College coaches break down the super regional teams for the series that start on Friday (on the right half of the bracket). Sources were given anonymity in exchange for their candor. All times are Eastern. Rankings indicate national seeds.
Friday: Noon (ESPN2HD)
Saturday: Noon (ESPNHD)
Sunday: 1 p.m. (ESPNHD)
Coach: John Cohen.
Postseason History:: Fourth super regional appearance (last in 2007). Seeking ninth trip to Omaha (last in 2007).
Postseason Route: No. 3 seed in Atlanta Regional. Won in three games, beating Georgia Tech in the final.
“Number one, they’re a scrappy club, no doubt about it. They’re more defense-and-pitching-oriented. Offensively, they don’t scare you, but they play an execution style offense—they will bunt, hit-and-run, steal, do things to try to manufacture runs. All nine guys they put on the field are pretty athletic. You look at them in the infield and especially in the outfield, they have guys that can defend, guys that can run, a lot of guys that can handle the bat. The kid Parks that hits 3-hole has had a tremendous year offensively, and has managed to get the big hit for them all year. Parks also played a great third base. He’s by far the best player on that team, he and Caleb Reed. If you said, ‘Hey, I’m building my infield, you can take any third baseman in the SEC,’ I’m not sure I wouldn’t take this kid. He’s a guy that’s kind of flown under the radar with accolades, but a tremendous player and no doubt the anchor of their club.
“Certainly C.T. Bradford in center field will be a tremendous player in the league for the next two years. He’s very dynamic, he can battle, scrap, get on base, do different things with the short game. He’s been their catalyst at the top of the lineup.
“They have a lot of older guys, juniors and seniors, who have been through the SEC, are battle-tested, and this year they got tired of losing. They took the hard-nosed, grind-it-out attitude. There’s nothing that wows you like a Florida—running out a bunch of guys throwing 95. But they have college pitchers that can locate, spin a breaking ball and command the strike zone. And on offense, they have guys that can execute. They just do that, they grind it out over nine innings, pitch and compete, play good defense.
“Vickerson’s a guy that has played third base for them, and he has probably the best arm of any second baseman in the country. Ogden’s a guy who’d been injured, but he does a solid job at short. The two middle guys have been pretty solid—they’re athletic guys, they have range, they will make some decent plays to their left. Then obviously they have C.T. in center field, who’s done a great job. Thigpen has caught a lot for them—he’s a very solid college catcher, receives OK, keeps the ball in front of him, average thrower, maybe a tick better at times. Very, very solid.
“I think the thing that’s made Pollorena successful is he was a fastball-breaking ball-changeup guy, and he’s not a very big guy, but he also throws a cutter/slider somewhere around 82-83, which has really helped him keep hitters off his fastball. He’s done a good job because he’s a super-competitive kid. He’s a small, undersized lefty who will be 87-88, OK stuff, but just super competitive, and he’s been pretty good down the stretch. Then they’ll go to a power righty like Devin Jones or a breaking ball righty out of the pen to give offenses a different look.
“The Routt kid, he was good. He’s been coming back from an arm injury, I know his pitch count gradually increased as the season progressed. He’s a big-bodied lefty that has a lot of confidence in his fastball—really locates the fastball. He struggles locating the breaking ball in the zone sometimes, and he’ll use a rare changeup, but really just lives off his fastball. He’s a guy that has experienced a lot of success in the league two years ago as a freshman, and that’s carrying over this year. He had the best changeup in the league his freshman year, and then the last time I saw him it was virtually non-existent. He tried to throw the breaking ball more. The change is average—he doesn’t really command either offspeed well. He does cut the fastball at times, but he’s really just a fastball guy.
“They’ll match up out of the bullpen pretty well with lefthanded and righthanded guys to get them to the end with Caleb Reed. It’s his third year in the league; he pitches with a lot of confidence, and he has a tremendous breaking ball with a lot of downward action, late bite. He gets a lot of swings and misses that way. He’s an 88-91 guy, but the breaking ball—I call it a curveball because it’s got more depth, more 12-6 than a slider. To me it’s a power breaking ball, and it’s 80-82.
The big thing that he does—and you can’t measure it—but whenever he comes in the game, they believe they’re going to win. It’s transferable. When he comes in, it’s easier to score, easier to make plays, because they believe they’ll win.
“Devin Jones has tremendous stuff, but he’s very erratic. They didn’t have a whole lot of confidence in him. (Righty Chris) Stratton will be the first guy out of the pen, I think. Last year he was basically a fastball-curve guy, now he’s started throwing a slider or cutter that’s helped him out a little bit. You have the (righthander Taylor) Stark kid who’s just a breaking ball machine, he’s 85-88. They’ll bring in the lefty (Chad) Girodo, just try to mix and match. I think that’s just their thing: you don’t get a lot of looks at a pitcher, especially late in the game, you get one at-bat off a pitcher, and next at-bat is off someone else. They’ve done that bullpen by committee always knowing that Reed’s at the end.
“I think there’s a stat out that they’re 34-1 when leading after eight innings. If they get in a pitching duel with Florida, it’s tough for them to win, because Florida’s guys have been dominant. They’ve got to get a few hits, got to get some breaks, but they have to score some runs. State will play solid defense, but offensively they’ve got to get something going.”
Coach: Kevin O’Sullivan.
Postseason History:: Fifth super regional appearance (third straight). Seeking seventh trip to Omaha (second straight).
Postseason Route: No. 1 seed in Gainesville Regional. Won in three games, beating Miami in the final.
“They are the Yankees’ Double-A affiliate. They’re really good. Kevin O’Sullivan, wow, what a terrific job he and his staff have done there, taking advantage of the in-state talent in Florida. When you look at them position-player wise, they’re what you look for: guys who can defend in the outfield and up the middle. I think they have the best double-play tandem—no doubt—in the SEC with Fontana and Adams. It’s just suffocating because if you hit a ground ball up the middle it’s a double play. Zunino just has a presence about him; he exudes confidence that helps his pitchers pitch more confidently. He does a solid job of catch-and-throw. Their corner guys, you’ve got Austin Maddox, Vickash Ramjit, Cody Dent, Zach Powers—I think it’s just the matchup they’re looking for, or if it’s time for a more defensive alignment they’ll do that. They’ve got some thump on the corners with Maddox and Ramjit, and Dent is a good third baseman. The kid in center, Smith, he’s done a very good job, he’s been solid. Preston Tucker, for as many people have criticized his athleticism, he’s done a solid job in right field. They’re still very solid athletes in the outfield—they do an OK job. I don’t think their outfield is a liability by any stretch of the imagination.
“The middle of the lineup is tough because you talk about Johnson and Tucker as two lefties, then Zunino and Maddox, two righties. So if they stagger them, it’s hard to ever match up and get through that lineup, because rarely do all of them have a bad day, and certainly they’re very talented. Zunino, the SEC player of the year, is having a tremendous year, and I think Maddox has come on down the stretch, Tucker’s been solid for them his whole career, and Johnson has come on as well. It has to be the best middle of the lineup in the SEC. They’re guys that can drive the ball and square it up, and they have some hittability. They’re not just ogres who swing and miss but may run into one and drive it 500 feet. These guys, you have to pitch. They don’t have glaring holes. They do a good job with their at-bats and battle you every at-bat. It makes going through those four guys tough, especially if Fontana gets on in front of them, or a table-setter out of the top or bottom of their lineup, and you’ve got to pitch to them from the stretch with men on base.
“Fontana’s a great player. He’s a really, really good player. I’ll be interested to see what happens to him in regards to pro ball, because he’s not exceptionally toolsy but is a really good baseball player. He makes every play and has real good at-bats. He even has some juice for a guy who’s not very big. Leave a ball up, and he can run one out, too. Fontana and Adams, those guys are tough outs. Speed doesn’t take a day off, and it’s not that they’re crazy burners, but they get down the line well and they have the ability to bunt or hit behind runners, move the ball around, things like that.
“On the mound, where do you start? Hudson Randall is a definite pitchabilty guy, not overpowering, but the epitome of great sinker/slider guy that commands it. Their staff in general, they’re monster strike-throwers. That’s the thing with Randall: His stuff is solid, but he just has outstanding command. Randall’s fastball has some sink and life, not monster sink. But he stays down, and has a little bit of life. The slider and the curveball are solid, and the changeup. He won’t dazzle you with stuff. He’s got four pitches and can throw them all within four inches of where he wants to. It’s kind of goofy. Johnson is a little firmer than Randall, with a really good changeup and a solid breaking ball. He’s got better stuff than Randall. Whitson was a first-rounder last year—it’s 90-94 with a real slider. He doesn’t pitch like a freshman. He’s pretty confident out there.
“In the bullpen, they give you different looks: the lefthanded guy with the great breaking ball in (Steven) Rodrigruez; the righthanded slider machine coming at you at 6-foot-8 in (Greg) Larson; (Nick) Maronde, who’s just an absolute power lefty, 94-96, he pitches with bad intentions—he’s tough for them. Larson’s a different look, a high angle, big-time sink guy. Rodriguez is probably the unsung hero; you just don’t square him up. It’s hard to describe, a little funky, you just don’t square him up. (Alex) Panteliodis has traditional starter stuff, three pitches for strikes. (Anthony) DeSclafani and (Tommy) Toledo are low-to-mid-90s with power breaking balls. Then they’ve got Austin Maddox, who’s got a power arm and done a great job for them. With two way-guys, especially if they’re infielders, usually those guys have pretty good feel, meaning a lot of times they can really throw strikes because they have pretty simple arm actions, and being infielders, they’ve got to be able to throw the ball where they want to. Usually he’s able to do that—very competitive, got a great slider. Everybody saw as a catcher he had a cannon behind the plate. With that kind of arm strength, you put him on the mound, he’s really transitioning to a terrific arm for them. I think we saw him 93-94, and all the reports say 92-95. All their pitchers are quick to the plate—it’s a tough team to run against.
“How do you beat Florida? that’s a great question. To me, they’re the most talented team in the SEC and I would have to think the most talented team in the country. The way you beat Florida is you have an outstanding outing from a starter and hold them down, able to manufacture a few runs and beat them in a close game. They can suffocate you defensively, beat you on the mound, and even out-slug you when they want to. You just have to have your horse on the mound go out and be better than their guy. I think the only flaw they have is they get a little bored at times. They’re really good.”
Friday: 7 p.m. (ESPNHD)
Saturday: 7 p.m. (ESPNHD)
Sunday: 7 p.m. (ESPN2HD)
Coach: Tim Esmay.
Postseason History:: Seventh super regional appearance (fifth straight). Seeking 23rd trip to Omaha (third straight).
Postseason Route: No. 1 seed in Tempe Regional. Won in three games, beating Arkansas in the final.
“There’s plenty of confidence in their lineup. For me, that’s their No. 1 attribute. The toughest outs in their lineup are Torrez and DeMichele. Their catching is good. (Austin) Barnes is a scrapper, can catch and throw. He’s a tough out. If they catch Carrillo, he’s a bit more offensive but I don’t think he’s as good defensively. Wilson at first is a hot/cold guy: pretty good power, a lot of swing and miss, streaky. MacPhee at second base is not nearly what he was last year. His numbers went way down. I think the bat has killed him. He’s still a tough player, still a tough out. Marrero is a star in the making—a ton of tools. He’s become a tough out as well, he uses the whole field. Torrez is the heart and soul of their team. Torrez is the toughest out, he’s the leader of the infield, the leader of that team. He’s the guy.
“Their outfield is solid. Newman is a veteran guy in right that can hurt you, good defender, good arm. Center field, like the catching, has been a platoon between (Andy) Workman and Aplin. Workman’s a big, strong, physical guy who can be dangerous down in the bottom of the order. For whatever reason, Aplin hasn’t been quite what they thought he’d be. Ruettiger is like Torrez—very, very tough out, he’s their catalyst, you’ve got to keep him off base. He doesn’t strike out, sees a lot of pitches. My two favorite guys on the team are Torrez and Ruettiger. DeMichele, I think he’s a good hitter. He’s put up big numbers. I think he should have been the MVP of the league. DeMichele is your typical Arizona State lefthanded hitter: tough out, can run, uses the whole field, can hit the ball out of the ballpark. Kind of came out of nowhere, didn’t play much last year. I think he DHed the majority of the year. Ruettiger and Torrez are their toughest outs, but DeMichele and Wilson are their most dangerous guys.
“They’re very capable to be very offensive in a three-game series. But I think that ballpark in Texas is not good for them. I don’t think it’s good for anybody, really, other than pitching and defense. They do run pretty well, they stretch singles into doubles, they’ll go first to third and first to home. They put pressure on you. They don’t strike out, they will walk. The way to beat them is to pound the zone. You’ve got to crowd their lefthanded hitters, and you’ve got to keep Ruettiger off base. They’re not the same offensive team they’ve been in the past, but they still have the ingredients of being a tough three-game series offense.
“Their starting pitching is good, solid. It’s not power. Rodgers is good. He can mix, he’s got a good breaking ball, good fastball command, good change. I like Rodgers quite a bit; he’s a front-line, Pac-10 Friday night starter. I was not impressed with Champlin—I thought he was pretty vanilla. (Jake) Barrett being out hurts them. Lambson is starting now—he’s legitimate, savvy, throws that change whenever he wants, owns the fastball. In a big park, I think he’d be outstanding.
“Their bullpen, I think, is one of their strengths. The guy who has a big arm is Trevor Williams: 94-95, throws it where he wants to. I think he will be one of the best closers in the country next year. The (Alex) Blackford guy is a real good fastball-change deception guy, he’s pretty good. He and Lambson (when he’s in the bullpen) do a good job of getting to Williams. Their pitching is not off the charts; it’s solid. They throw enough strikes that I don’t think you can get big innings against them—they don’t walk people. I think (pitching coach) Ken Knutson’s done an unbelievable job there with their pitchers. He’s given them a pitch plan. They pitch up and down, in and out, they cross-count. I really like their pitch plan.
“I think they’re an average defensive team. I think their left side is good. I think MacPhee is good at second. It just didn’t seem to me that they swarmed it like they normally do. They’ve made some errors. That could come back and get them. A .971 fielding percentage is not very good. They do strike people out. They have speed on defense, there is range. I think on that turf they’ll play pretty good defense. I think Arizona State’s (surface is) a fast track. I think defensively they just haven’t had the type of year that they anticipated. They have some funny scores. Honestly, I don’t think they’re a great road team. They have been in the past, but I don’t think this team is a great road team. But Arizona state has that presence about them—they’ve got that swagger that you can’t overlook when you play them.”
Coach: Augie Garrido.
Postseason History:: Eighth super regional appearance (third in a row). Seeking 34th trip to Omaha (last in 2009).
Postseason Route: No. 1 seed in Austin Regional. Won in five games, beating Kent State in the final.
“They’re pretty much Texas—that’s who they are. Good pitching and good defense, and they’re opportunistic. The thing about them is after Jungmann, they’re not as good on the mound as they were last year, because I don’t think Cole Green’s as good on the mound as he was last year. Stafford, you don’t know what you’re going to get out of him, although he’s been good lately. But they can mix and match in their bullpen better than they ever have—their depth in their bullpen is really, really good. The starting pitching is good, don’t get me wrong—it’s not as dominant as it’s been, but their bullpen is really, really good.
“Jungmann is a hard guy to square up. Guys just don’t get good swings off of him. He’s a strike-thrower, so he doesn’t give you anything. He does everything well. He’s going to limit your baserunners and your scoring opportunities. He’s a hard guy to elevate—you don’t get too many chances to drive the ball off him. His fastball command sets him apart, not only velocity—as long as he is, and as close as he is when he delivers the ball, the hitters just don’t see it. And the breaking ball and changeup are quality pitches too.
“Green’s stuff just doesn’t seem as crisp. It’s still good, and the command is still good but not as good as last year. He just doesn’t seen to be quite as firm. But he still competes and knows how to pitch, all those intangibles are still there. The slider and the change are both good, and when his command is on, he’s still just as good as he’s been, just not as consistent. Stafford’s stuff is really, really good. If you get a team that’s patient against him and blows up his pitch count, you can get him, but that doesn’t work against Texas because of their bullpen. He can be sporadic, wild at times, give up some baserunners. But he’s a hard guy to hit. Mainly fastballs, and even when you know it’s coming, it’s still hard to hit.
“With Knebel, it’s velocity and fastball command. He’s going to pour in strikes. He does not walk people, he doesn’t give up a lot of hits. He’s just got an overpowering fastball. His secondary stuff, he doesn’t rely on it— partly because it’s not that great, partly because he doesn’t need to use it, because his fastball and command have been that good. (Lefthander Hoby) Milner might be their best guy, period, other than Jungmann. He competes, he’s got good stuff, resilient, they can use him as a starter, closer, whatever they need to use him as. I think he’s the key to their bullpen—they can use him every day, and he’s a money guy, he can go long, short. He’s upper 80s, really good breaking ball. When he’s a reliever, he uses that adrenaline and it goes to another level as a pitcher, and he’ll get into the low 90s. He’s a strike-thrower, works down in the zone, as tough on righties as lefties. It’s pretty much fastball and breaking ball, but he does a real good job coming inside to righthanded hitters, and works the top and bottom of the zone with his fastball. (Righthander Kendal) Carrillo is a slider guy, he can be really good. (Righty Nathan) Thornhill is more of a long-innings guy, I think, if they need it. (Lefty Andrew) McKirahan’s more of a situational guy, like Carrillo. I think Milner and Knebel are more the go-to guys. I think those are probably their four top guys out of the pen.
“On offense, they don’t scare you, they don’t have the presence that you feel like you have to be careful. But at the same time, they’re still the opportunistic Texas team, they still know how to score runs, they play with a lot of confidence offensively. They steal bases and move runners. Loy and Weiss have been clutch for them. They’ve got some guys who can hit. People say Texas can’t hit—well, they don’t hit for power, but they can score runs. Weiss is just a hitter. he’s a lot like (Tyler) Naquin with Texas A&A. He’s going to hit righties and lefties, soft stuff as well as velocity. He’s impossible to put a way, just a tough guy to strike out. And he’s got some power in there if you make a mistake. The game does not speed up on him. He knows how to hit. Loy is clutch and he’s confident. Defensively he’s off the charts, which everybody knows, but I think he’s a much better offensive player than people give him credit for.
“Shepherd and Walsh give them a little bit of physicality. Shepherd knows how to hit, he can work a count. A lot of their guys can be aggressive, but they go up there with a plan. Shepherd and Walsh can hurt you—Shepherd more because he’s older and has better feel for what he’s doing. (Outfielder Cohl) Walla being back helps them. He’s a presence you have to account for. He had fouled a ball off his foot and missed a bunch of time. He’s a center fielder and he’s got some pop. A really skinny kid, but generates some bat speed, and he can be a dangerous hitter, can be a dynamic player. Montalbano, I think, is a decent guy. A lefthanded hitter who was hitting in the middle of the lienup against righties and lefties. He competes and finds a way to put the ball in play. Etier can be dangerous, but he and Felts can be pitched to, so they can be more role guys. I don’t see them being impact guys in a regional.
“They’re very good defensively. Loy really makes them go, and Etier is really good. Those guys up the middle are great. Weiss makes every play. Felts is a solid catcher, not a great catcher. The outfielders make plays, but the strength is the middle of the infield.”
Friday: 8 p.m. (ESPNUHD)
Saturday: 9 p.m. (ESPN2HD)
Sunday: 4/7/10 p.m. (ESPNHD/ESPN2HD/ESPN2HD)
Coach: Pat Casey.
Postseason History:: Fourth super regional appearance (last in 2007). Seeking fifth trip to Omaha (last in 2007).
Postseason Route: No. 1 seed in Corvallis Regional. Won in three games, beating Georgia in the final.
“Casey can really coach, and that team has good makeup. It’s not filled with any superstars, it’s just a team of makeup. They have good arms, Omaha-type arms. And they’ve just been tough. Ever since they went to Omaha several years ago and won a couple of them, they just have a little presence about them, and they’re very, very competitive. They’re mentally tough. Not the most talented team—good pitching, very well coached, and tough outs. They don’t strike out. They see a lot of pitches, they can wear down pitchers. I think they’re more offensive away from home than they are at home.
“I didn’t think Susac was very good as a freshman, but then he went off in the Cape and became famous again, and he had a good year this year. So maybe he’s the real deal? He was the easiest out in our league last year—we could throw anything we wanted to get him out. He wasn’t ready his freshman year. But maybe he’s the real deal. I love Bell. Bell is their catalyst. He is a tough dude—he really runs that team, and he’s a good player. He’s handling the pitchers at third, telling people where to throw the ball. He manages the game from third base—I’m a big Carter Bell fan.
“I’ll tell you who can really hit is Kavin Keyes. He’s a tough out. And Jake Rodriguez is a tough out, and he’s back. (Jared) Norris is a senior, he’s OK. Danny Hayes is another guy for me that’s just OK. Poor defender, can’t move, kind of a pull swing. Susac clearly is dangerous, Hayes is somewhat dangerous. Hayes is a pretty good player. Barnes and Tyler Smith—they have a lot of the same looking guys. They’re tough outs, they don’t strike out, they see a lot of pitches, they put pressure on you. They’re a pressure offense—they don’t steal a lot, but they can run. Berberet’s a good Pac-10 senior, this guy knows how to play. He’s a team leader. Brian Stamps is exciting, but he can’t hit. He’s a strikeout machine. But he gets big hits, he makes big plays. He kind of plays for the dramatic. He’s pretty good. He’s kind of a weird player. He’s a good athlete, and he can cover ground. He can change a game defensively, and he can change a game with a bunt or a big hit. He’s an exciting player.
“I think their pitching’s good; I don’t love their pitching. It’s not as deep as it has been in the past. Gaviglio’s good. I like Sam, he’s a little bit like Brady Rodgers. They’re probably third-, fourth- round guys. Gaviglio can beat you on any night. He can pitch with his fastball, and a plus breaking ball. He’s athletic; I like him quite a bit. No one runs on him. They pitch enough, they have enough power arms to shut you down. Bryant has a really good changeup—that’s his pitch. Really a devastating change to both left and right. I think Osich could be the key to this series. He’s been pretty average since that no-hitter (against UCLA); I think he’s been very, very ordinary. Osich didn’t even throw a breaking ball until like late April—it was all fastball-change—and I’ve heard the stuff has been way down lately. The stuff dropped off so dramatically, I think that’s why he fell in the draft. A month ago, he was a top 50 pick. Nygren is good as well—he’s 87-90 with run, a 77-80 slurve, a 78-80 change, pitches best to the arm-side with his fastball. His slider’s his best pitch, but he struggles with command from the stretch. They’ve got a bunch of 88-91 guys that have got some pitchability. (Pitching coach) Nate Yeskie does a good job with them. And they’re used to winning, man.
“If people think it’s a slam dunk that Vanderbilt’s going to roll, I just don’t think so. If Vandy is absolutely the real deal, then they’ll do what they do. Look at the history of the two programs: Oregon State’s done a lot more winning than Vandy has. If Vanderbilt’s pitching is as good as advertised, it could go pretty quick. For Oregon State to win that, I think Vanderbilt would have to choke. I hate to say it, but there’s history of that, and Oregon State has a history of winning. That matchup is funny, because you’d think on paper it’s a slam dunk. Oregon State is tough, they play in a tough league, and they’re not going to be intimidated by Vanderbilt—you can take that to the bank. Casey is a good game coach. They know how to do one thing: They know how to win. And they know how to win in big moments. They’re not dangerous on paper; they’re just dangerous to play.”
Coach: Tim Corbin.
Postseason History:: Third super regional appearance (second straight). Seeking first trip to Omaha.
Postseason Route: No. 1 seed in Nashville Regional. Won in three games, beating Belmont in the final.
“It might be the best bullpen in the history of college baseball. I know you can’t speak in superlatives like that, but the way they can match up in the bullpen is just unreal, with (lefthanders Corey) Williams and (Kevin) Ziomek, (righties Mark) Lamm and Moore. If they have a lead in the sixth inning on, it’s just game over. On top of that, they have a really solid lineup and they play good defense. They’re just really good. The only way to beat them is 2-1 or 3-2. But they’ve got enough hitting, I think this is the year they’re going to do something.
“I didn’t hear any radar gun readings, but Sonny Gray wasn’t dominant against us. He was outstanding, but he wasn’t dominant. It seemed like his stuff wasn’t quite as sharp, maybe, as I’d seen it before. But you get to the end of the game and you’ve scored one run off him. He’s just got great makeup, and he’s going to give you eight innings of five-hit baseball. He’s polished—he just keeps getting better as a pitcher. I think the changeup is better. He did a great job with the running game, fields his position, competitive, all those little intangibles. The curveball had maybe not quite the bite that I remembered, but was a well above-average SEC pitch, and the fastball had some life. I thought he dialed it back a bit, just cruising at 91, reach back for 94 when he needs—just pitching, doesn’t look like he’s laboring at all.
“Garvin’s stuff is really good. Our hitters came back the first time through the order and said his ball was really getting on them quickly. I don’t know what his velocity was—guessing 90-94 or so. The changeup was a very good pitch. He didn’t use the breaking ball a lot against us, it was pretty average. He’s definitely a fastball-changeup guy with the breaking ball being third. He’s 6-foot-5, and I don’t know if there’s something about his delivery that makes him slightly deceptive, because it’s a clean delivery. You don’t normally say a guy with a clean delivery is deceptive, but for whatever reason our guys were saying it’s getting on them quick. Last I checked, lefties were hitting about 50 points higher than righties, because the changeup is so good. The one knock on him is he’s a pretty average athlete—you can probably short-game him a little bit. He’s not a bad athlete, but doesn’t do a great job with the running game like the other guys.
“Taylor Hill is just an older kid who knows how to pitch. He’s 90-93 with a good slider, solid changeup, throws three pitches for strikes. A senior who can pitch, but he’s pretty talented too. Comes right at you, kind of smothers you for five innings. In the bullpen, Navery Moore is certainly a talented kid with a good arm, but we got decent swings against him. Talking to a scout, he said his velocity was down a little bit toward the end of the year. I think it was more like 93-95 early, and he’s been more 89-92 recently. He’s a good option in the bullpen, but these other guys were just as good. All those other guys are really good, and all have well above-average college breaking balls. Williams is just older, has a little more experience. Ziomek’s going to be a top 50 pick in two years. (Righty Will) Clinard has a really good breaking ball, kind of a situational guy who throws a slurvy deal and a cutter. (Jack) Armstrong has monster stuff but needs to throw strikes. It was low to mid-90s and a really good breaking ball, just didn’t throw enough strikes.
“With Westlake and Esposito, they have two older kids in the middle of the order who can really hit, and Kemp and Gomez do a good job getting on base in front of them. Kemp is a really polished freshman, a really good player. Gomez finds a way to get on base, makes all the plays at short. I think Westlake’s better than Esposito. We felt like we could pitch to Esposito a little bit. Westlake just made better outs against us—to me he’s the guy. That’s what it’s supposed to look like: big and physical, balanced, looks like he sees it well. Good approach, a pro hitter.
“Yastrzemski, Casali, Reynolds, Gregor, Harrell—they’re all solid, they’re guys that if you make a mistake, they can get a hit. Overall, the one thing that stands out to me is they’re really tough to strike out. It’s a nice mix of left and right, a couple guys in the middle who can run one out of the yard, some guys that have some speed. It’s a real club. They put a decent amount of pressure on you. They hit-and-run a lot more this year than they ever have in the past.
“You’re going to have to beat them; they’re not going to beat themselves, that’s why they’re still playing. Oregon State’s just going to have to play a really, really good baseball game, because Vanderbilt’s not going to beat themselves. They have a good defense, a great bullpen, and they’re tough to strike out, and they can create a little action offensively. They’re freakin’ good, man.”
Friday: 3 p.m. (ESPN2HD)
Saturday: 3 p.m. (ESPNHD)
Sunday: 4 p.m. (ESPNHD)
Coach: Mark Marquess.
Postseason History:: Eighth super regional appearance (last in 2008). Seeking 17th trip to Omaha (last in 2008).
Postseason Route: No. 2 seed in Fullerton Regional. Won in three games, beating Illinois in the final.
“They were, I think, probably the most talented team in our league, and they’re still very young. Jones behind the plate is very, very athletic. He can throw, he can run. He does a good job of handling the game and handling that pitching staff. Ragira at first is a star in the making, kind of playing out of position at first but it’s a good frame, and he’s a tough out. He’s a good player. Kauppila at second is a tough out, too. He’ll take some bad swings, but he’s a pretty offensive player. Their two stars are really Diekroeger and Piscotty. I like Piscotty the best. He’s the most dangerous guy on the team, and the toughest out on the team. There’s just not really one way to pitch to him. He can handle velocity, he can handle a breaking ball, he’s got good balance, he uses the whole field. He covers the entire plate. He’s just a tough out, does not strike out much.
“I don’t love them defensively, but offensively, I think they’re the most dangerous team in our league. Their numbers really don’t jump out at you, but when you play them, you know right away that they’re dangerous. I think Piscotty and Diekroeger are first-rounders. Diekroeger didn’t wind up having a big year average-wise. He’s got tools, he’s got a good arm, he can run a little bit, an offensive player. He only has eight doubles and two homers—those are terrible numbers. But when you play them in a three-game series, it just feels like he’s an offensive guy.
“Their outfield is athletic—they can run. Gaffney can go get the ball in left, Stewart can go get the ball in center, and then they’ve got a prototpyical guy in right in Wilson. They’ve got a bunch of really good players that are freshmen and sophomores. Wilson’s pitchable, but he’s a star in the making, has all the ingredients of being a top, top draft. The guy’s just a physical presence, a big arm, a pretty good runner, power to all fields. Just a matter of will he have enough contact? It’s really a young group other than Jones and Clowe, just a good team. For me, Clowe kind of hits cripple pitching. Jones was like the No. 1 SPARQ rating guy out of the area codes back in the day, and he’s an exceptional athlete. He can do things—he can drag, he can beat out a ground ball, he can beat out a double down the line. He’s a pretty good leadoff guy, even though he’s a catcher, you don’t see a lot of catchers leading off, but he’s an athlete. I don’t know that he turned out to be a high-end guy like they thought. But an experienced guy, a four-year Pac-10 player.
“Appel’s a power, power arm. He can be anywhere from 95-98. Very good command, uses the plate, pitches to contact. Could be one of the top three or four or five picks next year. Prototypical good-looking, tall, physical righthanded pitcher. He’s in the middle of the plate, though—gives up a lot of hits. The secondary stuff is pretty good, but I think his fastball’s his best pitch. The other stuff is not special or else you’d see more strikeouts. The command is good, he keeps you in games, and he holds runners very, very well. Between that and Jones, you can’t run against them. A lot of times you have to get three hits to score a run, because they don’t give up doubles or home runs. They don’t strike a lot of people out as a staff; you’d think it would be more, but there’ not a lot of hard contact against that staff.
“Pries is your Pac-10 veteran guy, savvy guy, can pitch off his fastball and change, real good change. Another guy that can throw a lot of strikes, win games. I like pries quite a bit—not so much as a high-end guy, but he’s good. He knows what he’s doing, he can hold runners as well. Surprised me a little bit that he one-hit Fullerton. Sandbrink is your typical Sunday guy. He’s a senior, a veteran strike-thrower, got a sinker—a good sinker. He’s pretty competitive as well. Reed is a first-rounder. He’s a big arm, a power arm. He can close out a game. He’s going to pitch with his fastball. Pretty good curveball, but he’s a tall, lanky, good-looking lefthander. (Lefty Scott) Snodgress is that stopgap guy, don’t know if they’re going to him as much.
“What I think is a little deceiving is they had a lot of putouts and a lot of assists. That defense might be a little better than I think it is, because they are athletes. It’s probably the biggest physical team you’ll see—they’re big. They walk in the ballpark, and they’re a physical-looking team. I like their team. Their team was the most dangerous team in our league from top to bottom. And they’re young. They’re a team you don’t want to face in regionals. That’s what they are. But they’re a good team, and they’ve got good players. Mark (Marquess) does a remarkable job of playing consistent baseball. He’s the dean of our league, and the guy’s been there a bunch of times. Stanford could win a national championship, because they have no fear, they’re not scared.”
Coach: Mike Fox.
Postseason History:: Sixth super regional appearance (last in 2009). Seeking ninth trip to Omaha (last in 2009).
Postseason Route: No. 1 seed in Chapel Hill Regional. Won in three games, beating James Madison in the final.
“I think they’re very balanced. They’re extremely deep on the mound. They have the ability to really mix and match. And I think positionally, they’re very talented, but they seem to play very well together. They’ve got a young superstar with Colin Moran, an older superstar with Levi Michael, then some grinders like Coyle, Wierzbicki and Stallings. You look up and they find a way to beat you, find a way to win.
“What they don’t have is a Daniel Bard, an Andrew Miller on the mound. But they’ve got a very deep pitching staff of guys who really know how to pitch. Patrick Johnson’s pitchability is as good as anybody’s. When we played them, the first couple of innings I thought we were going to get to him. We were squaring some balls up, hitting his fastball. The second time through the order, he settled in, started really pitching, throwing second and third pitches, completely changing the pattern. The guy just knows how to pitch. He throws three pitches for strikes, locates the fastball on both sides, knows how to throw his breaking ball for strikes and bury it when he needs to, and throws the changeup for strikes too. He doesn’t have blow-you-away, knockout stuff, but has decent stuff, and with plus command, I think that’s how he wins. And I think he’s extremely competitive too.
“Emanuel’s going to be a star, and he’s already good. He’s a giant, and he’s got long arms, so he’s throwing from a high slot and got a good angle to his ball. That is tough for a hitter when it’s coming on a downhill plane like that. I didn’t think the breaking ball was a knee-buckler, but he threw it for strikes, and he used it when he needed it, and he throws his changeup for strikes as well, and that’s a pretty good pitch. He’s got the ability to change speeds, and the breaking ball when he did throw it had some depth to it, so it changed the eye level a bit. And he doesn’t change his arm speed on his changeup—it looks like the fastball out of his hand, then all of a sudden you’ve swung through it. For a guy that’s big and long and lanky, he’s got pretty good deception with the changeup and fastball.
“Then Munnelly on Sundays. They’ve won their fair share of games with him on the mound, but I don’t think it’s to the same level as Patrick Johnson or Emanuel. But he’s a serviceable righthander that’s got three pitches. When he’s throwing strikes, he’s good enough to beat anybody. With most teams there is a little bit of a drop-off on Sunday, but when he’s on, there’s not much. Their starting pitchers throw three pitches for strikes, then their relievers come in and have a knockout pitch, whether it’s a breaking ball or a changeup, they all have one. They pound the strike zone and compete. I was very impressed with the depth of their pitching staff.
“Morin’s changeup is a very special pitch. He could tell you it’s coming and it’s still extremely tough to hit. He throws it to righthanded hitters, throws it to lefthanded hitters, it doesn’t matter—it looks just like the fastball, it has a ton of deception and sink, it’s a great pitch. He’ll throw a fastball that looks faster than it is because of the changeup. He’s competitive and had command of all three pitches—he could throw the breaking ball for strikes or bounce it in the dirt. I thought he knew exactly what he was doing up there and had command of everything. Plus he’s a good athlete so I thought he was a perfect guy at the end of the game.
“Holt’s got a pretty good arm and a pretty good slider. The slider is his pitch—it’s mostly fastball-slider. The slider’s a good pitch, with good bite, and he can drop it in there early in the count and bury it late and get you to chase. The fastball’s firm, got to be at least 90. A good two-pitch mix to come in and go one time through the order in the middle toward end of the game. He and Morin are a good complement to each other. The thing they did, and I think (pitching coach Scott) Forbes does a really good job of this, they’re thinking a few batters ahead. We had a lot of lefties and righties in our lineup, and even if you try to space them out, they had a lefty or a righty ready to come in and just get one hitter. That pitcher knew that was his role, that was his job, and he did an excellent job of it. So there were a few innings they might have used three different pitchers to get three different outs. I thought they did an excellent job of mixing and matching, being able to use their bullpen very wisely and efficiently.
“They have seven lefties in their lineup, and they’re really tough versus righthanded pitching. It seemed like to me they did an excellent job of knowing their roles. Frank and Coyle did a great job of getting on top of the ball, hitting hard line drives, drawing walks, getting hit by pitches, getting on base. Then you get to Michael and Moran and Wierzbicki in the meat of their order, you’ve got some guys who can really hit the ball and do some damage with one swing. They’re able to beat you with speed on the bases and with the long ball, or driving the ball into the gaps with those middle of the order hitters. There wasn’t one guy on that team you could pitch him with the same pattern to get him out every time. They made adjustments from at-bat to at-bat. They know their roles very well and execute very well offensively.
“Everybody saw Moran in high school—he had a good summer, played in all the tournaments. He’s big, he’s tall, got a nice lefthanded stroke. I think everybody thought he needed to get stronger and bigger, get a little more fast twitch. I don’t think anybody would have looked at him and said that’s going to be the ACC freshman of the year right there and potential national freshman of the year. He just came into his own this season, and he’s got a great lefthanded swing. He’s a very advanced hitter, especially for being a freshman. And he’s serviceable at third base, does a nice job, and for the most part makes the routine plays. He’s certainly not a Gold Glover yet, but he’s got potential to be a great defender to add to his plus offensive skills.
“Stallings throws out every one of our damn players. Jake’s one of those guys that’s got a ton of natural ability. He’s got a great arm, I think he’s an excellent receiver and blocker. He’s put on a lot of weight from the time he got to Carolina until now, and I think he’ll continue to do that. I think as he keeps getting bigger and stronger, his offensive ability is just barely scratching the surface of what it’s going to be. I think he’s going to hit. He’s a much better offensive player than he was the year before, and the year before that. He’s a coach’s son, and understands that part of it.
“Look around the field, you’ve got solid players everywhere. I think they’re extremely athletic, especially up the middle with Michael and Coyle. I think that’s as good a double-play combination as you’ll find. You’ve got Stallings who fires rockets and does a great job receiving. Bunting in center can really run. They’re athletic in the outfield, they don’t seem to have any weaknesses, and they’re playing very well right now. I can see them as a team that gets to Omaha and makes a run. I think maybe they overachieved a little bit this year, but that’s kind of what you want in a postseason team, a team that plays above its head a little. They’re getting better as the season’s going on. They’ve got a lot of guys that are really stepping up. That’s why I think they’re so well coached, they all know what type of players they are and are very good in that role.
“You’ve got a guy like (Stanford ace Mark) Appel who throws mid- to upper 90s, but Carolina isn’t filled with a lot of long-swinged power guys. They have a bunch of line-drive guys who execute well, so I don’t think they’ll be overwhelmed by that. So I do think they match up well there. They handled (Virginia’s Danny) Hultzen and some other power guys like that. You don’t look at Carolina’s lineup and say those guys are going to get beat by velocity, by any means. Their swings are pretty direct and compact, and I think they’ll put a lot of pressure on that pitching staff.”