Oral Roberts (41-14) at No. 1 Clemson (50-14)
3 p.m. (ESPN), 4 p.m. (ESPNU), 7 p.m. (ESPN2/ESPNU)
Col. of Charleston (46-15) at No. 8 Georgia Tech (48-16)
Noon (ESPN), 1 p.m. (ESPNU), 1 p.m. (ESPN/ESPNU)
Missouri (35-26) at No. 5 Cal St. Fullerton (46-13)
10 p.m. (ESPN2), 10 p.m. (ESPN2/ESPNU), 10 p.m. (ESPN2/ESPNU)
North Carolina (48-13) at No. 4 Alabama (44-19)
7 p.m. (ESPN), 7 p.m. (ESPN2/ESPNU), 4 p.m. (ESPN/ESPNU)
No one knows the super-regional teams better than their opponents. Will Kimmey talked to college coaches who had faced multiple teams still alive in the NCAA tournament and offered them anonymity in exchange for their candor.
Coach (Record at school): Jack Leggett (605-257, 13 years)
CWShistory: 10 trips to Omaha, last in 2002
CWSroute: Won the Clemson regional in three games, beating Mississippi State in the final
|Top Players||Key players|
|Tyler Colvin, lf||.359, 22 2B, 12 HR, 23 SB|
|Andy D’Alessio, 1b||.321, 22 HR, 80 RBIs|
|Stephen Faris, rhp||9-2, 2.34, 78-16 K-BB|
|Jason Berken, rhp||9-3, 2.72, 74-32 K-BB|
|Josh Cribb, rhp||9-0, 3.09, 83-26 K-BB|
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.
ORAL ROBERTS (42-14) Coach (Record at School): Rob Walton (134-45, third season)
CWS history: One trip to Omaha in 1978
CWS route: Won the Fayetteville Regional in three games, beating Oklahoma State in the final
|Top Players||Key Stats|
|Andy Bouchie, c||.377, 12 HR, 53 RBI|
|Chad Rothford, 1b||.337, 12 HR, 60 RBI|
|Chris Ashman, rhp||10-1, 2.02, 72-24 K-BB|
|Nick Jones, rhp||7-4, 3.67, 88-29 K-BB|
|Sean Jarrett, rhp||7-1, 1.98, 70-9 K-BB, 7 saves|
Rob Walton does as good a job as anybody with pitchers. They buy into that plan. They’re a little bit older of a club and have those two guys on the mound who can really pitch: Jones and Ashman are legit. They pitch and they throw offspeed for strikes at will. They make you hit their pitches. They’re good on the mound, and that keeps them in games. (Eric) Crichton in middle relief can throw backdoor sliders at will and a cutter and change in any count. And then you’re 0-2 all of a sudden. Offensively, you have to take away their best stuff, so look for an offspeed pitch.
You can’t let them hang around in games. You need to capitalize on innings and move runners when you can. If they stay in it, they have a chance to beat you because you’re always down in the count to them. We got a bunch of hits, but when you get guys on base, they won’t give in with a fastball. If you’re not disciplined at the plate, you’ll have trouble scoring crooked innings.
They get timely hitting. It’s not like you see a guy swing and go ‘wow.’ They get a hit when they need to and they put it in play when they need to. They’ve got that feel going now where they think they can’t lose. Rothford is definitely a guy at the plate, so is Bouchie. You can pitch to them, but they battle with two strikes, don’t overswing. If you’ve got 91-93s, they might struggle with those velocity guys. They have good team speed. They try to run, hit and run and move runners. They’re very good at giving themselves up and bunting and pushing and dragging. Their two-strike approach and two-out hits kill you. He’s done a great job with that offense. All the outfielders can throw, and they do all the fundamental stuff well.
COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON (46-15)
Coach (Record at school): John Pawlowski (260-151-1, seven years)
CWS history: None
CWS route: Won the Lexington Regional in three games, beating Kentucky in the final
|Top Players||Key Stats|
|Nick Chigges, rhp||11-1, 1.32, 94-44 K-BB|
|Graham Godfrey, rhp||8-2, 3.34, 96-39 K-BB|
|Alex Garabedian, c||.364, 6 HR, 50 RBI|
|Larry Cobb, rf||.361, 7 HR, 20 SB|
|Phillip Coker, cf||.333, 35 SB|
Charleston, those kids have been in regionals for three years and are not scared. They can beat you with pitching and the short game. They’re solid defensively with good outfield speed and do not do a lot to hurt themselves. Pitching-wise, they had the deepest staff of any we saw, and we played 18 games against regional teams. They’ve got four quality guys they can use to start games. Chigges is a legit SEC guy, and so is (Josh) McLaughlin, the closer. As a staff, they do a good job mixing it up. They’re confident in throwing breaking balls in hitter’s counts. They throw strikes; you’ve got to be ready to hit early. You don’t want to put yourself in 0-1, 1-2 counts. Godfrey is the best velocity guy. He’ll challenge with the fastball. Be ready to hit early against him. Make him throw the fastball down in zone, don’t chase it up.
They have a lot of small guys that can run and only Garabedian can run it out of ballpark. Five or six guys in that lineup will bunt any time. They get the leadoff guy on, try to move him over, bunt, steal a bag, hit and run. Do a good job holding runners, be prepared, and make sure you get an out when they bunt to avoid the big inning. If you can keep leadoff guys off base or limit them, that’s huge. Force them to beat you by stringing hits together. It’s important to get a lead, take them out of that short game. They’ll still do it, but put them in situation where it’s three or four runs down, force them to play for more of a big inning. They don’t have power they had last year in lineup, but still have good hitters. Keep Cobb off base. Coker hit a grand slam against Kentucky, but he’s not typically a power guy. He’s best bunter I’ve seen in several years.
GEORGIA TECH (48-16)
Coach (Record at school): Danny Hall (577-246, 13 seasons)
CWS history: Two trips to Omaha, last in 2002
CWS route: Won the Atlanta Regional in three games, beating Vanderbilt in the final
|Top Players||Key Stats|
|Matt Wieters, c/rhp||.354, 13 HR, 67 RBI|
|Whit Robbins, 3b||.358, 12 HR, 63 RBI|
|Wes Hodges, dh||.337, 11 HR, 64 RBI|
|Jeff Kindel, lf||.337, 11 HR, 49 RBI|
|Blake Wood, rhp||10-4, 5.01, 84-40 K-BB|
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.
CAL STATE FULLERTON (46-13)
Coach (Record at school): George Horton (448-185-1, 10 seasons)
CWS history: 13 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.
|Top Players||Key Stats|
|Wes Roemer, rhp||11-1, 2.01, 113-4 K-BB|
|Lauren Gagnier, rhp||13-4, 2.51, 93-22 K-BB|
|Dustin Miller, rhp||11-1, 44-19 K-BB|
|Justin Turner, 2b||.355, 56 runs, 19 SB, 14 2B|
|Blake Davis, ss||.363, 56 runs, 14 SB, 12 2B|
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.
Coach (Record at school): Tim Jamieson (399-288,12 years)
CWS history: Six trips to Omaha, last in 1964, one championship in 1954.
CWS route: Won the Malibu bracket in five games after losing the opener; first No. 4 seed to win a regional since 64-team field began in 1999.
|Top Players||Key Stats|
|Max Scherzer, rhp||7-2, 1.95, 72-23 K-BB|
|Nathan Culp, lhp||11-5, 3.29, 80-17 K-BB|
|Jacob Priday, c||.289, 11 HR, 49 RBI|
|Brock Bond, 3b||.345, .444 OBP, 11 SB|
|Evan Frey, of||.335, .458 OBP|
They have two of the better pitches in country in Scherzer and Culp. Culp obviously is not as electric as Scherzer as far as stuff, but he’s got a high pitcher’s IQ. He can see things in swings and attack things that some guys can’t. He does a great job of executing his pitches, like a poor man’s J.P. Howell. If they get good starting pitching in a super-regional of just three games, those two arms can carry them. They can match up with anyone’s starters.
With Scherzer, we basically took the fastball away. It’s a pro mentality versus him. You can’t cover all his pitches. We got good swings going up there looking fastball early in the count; he hasn’t used his other pitches as much. Culp is fastball to both sides of the plate, cutter in on righthanders and changeups. He just mixed us to death. (Rick) Zagone threw good against us, low three-quarter lefty who mixes at 85-87, but as far as bullpen (Taylor) Parker is lefthander that’s fastball-breaking ball and you’re going to see that breaking ball at some point. (Travis) Wendte has good stuff: 91 with a Frisbee slider.
Offensively they don’t have that big guy in the middle with power, they just have to execute and work within their offense to win 3-2. They look like a bunch of big strong donkeys, and you feel like as a pitcher you have to be really careful. But they’re more battlers than home run guys. Priday at times gets pull conscious, we just stay hard away and slider away with him. He’s got bat speed and big power, but he’s basically the standout guy. If you have a situation where you don’t have to pitch to him, the guys in front and behind him are not as good hitters. They can make you pay if you get a guy who doesn’t have great command, they can take advantage of that. Jamieson does a great job of teaching strike-zone discipline. All nine guys do a great job of making pitchers work. It’s very similar to old Oklahoma State with Gary Ward: get the pitch count up on starters and jump into the bullpen. They make you throw strikes.
NORTH CAROLINA (48-13)
Coach (Record at school): Mike Fox (335-158-1, eight seasons).
CWS History: Four trips to Omaha, last in 1989
CWS route: Won the Chapel Hill Regional in three games, beating Winthrop in the final
|Top Players||Key Stats|
|Andrew Miller, lhp||12-2, 2.26, 108-35 K-BB|
|Daniel Bard, rhp||8-3, 3.47, 90-33 K-BB|
|Robert Woodard, rhp||6-1, 3.48, 47-19 K-BB|
|Josh Horton, ss||.409, 16 2B, 12 SB, 57 R|
|Jay Cox, lf||.386, 13 HR, .655 SLG|
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.
Coach (Record with team): Jim Wells (522-244, 12th season)
CWS history: Five trips to Omaha, last in 1999
CWS route: Won the Tuscaloosa Regional in three games, beating Troy in the final.
|Top Players||Key Stats|
|Wade LeBlanc, lhp||11-0, 2.62, 124-42 K-BB|
|Emeel Salem, cf||.364, 67 R, 14 2B, 36 SB|
|Tommy Hunter, rhp||10-3, 3.10, 77-21 K-BB|
|Kody Valverde, c||.346, 12 HR, 59 RBO, 17 2B|
|David Robertson, rhp||4-3, 2.60, 62-28 K-BB, 10 saves|
It starts on the mound with LeBlanc, (Bernard) Robert and Hunter, who has been outstanding on Sundays. Robertson is pretty good out of the pen. LeBlanc and Robert are all about changeups. They don’t throw them for strikes, so if you’re not disciplined, you will find it a long evening. If you lay off, you get pitch counts up and they have to go to bullpen. And other than Robertson, it’s just OK. Hunter just comes right at you, fricking four-seam fastballs and the breaking ball is good too. He really competes.
When you talk offense, none of the position players are prospects–all the prospects are on the mound. Emeel Salem makes them go. You’ve got to keep him off base. He’s the typical speedy leadoff guy. He’s the key. When he’s on it really keys the offense. (Alex) Avila is a nice freshman hitter, Valverde had a good year, but it’s not scary when those guys are up.
They play team offense and they make you play good defense. They get bunts down, hit and run. It’s not like old Alabama where you make pitches and got them out or they hit a home run. They don’t have prospect-type hitters, and they just play more offense. That makes them more difficult to defend. I’d rather play a team that tries to hit it out of the ballpark. They definitely don’t play the traditional SEC power ball, and they play in a little tiny ballpark, which you would think they would have a lot of home runs. Nobody’s going to scare you in that lineup, but they play team offense. Their kids know, ‘We don’t have to score eight runs, we’re good enough to win if we score five.’ So they relax, catch the ball and score when they can. With that pitching, it’s usually enough.