regional: Florida State, Alabama-Birmingham, Samford, Mississippi State
1:23:23: CWS Picks
Aaron Fitt is previewing the NCAA regionals over on the Baseball America College Page, but he and John Manuel also sat down to give their thoughts on each regional for a pair of podcasts. The first podcast can be downloaded here or you can subscribe at iTunes. It breaks down half of the regionals (those in the left bracket). The second podcast will arrive shortly.
0:45-10:00: Gainesville Regional–Florida, Georgia Tech, College of Charleston, Bethune-Cookman
10:00-20:35: Raleigh Regional–N.C. State, Vanderbilt, UNC Wilmington, Sacred Heart
20:35-29:02: Charlottesville Regional–Virginia, Oklahoma, Appalachian State, Army
29:02-38:07: Columbia Regional–South Carolina, Clemson, Coastal Carolina, Manhattan
38:07-47:23: Eugene Regional–Oregon, Cal State Fullerton, Indiana State, Austin Peay
47:23-55:00: Gary Regional–Purdue, Kentucky, Kent State, Valparaiso
55:00-58:44: Houston Regional–Rice, Arkansas, Sam Houston State, Prairie View
58:44-End: Waco Regional–Baylor, Dallas Baptist, Texas-Arlington, Oral Roberts
The 2012 NCAA Tournament field of 64 is set, and on the whole, the committee did a solid job—including 63 of the 64 teams from our final projection last night, as well as 15 of our 16 hosts and all eight of our national seeds.
Here are my significant areas of disagreement:
1. Wake Forest deserves to be in the field of 64 after sweeping Clemson in the final weekend to finish 13-17 in the nation's strongest RPI conference. The Demon Deacons are inside the top 40 in the RPI (No. 38) and posted a better conference record than fellow ACC bubble teams Virginia Tech and Maryland, which each missed the conference tournament (and also the NCAA tournament).
"Utlimately, looking at their conference regular-season record, we couldn't get over 13-17 in conference," Kallander said of the Deacs. It's worth noting, however, that Miami was just three games better in the ACC but managed to host a regional (more on that below).
Deacons coach Tom Walter was somewhat philosophical, saying, "It's our job to make the decision easy for them, and we didn't do it."
The Deacons played 21 games against the top 25 in the RPI and went just 6-15 in those games, but that still compares very favorably with Michigan State, which somehow got an at-large spot despite finishing in fifth place in the Big Ten. (Also, Wake played 12 of those games on the road in league play—at Miami, North Carolina, N.C. State and Virginia.) The Spartans finished four games out of first, three out of second and two out of third, so it's not like East Carolina, which finished sixth in a tightly bunched C-USA, just a half-game out of second place.
Michigan State went just 2-5 against the top 25 and 3-6 against the top 50 and 13-12 against the top 100. Wake was 15-19 against the top 50 and 17-23 against the top 100. And while Michigan State's RPI (No. 45) is in solid at-large range, the Spartans are still seven spots behind the Deacs. MSU had a chance to finish in second place if it won a season-ending home series against Penn State—and if it had done so, it would have deserved an at-large bid. Instead, the Spartans lost two of three in that series, which should have been a death blow to their case. [...] Continue Reading »
The Southeastern Conference leads all conferences with eight teams in the field of 64. Here's a look at how many teams from each conference earned spots in the NCAA field.
|Southeastern||8 (Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi St., South Carolina, Vanderbilt)|
|Atlantic Coast||7 [Clemson, Florida St, Georgia Tech, Miami (FL), North Carolina, North Carolina St., Virginia]|
|Pacific-12||5 (Arizona, Oregon, Oregon St., Stanford, UCLA)|
|Big 12||4 (Baylor, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas A&M)|
|Conference USA||4 (UAB, East Carolina, Rice, UCF)|
|Missouri Valley||3 (Creighton, Indiana St., Missouri St.)|
|Southern||3 (Appalachian St., Col. of Charleston, Samford)|
|Big East||2 [Louisville, St. John’s (NY)]|
|Big Ten||2 (Michigan St., Purdue)|
|Mountain West||2 (New Mexico, TCU)|
|Southland||2 (Sam Houston St., Texas-Arlington)|
|West Coast||2 (Pepperdine, San Diego)|
|Western Athletic||2 (Fresno St., New Mexico St.)|
|America East||1 (Stony Brook)|
|Atlantic Sun||1 (Belmont)|
|Atlantic 10||1 (Dayton)|
|Big South||1 (Coastal Caro.)|
|Big West||1 (Cal St. Fullerton)|
|Colonial||1 (UNC Wilmington)|
|Independent||1 (Dallas Baptist)|
|Metro Atlantic||1 (Manhattan)|
|Mid-American||1 (Kent St.)|
|Northeast||1 (Scared Heart)|
|Ohio Valley||1 (Austin Peay)|
|Southwestern||1 (Prairie View)|
|Summit||1 (Oral Roberts)|
|Sun Belt||1 (La.-Monroe)|
The NCAA Division I baseball committee released the 16 sites for the regional round of the NCAA tournament. The 64-team field will be announced Monday at noon ET.
The 64 teams will break down into 16 four-team, double-elimination regional tournaments. Surprisingly, that list did not include Kentucky and instead included Miami, which reached the ACC tournament championship but did not win the league, losing in the title game just after regionals were announced. Here are the 16 regional sites, presented in alphabetical order. All are at campus sites with one exception, Purdue, which will be played at the home park of the Gary Railcats, an independent minor league team:
North Carolina State
Purdue (at Gary, Ind.)
OMAHA—Minutes after Florida watched South Carolina celebrate its second straight national championship from the first-base dugout at TD Ameritrade Park, Gators coach Kevin O'Sullivan exchanged postgame handshakes with South Carolina's players and coaches, then turned to accept consolatory "congratulations on a great season" handshakes from a couple of reporters.
"We'll be back," he said. "We'll be back."
Indeed, the foundation is rock-solid for the Gators, who entered 2011 atop the national rankings and are strong favorites to be preseason No. 1 in 2012 as well. Florida followed its historically strong 2009 recruiting class with another banner haul in 2010, leaving the roster stacked with experienced stars like Mike Zunino, Hudson Randall, Brian Johnson, Austin Maddox and Nolan Fontana heading into next season.
"What a great team, what a tremendous team, classy organization," Gamecocks coach Ray Tanner said of the Gators. "They play the game the right way. You never like to lose games, but you like to play people like the Gators and coach O'Sullivan because you get after it and you play the game the right way. And you can rest assured he'll be back in Omaha time and time again."
The bright future provided some solace for the Gators—but in the immediate aftermath of a national runner-up finish, it was small solace. Florida has gone from winning a regional to reaching the College World Series to making the CWS Finals in the last three years under O'Sullivan, but the progression of the program provided little more consolation. [...] Continue Reading »
OMAHA—I took advantage of another 7 p.m. start time to play my annual round of golf with Doug Kroll of NCAA.com at Shoreline Golf Course in nearby Carter Lake—we've come to call it the Shoreline Classic. This year, we were also joined by Doug's co-worker, Matt Wickline. Like South Carolina, I am the defending champion, and like the Gamecocks on Monday, I had to overcome an early deficit, trailing by two strokes after nine holes. Like the last few innings last night, the back nine was full of dramatic momentum swings—Doug increased his lead to four strokes after 13 holes, then I surged ahead by two strokes with two holes to play. My short game melted down on No. 17, allowing Doug to retake a one-stroke lead. But I took the final hole, and our showdown ended in a draw, with Matt three strokes behind us.
Settling for a tie is never satisfying, but at least we don't have to worry about that tonight. Either South Carolina will be crowed national champion for the second straight year, or Florida will force a decisive third game Wednesday. The Gators showed plenty of character with their backs to the wall in super regionals against Mississippi State, but Mississippi State is no South Carolina, and the Bulldogs did not have Michael Roth on the mound, as the Gamecocks are expected to. After MSU's walk-off win in the second game of the Gainesville Super Regional, the Gators were "almost ticked off and mad" in the post-game press conference, according to Matthew Stevens of the Starkville Daily News. After their gut-wrenching loss Monday against South Carolina, the Gators seemed shell-shocked and despondent. Maybe they'll put those emotions behind them and bounce back tonight, but they looked like they were already beaten Monday night, for what that's worth.
If this is the last day of the college baseball season, let me say that it has been quite a year. College basball has entered a new era, ushered in by less potent bats and a brand-new stadium for the College World Series. And after a slow start, this CWS has provided us with fantastic theater over the past three games, for which I'm appreciative.
I'm also thankful for all the coaches and players who have made college baseball fun to cover in 2011. Without further ado, here is a list of my favorite players to watch and interview this season—also known as the All-Fitt Team: [...] Continue Reading »
More than a hundred people showed up in person—while who knows how many others sat at their computers and bid over the internet—for an auction that was conducted in two tents located just outside the front gates of the fenced-off stadium.
The auction was being conducted for the Omaha Zoo Foundation, which now has the land to use for expansion of the adjacent Henry Doorly Zoo. Money from the auction is supposed to help defray costs to build a small park—the “Infield at the Zoo”—that is to be built where the playing field is/was after the stadium is demolished.
Some 900 lots were put up for bid in an auction that lasted well into the afternoon. Everything and anything was sold: from home plate to a handicapped seating sign. From pitching mounds to the padding on the outfield wall. From drinking fountains to dugout benches. From bleacher seats to bathroom contents in the umpires locker room.
Prices ranged from $5 for some signage to $7,500 for the American flag flown outside the stadium for the last time. Winning bids came from all corners of the country, although an Omaha woman won the bidding for the flag, so it will stay home. An additional 10 percent auction fee was added to each item. In some cases, removal charges also were tacked on. [...] Continue Reading »
After my 6-0 start to our annual College World Series picks competition, I stumbled with two misses Tuesday but rebounded Wednesday by correctly picking Vanderbilt to beat North Carolina, keeping me unbeaten in that bracket. John Manuel is also 7-2, and now the action shifts back to the left bracket, where California and Virginia meet in an elimination game today.
The Golden Bears will start junior righthander Dixon Anderson, who has power stuff but has had an up-and-down season thanks to inconsistent command. Virginia eats up pitchers who are not fine with their location, so Anderson needs to be sharp Thursday. I like how loose Cal has been out here—coach David Esquer has done a great job setting the tone for his team, which is playing with house money as the biggest underdog of the CWS. But Virginia senior righthander Tyler Wilson (today's starter) is a proven big-game pitcher with outstanding command, and I expect the Cavaliers to rebound from Tuesday's loss to South Carolina with a victory against Cal. John is also taking the Cavaliers.
One other note: Florida announced today that it will start junior lefthander Alex Panteliodis against Vanderbilt and Sonny Gray on Friday. Panteliodis was outstanding over 5 1/3 shutout innings against Vandy in the SEC title game, but I'm still a bit surprised the Gators opted not to bring back ace Hudson Randall on five days' rest against an opponent of Vanderbilt's caliber, especially with Gray on the mound. Randall will be the choice if Vandy forces a rematch Saturday; otherwise he'll be plenty rested to start the opener of the CWS Finals next week.
OMAHA—Senior catcher Curt Casali hit a solo home run, his seventh of the season, to help Vanderbilt beat North Carolina 5-1 Wednesday night. The victory advanced the Commodores into the bracket championship against Florida, which it must beat twice to reach the College World Series Finals.
Casali was gracious enough to join us for a postgame video interview.
OMAHA—Eight games into the College World Series isn't a large enough sample size to draw definitive conclusions about new TD Ameritrade Park, but it does provide an opportunity for a mid-Series assessment of the new venue.
Among the upgrades at the new ballpark is a wider concourse that circles the ballpark from home plate to the outfield and back again, giving fans elbow—and breathing—room not afforded at 63-year-old Rosenblatt Stadium.
The concourse received a big thumbs up from fans Monday night when they took refuge there after a tornado siren sounded in the sixth inning of the Vanderbilt-Florida game.
It was actually for a high-wind warning. No more than 15 minutes later a big swirling wind came in from right field and stirred up paper and other debris unlike anything even the locals had seen here. [...] Continue Reading »
OMAHA—Travel complications conspired to keep me in town one more day, but it's not like I was hurting for something to do. It's Day Five of the College World Series and time for an elimination game between Vanderbilt, rocking the Clemson-cut pants, and North Carolina, which looks in pregame to be taking a page from Cal's stirrups playbook. (Of course, Texas A&M was all about stirrups, too, and went 0-2.)
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