Baseball America

2006 College World Series Preview

CLEMSON (52-14)

Coach (Record at school): Jack Leggett (607-257, 13 years)
CWS history: 11 trips to Omaha, last in 2002
CWS route: Won the Clemson regional in three games, beating Mississippi State in the final. Swept Oral Roberts in the super-regional.

Top Players Key Stats
Tyler Colvin, lf .362, 22 2B, 13 HR, 23 SB
Andy D’Alessio, 1b .313, 22 HR, 80 RBIs
Stephen Faris, rhp 9-2, 2.37, 81-19 K-BB
Jason Berken, rhp 9-3, 2.90, 75-34 K-BB
Josh Cribb, rhp 9-0, 3.09, 83-26 K-BB

Scouting Report

I
thought Clemson was without question best team in (Atlantic Coast
Conferene). They really pitch, and are deeper than anybody in country.
The starting pitchers don’t overpower you; they all come at you and
throw strikes. They’re bulldogs and work fast. It makes you feel
uncomfortable at the plate. If you see a fastball early, be ready to
hack. I thought all of them were pretty much the same: fastball, 86-88
(mph), and they all had an average slider. They threw a get-me-over
slider early in count and get you to chase with two strikes. Slow the
tempo down on them and have a good opposite-field approach.

The
one thing that is overlooked is their catcher (Adrian Casanova) is best
defensive catcher we saw all year. He can really catch and throw and he
gets pitches for their guys because he’s so calm. It didn’t seem like
they pitched on the plate much. They knocked the spots out and the
umpire called it because he was doing a great job of receiving. He
compliments their staff. They’re all 90 with a breaking ball but
they’re not eye-popping stuff. They just hit their spots and have a
great plan to get ground balls and have a great fielding team.

They
like to put a lot of pressure on you. Really good team speed. Seven of
the nine hitters can run. There’s a couple that can really, really run.
Everyone is good enough they can start runners and can bunt and can
handle bat.

They have so many options with speed and bunting,
they run a team offense really good and understand what coach Leggett
is trying to do. They raked. Colvin was a first-rounder, a great
hitter. We thought he was one of best hitters we’ve seen; he can do it
all. We struggled with Harbin the most; he tore us up. He’s not big or
imposing, but has some sock. With Harbin, throw the first pitch out of
zone because he’s hacking at the first close pitch he sees. D’Alessio
killed us. He has good strength, but stay away and spin breaking
balls–he tries to hook everything. But if you miss, he’ll kill it.

Omaha Outlook: Clemson (3.21 ERA) showed its depth on the mound against Oral Roberts, winning both games despite getting four total innings out of its starting pitchers. That attribute can help a team weather potent offenses (such as Georgia Tech’s, which scored 61 runs in splitting six games against Clemson this year) and stay in Omaha a long time even if it falls into the loser’s bracket at some point. Two late-inning come backs also steeled the team’s reserve; it now knows no game is over as long as its productive offense still has a chance to bat. The Tigers hit the College World Series as hot as any team, with 24 wins in their last 25 games. The No. 1 national seed also must battle history, as the top-seeded team hasn’t won the CWS since 1999. 


GEORGIA TECH (50-16)

Coach (Record at school): Danny Hall (579-246, 13 seasons)
CWS history: Three trips to Omaha, last in 2002
CWS route: Won the Atlanta regional in three games, beating Vanderbilt in the final. Swept College of Charleston in super-regional.


Top Players Key Stats
Matt Wieters, c/rhp .355, 14 HR, 69 RBI
Whit Robbins, 3b .363, 13 HR, 66 RBI
Wes Hodges, dh .335, 11 HR, 67 RBI
Jeff Kindel, lf .335, 13 HR, 52 RBI
Blake Wood, rhp 11-4, 4.71, 90-41 K-BB


Scouting Report

They’re
banged up a little bit. (Danny) Payne is Len Dykstra out there, and him
being out hurts them. Hodges is hurt, too. That’s a lot of offense, but
they can still hurt you. They’re always as talented as anybody in
country. Offensively, Tech still has plenty of guys in the middle of
the order capable of running into some balls. Robbins stepped it up
this year. Now Wieters is swinging the hot bat. He’s got a great
approach, and he can hit it out to all fields. Then there’s Kindel, and
(Steven) Blackwood’s a veteran guy that always has had a good approach
at the plate. Robbins and Wieters, you can get them hard in and hard
away, but you better not miss. It better be in-in or two inches off, or
it’s gone.

I think there are some spots in lineup where they’re
not quite as potent as over the years, more so down in the order. Pitch
aggressively, have a guy that’s not afraid to pitch inside to a lot of
those guys. The biggest thing is challenge their hitters. They’re going
to get their hits. What you don’t want to do is compound that by making
mistakes. Don’t just feed that fastball. Keep them from swinging out of
their shoes.

The way you get to them is hit them. Their pitching
is very average–just OK–but keeps them in games. They’re better
defensively using Wieters behind the plate, but they’ve got to keep him
away from there and in the bullpen because he’s the best arm. Certainly
Tech is capable of any guy on any day going out and being lights out,
they’re just mixing it and doing what they can with it. The big thing
with them is take advantage of their starting pitching not being very
good. Blake Wood has a good arm, but he’s up and down and his breaking
ball isn’t special. Pitching depth is going to hurt them this year, but
they can definitely go to Omaha because they can score runs.

Omaha Outlook: Georgia Tech scored the second-most runs of any team in the country during the regular season, and kept that power-packed attack going in the NCAA tournament with nine home runs and 39 runs in five games. Wieters, Robbins, Kindel and Hodges are as dangerous a collection of hitters as any remaining team. But Omaha is about arms. Tech doesn’t have the depth or the dominator recent CWS champions have boasted, especially with closer Tim Gustafson out since April with an arm injury. The bats can make Tech a fun team, but arms better than theirs will end their season.


CAL STATE FULLERTON (48-13)

Coach (Record at school): George Horton (450-185-1, 10 seasons)
CWS history: 14 trips to Omaha, last in 2004; four championships, last in 2004
CWS route: Won Fullerton Regional in three games, beating Fresno State in the final. Swept Missouri in super-regional.


Top Players Key Stats
Wes Roemer, rhp 13-1, 1.97, 134-6 K-BB
Lauren Gagnier, rhp 14-4, 2.42, 101-23 K-BB
Dustin Miller, rhp 11-1, 44-19 K-BB
Justin Turner, 2b .355, 61 runs, 20 SB, 18 2B
Blake Davis, ss .364, 61 runs, 15 SB, 13 2B


Scouting Report

Fullerton
is really good. When it gets down to the nitty-gritty, you’re talking
about the best college middle in the country with Davis and Turner,
it’s like coaches on the field. The outfield is going to lead the
galaxy in diving catches. They will make more diving catches than the
rest of the teams playing in this thing.

Their pitching
surprised some people; they pitched beyond expectations. Roemer is real
special. He’s your typical low three-quarters pitcher. If he gets in a
jam and tries to pitch around a guy, he says ‘the hell with it, I’ll
just bury it in your ribs and get the next guy.’ You can’t take away
Roemer’s this or that because he uses both sides of the plate. Gagnier
has come leaps and bounds. He’s turned into a real good player. (Closer
Vinnie) Pestano being out can hurt them because the bullpen is very
vulnerable because you’re not sure if you can depend on (Ryan) Paul.
They will ride their starters, and really do. You want to get the
starters out and get into the secondary pitching, but the fact is that
nobody’s done that, and nobody will do that.

Of all the teams
we saw, they are the most advanced at all things. They sac, slash,
late-show drag and if you’re not used to that, you’re dead. Fullerton
makes you make errors. They fake bunt and steal. You play them and they
beat you, you think you’re the worst coach in America. They make you
feel that way.

It’s the typical Fullerton offense. They don’t
have the power–not even really doubles power–most of their doubles
come from hustle doubles. It’s not boom into the gap. They hit .300 as
a team but if there’s a runner on second with less than two outs, they
get them over. Good lefthanded pitching can give them trouble. You have
to get the first guy of each inning out, pitch ahead, get count
leverage. If you can beat them 2-1, 4-3, that’s what you do. You want
them to try to bang. If they have a plan and bunt and get locked in,
it’s over. It’s a well-oiled team. They touch the ball and create
offensive opportunities. They’re clutch: they cash in and don’t get
tight with second and third and one and out and pop out. They don’t do
that.

Omaha Outlook: Pitching, defense and poise often are the difference, and no team outflanks Fullerton in those categories. Its 2.57 ERA leads the nation, its .977 fielding percentage ranks among the national top 10, and Turner, Danny Dorn and Brett Pill each played key roles in winning the 2004 CWS. The Titans join three ACC teams in this bracket, and their West Coast approach could the trio off guard. Ryan Paul has filled in admirably for injured closer Vinnie Pestano, but he’s yet to be tested in a high-pressure situation. That question, and the lack of a solidified fourth starter are the only questions following this team to Omaha. Then again, the ’04 team won by milking complete games out of its starters and barely using its bullpen.


NORTH CAROLINA (50-13)

Coach (Record at school): Mike Fox (337-158-1, eight seasons).
CWS history: Five trips to Omaha, last in 1989
CWS route: Won the Chapel Hill Regional in three games, beating Winthrop in the final. Swept host Alabama in super-regional.


Top Players Key Stats
Andrew Miller, lhp 13-2, 2.11, 119-36 K-BB
Daniel Bard, rhp 8-3, 3.59, 90-35 K-BB
Robert Woodard, rhp 6-1, 3.48, 47-19 K-BB
Josh Horton, ss .404, 16 2B, 12 SB, 61 R
Chad Flack, 1b .346, 13 HR, 67 RBI


Scouting Report

Obviously,
they have two first rounders, and Woodard might be their best pitcher.
I really think that kid competes; he knows how to pitch and mixes
speeds and hits spots. We’ve never beaten him. Miller and Bard have
great stuff, and you’ll have a hard time beating them when they’re on.
When Bard gets runners on, he gets wild. He pitches better with a lead.
Miller has learned how to pitch more this year. He gets ahead with 88
(mph fastballs) and then throws 93-94 late in the count. His slider is
unhittable. (Andrew) Carignan is the best guy in a good bullpen; he’s
got a really good fastball and is a bulldog. (Jonathan) Hovis is really
strong, too.

With both Bard and Miller, bring them down in zone,
don’t chase that cheese up high. Lay off the offspeed–they have
trouble throwing it for strikes–but that’s easier said than done.
Miller has a better pickoff move. Miller, roll with him, stay in the
game, get his pitch count up and try to win against the bullpen.

The
catalyst to the team is Horton; he’s a gamer. He uses whole field, can
run, can bunt, and he hits anywhere one to three. He’s a tough kid, a
leader, but he didn’t show much at shortstop, he’s an average college
shortstop. Guys like (Chad) Flack and (Benji) Johnson you can pitch to,
but if you make mistakes they hurt you. UNC can the hit long ball and
can also play the small game. Keep those small guys off the bases;
they’re not a great hitters but good runners. (Mike) Cavasini is a weak
player and you can pitch to him, but he plays his role well. He’s got a
weak arm in the outfield. (Kyle) Shelton can hurt you if you make
mistakes; (Reid) Fronk’s the same way. And you can bunt on him at
third. That’s something you want to do with Miller and Bard on the
mound.

Omaha Outlook: Talk plenty about first-round picks Miller and Bard in the rotation and Hovis owning the nation’s second-best ERA (1.28) as a setup man, but North Carolina’s offense has carried it to Omaha. The Tar Heels scored 62 runs in five tournament games and have yet to score fewer than eight runs. That eight spot came in a dramatic super-regional clinching win against Alabama in which Flack homered in each of the final two innings to overcome deficits and propel his team to the CWS. Despite their power, the Tar Heels will rise and fall with their pitching. Bard and Woodard have been inconsistent, but give North Carolina a chance for three aces if each pitches well.


RICE (55-11)

Coach (Record at school): Wayne Graham (682-268, 15 seasons)
CWS history: Five trips to Omaha, last in 2003; one championship in 2003
CWS route: Won Houston regional in three games, beating Baylor in the final. Beat Oklahoma in super-regional in three games.

Top Players Key Stats
Eddie Degerman, rhp 13-1, 1.81, 158-47 K-BB
Cole St. Clair, lhp 6-2, 1.82, 94-24 K-BB, 11 saves
Joe Savery, 1b/lhp .335, 19 2B, 9 HR, 63 RBI; 5-1, 2.76, 62-24 K-BB
Brian Friday, ss .365, 21 2B, 9 HR, 56 RBI
Josh Rodriguez, 3b .346, 11 HR, 20 2B, 64 RBI

Scouting Report

Obviously,
they can pitch with anybody in the country and that probably includes
most Double-A teams. The starting pitching is dominant. (Reliever)
Bryce Cox just started to figure it out in the second half of the
season by changing his arm action. He always had velocity, now he has
control to go with it. He’s a righthanded complement to St. Clair. And
St. Clair is a game ender. If he’s in the game and you’re losing, you
will not come back. He’s a strikeout guy with power arm from the left
side and college guys just do not see that.

When you score
three or four runs on Rice, you feel like it’s eight or nine. They have
an athletic defense, so on the rare occasions you put it in play,
they’re going to catch it. Degerman, in terms of his stats, he’s a
front-line production guy. Savery will be a first-rounder next year
(and) St. Clair is a first- (or) second-rounder next year. With that
amount of a quality arms in a short series, you can’t get to a bad arm.

Brian
Friday is quality hitter. He’s a line-drive power guy with a high
average that gets on base a lot. Keeping him and Rodriguez and (Tyler)
Henley off base is a key. The top three hitters are quality pro-type
hitters. Savery is a power lefthanded bat, (Aaron) Luna has as much
power as any freshman in country with a quick bat. He has some holes,
but make a mistake and you’re going to pay. Jordan Dodson is an
adequate outfielder. He’s in there for his bat, but he can get hot and
carry you for a weekend.

You have to keep their offense down
because they will keep yours down. You have to win 4-3, 3-2. You better
move runners up when you can and you better drive runners in when you
can because you won’t have many opportunities to do it. On the flip
side, if they start to score, it’s going to be tough to come back. The
team that will beat them needs dominant pitching, because if they can
score on you, you’re done.

Omaha Outlook: Pitching wins in Omaha, and Rice has power and depth. Degerman, Savery, Craig Crow, Bobby Bramhall and Will McDaniel all started at least nine games on the year, and St. Clair and Bryce Cox give double-barrel power arms out of the bullpen. Savery didn’t pitch in the super-regional, but his arm could become key if Rice must battle out of the loser’s bracket. Lost among the pitching stars is an offense that has shown it can do the job if a slugfest breaks out. Rice slugged better than .500 as a team and enter Omaha as the favorite.



GEORGIA (47-21)

Coach (Record with school): David Perno (179-123, five seasons)
CWS history: Five trips to Omaha, last in 2004; one championship, 1990
CWS route: Won Athens Regional in five games, beating Florida State twice. Beat South Carolina in super-regional in three games.

Top Players Key Stats
Joey Side, cf .352, 19 2B, 13 HR, 7 3B, 53 R
Josh Morris, 1b .311, 23 HR, 14 2B, 66 RBI
Joshua Fields, rhp 3-2, 1.77, 50-11 K-BB, 15 saves
Brooks Brown, rhp 7-4, 4.17, 111-38 K-BB
Gordan Beckham, ss .294, 17 2B, 12 HR, 52 RBI

Scouting Report

This
is the best team in the league for me. They’ve got talent and prospects
on mound and in position players. They’ve been swinging the bats really
well. I don’™t think they have an automatic out in the lineup; it’s good
1-9, or at least 1-7. I love Joey Side, you don’t want to see him up
with runners on. You can’t make mistakes to Morris or he’ll hammer
them. Morris hit 20-some home runs, but you feel like you can pitch to
him, especially with some velocity you can get in on him.

I
like their offensive approach. (New hitting coach) Doug Sisson made a
dramatic difference in their hitters’ approaches and team demeanor.
They’™re calm, play the game the right way. The same kids were there
last year, but they’re better. They stay on the baseball, trying to
hammer it from left-center to right-center. You better be able to
pitch.

They’re pitching better now than what they did at the
beginning of the year. Rip Warren is good now, Trevor Holder was good.
You know what Brown brings, power stuff even if he’s a little erratic.
They’re getting key quality outings from these guys. They’ve got a
really nice mix. (Mickey) Westphal is crafty senior lefty who’s done a
nice job of pitching. (Nathan) Moreau is good as a freshman, and they
have a stud in bullpen. They can mix and match with Warren to chase
lefties and Fields has been lights out, up to 95 with a breaking ball
that’s good. It’™s a seven-inning game, with Warren as a set up guy and
Fields blowing it out. That gives them a lot of confidence. Westphal, a
soft lefty, doesn’™t overpower you. Take a middle-of-the-field and
changeup approach. You can’t get too big or undisciplined against him.
They’re effective because it’s a soft lefty, Brown’s got a good arm,
then another lefty with a good arm. That’s three looks in three days.

I
really like Beckham at short, really like (Jason) Jacobs behind plate,
that’s good move with him. Side is premium defender in center, with
him, (Bobby) Felmy and (Jonathan) Wyatt, they cover the outfield really
well. (Ryan) Piesel at third, you can exploit.

Omaha Outlook: Much like in 2004, Georgia turned red-hot down the stretch and has staged multiple comebacks along the way to the CWS. The SEC’s only representative in Omaha has the offense and the bullpen duo of Fields and lefty Rip Warren to stage repeated comebacks. The outfield of Side, Jonathan Wyatt and Bobby Felmy always seems to be on base, and each of them as well as the slugging Morris have the experience of starting on the ’04 team. It’s hard to count out a team that doesn’t believe it’s ever out of one, and this one also has a strong stash of freshman arms to unleash should extra games arise.



MIAMI (41-22)

Coach (Record with school): Jim Morris (602-218-3, 13 seasons)
CWS history: 22 trips to Omaha, last in 2004; four championships, last in 2001
CWS route: Won Lincoln Regional in three games, beating Manhattan in the final. Beat Mississippi

Top Players Key Stats
Jon Jay, cf .361, 14 2B, 70 R, 28 SB
Jemile Weeks, 2b .346, 61 R, 17 2B, 9 3B
Tommy Giles, rf .343, 9 HR, 17 2B, 11 SB
Chris Perez, rhp 3-1, 1.74, 12 saves
Scott Maine, lhp 11-3, 4.37

Scouting Report

This
isn’t a typical Miami powerhouse team. They got in a good regional, not
having to see Nebraska, but Jim Morris teams have a tendency to play
better late anyway. It’s funny, Miami reminds me of Florida State. FSU
is so tough at home, they figure out a way to win. They have really,
really good ballplayers, and they’re young with Weeks, (Dennis) Raben
and (Yonder) Alonso. Weeks is very special; his hands are so fast, he
runs well, works the count in certain situations. (Catcher Eddy)
Rodriguez is much better player this year than last year. Defensively,
he’s been good, but he’s a better hitter now.

All the
righthanded hitters are pull, all the lefthanded hitters are spray.
Rodriguez and (Danny) Valencia you can pitch one way. Weeks, Alonso,
Raben and Jay, each guy you pitch different. If you give them an
opening they bust right through it. You have to play great baseball. A
normal team might score one run, Miami will score six.

To me,
their best player is Giles. He’s a good runner with a flat bat in the
zone who hits to all fields. You need to keep Weeks off the bases, man
he can fly. He doesn’t look good fundamentally defensively, but he
makes every play and has range that’s unbelievable. Alonso, don’t let
him get extended. He looks to pull. Jay, he doesn’t look like anything
special but he’s a tough out. If you can throw upper 80s, you can get
in on him, but not if you don’t have a good fastball even if you
locate. And Jay is super in center.

On mound they don’™t have
Friday night guy. Maine is closest thing to it. I like Maine. He’s
88-92, good breaking ball with some feel and he attacks the zone. After
that it really drops off. Obviously Perez is a stud in the bullpen;
it’s an eight-inning game with him. But he can be wild. (Andrew) Lane,
Danny Gil, (Jon) McLean is good mix-match bullpen, so they can beat
anybody late on any day. They are going to be exposed on the mound in a
longer series. Be aggressive, make them throw offspeed stuff for
strikes by going after fastballs.

Omaha Outlook: Miami wasn’t ranked in the preseason or for much of the regular season either, and Morris played that card often to fire up his players. He brought his 2003 team to Omaha under similar circumstances. Morris helped freshmen Weeks, Raben and Alonso develop into legitimate hitters and continually manipulated his pitching staff to get leads to Perez. Then Miami did something no Morris-coached Hurricanes ever had: won a super-regional on the road. He’ll keep telling the players they’re the underdogs in Omaha, and they are–decidedly. But don’t be surprised if they string together another upset or two before returning as a powerhouse next year.



OREGON STATE (44-14)
Coach (Record with school): Pat Casey (385-251-4, 12 seasons)
CWS history: Three trips to Omaha, last in 2005
CWS route: Won Corvallis Regional in three games, beating Hawaii in the final. Swept Stanford in super-regional.

Top Players Key Stats
Cole Gillespie, lf .386, 23 2B, 12 HR, 15 SB, 77 R
Dallas Buck, rhp 12-2, 3.03, 88-53 K-BB
Jonah Nickerson, rhp 11-4, 2.50, 112-34 K-BB
Darwin Barney, ss .333, 38-16 BB-K, 14 SB
Kevin Gunderson, lhp 2-2, 2.34 17 saves

Scouting Report

They’ve
got three really good starters. Buck is Buck. And Buck wins. Talk about
his stuff being down or whatever, he still goes out there and sinks it
and you can’t do much with it. Nickerson is probably a better pitcher.
He mixes pitches well, his fastball is right around 90. To me he’s
going to give you some problems. They key against them is to make it
where Gunderson can’t get into the game. The other arms are OK.

They
have team speed but the pitchers do such a good job throwing strikes
and avoiding big innings. The middle infield is as good as anything we
saw this year. Barney and (Chris) Kunda can really play defense.
Barney’s a spark plug for the team, a leader on defense and offense.

Gillespie’s
the real deal, as good as hitter as we saw all year. He’s head and
shoulders their best guy and he’ll hit doubles on good pitches. Barney
is real good, and (Mitch) Canham is a good player with some power.
They’re good offensively, very underrated. What they did to us, they
took advantage of a bad inning. They do a really good job of putting
pressure on you, starting runners with hit and run, bunting, (being)
very aggressive. Once they get a baserunner, there’s going to be
something coming. They execute really well. We didn’™t want to double up
pitches or live in one part of zone or live with one pitch. They adjust
well. We tried to mix on them and change speeds and go in and out.
They’re really smart hitters. It’s important to all guys 1-to-9 to get
a sac bunt, a sac fly. Get the leadoff man out; that limits their
offense. But they’re real good at getting on base. They take every
breaking ball until they get a strike, so throw breaking balls early
and they’ll take it for strike one and you get ahead.

Buck is
probably pissed where he got drafted (second round), same with
Nickerson and Gunderson, I would think they’re going to be on fire.
They’re not happy and lost money and I bet they’re on a mission. They
got to Omaha last year, so they have that experience, and you often see
teams build on that the next year if they return a lot of key guys.
It’s not just about getting there.

Omaha Outlook: In 2005, Oregon State’s first trip to Omaha in more than 50 years became a national story. The Beavers are back, and after an 0-2 performance a year ago, just getting to the CWS isn’t enough. Oregon State has more players with meaningful Omaha experience than any other team. Most of that experience is on the mound. with Buck, Nickerson, and Anton Maxwell (plus transfer Mike Stutes) available to start games and Gunderson and hard-throwing Eddie Kunz in the bullpen. That gives the Beavers the  potential to match Rice arm for arm and pitch for pitch.

College | #2006 #College World Series #Postseason

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