See also: Super Regional breakdown
UC Irvine (38-23) at Oklahoma State (48-16)
Friday: 9:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
Saturday: 10 p.m. (ESPNU)
Sunday: 9 p.m. (ESPNU)
Coach: Mike Gillespie.
Postseason History: 4th super regional appearance. Seeking 2nd trip to Omaha.
Postseason Route: No. 3 seed in the Corvallis regional. Won three games, beating Oregon State 4-2 in the final.
(anonymous coaches break down the Anteaters)
Coach One: “Coach Gillespie’s WAR is like 16. He’s worth 16 wins per year. He’s the highest on the West Coast—that’s a no-brainer. I would challenge any other coach in the country to take the team he had and bring them to a super regional. A double squeeze (against Oregon State)? I haven’t seen that since high school. I didn’t even know people practiced that anymore. But it’s great, he gets his guys to understand who they are. There’s some talent there, but they’ve got those three guys (Sparks, Spencer and Morales), then the dropoff comes, and nobody knows anybody else’s name on that team. There’s nobody else on that team who’s going to sign as a junior, probably. They pitch just like (UCI pitching coach Daniel) Bibona did. They just go out there with huge balls, pound strikes and work both sides of the plate. That guy Surrey reminds me of Bibona. Bibona’s velocity got up higher than that, but just watching them on TV, his hat’s down low, pitched across his body, fastball in, fastball away, breaking ball away. He lets go of the ball like, ‘You’re not going to hit it.’ It was 85, 86. it’s unbelievable. That’s a neat deal there, I like them.”
Coach Two: “With the White Wizard (Gillespie), he’s going to score runs. You do not have to hit in order for him to score runs. I’m not really surprised the way they played in the regional, because the fragility in college baseball with the players, man, one game can turn things around either way. You win one, you feel better about yourself, and next thing you know that thing snowballs in the right direction. I think that’s what happened. They were hoping to get in, they got in, and why not? When you’ve got Morales on the mound, you can beat anybody. But to go through that thing with the lack of bullpen depth and Moore not being what he was early, that was probably a little bit surprising to a degree. Moore was just up with his split, and I think by now, everybody knows that it’s one thing, and look for this. The trickery of the pitch, if you execute, then everything gets a little tougher. He could be one save away from being the guy again. It’s that fickle.
“Morales is a real competitor, four pitches for strikes. He has already gotten punched in the face and recovered, in the Fullerton game. That was the first time he’s faced any real adversity at the collegiate level. You knew he’d be fine if they got in. He’s just a warrior, man. A true Friday night guy that’s really, really good. I think he can get you out a lot of different ways: he can get you out chasing fastballs, he can get you out with the curveball, he can get you out with the slider. The only thing I would like to see him do and be more effective is pitch in. He only has one HBP the whole year. The approach we took on him was away, away.
“Surry is just kind of crafty, a little sneakier than you think. He does pitch in. Soft away, fastball away, a little cutter/curveballish/slurve for a strike, then whack, throw the fastball in, and it looks harder than it is. He must have pitched well against Oregon State. He’s not afraid of contact, he’s going to pitch, going to be a little fine, got to be down to be successful. If he’s righthanded, he’s just another guy. But he’s lefthanded. Brock is real mature, really good poise. The change is the best secondary pitch, you’ve got to see the fastball down. Throws enough strikes with all three pitches, it’s a complete mix. And just really can pitch. Just pitches, can field his position, not going to get flustered. Solid competitor. Not overpowering stuff, it can’t be up, it can’t be predictable. They aren’t.
“(Righthanded reliever Mitch) Merten threw well this weekend it looked like. I guess he’s had some arm problems, but he’s got a good arm. Can he get the breaking ball over for a strike? He’s not going to be relying on his fastball, even though it’s got good life to it. He can’t be predictable. That breaking ball is sharp, but it’s got to be something that, OK, he can throw it for a strike, instead of just chasing the pitch. But it sounds like he’s been a nice little savior for them. He certainly has closer stuff, he’s got two pitches, and if he pitches down, he’s certainly different than Moore.
“They’ve got to get the leadoff guy on, that’s really important for them. They’ve started leading off with Sparks, I think Skip (Gillespie) did a nice job of taking some heat off him, and saying hopefully you get some fastballs—I think that’s a good move. Obviously Spencer’s their best hitter, you cannot let him beat you, period. If the game’s on the line, don’t pitch to him. And I thought McClanahan and Munoz both took really good at-bats against us. They provide a little bit of protection for Spencer. Those guys right there can do some things. Spencer-McClanahan-Munoz is left-right-left. You’re going to have to throw strikes to those guys. You can get them to chase if you get ahead, but if you don’t they’re going to be pretty disciplined in the strike zone, then have to have weapons to get those guys out. Then everybody else, the (Mikey) Duartes, the (Ryan) Coopers, the Rabagos, Alcantara, the little left fielder Palmer—all these guys are going to give you some different things in their at-bats, but they can all skill. Every single one of them. Rabago hasn’t had a good year numbers-wise, but he’s still a threat, you can’t just throw stuff down the middle.
“Sparks has power. Spencer doesn’t even have power, he’s more of a singles/doubles hitter. Munoz has a little bit maybe, but no, they’re not a power team. Probably Oregon State’s park fit their style better. If the park in Stillwater plays small, I would have to say that probably favors Oklahoma State over Irvine because of the spaciousness of the park they play at and the style that they play. If they fall behind, they’re going to have to string at-bats together, versus just getting a walk and a home run.
“I think they play good catch. They’re not going to beat themselves. I think Sparks is good when it’s not just the complete routine play. He’s athletic and just kind of reacts and he’s good that way. Rabago doesn’t have a ton of range, but if he gets the ball he’s going to catch it. Spencer’s gotten better at first base. They’re not extremely athletic in the outfield but very well coached, very disciplined, and very fundamentally sound, as you would expect from Skip’s teams. McClanahan is solid, a good blocker, good receiver, throws enough. Their leg times are great. They’re not going to beat themselves.”
Coach: Josh Holliday
Postseason History: 3rd super regional appearance. Seeking 20th trip to Omaha
Postseason Route: No. 1 seed in the Stillwater regional. Won three games beating Cal State Fullerton 6-4 in the final.
(An anonymous coach breaks down the Cowboys)
“I think from an overall standpoint, I think the team’s put together really well. When you draw up a plan to say, ‘OK, we want to have strengths in these different areas, or players to accomplish these types of roles, they fit that really well. We want a good righty/lefty mix. It helps with Walton and Krietemeier being switch-hitters. But they’re going to be able to match up with you and steal some bags, even when you know they’re going. They’ll draw some walks and hit some home runs. They have guys in there that are table-setters at the top of the lineup that have really high walk totals. I think that’s part of their game plan, unless there’s a guy who really pounds the zone, it’s going to result in some free bases, some walks.
“They’ve got some guys who can steal some bases; Green runs really well, Arakawa and Walton run pretty well. So they’ve got that piece. Then some guys who can juice the ball out of the yard. A base hit, a walk, then it always seemed like they’d get somebody on and one of those middle type guys, Krietemeier or Costello or Green or Fish, can jack one out of the yard. I think Green’s one of the best overall players in our conference, really, as a guy who can catch and still put up those offensive numbers. And he’s good behind the plate, absolutely. He does a good job with their staff when he’s back there.
“Saxon and Walton at the top see a lot of pitches. I think that’s part of their strategy, to try to work some counts, especially early in the lineup and at the bottom of the lineup. Walton seems to always hit in the 2-hole, he’s a real good bat-handler guy, he can execute where they want to hit-and-run or bunt, he’s good in that role. The leadoff spot they move around, Green can lead off or Saxon. Green’s just a really tough out. I think they change it up sometimes against lefthanded pitching, Saxon would lead off sometimes. It’s the same type of thing, a scrappy little lefthanded hitter who’ll see some pitches and compete. There’s not a lot of easy outs in their lineup. Their power guys will swing and miss some, but they’ve got some juice in there too. They’ll put up with those swings and misses and some of those strikeouts because they know at any given point they’ll get into one and change the game. Fish is an important piece in there, he’s got plenty of juice. I think he’s a little better all-around hitter than Krietemeier and Costello.
“They’re outstanding defensively. They make every routine play, I think Walton does a great job at shortstop, it all starts there; if you’re going to be good defensively, you’ve got to be good at shortstop. But they didn’t give us anything. They’re not going to walk you, they’re not going to make mistakes defensively. They do a good job shutting down the running game on the mound.
“From a pitching standpoint, they’re just good pitchability guys, they locate the fastball, they all command the slider. When they get in trouble, they go to that slider heavy and get outs with it. Even their bullpen guys, they have some real power arms—that freshman Garrett Williams is 93-94, command is still a work in progress. With a really good slider, from the left side, as a freshman. They’ve got some good players over there. They’ve done a nice job really building a program and identifying the kind of guys who win. A bunch of those guys are 88-91 with good sliders and pitchability. Look at the back end of their bullpen, McCurry is a a tiny little dude on the mound, you look at him like, ‘They brought this high school kid in here to close us out?’ But he mixes arm angles and competes his butt off. (Vince) Wheeland, same thing; the stuff isn’t like amazing. It’s 88-90 but really, really good slider and commanded it well, always staying in good counts. I think anytime you have a strong back end of the bullpen like that, it gives you so much confidence, whether you’re pitching or playing offense, you know we just need one run to give us a lead into the seventh inning, you play with a little more confidence. When you don’t trust the guys at the back, you’re like, ‘Oh man, we need three here.’ Those guys are different, they get to the seventh in a tie game, they think they’re going to win it because they trust those guys in the back end. I think that kid Wheeland is the current active wins leader in the Big 12. They can bring him in in all kinds of situations, early in games if they need to or later. (Blake) Battenfield pitched a lot and pretty effectively, too.
“Perrin is their best starter, it’s the same type of thing, it’s not overpowering stuff, just really competitive, does a good job in the strike zone, both sides of plate with his fastball. The breaking ball is actually a really good pitch. As a staff, they tend to go to that when they’re in trouble, make you hit that breaking ball or slider. They’ve got good enough feel to throw that thing for a strike or out of the zone, get it to one side of the plate or the other. He would throw a changeup to lefties, and he would pitch right at 90-91.”