OMAHA—South Carolina's Jonathan Taylor was fighting to throw from a lower arm slot since high school. But that was when he was playing middle infield.
Taylor pitched and played second base at Wilson High in Florence, S.C. He says he threw from a lower arm slot when making throws from second and dropped down when he threw his changeup from the mound. Otherwise, he pitched overhand, and his coach implored him to throw overhand on his infield throws as well.
"I felt comfortable throwing like that, and it seemed to be a pretty good throw most of the time," Taylor said, "but he harped on me throwing over the top and making an accurate throw. And I threw a changeup from a lower slot.
"When I got to junior college (at Florence's Darlington Tech JC), I got in my first 'pen and my coach said, 'You can't do that in college, they'll pick up on it.' So instead of changing the changeup, I changed the fastball and slider."
From sidearm in juco ball, Taylor has gone even lower as a senior at South Carolina. He and pitching coach Jerry Meyers have tweaked his mechanics from last season, when he went 3-2 with a 3.49 ERA in 28 innings. His slot is a bit lower, he's added some front-side funk and hides the ball better in the back. The result is a deceptive, submarine delivery that has made Taylor the most valuable middle reliever in the country. [...] Continue Reading »
Aaron Fitt insists on interviewing only players he can look down upon or look in the eye. So here's his postgame interview with Pac-10 player of the year Tony Renda, who had two hits in Cal's 7-3 elimination victory against Texas A&M.
OMAHA—This is what Karsten Whitson came to Florida to do: start in the College World Series. Strike out hitters like Vanderbilt's Aaron Westlake—who has 17 home runs—and help pitch the Gators to within three victories of a national championship.
Of course, if Whitson were writing the script, he'd have stayed on the mound deeper in the game. In fact, if most other college coaches were writing the script, Whitson would have had a chance to work out of a two-out, two-on jam in the fifth inning.
Not at Florida. Whitson, the Padres' unsigned 2010 first-round pick out of Chipley (Fla.) High, hasn't pitched more than 6 1/3 innings in a game all season. His highest pitch count is 92, and coach Kevin O'Sullivan pulled him after 83 Monday night. Gators reliever Steven Rodriguez wound up finishing the game, getting one fewer out while still registering more strikeouts (seven to five) and throwing just 50 pitches.
"I was just trying to keep us in it," Whitson said. "My slider was a little low in the zone the first couple (of) innings. Then I did a good job of changing my sights and bringing it up a little bit, and I was able to keep hitters off balance.
"I knew when Preston (Tucker) hit that home run, I had to put a zero on the board the next inning, which I did. Then Sully came and got me and brought in (Rodriguez), and you can't say enough about what he did today. So it was good for him to pick me up." [...] Continue Reading »
Well, Florida already has beaten Vanderbilt 3-1, which tells you a bit about my video editing skills. Still, this preview has our picks today. Aaron has improved to 6-0 with the Gators' victory, while I fell to 5-1. We diverge again in Games Seven and Eight:
OMAHA—Monday's winners' bracket game between Florida and Vanderbilt was suspended by inclement weather, with the Gators leading the Commodores 3-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning. Play will resume at 11 a.m. ET on Tuesday; ESPN will televise the action when play resumes.
The Gators jumped out to a 3-0 lead on Preston Tucker's massive three-run homer to right field against Southeastern Conference pitcher of the year Grayson Garvin in the fourth inning. The 'Dores got on the board in the fifth, when Anthony Gomez singled home Connor Harrell and knocked UF starter Karsten Whitson out of the game.
Steven Rodriguez took over for Whitson and was on the mound with one out in the bottom of the sixth when tornado sirens started blaring from downtown, at about 8 p.m. CT. Rodriguez got Mike Yastrzemski to fly out, and then the players were called off the field. A bank of black clouds rolled through the city, and hurricane-force winds caused debris to swirl throughout the stadium.
On May 13, Vanderbilt led Florida 4-2 in the sixth inning when play was suspended, knocking Vandy ace Sonny Gray out of the game. Florida reversed momentum when play resumed the next day and won 6-5. Both of these teams have extraordinarily deep bullpens, so neither team gains a distinct advantage from the suspension.
OMAHA—A little excitement was expected in the baseball game, but the weather provided it this evening at TD Ameritrade Park when an approaching thunderstorm accompanied by high winds interrupted the sixth game of the 2011 College World Series, with Florida leading Vanderbilt 3-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning.
When tornado sirens rang out just after 8 p.m. local time, fans immediately got up and began exiting the stands. Play actually continued as Vanderbilt got an out before umpires called the delay at 8:02 p.m. Many of the fans retreated to the main concourse, a touted feature of the new ballpark that earned a big thumbs up on this night. [...] Continue Reading »
OMAHA—Asking “What do you think about the weather?” is an innocent enough question to make small talk with the person standing next to you while riding upstairs in a crowded elevator.
Of course, when that person is Dennis Poppe, vice president for NCAA Division I football and baseball, you get a more in depth response than, “Looks like we’re in for some rain.”
When Poppe was asked about the weather about a half hour before Monday’s North Carolina-Texas game at TD Ameritrade Park, he reached into his pocket and produced a colorful map. It was a visual representation that boils down to this — severe weather is forecast Monday evening within an hour after the first pitch for the Vanderbilt-Florida game. [...] Continue Reading »
OMAHA—The weather forecast for the College World Series area appears dire, but we'll see if the thunderstorms and hail predictions hold off in our new downtown CWS home.
It needs to, because the evening's Florida vs. Vanderbilt tilt should be outstanding. It pits my preseason national championship pick with Aaron's, and it's the first pick we have disagreed about during this week's Series. We went audio over video for today's picks blog, so have a listen as we review the CWS to this point and preview today's games.
Here's the VandyfloridaPreview. North Carolina-Texas preview (which of course I should have done first!) to come soon. In the interest of having the picks out there before the games start, we both surprisingly pick North Carolina over Texas, while diverging on the evening's game. Aaron's got Florida; I've got Vanderbilt. We're both 4-0 to this point, but obviously at least one of us will no longer be undefeated after today.
UPDATE: Due to technical issues, we never got that UNC-Texas preview up. I'm sure you'll be able to live with it.
Much has been written about UCLA righthander Trevor Bauer and his interesting pre-game warmup routine. Not as much has been written about how Virginia lefthander Danny Hultzen prepares for a start. While he doesn't use a hacky sack or a "javelin," it is still entertaining to watch him warm up.
Hultzen begins to prepare for a start about an hour before game time. He starts off with some running to loosen up and then the fun begins. Before Hultzen starts throwing his normal bullpen session, he first goes through his delivery several times with a towel in his throwing hand. After that, he throws from his knees to a catcher in the bullpen. Hultzen's knees are angled about 45 degrees from home plate and he throws to the catcher from about 40 feet. Both drills serve the same purpose.
"They let you work on your mechanics without actually throwing the ball," Hultzen said. "Those things help you work on your stuff without putting that stress on your arm. That's why we do a lot of flat-ground work, because throwing off a mound puts that much more stress on your shoulder. Other than that, it just loosens you up and gets you ready to throw."
Hultzen's unique approach doesn't end there. On the mound, he has some unconventional mechanics—the first thing he does in his delivery is bend his knees, like he's about to sit down in an imaginary chair. [...] Continue Reading »
OMAHA—A couple of quick thoughts as we post the pregame video:
• Feedback on the new ballpark continues to be strong from players and fans in the positive direction. I suppose the news media might be the strongest "nay" vote on the new park. A lot of veterans that I've talked to in and around the media—and by "around" I mean others who help us do our jobs and are around the Series every year—continue to have our reservations. But I think that speaks more to our love of Rosenblatt Stadium and what it meant to us than it speaks negatively of the new park.
There's no doubt this place is nicer, and no doubt that it is more corporate. It's right there in the name. At the front of the old park, giant letters proclaimed, "Omaha's Rosenblatt Stadium." Here, it's TD Ameritrade Park Omaha. The old place belonged to the city and the people of Omaha. This place belongs (metaphorically speaking) to a corporate partner and the NCAA. It's up to you if that's a good thing or not. But the park is indisputably nicer and pretty close to big league.
• We welcome feedback to our approach with video. We recorded this one on the gazebo porch at our hotel, which seemed like a good idea at the time. It's fun for Aaron and me to talk about the game but it's also fun to write about it; we can do either one. Thanks for the interest. I hope it comes through how much we enjoy covering this event.
• If you don't want to watch the video, we both picked Florida and Vanderbilt yesterday to go to 2-0. Today, both Aaron and I pick South Carolina and Virginia.
Without further ado, here's the picks video:
Tom Trede of Treynor, Iowa, has been coming to the College World Series since the early 1970s. And so it was Saturday that Treynor found himself driving by the old ballpark on the hill.
“I went around the block by Rosenblatt Stadium this afternoon,” said Trede. “The gutters were full of—I thought it was water at first but it was tears coming from Rosenblatt Stadium. It was a sad afternoon. It was wondering where everybody’s at.”
They were three miles away, downtown at the new $131 million TD Ameritrade Park for the opening day of the 2011 CWS.
Trede, wearing a burnt orange Longhorns T-shirt and a cowboy hat with horns attached to it, joined the crowd for Saturday evening’s Texas-Florida game. He carried a sign that read: “Old Horns! New Stadium!” as he made his way around the outfield concourse.
“The new place is great,” he said. “It’s just not Rosenblatt. It’s changed. You’ll get used to it. I’ll get used to it. Everybody will.” [...] Continue Reading »
OMAHA—After his complete-game one-hitter against Baylor in the Big 12 Conference tournament, Taylor Jungmann was 13-0, 0.95. He was the very essence of consistency and dominance over a full season. He allowed zero earned runs in eight of his 16 starts to that point—going at least eight innings in seven of those eight outings. He did not allow more than three earned runs in a start all year.
Then the NCAA tournament started. Jungmann—a first-team All-American for Texas this spring and the 12th overall pick in the draft this June—has been perhaps college baseball's premier big-game pitcher since he was a freshman, when he shut down Louisiana State in the College World Series Finals. But in three starts in the 2011 postseason, he is 0-3, 6.23.
Jungmann allowed seven earned runs in 5 2/3 innings in a loss to Kent State in the regionals. He was better last week in super regionals, giving up just three runs (one earned) in 7 1/3, but he still lost against Arizona State. And in Texas' CWS opener on Saturday, he was downright erratic, giving up five runs (four earned) on three hits and four walks in 4 1/3 innings, as the Gators erased an early 3-0 lead en route to a 8-4 win.
The moment it became apparent that Jungmann wasn't truly Jungmann on Saturday was in the third inning. The Longhorns put three runs on the board in the top of the frame—and Jungmann proceeded to walk Florida's No. 8 and No. 9 hitters to start the bottom of the frame. The Gators rallied for two runs in the frame to reverse the game's momentum. [...] Continue Reading »
OMAHA—Vanderbilt outfielder Tony Kemp went 3-for-4 at the top of the Commodores' lineup, including a bunt single and run scored in the first inning of the first College World Series game at new TD Ameritrade Park.
Baseball America national writer Aaron Fitt talked to Kemp postgame.
We're delving back into the video this year, this time with picks blogs. Of course we were a bit late with the first one … patience please. Here's our picks video for Day One of the 2011 College World Series:
OMAHA—Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin was on the money Friday when he said the subject of college baseball's new BBCOR bats was "tired."
By now, everyone who's paid an ounce of attention to college baseball knows the bats have dramatically reduced offense in across the nation—officially, from 7.01 runs per team per game in the 2010 regular season to 5.62 runs per game in the 2011 regular season.
Most coaches now seem at peace with the new era the bats have ushered in. In fact, American Baseball Coaches Association executive director Dave Keilitz said Friday that he conducted a survey of all NCAA coaches (73 percent responded). Just 16 percent of Division I coaches responded that they didn't like the new bats, while 42 percent said they liked it, and 41 percent said it's acceptable, Keilitz said.
But there was one fresh bat-related story to come out of Friday's press conferences. Dr. Lloyd Smith, who runs one of the NCAA's bat-testing laboratories at Washington State, acknowledged that "altering of equipment is always a concern, and that's always a possibility."
After the press conference was over, Smith weighed in on the latest bat-tampering method that coaches are starting to whisper about. It is possible to remove the end cap, then remove a metal ring from inside the barrel, then reattach the end cap. [...] Continue Reading »
OMAHA—Year after year at College World Series media day, coaches have sat on the dais and recounted the expressions of awe on their players' faces as their team buses first crested the hill on 10th Street, and Rosenblatt Stadium's blue facade came into view.
Rosenblatt still has that kind of effect, as it turns out.
"After the coaches' meeting last night, we drove by Rosenblatt on the way back to the hotel, and it's still standing," Texas A&M coach Rob Childress said on the dais Friday, during one of three pre-College World Series press conferences. "They've taken the scoreboard down, but driving up that hill still gives you a little bit of goosebumps, even though it was 10:30 at night, no lights on."
This year, of course, Rosenblatt is merely a sight to admire through the bus windows—it is not the destination. So how did players react when they first laid eyes upon sparkling new TD Ameritrade Park?
"I think our players were in awe when they all saw it for the first time," North Carolina coach Mike Fox said. "It is different, certainly. But the pictures of this place sure don't do it justice. Just walking around the inside, you can tell there is a great deal of thought and detail put into this stadium. I can't imagine being a college player and getting to play in a stadium like this on this stage. So I think our players will relish it." [...] Continue Reading »
The College World Series field is set, as the final two teams punched their tickets to Omaha in decisive third games of super regionals Monday. No. 1 national seed Virginia won a thrilling game against UC Irvine to make its second trip to the CWS in the last three years, while Texas A&M pounded Florida State to reach Omaha for the first time since 1999. We'll recap Monday's action below, but first let's take a look at the College World Series field.
A year after just three national seeds reached the CWS, six of the top eight seeds made it this year. Six national seeds also made it to Omaha in 2008, when Fresno State became the only No. 4 regional seed to win the national title. This year's field also features the all-time leader in College World Series appearances (Texas, with 34) but none of the next 12 teams on the all-time list. South Carolina, making its 10th trip to Omaha, has the most CWS appearances in this field, after Texas.
Here is the schedule for the first weekend (all times Eastern; national seeds in parentheses):
Saturday, June 18
2 p.m.: (6) Vanderbilt vs. (3) North Carolina
7 p.m.: (7) Texas vs. (2) Florida
Sunday, June 19
2 p.m.: California vs. (1) Virginia
7 p.m.: Texas A&M vs. (4) South Carolina [...] Continue Reading »
Augie Garrido was already the only coach to win national championships in four different decades. On Sunday, he became the only coach to lead teams to the College World Series in five different decades. Garrido's Texas Longhorns clinched their 34th trip to Omaha with a somewhat controversial win against Arizona State. Defending national champion South Carolina also punched its ticket back to Omaha, and Florida won a thrilling back-and-forth game against Mississippi State to punch its ticket. And in the late game, California clinched its first CWS trip since 1992. So six CWS spots are secure (North Carolina and Vanderbilt advanced Saturday), with two more to be determined in rubber games Monday.
Here's a roundup of Sunday's fantastic slate of games:
Austin Super Regional
Texas over Arizona State, 4-2 (Texas wins series 2-1)
Texas had to come from behind in order to win its fifth consecutive elimination game. The Sun Devils jumped on Texas starter Sam Stafford (4 IP, 4 H, 2 ER) for a pair of runs in the first inning, but the Longhorns battled back, scoring a run in the bottom of the frame and tying the game on a controversial balk by Mitchell Lambson (5 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 6 K) in the fifth. An inning earlier, an Arizona State rally was cut short by suspect umpiring, as hitter's interference was called on a fourth ball, and the umpires forced Joey DeMichele to return from third base to first, where he was when the play started. Texas surged ahead with two in the sixth, as Mark Payton and Brandon Loy drove in runs. Nathan Thornhill, Hoby Milner and Corey Knebel combined to work five innings of two-hit, shutout relief for the 'Horns. [...] Continue Reading »
SANTA CLARA, Calif.—As California's players trotted toward center field for a team photo, freshman catcher Andrew Knapp suddenly spun on his heel to face his teammates.
"We're going to Omaha!" Knapp screamed at the top of his lungs, with his fists clenched, forearms toward the sky. "In the first year of the new stadium, the California Golden Bears are going to Omaha!"
It was a scene of joyous incredulity that captured the moment perfectly.
Seriously? Cal is making its first College World Series appearance in 19 years—in the very same season its administration attempted to cut the program? You can't make this stuff up.
The California Golden Bears are, indeed, going to Omaha. They ended another feel-good story Sunday night at Stephen Schott Stadium, beating fellow upstart Dallas Baptist 6-2 to sweep the Santa Clara Super Regional.
"I don't know what to say," Cal coach David Esquer said at the start of the post-game press conference. "I'm looking at the box here so I can believe it—it's on paper. I'm so proud of our team, so proud of our staff. [...] Continue Reading »
COLUMBIA, S.C.—Connecticut gave South Carolina everything it could handle, but the Gamecocks’ bullpen shined and Christian Walker hit a tie-breaking home run in the eighth inning. The Gamecocks pulled away late, and the defending national champions returned to the College World Series by a final score of 8-2, sweeping the Columbia Super Regional.
Connecticut opened up a 2-0 lead in the second inning against South Carolina starter Colby Holmes, and even many of the Huskies’ outs were hit hard. Holmes made it to the fifth inning, but after two men reached and then the first out of the inning was made on a hard-hit fly to left, it was time for a change.
The Gamecocks’ bullpen has been one of the team’s biggest strengths, anchored by closer Matt Price. While their starting rotation has had turnover since the end of last year and even during the course of this season, the bullpen has always been there.
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