For more than a decade, we have enlisted college coaches who have faced the super regional teams to break down the matchups. Sources are given anonymity in exchange for their candor. All times are Eastern. Rankings indicate national seeds.
Oklahoma (43-19) at No. 4 Louisiana State (55-9)
Friday: 7 p.m. (ESPN)
Saturday: 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Sunday: 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Coach: Sunny Golloway.
Postseason History: Fourth super regional appearance (second straight). Seeking 11th trip to Omaha (last in 2010).
Postseason Route: No. 2 seed in Blacksburg Regional. Won in three games, beating Virginia Tech in the final.
Scouting Report From A Coach
“I would tell you OU has a very powerful one-two punch on the mound. I don’t know there’s a whole lot more you don’t know about Jonathan Gray—he’s a pretty unique college pitcher to have that kind of arm strength and a mid- to upper-80s slider he can throw for strikes, and a good changeup, really good command of the ball. He’s a tough customer. How do you beat Gray? You can’t guess, because he’s got three good pitches. If you’re up there guessing, you won’t have a chance to hit any of the three. If you’re not ready for his fastball, it will beat your bat, for sure. But if you can get to his fastball, maybe get him a little less confident and comfortable, maybe you can get to him. But he’s tough, he can throw his fastball in and out. Try to just grind him out, get him out of the game in the sixth inning, and what comes in behind him is not nearly as dominant.
“Overton is good, I don’t know where his stuff’s at right now, don’t know if it’s back up to pre-tendinitis level or what. He’s good, across his body a little bit. When healthy he’s got a pretty good lefthanded fastball, 89-92. Last year he threw harder than that. He’s good, but a team like LSU with three or four real good righthanded hitters, he’ll need to pitch well because those guys can hit. He throws across his body quite a bit so doesn’t get the ball glove-side very well. He’ll throw the ball outside, throw the change, keep the ball away from a righty, but he’s not a guy that gets the ball inside real easily, so if they’re out over the plate using the whole field, they can have some success with him. Last year he did a better job throwing inside. If he’s just laying the ball on the outer third, from what I saw on TV, (LSU’s) got (Mason) Katz and (Raph) Rhymes, (Alex) Bregman, enough mature hitters who can hit the ball over the outer part of the plate. That first game will be 1-0, 2-1—that’ll be a great game to watch.
“From what I saw, OU’s pitching in the second and third game against LSU’s hitting will be very interesting. They didn’t really trust any of their righthanders much other than (Ralph) Garza down the stretch. They threw Evans and Fisher and Garza, rarely used anybody else from the right side. Their No. 3 starter’s been a little bit of a dilemma for them; if it’s 1-1 going into game three, I don’t even know who they’ll throw. Fisher is a good offspeed guy, he’ll throw a lot of changeups and curveballs, keep you off balance. They have that kid (Adam) Choplick, they’ve kind of gone away from him. They’re maybe vulnerable in that third game.
“They’ve got lefthanded options out of the bullpen that are good. Their righthanded options are a little less definitive. They throw a freshman named Garza who has good stuff, an 88-91 righty with a decent breaking ball—they don’t have a righty throwing 95 back there. Or it will be Jacob Evans, their closer as a freshman. He’s kind of an 84-85, curveball-changeup guy. His curveball’s a big, slow, sweepy breaking ball, a lot of depth. He’ll slow you down with that, then sneak an 85-86 fastball past you. It’s what you see from a lot of college lefties. He’s just done a good job. They put the ball in his hand early and he’s gotten on a nice roll, they’ve ridden him ever since. They don’t have a dominant bullpen—it’s a decent bullpen.
“I think they’re pretty average offensively. They’re pretty pitchable; other than Oberste and Max White, there’s not much power, if any. The little leadoff hitter Aiken does a good job using his speed and getting on base, but he can be controlled. Hector Lorenzana’s a good player—he’s smart, hits mistakes. He’s an older player from a California junior college who knows what he’s doing, got some savvy on the field. He’ll be important to them if they’re going to win that series. Everybody’s tried to take Oberste out of the game by pitching around him or by going inside with velocity under his hands. If you throw it over the plate, he’ll get his swing off pretty good. But offensively I think they’re just a generic team. There’s nothing about their offense that’s particularly potent at all. It’s nine solid players, with one guy who had a big year in Oberste.
“They’ve got some guys down toward the bottom who are all righthanded: Carey, Carpenter, Hermleyn. Carpenter and Hermelyn and Hunter Haley are OK for freshmen. But they’re guys hitting like .270 with one or two home runs or no home runs. It’s fine, but it’s not like Bregman and these other guys. They’re just freshmen that are playing on the team, not freshmen that are leading the team or carrying the team in any capacity. And Jack Mayfield, he’ll bat anywhere from leadoff to 9-hole, they’ll hit him anywhere. They’re kind of those classic righties that you can mix the ball low and away early in the count and they’ll get themselves out, or if you stick the ball in on their hands they’ll become vulnerable to sliders.
“I don’t love their offense, I wasn’t the least bit worried or intimidated by them. They really lack lefthanded hitting too, they’re very righthanded. You get a righty going with a good slider, seven of your nine hitters are righthanded, that can be some quick innings. OU will bunt the ball a little bit, move the ball, but nothing that really gives you trouble. They’re not real short-game-oriented like a Vanderbilt or a Louisville. They’re not great on defense. Look at Mayfield, I bet there’s 20-plus errors on him (actually 22), and Garrett Carey’s got double-digit errors at third (14). They’re just an average team on defense, they’re nothing special.
“OU’s a good team with a very, very good one-two punch that could make them a great team. When they were going good and winning, Gray and Overton were dominating and Oberste was getting one or two hits and that was plenty to get by. When they went in the tank, Oberste went in the tank, Overton went on the shelf, and they weren’t very good—I think they lost three straight series at the end of the year. And they lost a ton of midweek games. So they’re very vulnerable, but if the starting pitcher has a good night, they’re also very dangerous.
“There’s a little intangible there. I think Oberste and Mayfield and White have played enough baseball there that you could say they have some older presence, capable of going into that environment and handling it, sure. Last year they won a regional at Virginia and went into South Carolina. It’s not like they’re newbies or anything. I think going into Baton Rouge and beating them will be a chore, I do. I would say the favorite’s got to be LSU, but if Jonathan Gray wins game one, the pressure shifts back to the home team.”
Coach: Paul Mainieri.
Postseason History: 10th super regional appearance (second straight). Seeking 16th trip to Omaha (last in 2009).
Postseason Route: No. 1 seed in Baton Rouge Regional. Won in three games, beating Louisiana-Lafayette in the final.
Scouting Report From A Coach
“They’re really good. Nola and Eades are as good a one-two punch as there is in the country. Glenn has turned out to be really good on Sunday, better than anybody thought. And they’ve been really good out of the ‘pen. That was the concern for me originally—they don’t have the bazookas in the pen that elite teams have. But they can really hit 2-6 in the lineup, with Bregman, Rhymes and Katz and Ibarra and Jones. The only knock is they are really, really righthanded, but those guys are great players, and they’re older—with the exception of Bregman, he’s got a different gene pool than everybody else playing. The question is, are they too righthanded? But they’ve won 50 games, so they’re doing just fine.
“I couldn’t believe Aaron Nola kind of got roughed a bit in the regional, I was just shocked. When we were facing him, it was one of the few times I really felt helpless. He smothers you with strikes, he’s got real stuff. He’s not going to walk you, you’ve got to swing the bat, he doesn’t throw the ball down the middle the whole game. His command is just really, really good. Usually guys with stuff, 90-95, their command is maybe average, but he’s got stuff and command. He’s very comfortable 91-92, and he’ll go up and get a 4 or a 5 on occasion. It’s a good slurvy breaking ball and a good change—the change is a little ahead of the breaking ball, but they’re all good pitches. He does not throw a ball above the kneecaps, and he can go in and out. He’s got a fast tempo, really just smothers you. Really impressive.
“Eades has always had a big arm, just didn’t have the feel or pitchability, but he’s gotten a lot better. He’s 90-94, power breaking ball, solid change. He throws strikes. When we played him, I was surprised how low his walk numbers were, but then he’ll miss the glove by three or four feet occasionally. But he’s not walking as many guys, and the stuff gives him margin for error. Glenn was a little firmer than I thought, 88-90, kind of slings it a little bit, not as pretty. The secondary stuff is just fine, but he pitches off his fastball and got some life to it. Lefties don’t see him that well, but he has a little tougher time against righties. He’s been good for them.
“Chris Cotton is good, man. There’s just something about him. His pitches are good, but that dude should not be closing—you shouldn’t have a mid-80s lefty closing, you wouldn’t think. But his numbers are great. It’s three pitches, solid, nothing special—and he just gets them out. (Righthanders Joey) Bourgeois and (Nick) Rumbelow are both low 90s, 91-92 with hard breaking balls. Rumbelow’s more the good hard 82 mph slurvy breaking ball, he threw a bunch of those sliders against us. Bourgeois more pitches off his fastball, but he’s kind of your standard righthanded bullpen guy, 89-91, occasional breaking ball. (Kurt) McCune is kind of a righthanded mixer, average breaking ball, change better than breaking ball, kind of a flat fastball, more offspeed stuff, pitches backwards. He’s solid, dependable.
“They were fielding like over .980 when we played them, it was goofy. Ibarra isn’t the prettiest but he has baseball skill, baseball savvy, a great defender at third. Bregman’s a freak show, Jones has figured it out, and Katz is an underrated defender at first. Rhymes is just OK, probably the weak link I guess, but Laird is awesome out there, and Stevenson is too. Ty Ross is fine behind the plate, jacked, looks great in the uniform. He catches it fine, throws it fine.
“The thing about them, the good teams have a guy or two in the middle. They have four guys that maybe aren’t going to run one out of the yard, but if you make a mistake, they can ram one in the gap. Rhymes being the fourth of the four, Bregman and Katz. Even Ibarra turned out to be a good player, and JaCoby Jones is good. They just have five legit guys in their lineup that can hit a double or triple. And they think that they’re supposed to win because they’re wearing that jersey.
“I think what Bregman’s done this year is beyond special. What he’s done offensively and defensively, how consistent he’s been, and he’s hitting in the middle of the order for a great team. It’s not like he’s hitting in the 9-hole. Opposing pitchers are absolutely bearing down on him, and it doesn’t matter. Gosh, he is special. And I know we use that term too often, but man, he is special. He’ll wear out both gaps, he’ll hit fastballs, he’ll hit breaking balls. As a hitter, he’s just very under control, looks like he sees the ball well. A lot of young guys look jumpy, but he doesn’t. There’s no way this kid’s a freshman, there’s no way.
“Katz will scare you because he’s just strong, still kind of a pull approach and you feel like he’s got some holes, but hey, he’s strong. If you leave a ball out over the plate he can pull it to left field for a home run. He’s a senior with strength who’s been around the block. Rhymes, you don’t feel like he’s going to get an extra-base hit like Bregman and Katz, but they’re going to be singles. So he’s going to get his hits, but he doesn’t really scare you like Katz and Bregman.
“They’re pretty athletic; all those lefthanded guys can run a little bit with the exception of Ty Moore. Bregman’s a good runner, plays faster than whatever he runs the 60 in or down the line. Obviously JaCoby Jones is really athletic. He is tooled up, and he’s making progress. As a coach you love him, you’d love to work with him. Then you watch him play a bunch and you’re like, ‘Where’s the production?’ He’s finally showed some progress this year. That’s what it’s supposed to look like. He was hitting under .200 early—watching on video, he was free swinging, getting himself out. But he got it going in the second half. He’s a really aggressive guy, give him changeups in fastball counts and breaking balls out of the zone.
“But it’s Eades and Nola, Bregman and Katz. They’ve got some real difference makers.”