College coaches break down the super regional teams for the series that start on Saturday (on the left half of the bracket). Sources were given anonymity in exchange for their candor. All times are Eastern. Rankings indicate national seeds.
Saturday:: 9 p.m. (ESPNU)
Sunday:: 10 p.m. (ESPN2)
Monday: 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Coach: Dave Van Horn.
Postseason History: Fourth super regional appearance (second in a row). Seeking seventh trip to Omaha (second in a row).
Postseason Route: No. 1 seed in Fayetteville Regional. Won in four games, beating Washington State in the final.
“I’ve tried to forget Eibner and Cox and Wilkins. Cripes, that’s a (lousy) feeling in the dugout when those three guys are coming up. Those three guys are special hitters; all three can hit it out at any time. Kuhn in the leadoff spot is a very nice SEC player as well—overshadowed. He’s got some juice and he can run, just a good player.
“Eibner has got some swing-and-miss. He struck out a bunch last year and up in the Cape. You feel like you can pitch to him a little bit, but he’s got real power. You feel like you have to be really careful, because you feel like he can run a ball out of the stadium any time. He’s gotten better against breaking balls, that was a real issue for him a year ago. But he doesn’t scare you like Cox. Zack Cox is a great hitter. You try to jam him, he turns on it; you give him a 2-and-0 changeup, he hits it the other way. He’s the most polished hitter we saw all year. Not a lot of home runs this year, but it is hard to hit home runs to the right side there (at Baum Stadium), the wind is constantly blowing in. The Cardinals got a steal with him. Wilkins is big and physical, his power is to left-center. He’s a polished hitter as well, he stays behind the ball well. You feel like you can jam him, but if you keep doing that and make a mistake, he’ll adjust and hit one out. He’s a good hitter. Those three guys and Kuhn and Bigham, that’s as good a one through five as you’ll see. Bigham’s a good college role player, handles the bat, good hit-and-run guy, stays inside the ball and can move the runner.
“McCann is up and down and has some holes, but he has some strength. He certainly reminds you of a guy who can go 7-for-11 one weekend, then 1-for-12 the next weekend. He’s kind of a mistake hitter. Sample and Kreder and (Jarrod) McKinney are all guys who have strength, kind of long swings but they have juice. You feel like you can jam them or spin it to them, but they can certainly run into balls. If you can take care of the bottom of the order and not have those guys coming up to bat in the middle with two or three guys on base, you can manage it, but if you have guys on base a lot for Cox and Eibner and Wilkins, they’ll make you pay for it.
“Their pitching is fine, but it’s nothing like Florida or even South Carolina. Smyly had a great season, he’s a real guy. After that, Bolsinger and Baxendale and those guys, they’re fine, but they’re not going to shut somebody down. Smyly was weird, upper 80s, low 90s, solid breaking ball and a changeup. But he wasn’t that guy (who) the first inning that made you say, ‘Wow, that’s a dirty breaking ball,’ or, ‘That changeup was like Mikey Minor.’ He was kind of erratic in the zone, and our hitters just didn’t see him well, and neither did anybody all year. He’s not a guy that you say has really, really good stuff, but a lefty with some velocity, and some action on his fastball, a slurvy breaking ball and a changeup he throws for strikes. He doesn’t walk a lot of guys, and for whatever reason hitters don’t just square him up.
“Bolsinger is a senior, came in from a junior college a couple years ago, he’s 88-90, he’s got a good 12-6 curveball he throws for a strike. But it sure seemed like he was a feast or famine guy this year. He either got knocked around early or went into the seventh or eighth inning. Seems like the key to his success is throwing that curveball for a strike. He’s really effective when doing that, but when doesn’t, he really struggles. Eibner, the ball comes out of his hand really well. He’s been up to 95, he worked 90-92 against us. We put good swings on his fastball—it was pretty straight—and he has a solid slider, he throws a bunch of strikes, he has OK feel for a changeup. He’s pitched fine as their Saturday starter, but I can see him being good out of the ‘pen. I can see him being good for four or five hitters and being really effective in that role.
“(Righty T.J.) Forrest, it’s funny, he has kind of changed the type of pitcher he is. His best pitch now is a changeup. He’s a guy with a pretty arm and pretty delivery but there’s no deception. He’s really thin, I think early on people thought he’d fill out and throw harder. He’s finally figured out how to throw strikes with his fastball, but no velocity really. His changeup is really good, he pitches backward, changeup in fastball counts. His breaking ball is just OK, kind of a big soft curve, but he’s not using it as a right-on-right strikeout pitch. More of a front-end pitch (he’s) trying to throw for strikes.
“Baxendale was outstanding. Low slot, good fastball movement, fastball-slider guy. He probably got tired through the season as a freshman, but he’s going to be a good one. If Arkansas has to go to the bullpen in the sixth inning, they’re in trouble. They need to get a lead and bang it. If you can get to their pen in the middle, that’s not very comfortable for them. Their offense is going to have to carry them, and their starting pitching is going to have to be pretty good. That’s going to be a tough one for Arkansas, I think.”
Coach: Tim Esmay.
Postseason History: Sixth super regional appearance (fourth in a row). Seeking 22nd trip to Omaha (second in a row).
Postseason Route: No. 1 seed in Tempe Regional. Won in three games, beating Hawaii in the final.
“I think offensively they’re more relentless one through nine than they were last year. Look how many of those guys played in the CWS last year: MacPhee, Ruettiger, Torrez and Torrez, Calhoun, Maggi, on and on. It’s a hitter’s paradise, and they know how to play their field. The difference this year is that if they have the lead in the late innings, the game is over.
“Blair’s had a good year, but he gets to go six innings and get a win. Then you bring in (lefty Mitchell) Lambson and (righty Jake) Barrett and Swagerty behind him. Blair does have a good breaking ball too, his issue is sometimes he’ll try to do too much with it. Don’t get me wrong, Seth is real good with a huge arm, and it’s quick. But sometimes I think he makes some mistakes over the plate that guys can hit. His numbers are great—he was Pac-10 pitcher of the year. Blair learned a lot pitching behind (Mike) Leake. The difference was Leake was able to go deeper into the game, whereas Seth can get a little bit excited and the ball elevates and you can hit him. He’s up to 97, it’s electric, it’s just the command of it isn’t what Leake’s was. He’ll miss up and out over the plate a bit more; Leake was corners, down, only up when he wanted it to be.
“They’ve gotten a ton of mileage out of the kid Brady Rodgers, who’s been a great piece for him. He’s like their (Garett) Claypool (of UCLA). Kelly’s a funky righthander, arms and legs, a good changeup and a little slider, 87-90, seems to have held up well. He’s got two pretty good offspeed (pitches) and can throw his fastball in and out. Borup is more of a slider guy, he’s 87-89, looks like he’s tailed off a bit. He’s down in the zone, with movement and a little deception, and he can throw the slider any time. Lately the ball is up in the zone more and he’s gotten hit a little more. If those guys come out and it’s a 4-3 game in the sixth, the game is over. They’re getting all those wins because the pen is holding them. And they can stick around long enough so the other team goes to the pen, and they can put up a crooked number offensively, then the game’s over.
“Lambson is really solid. He’s the same guy he was last year, maybe a tick firmer, but he throws strikes. He can attack you with the fastball, he has a funky delivery where hides the ball well, he has a plus move to first so he holds runners, and he can pitch with that change. The change looks just like the fastball out of his hand. And he’s fearless out there because he’s done it last year. Barrett is more the raw guy: big arm, up to 96, with a slider, kind of the come-at-you guy. Swagerty is up to 97 with a plus hammer. Swagerty will start you off with a curveball, it will buckle the guy, but he doesn’t necessarily go with the big fastball right off the bat. They can go Barrett first, then Lambson, then Swagerty, or they can go Lambson, then Barrett and Swagerty. They can let Barrett throw sliders and the fastball, then let Swagerty throw the 12-6 then the fastball.
“What they’ve done in that field with that pitching staff has been pretty impressive. You’re talking right around a 3.00 ERA—not easy to do there. I think Tim (Esmay) has done a real good job with that pitching staff. They have kind of a different philosophy about how they attack hitters than they have in the past. You used to get into a plus count as a hitter and see more fastballs; now you may see a slider. They can command it a little more.
“They’re real athletic in the middle; whether it’s Marrero or Maggi, they’re real athletic at shortstop. MacPhee is a real tough, hard-nosed kid who can play defense. The Torrezes are good at first and third. You’ve got some athletes all over the field who know how to win. That’s the biggest thing; they never think they’re going to lose. That’s a good trait to have. Marrero is pretty special defensively, and Maggi is stable. Marrero has big power, and he’s a guy they’re trying to get into the lineup. The benefit they have is Maggi is pretty good at both shortstop and left field. Barnes is real good behind the plate, a real good catch-and-throw guy. They’re quick to the plate as a staff, but he’s thrown out a lot of runners. He’s good at blocking the ball, and he throws well. And he doesn’t strike out much, so he’s a good fit for that team down in the order.
“They know how to score runs. They really run. They’re one of the few teams that runs nonstop all through the game, constantly putting pressure on you. They continue to not strike out; they walk more than they strike out generally. They just have an air about them. Tim’s done a great job with them, allowed them to just go out and play. It’s been a little more stable lineup. Early in the year Swagerty would catch some on a Saturday, (Andrew) Aplin would play some center field, now it seems they’ve settled on Barnes behind the plate and Ruettiger in center, mostly. There are a lot of tough outs in the lineup, they never think they’re out of a game. They don’t have the power like they did. Calhoun has 13, but they don’t have the (Jason) Kipnis/(Carlos) Ramirez one-two punch for homers, which may catch up to them by the end of the year. That could be the thing that catches up to them.
“Part of the way you beat them is you’ve got to kind of punch them in the mouth. You’ve got to be able to homer in that yard against them and put up multiple runs. A one-run lead isn’t a win at that place. You have to continue to put the pressure on them. They really feed off momentum, too. You make a mistake, they’ll try to hit-and-run behind it, or steal third. They can do things a lot of ways. Maggi can drag or push, MacPhee can bunt; they have a lot of guys who can generate runs without hitting balls in gaps. MacPhee’s a good hitter, a good player, a tough kid. Maggi’s the same way. Hitting 1-2 in the order, they provide some toughness. You do your best to keep them off base; you need to command multiple pitches. They don’t chase a whole lot, but if they are going to chase, generally it will be the elevated fastball. But very rarely have they been chasing in the dirt.
“If you have power, you’ve got to be relentless and get a lead, so they don’t use those three guys at the back and shut you down. You have to get to the starter. And on the mound, you have to command the zone, because they don’t really chase. You’ve got to be able to make your pitches. You look at their record, they’re 50-8 or whatever, and they’re not playing slouches. It was impressive what they did when they went to UCLA. UCLA’s a good club, and they kind of manhandled them a little bit. The thing is, if you’re able to get to their starter a little bit, if you can hit the ball out of the yard a little bit, if you put them on the defensive where they have to come back, I don’t think they’ve been in that position this year. They’ve been able to score early and put the heat on the opponent and hold them down.”
Saturday:: 6 p.m. (ESPNU)
Sunday:: 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Monday: 1/7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Coach: Mitch Gaspard.
Postseason History: Third super regional appearance (last in 2006). Seeking sixth trip to Omaha (last in 1999).
Postseason Route: No. 2 seed in Atlanta Regional. Won in five games, beating Georgia Tech in the final.
“I think Nelson had three consecutive complete games late, which is just really difficult to do this time of year. I like him plenty. He’s a big-bodied kid, he doesn’t have the true power stuff you’d think out of the body—he’s 89-92 with a good slider and OK feel for change and a little bit of action on his fastball. But he has some feel, he’s really competitive, and a bunch of strikes. He was a little inconsistent with breaking ball earlier in the year, but down the stretch he really found it and it became a very good pitch for him.
“Kilcrease has got a really, really good breaking ball, a flat-out swing-and-miss breaking ball. For a guy with his stature or lack of, he holds his velocity. He’s got a quick arm, he’s low 90s. Really unique dude—he’s legimiately 5-foot-5, it’s not a stretch. I think everybody in our league wishes they had him or some version of him. So competitive. Morgan did a good job, a three-pitch lefty, upper 80s, curveball and a changeup, nothing special but a lefty with three pitches—they get you seven innings every time.
“There’s no depth in the bullpen. Their bullpen is in the bottom third or half of our league for sure. Smith is 90 with a breaking ball—those two-way players usually have really good makeup, just really confident and aggressive and competitive. But down to the last month, they didn’t have to use their bullpen much. It’s Nelson, Morgan and Kilcrease. If they’re on, they’re going to win. If they’re not, they’re not going to win. They don’t have enough at the back of a game, but they’ll be able to score some runs, and it’s all going to come down to their starting pitching.
“They have a bunch of older kids in the infield, with Smith and Rutledge and Wilson. I would think that’s an advantage having all those guys who’ve played so many games together. Wilson’s had a bad year, and I think he and Smith have hit better the last month. I think when it matters they’re going to have really good at-bats this weekend. Rutledge is just a really good baseball player: makes every play, he’s not flashy, he’s got enough arm, he can run a little bit. He can get a hit—not the most beautiful swing. You wish he was stronger and ran a little better and was a little flashier, but at end of day he makes every play. You just don’t see freshmen come in and play well defensively in our league at shortstop; Rutledge did that and that’s what’s special about (Florida’s Nolan) Fontana. Smith is very good at third, he’s a pro defender. Wilson is fine at second; I did not think last year he was very good defensively, this year he’s better. Miller and Bennett both catch; Miller did a good job, Bennett did not throw well against us, and we felt like we could really run against him. The left side of the infield and center field, they’re pretty good in those three spots. And that starting pitching has taken a lot of pressure off their defense, only having to get 18 or 20 outs a game when Nelson or Kilcrease are on the mound.
“Dugas is a hitting machine. You just hope he hits it to somebody. The dude just doesn’t swing and miss. When he swings the bat, he puts the ball in play. I think any good team’s got somebody at the top of the order that’s on base a lot for the guys in the middle to drive in. I think if he gets on there’s a pretty good chance that Rutledge or Wilson or Smith will drive him in. That’s big for Clemson to keep him off base. He’s an above-average runner, not a flyer—he’s 4.2 (seconds) down the line. Just another good athlete.
“Clay Jones has some length to his swing but he’s strong. He can run into a ball. You feel like he’s got holes, but get to the end of the weekend and he’s got six RBIs. He’s hitting behind all those older kids who are always on base. A kid who’s just coming on as a senior, didn’t do anything last year. He hits mistakes, and he’s getting hits and driving in runs. You feel like you’ve got a couple of easy outs down at the bottom. It’s really about their starting pitching, but offensively it’s Dugas, Wilson and Rutledge, then Smith and Jones. That’s their deal.”
Coach: Jack Leggett.
Postseason History: Ninth super regional appearance (second in a row). Seeking 13th trip to Omaha (last in 2006).
Postseason Route: No. 2 seed in Auburn Regional. Won in four games, beating Auburn in the final.
“It’s interesting because they’re kind of like Miami—you don’t look at them and say, ‘That’s a typical scary Clemson team that can beat you in a lot of different ways.’ I didn’t see that. Like Miami, I thought they were a good team, not a great team. But they’re athletic enough, and like Miami, they may have a great weekend and find themselves in Omaha. Anything can happen in a three-game series. As up and down as they’ve been, it seems like they’re playing some good baseball right now.
“Harman and Weismann are solid. Harman’s pretty good. He’s got a fastball, good curveball, good changeup, and he cuts his fastball, and his changeup is pretty damn good. When you think of a Friday night guy in the ACC or SEC, you think of a guy drafted in the first or second round. He’s not that guy, but he’s a very solid pitcher. You definitely feel very good about your chances to win. Weismann, I thought he’s OK. He’s 90-92 with his fastball. He’s mostly a two-pitch guy, which I think as a starter in the ACC you probably need to have a third pitch, unless you’re just really on with a two-pitch mix. I thought he did an OK job, got a little run to his fastball, his slider is a decent pitch. Not a bad guy at all. Lamb is a big lanky lefty, he’s got a good arm. He’s a guy who’s 89-92, long and lanky, his fastball had some arm-side run. His breaking ball is a better pitch than his changeup, and he mostly pitches away. Kind of will miss arm-side and high to righthanded hitters.
“That was the one thing I thought they did not have was some depth in their bullpen. I thought that was the one area maybe they struggled a little bit with. They did play some high-scoring games this past weekend too. If you would point to a weakness, that’s it. (Kevin) Brady’s got a great body, got a good arm, it’s 90-92 but it’s straight, and he makes mistakes with it up in the zone. His slider has been good at times but not good at times and loopy at times. He’s got to put it together. Cruz, his changeup is his best pitch—we saw a lot of changeups. His fastball is just OK, 86-88. He will throw the changeup any count—3-and-2, doesn’t matter, he’ll throw the changeup. They’re a team that probably needs a power guy back there. Weismann would be a perfect guy back there if they didn’t need him in the rotation. If he’s an adrenaline guy back there, he’s probably 90-94 instead of 90-92.
“Miller made a few errors against us. He’s one of those guys that’s got a really good arm, he’s a hell of an athlete, the routine play is not really his problem. He’s got good range, he’s a good athlete, he throws the hell out of it across the diamond. He reaches balls that some shortstops don’t reach, then throws it away. He makes a lot of errors because he gets to more balls. Or maybe he makes errors because he tries to overthrow it. I noticed he throws the heck out of it every time he got it. I was like, ‘You don’t need to do that every time.’ He’s a good athlete, but he probably needs more reps over there. That’s too many errors for a shortstop.
“I love their third baseman, Hinson. Bowlegged athlete, looks like he rode a horse to the field. He makes every play, makes a clutch play, makes a great play, makes a routine play, and he can hit. That’s a typical Clemson athlete. When you think of a Clemson athlete, that’s the guy. Lean, athletic, fast-twitch—I liked him a lot. Parker is a phenomenal athlete. You don’t come across that guy very often; he’s a dude. Parker hit a couple of balls against us that were, well, hit pretty good. Strong, physical athlete. Schaus is a good hitter. If you make a mistake, he’ll make you pay for it. I think his offense is better than his defense. Boyd’s an OK player too. Miller is a tightly wound kid, he’s got good tools, he can hit and he can run. But Schaus and Parker make the team go. I like their offense, I think it’s OK. There are some guys you know they can beat you, but you’re not looking at that offense going, ‘Oh (darn),’ like Virginia where there’s no let-up in that offense and they got guys on the bench that are pretty good. It’s not like that, but still a solid club.
“Against them, you need to minimize the mistakes, don’t let them have free passes, get Harman and Weismann out of the game quickly, because their bullpen, there’s a definite drop-off after Harman and Weismann. Don’t let Parker beat you. The keys for Clemson to win are having those other guys be productive so Hinson, Schaus and Parker have some guys to drive in. And for Harman and Weismann, it’s getting into the seventh, each of them.”
Saturday: 3 p.m. (ESPNU)
Sunday: 4 p.m. (ESPN)
Monday: 1/7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Coach: Sunny Golloway.
Postseason History: Second super regional appearance (last in 2006). Seeking 10th trip to Omaha (last in 1995).
Postseason Route: No. 1 seed in Norman Regional. Won in three games, beating North Carolina in the final.
“They hosted a regional, and that was very well deserved. They’re very good offensively, very solid defensively, and their pitching’s good enough. And they’re going to score. They’re going to score.
“(What’s their biggest strength?) Buechele. He’s just a force, man. Even if you just walk him four times, he’s going to be involved. He’s the coach on the field, he’s going to will that team to do things. He’s the damn pitching coach over at third, talking to the pitcher the whole game. He’s just very smart, and that team is his team. He’s tough to pitch around. He can hit pitches that normally some guys don’t even swing at. If you’re going to walk him, you’d better walk him. If you try to pitch around him, he can still get a hit. He wants to win the game, and he knows he can do it, and if that means stepping on the plate and hitting a pitch a foot over the first baseman’s head, he’s going to do it. I’ve seen guys try to pitch around him, and home runs or doubles are hit. He sprays it all over. Yeah, he’ll pull a homer, but he’ll knock a ball off the right-center wall, too.
“Seitzer, you can pitch to him, but if you make a mistake he’ll hit a homer. He can look really bad a couple at-bats, but the third at-bat he’ll do some damage. He’s got a long swing, but he’s very smart and he learns. He’s a big leaguer’s son. I’m sure there’s some limits to him physically. And he can also do damage oppo, he can spray it all over, not like a guy who just pulls it and does nothing else. He’s just kind of got a longer swing, but so do half the big leaguers. White is a stud. Same thing—you strike him out on four pitches one at-bat, he hits a home run in the next. Just strong, a competitor, and he’ll change his approach, even as a freshman. Maybe you get him out two times in a row but he’s going to make an adjustment to where he can do damage. But he’s a threat, he’s a great freshman, and he’s got big power.
“Ellison, Black and Bushyhead, they know their role. They have power too—they’re not just up there collecting singles. they know their role, they’re very well coached, and for what they are, their numbers and everything, they’re just very well coached. They’re good, solid athletic guys, and they’ve equipped them with everything they need. They can bunt, they can run, they can hit-and-run, execute and when it’s necessary they can all step in there and hit a home run. That team is just very, very, very well coached offensively. They can beat you so many different ways it’s stupid. You don’t know what they’re going to do—they might hit five home runs, they might bunt four times in a row. They might take a ton of pitches or swing away. The team offense with them is really good, and it can be a nightmare for you. They’re very unpredictable, so it’s very hard to position defensively because of the different things that they’ll do. I’m talking about second-and-third squeeze, hit-and-run in three consecutive at-bats—there’s like a hundred things they might do. It’s brain damage for a team preparing for them before a game. I’m almost an advocate of no scouting report against those guys, just play. They don’t allow tendencies to take place offensively.
“Defensively, they have a very good catcher, and Bushyhead at short is better. He made some errors early, but he’s gotten better and he’s making the plays. He’s tough. They have speed, athletic, fast-twitch guys in the middle of the field, for sure. And Buechele—it’s a waste of time to hit a ball over to third base.
“On the mound, they’re very capable. They’ve got some JC guys. They’ve got a very good freshman you don’t hear about—his name is Jack Mayfield. And they’ve got the closer, Duke. They’ve got a couple lefties, too, that come in and help and are solid. But look at their numbers; they’ve got to be the best pitching numbers they’ve had in a long time, in a small ballpark, not a fun place to pitch. When’s the last time they’ve had an ERA below 4? They’ve always had good arms, but what’s changed? They’ve got a guy, their pitching coach (Mike Bell) knows what he’s doing. He’s got a good group of pitchers, but they’re achieving at a very high level. If there was a pitching coach of the year award, that guy gets it, for me.
“They have big pitchability, good enough stuff. Shore throws harder, he can roll some 92s. They compete, and they throw strikes, and it’s good enough. I think they also know they’re going to score. They’re not out there pitching like, ‘Oh jeez, I’ve got to throw a shutout today,’ or something. They’ve got good breaking balls, they’re pretty aggressive, they’re older guys. Real high pitchability with those guys, all of them. They don’t have a guy who sprays it or doesn’t have feel to pitch. Mayfield is my favorite guy on their staff—I love that guy. He’s a position player who comes in and it’s strike, strike, strike, strike, and he’s got a good breaking ball. He’s not out there analyzing, he’s very aggressive and a good athlete. He’s fun to watch, loves being out there. And he’s a position player pitching, so he doesn’t worry about making the perfect pitch, shaking off the catcher, pinpointing the perfect pitch, any of that stuff. And he’s good, up to 90-91. And he can field; very good athlete.
“Rocha, (Jeremy) Erben, lot of experience, good enough stuff, they’ll compete. Nothing that’s going to blow you off the face of the earth, but they’ll keep you off the game and more, they’re capable of throwing up a lot of zeroes. Good competitors who’ve been around, they know what they’re doing. Duke, if they get a lead, he’s going to be in the game. He’s going to get it done. I’ve seen him when he’s tired, when he’s fresh. When fresh, it’s 90s with a slider, and strikes and command. Not like 95, more like 88-91. But I’ve seen him get outs at mid- to upper 80s, too, so when he doesn’t have great stuff he’s still going to get the job done. He’s been a closer for two years, there’s nothing new that’s going to be thrown at him. Just experienced. A lot of veteran pitching on that team.
“(To beat them), you’ve got to have a guy with great stuff, like a guy that throws hard. When they start attacking you’ve got to slow the game down. They’ll do back-to-back steals, or back-to-back swing-out-of-their-shoes first pitch. And the guy on the mound’s got to throw 90. The average stuff guy can’t miss. I would like your chances better if you’ve got a velocity/stuff guy. They’re not going to take a lot of pitches, they’re going to be very aggressive, and velocity can beat some of them. But they’re not going to stand for that for long, eventually they’re going to make adjustments. The in-game adjustments those guys make are as good as anybody in the country.”
Coach: Brian O’Connor.
Postseason History: Second super regional appearance (second in a row). Seeking second trip to Omaha (second in a row).
Postseason Route: No. 1 seed in Charlottesville Regional. Won in four games, beating St. John’s in the final.
I thought they were the most balanced team in our league. Georgia Tech’s got more power hitters. Virginia can run, they can bunt, they’ll hit the long ball if you make a mistake. They can win no matter what park you play in.
“(Do they have any weaknesses?) Honestly, no. I could give you holes for something or another for most other teams, but that’s the one team in our league I felt like there wasn’t a drop-off. Obviously their starting pitching arms are very good, but their bullpen arms are good, they have a good closer. One through nine are good athletes, one through nine can hit, one through nine can run. They’re good athletes, good players, they’re very well coached. The depth of their team, they’ve done a very good job putting that team together. That’s a team that’s built for Omaha. You’ve got depth everywhere.
“Hultzen didn’t have his best stuff against us, but he battled and he got through it. The thing Hultzen does is I thought he located down in the zone very well. He only came up in the zone when he was trying to with the fastball. He didn’t make many mistakes. Everything he threw was downstairs, he made it tough for any offense when you’re throwing a few different pitches and everything was at the knees. Against us it was away, away, away—bam, in. Away, away, away—in. He throws the changeup down in the zone. He was spotting his pitches, he was really good. Morey, their No. 2 guy, he’s got a big arm. He had a power arm against us, he was coming after us with a hard fastball-slider mix. The thing those guys can do is drop in an offspeed pitch or a get-me-over pitch early and bury late as a chase pitch. He was throwing the fastball to both sides of the plate, and the second you’d look for a fastball first pitch, he’d throw a breaking ball for strike one. He’s pretty damn good.
“Some of these other teams, their No. 3 is definitely not as good as their one and the two, or they do the TBA deal where don’t have a set rotation. Winiarski’s not as good as Hultzen or Morey, but he’s still OK from what I saw. He’s 87-90 but straight, average slider but it was hard, 80-82. He wants to get ahead with the fastball and use the slider. He’s a stock righty—may not have Friday night stuff, but he’s got a firm fastball, a hard slider and a changeup that he can use. When you’ve got a three-pitch mix and you’re filling up zone, he’ll be fine, especially with that offense.
“(Righty Branden) Kline, if you told me draw a 6-foot-3 righthanded pitcher, I’d probably draw his body. He’s tall, he’s lean, he’s athletic, he’s got a power arm. He’s what you want. (Tyler) Wilson had good arm-side run on his fastball, 89-91, hard slider. He throws a changeup mostly to lefthanded hitters, sliders to righties. He came in to our righties with his fastball a lot. He was able to really command the slider and bury it. Arico’s pretty damn good. A lot of sliders, but it’s a swing-and-miss slider, a definite bastard slider.
“Up and down, that’s as good of a lineup as you’ll see. There’s no drop-off, there’s no holes. Parker’s the body you draw up, if you say, ‘Hey, draw a center fielder for me,’ I draw Parker. Everyone’s an athlete, everyone’s fast-twitch and got a good swing and makes consistent, hard contact. Gosselin can play anywhere, Grovatt—good god. Cannon, I love Cannon. Those guys, you get confused with them because they’re all similar type of athletes. They’re either strong or tall and lean or fast-twitch like Gosselin or Cannon, or they’re skilled in everything like Werman. He’s 5-5 maybe, but he’s so tough to pitch to, he doesn’t strike out, he battles, he knows his role perfectly, he sprays the ball all over the field. Just when you think he’s a little slap hitter and you’re about to come in on him, he gets the (bat) head out and drives it down the line.
“They can run, bunt, hit, hit for power, they can beat you in a lot of different ways. Play them on a big field or a small field, they’ll beat you. That’s the difference between them and a team like Georgia Tech that relies on long ball to win games. And they’ve got some pretty good players who aren’t even starting every day— that’s how good they are.”
Saturday: Noon (ESPNU)
Sunday: 1 p.m. (ESPN)
Monday: 1/7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Coach: Ray Tanner.
Postseason History: Eighth super regional appearance (last in 2007). Seeking ninth trip to Omaha (first since 2004).
Postseason Route: No. 1 seed in Columbia Regional. Won in three games, beating Virginia Tech in the final.
|CF||Jackie Bradley Jr.||L||So.||.367||.468||.585||11||49||34||31||7|
“South Carolina is just solid in every area. They have good starting pitching, they have a lot of matchup guys in the bullpen. They’re a good hitting team—they don’t have Justin Smoak in the middle but they’re pretty good one through nine, and they play some good defense. I like their team; they just have a lot of older guys, options in the pen, and play great defense.
“I like Cooper, he’s got some fastball movement, throws a ton of strikes, and he’s got really good feel for his offspeed stuff. He’s just a really good college pitcher. Every time out he’s going to get to the seventh, eighth inning, and the other team’s going to have two or three runs. He’s very consistent. Dyson looked like a guy who’s finally figured out how to pitch. He’s been a guy whose numbers never matched the stuff. Against us he was throwing a two-seamer with some action on it and a cutter he was throwing for strikes. He was very good; it looked like he quit finally worrying about the radar gun and figured out how to get guys out, but it was still plenty firm. I liked the slider too—he looked like a big leaguer. I would put Dyson in there with Sonny Gray and Drew Pomeranz; if you have to win a game tomorrow, he’s in that group.
“I think the reason they’ve still been able to win games on Sunday is because they have a lot of options in the bullpen. Dyson and Cooper have pitched deep enough that they can just kind of unload everybody on Sunday. Brown is generic, upper 80s; he’s been around a long time. And they’re solid offensively, so they’re trying to beat you 8-6 on Sunday. They don’t have the bazooka at the end of the game, but they do have a legitimate option back there with Price. I didn’t feel like it was game over like (Kevin) Chapman from Florida, but he’s a very good arm. Besides that they have a bunch of options, some sidewinders, guys who can spin curveballs. (Ethan) Carter, our righties did not see his little cutter/slider pitch, he got some bad swings. The other guys are kind of generic, you have the two sidewinders that come in to get a righthander or two out, but everything else is nothing special.
“I think they’ve kind of platooned in the middle of the order all year, and it’s worked for them. South Carolina’s always had a couple of real big donkeys in the middle. Really their biggest threat I felt like was Walker—he’s a good looking freshman. I think the way they’re looking at it is: “We’ve got eight or nine good hitters in the lineup, they’re all kind of the same, so we’ll change the lineup depending on the pitcher, whether it’s a lefthanded changeup guy or a righthanded breaking ball guy, whatever it might be.’
“Bradley is very good. He’s just not a 20-home run guy. You respect him, and he’s a great player, he’s got a little flash to him, fun to watch. A guy that can hit a double and steal a base; it’s a different level of concern with that guy than with a Preston Tucker (of Florida), who you feel like is a three-run homer waiting to happen at any point in time. But Bradley’s definitely their best player, without question. Merrifield was leading them in home runs. He’s just a winner. He can get a hit, he can run a ball out of the yard. He’s an older kid who’s a good baseball player, scrappy, tough and competitive. I kind of think he really makes them go, even though you’d think Jackie Bradley Jr. does. (Nick) Ebert and Walker are thicker-bodied guys that aren’t great defenders. The other three kids in the infield, Morales and Wingo and Haney, they’re older kids who are good baseball players, they make every play, do a good job.
“South Carolina just doesn’t beat themselves. To beat them, you’ve got to do everything. You’ve got to pitch, you’ve got to scratch and claw for some runs. You’ve got to play flawless baseball. They don’t do anything great, but they’re not going to beat themselves.”
Coach: Gary Gilmore.
Postseason History: Second super regional appearance (last in 2008). Seeking first trip to Omaha.
Postseason Route: No. 1 seed in Myrtle Beach Regional. Won in five games, beating College of Charleston in the final.
“Over the last couple weeks, those pitchers they have might be a little tired. They pitched a lot down the stretch, then in the tournament, then had to pitch an extra game versus College of Charleston. Meo has been their best guy throughout the year, but I know CofC hit him well. He’s up to 96, he’ll pitch at 92-93, a slinger-type guy. It’s not that big of a guy, but he throws strikes, everything’s hard, fastball-slider. He’s really good, but like a lot of teams around the country, there’s some pitchers getting a little bit tired. Wheeler, when he needs it he can throw it up to 93. I think he throws a lot of fastballs that are like BP fastballs at 86-87 to get through a game. He threw more sliders and changeups this year, but added and subtracted with the fastball and when he needed it reached back for 92. He didn’t have quite the year this year he had last year.
“Fleet had normally been an 88-92 guy, but he hit 96 this year. He’s done a good job as the third guy or closing, and he’s got a hard slider, too. They do a lot of matchup stuff: If you have a lefthander they’ll put in (Matt) Laney or (Matt) Rein. Versus righties they’ll put in (Ryan) Connolly, a sidearm guy who’s very difficult to hit. He’s about 80 and throws this Frisbee slider at about 68 that kind of rises, goes out and up. It’s slow, you’re not used to seeing pitches like that. Laney will come in and throw some curveballs against lefties, and Matt Rein is only mid-80s but can really pitch, changeup and curveball. (Keith) Hessler’s another lefty with a good arm. He got drafted I’m sure—he throws 90 from the left side.
“In the lineup, almost every position can hurt you. Rice at first base has some power and can hurt you. They have a really offensive second baseman in LaStella. Motter has a plus arm and can hurt you too. Woodward stole over 50 bases and he can play defense really well. He can get on base. Their corner outfielders not many talk about, but Gilmore and Bowman are good with the bat, streaky guys with some power. Noel is probably their best player; he’s hard to get out and got some power too. Those two guys at the top (Woodward and Noel) run so well and put so much pressure on you with the bunt. If one of them gets on base they don’t always steal second, they push or drag, then it’s first and second with no outs, then they steal both of them. (Gary) Gilmore does a good job of situational hitting and sending runners. And if they’re not hitting so well, all of a sudden they’ll hit two home runs. So they have speed, situational hitting, and they have power. Obviously Noel and Woodward set the table, but other guys can hurt you too, one through nine. Iglesias has the most home runs, but LaStella was really hot in the conference tournament, then they have this kid Witten who got hot in the regional, hit the grand slam against Charleston. He’s a little better than Rice at first, so they’ve been DHing Rice, I think.
“So they’ve got the pitching, the defense, the hitting, the team speed, a leader behind the plate, a senior guy at first who can bang it a little bit. Sometimes they have to use Fleet a little earlier than they want, and I think like a lot of pitchers around the country he’s getting tired. It’s a long season. I think the question is whether their pitching is rested enough to beat a team like South Carolina. Other than that, they’re like the New York Yankees.”