All games are Saturday, Sunday, Monday. All times are Eastern. Rankings indicate national seeds.
Michigan (42-17) at Oregon State (42-18)
3 p.m. (ESPNU), 4 p.m. (ESPN), 7 p.m. (ESPN or ESPN2)
UCLA (33-26) at Cal State Fullerton (36-23)
7 p.m. (ESPN), 10 p.m. (ESPN2), 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Mississippi (40-23) at No. 5 Arizona State (46-13)
9 p.m. (ESPNU), 7 p.m. (ESPN2), 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
UC Irvine (43-15-1) at Wichita State (53-20)
12 p.m. (ESPN2), 1 p.m. (ESPN), 12:30 p.m. or 7 p.m. (ESPN or ESPN2)
College coaches and scouts break down the super-regional teams. Sources were given anonymity in exchange for their candor.
OREGON STATE (42-18)
Coach (Record at school): Pat Casey (433-276-4, 13 seasons).
CWS History: Three trips to Omaha, last in 2006; one championship in 2006.
CWS Route: Won Charlottesville regional, beating Virginia in the final.
|Top Players||Key Stats|
|Mitch Canham, c||.323/.454/.535, 9 HR, 54 RBI|
|Darwin Barney, ss||.296/.370/.432, 18 2B, 48 RBI, 12 SB|
|Mike Lissman, of||.327/.395/.491, 8 HR, 56 RBI|
|Mike Stutes, rhp||9-4, 4.05, 111-51 K-BB, 113 IP|
|Joe Paterson, lhp||9-6, 3.81, 74-25 K-BB, 118 IP|
|Eddie Kunz, rhp||3-1, 3.05, 10 SV, 37-18 K-BB, 44 IP|
“They’ve got trust and belief in one another, and they’ve got some guys who get clutch hits at the right times and hit clutch pitches in critical situations. I think that shortstop’s a unique guy. He’s having fun all the time, and they play loose. Any time a little bit of blood drips, the sharks will get after it pretty good. They’ve got trust, they’ve got belief, they play all 27 outs.
“The first baseman (Jordan Lennerton) has got some whap in his pole, a little inconsistent with contact, but if he gets it, he gets it pretty good. The second baseman (Joey Wong) just sprays the ball around and plays the small game. Barney can do a lot of different things, he can be pitched to, but he’s very competitive. Canham, I thought if you made mistakes he’d get you, but if you mix and match, you can get him out. He’s got experience, a lefthanded swing. (DH Jason) Ogata has competitive at-bats, a good hitter, nothing superior but competitive, grind-it-out at-bats. All their guys are the same way, really. They just grind it out.
“The thing their pitchers all did is they competed, worked the ball down in the zone, and worked ahead in the count a high percentage of the time. They all have decent secondary stuff, they all do a good job controlling the running game. They have the belief, they’ve been there before.
“Only thing, I don’t know how much confidence they have in the Kunz kid, but his stuff’s so good, he might walk two guys and strike three guys out. Or, because his ball is sinking so heavy, he can get a double play and get out of the inning. As far as pure arm strength, he’s the best on the staff, but his secondary stuff was not in the zone against us. But he’s throwing 92-96, it’s heavy and sinking. If you’re disciplined enough and wait for it up in the zone, you have a shot.
“Their best pitchers were Paterson and the righthander (Daniel) Turpen. Paterson, he threw any pitch at any time in the strike zone, whether 2-0, 0-2, he could do anything he wanted to. He was very, very efficient with his pitches. Turpen was 88-93, with command of the outer half and the inner half against righthanders. He had a get-me-over breaking ball and a finish slider. He was throwing the occasional change to a lefthander. I did like Stutes, he made clutch pitches when he had to. I thought we could get to him a little bit, but he made clutch pitches when he had to. He’s got a very good breaking ball, he also throws a get-me-over and also a finish breaking ball.
“Everybody can be exploited. The center fielder (Chris Hopkins) put some pretty good swings on the ball, but he can be pitched to as well. They’ll make some adjustments if you’re going to throw breaking ball after breaking ball. They did a very good job making adjustments, and it was quick. It didn’t take them seven innings, it took about one time.”
Coach (Record at school): Rich Maloney (191-110, five seasons).
CWS History: Seven trips to Omaha, last in 1984; two championships, last in 1962.
CWS Route: Won Nashville regional, beating Vanderbilt in the final.
|Top Players||Key Stats|
|Zach Putnam, rhp/dh||.341, 8 HR, 59 RBI; 8-4, 4.13|
|Nate Recknagel, 1b||.359/.458/.627, 12 HR, 61 RBI|
|Jason Christian, ss||.335, 7 HR, 22 2B, 64 R|
|Eric Rose, of||.308, 46 R, 34 SB|
|Mike Wilson, lhp||7-0, 3.07, 60 K, 70 IP|
|Michael Powers, rhp||3-3, 4.86, 4 SV|
“They’re a really talented, athletic club that seems to be playing good at the right time. They’ve got some pitching, they’ve got some depth there. All the way around they’re athletic–athletes at every position. Putnam, who’s doing both, the Wilson kid who pitches in the second game, he was really good against us. Wilson is a 6-foot-5 lefthander, good arm, little slider that’s like a hard, late cutter, doesn’t move a lot, but it’s good. He’ll give guys fits. All of them, their whole team, they compete. Their second baseman, (Kevin Cislo), hitting down in the eight hole, we couldn’t get him out. He’s a hard-nosed guy, that guy that’s always in the mix somehow. Everybody talks about Putnam and Recknagel, the guys in the middle of their lineup, as they should, but Cislo’s always up with guys on base and every time he seems to come through and do it.
“Michigan, it doesn’t matter if you throw it 90 or 98, if you leave it over the plate and try to throw it by them, they’re going to have a field day against you. At times, they can go to the opposite field, but if you can get up on them a little bit and make them try to catch up with one swing, that’s where they get in trouble. You get ahead of them, they start trying to hit two-, three-run jacks and get out of their game. I think that’s why Cislo stood out, he took what was given to him.
“I think it’s like anybody else, when you go around the country, the thing about those elite clubs that’s different from lower-level clubs is they’re so athletic they can make a mistake and overcome it, a guy can be in the wrong position and overcome it. Or they can miss a pitch and get it to drop in. Not that Michigan’s just an athletic team out on the baseball field, they’re quality baseball players who are also very athletic.
“Any time right now at this point in the year, the thing you have to minimize is you can’t be giving them five or six outs an inning. Make all the routine plays, make some of the great plays. Like Alan Oaks the other night.
“Putnam was pretty good against us when we faced him. The reports we had on him was that he struggled with his command, and that night he didn’t. He’s got a live arm, live fastball, had a slider and I believe a splitter, he would get ahead and our guys would chase. If he shows command, everything gets better for him.
“They’ve got the Powers kid down there in the bullpen, he comes in and is really aggressive, He’ll attack guys and get after you, he does a good job. He has a fastball that’s 90-91 with a sharp, late slider. Our guys couldn’t pick up his slider. To me, their weakest point is if they have to play a lot of games, they need some depth in their bullpen, they need some experience.”
CAL STATE FULLERTON (36-23)
Coach (Record at school): George Horton (488-210-1, 11 seasons).
CWS History: 14 trips to Omaha, last in 2006; four championships, last in 2004.
CWS Route: Won San Diego regional in three games, beating Fresno State in the final.
|Top Players||Key Stats|
|Clark Hardman, of||.389/.428/.524, 4 HR, 44 RBI, 9 SB|
|Nick Mahin, of||.288/.376/.529, 9 HR, 45 RBI|
|John Curtis, c||.275/.394/.444, 5 HR, 43 RBI|
|Wes Roemer, rhp||10-6, 3.33, 136-22 K-BB, 127 IP|
|Jeff Kaplan, rhp||11-3, 3.35, 74-40 K-BB, 110 IP|
|Adam Jorgenson, rhp||3-2, 4.45, 8 SV, 57-18 K-BB, 61 IP|
“This going to be a real tell-tale for Fullerton’s program. If they can get to Omaha with this club when everyone knew they were down and they didn’t have a good year, that’s really scary. They had a great draw going to San Diego, then the fact that San Diego lost. Riverside and Irvine, the clubs that deserved a better draw, got tougher draws, although Fresno State is probably the toughest four seed you can get. Wes Roemer is an elite All-American guy, though he’s obviously lost a lot. His command’s not as incredible as it was last year. He’s been around so much, they’ve seen his slider, although he’s gained some on his fastball when I’ve seen him. He’s still not a guy you want to face, really competitive guy. He’s human, though, he can be beat. This guy’s not 15-0 this year, you’ve got a chance, make him get the ball up.
“They don’t execute like they have in the past, they don’t execute like they have. I don’t know, this isn’t a great Fullerton club. Losing the guys they lost–Blake Davis, Justin Turner–those are big losses. If they can win with this club, oh my goodness. They weren’t playing good baseball coming in, a lot of people thought they wouldn’t even be a regional club. If they didn’t have ‘Fullerton’ on their chest they might not have been. Any time you have George Horton running things, that will come into play.
“They’re nothing special offensively. Hardman was having a big year, Curtis behind the plate, but they don’t run a lot, they don’t bunt a lot, it’s just that Titan magic. Hardman’s their best guy, he’s been around forever. Losing him last year killed them, and that was a great club as it was. They only have two 40-RBI guys. Mahin’s got nine home runs. (Third baseman Evan) McArthur actually struggled offensively, they just found a way to get it done. They played a good weekend, now they have a chance to do it again. Hitting .279 as a club, only 52 stolen bases–they’re doing it with mirrors. They’re only fielding .969, not playing great defense, but their ERA is 3.85, they pitch well. Kaplan’s had a heck of a year, got a good breaking ball, 90-91, he’s a workhorse, he gets after it. I still like those two guys with their matchup. They had a good dogfight against UCLA last time. Lot of familiarity between those two programs.
“They’re not going to go to their bullpen very much. They’ve put Jorgensen as the stopper, eight saves, strike thrower, he’s 84-86 and can throw the breaking ball for strikes. He can throw three or four innings in relief, not just a one-inning stopper. Lot of different roles, started three games, 26 appearances. They’re not afraid to go to him. They started using (righthander Michael) Morrison in the rotation toward the end, but he didn’t do real well. They’re going to ride Roemer, Kaplan and Jorgensen, those are their key guys. (Righty Bryan) Harris might be that third guy. Roemer’s special, Kaplan’s very, very solid, and that’s it. It’s amazing what they’ve done.”
Coach (Record at school): John Savage (81-92, three seasons).
CWS History: Two trips to Omaha, last in 1997.
CWS Route: Won Long Beach regional in three games, beating Long Beach State in the final.
|Top Players||Key Stats|
|Brandon Crawford, ss||.338/.410/.513, 7 HR, 53 RBI, 11 SB|
|Jermaine Curtis, 3b||.333/.405/.469, 4 HR, 33 RBI in 35 G|
|Cody Decker, dh/1b||.314/.380/.600, 14 HR, 57 RBI|
|Tyson Brummet, rhp||10-5, 3.57, 109-29 K-BB, 134 IP|
|Gavin Brooks, lhp||6-6, 4.65, 86-30 K-BB, 103 IP|
|Tim Murphy, lhp||5-4, 5.68, 96-33 K-BB, 76 IP|
“I saw them early in the year and they were atrocious, I was thinking, ‘If we don’t beat these guys, we’re really bad.’ Then they went on that incredible run. The thing that changed their season was Jermaine Curtis coming back. He gets all the big hits, he makes them go, he runs their club. He’s a special player, what I call a winning player, Jermaine turned that club around. He is just a special player, fun to watch, although you hate having him go against you. He inspires a ballclub, wow.
“Brooks has pitched well, Brummett has pitched well–Brummett, Brooks and Murphy, they only threw three pitchers in the tournament. I thought Murphy was a one-pitch guy when we saw him, 92-93, wasn’t throwing the breaking ball. But I saw the Arizona State game, he had great command, struck out 14, which I would have told you couldn’t be done. That breaking ball is getting better every day. You have two lefthanders, then you have Brummett, who besides (Arizona’s Preston) Guilmet might be the best in the conference. I worry about their bullpen, and obviously they’re worried about it too, that’s why they didn’t use their bullpen last weekend. Brummett’s going to give you nine innings that first game almost for sure. (Righty Charles) Brewer, they were so down on their bullpen, they had to use him in the biggest inning on back-to-back nights against Arizona state. They’ve lost all confidence in (righthanded reliever Brant) Rustich, they’re not even going to him.
“They’ve got some thunder in (outfielder Gabe) Cohen and Decker, (catcher Ryan) Babineaux. Crawford is a primetime player, great defender, great offensive guy, does everything for you. Babineaux behind the plate is an anchor, runs the game for them. All good clubs have one elite guy, and that’s Crawford. I would think he’s going to be a first-rounder next year. With them, it’s the streakiness. When they’ve gotten it going, I think they’re ready to go. Right now they’re pitching it really well, Curtis is hot, they’ve played a tough schedule and been through a lot.
“They’re a funny club. Obviously you try to get to their bullpen and get their pitch totals up. They’re not a club that’s only going to go 110 pitches, they’re going to go wherever. You’ve got a chance to really wear them out and get their subpar stuff. They’ve shown they’re going to keep those guys in, I’m not worried about the health factor, I just don’t think you can be as effective after that 110th pitch.”
ARIZONA STATE (46-13)
Coach (Record at school): Pat Murphy (526-288-1, 13 seasons).
CWS History: 19 trips to Omaha, last in 2005; five championships, last in 1981.
CWS Route: Won Tempe regional in three games, beating Nebraska in the final.
|Top Players||Key Stats|
|Brett Wallace, 1b||.420/.500/.712, 15 HR, 74 RBI, 11 SB|
|Eric Sogard, 2b||.390/.485/.610, 10 HR, 56 RBI, 17 SB|
|Matt Spencer, of/lhp||.380/.446/.626, 8 HR, 48 RBI; 1-0, 4.35, 10-17 K-BB, 10 IP|
|Mike Leake, rhp||13-1, 3.58, 85-27 K-BB, 111 IP|
|Josh Satow, lhp||12-3, 2.56, 112-47 K-BB, 123 IP|
|Jason Jarvis, rhp||1-2, 3.86, 11 SV, 184- K-BB, 26 IP|
“I think they’re great. What Arizona State does to you is, one through nine, they do an incredible job. They have speed and power, they don’t strike out much, they bunt when they have to–incredible club. Sogard and Wallace are two high-impact guys, Spencer can beat you, (outfielder/lefthander) Ike Davis can beat you–all through that lineup they’re scary. They’re big and physical looking, but yet they play with some toughness, they’re not just big-bodied guys who scare you a little but have no substance.
“Their pitching staff is so underrated, it’s scary. Everybody’s so caught up in their offense, and they play good defense, but they’re good on the mound too. Satow is typical lefthander that really knows how to pitch, but Leake’s pitched so well, you look at what he’s done, he wasn’t even a starter in the beginning of the season. Leake’s been tremendous–it helps them playing (their first super-regional game) Saturday, it gives the little guy a little more rest–he’s 150 pounds soaking wet, you wonder how much he can go. Satow’s changeup is his best pitch by far. His fastball is not as soft as you think, he can be 86-89 at times. He does a good job pitching in for a soft guy, aggressive to both sides of the plate. He’s a tough cookie, really tough guy. (Lefthander Brian) Flores, he’s given them 116 innings, he just competes. Thrown a million complete games in his college career, he’s that quality backside guy going on Sundays. They’re using Jarvis as a freshman as their guy, he’s got 11 saves. He’s going to be really good. Now he’s just young and inexperienced. He’s been hit, but he’s a good competitor, not afraid of anything. He’s 90-93.
“Spencer actually has the best arm on the staff. They’re not going to let you get to that middle relief because they’re going to keep those starters in there. They know they’re going to score some runs, so if you score three or four runs in the first inning, or even six or seven, they’re not going to take those guys out. They know they’ve still got a chance. Coach Murphy’s not going to panic and take those guys out. And they play great defense, fielding .979, Andy Stankiewicz has done an incredible job with that infield. It’s just a good club, plays hard, got toughness. Ole Miss has got some power arms, I think that’s an incredible matchup.
“Sogard is a great player, what a winning little great player, and his tools are better than people think. He does some stuff defensively, he’s dynamite, then the drives ball out of the park now and then. (Shortstop Andrew) Romine, if he played on another club, he’s not a bad offensive player, but he gets overshadowed in this lineup. He’s playing every day, hitting .303. They’re just a disciplined offense, but they’re aggressive, and they handle the bat. They steal bases at an 80 percent clip, so when they run, they make it. They’re hitting .351 as a club at this time of the season? That’s ridiculous. And opponents are hitting .260 against them.
“In the outfield, those big-bodied guys, Spencer, (Tim) Smith and Ike Davis, they’re all pretty good athletes for big guys. They don’t have a true center field guy who runs down the ball, but they all throw pretty good, not like a weakness out there. They don’t have a true center fielder, but they’ve got Rocky Laguna or the kid from LSU (Jarred Bogany), he comes in and plays some defense. Their outfield defense is not a weakness. Their weakness is actually their bullpen. Spencer, he was inconsistent, and the fact that he’s a position player makes it hard to bring him in in the sixth inning in a tight game because it messes your club up. He’s a power lefthanded arm, for a pro club that’s a tough call, lefthanded arms are harder to find than bats. Davis (off the mound) has not been close to what I thought he’d be. He can throw some innings, but he’s 83-88. I’d always heard he was 88-91, 92, but the day I saw him, touched a 90, but he was 84-87. I don’t think he’s been throwing bullpens regularly, don’t think his arm is in pitching shape. They’ve only thrown 10 pitchers all season. (Joey) Parigi is a little soft lefthander, sort of like Satow but not close to as effective.”
Coach (Record at school): Mike Bianco (282-155-1, seven seasons).
CWS History: Four trips to Omaha, last in 1972.
CWS Route: Won Oxford regional in three games, beating Sam Houston State in the final.
|Top Players||Key Stats|
|Zack Cozart, ss||.304/.382/.428, 5 HR, 45 RBI, 15 SB|
|Justin Henry, of/2b||.385/.453/.504, 14 2B, 21 SB|
|Jordan Henry, of||.370/.437/.419, 59 R, 12 SB|
|Will Kline, rhp||7-2, 3.72, 127-43 K-BB, 116 IP|
|Lance Lynn, rhp||8-4, 2.55, 137-40 K-BB, 116 IP|
|Cody Satterwhite, rhp||4-4, 3.21, 4 SV, 42-28 K-BB, 53 IP|
“Ole Miss, where they’re very good is on the mound. I really like Kline a lot, he’s really, really good. I really like Lynn, and I like Satterwhite out of the bullpen–they can really pitch. Offensively, they’re OK, they’re not special like they were a couple of years ago, but they’re OK.
“Kline has three pitches, his fastball is 90-92 mph, his changeup is really good, the breaking ball is good, and it’s late action on all his pitches. I would think he’s going to be a pretty good draft pick. The Saturday starter Lynn is a classic power righthander with a really nice hammer curveball, he comes at you with the fastball and has a good hammer to go with it. Kline has a pretty doggone good three-pitch mix. Satterwhite, that’s special stuff out of the bullpen. I wouldn’t say high 90s consistently, probably 93, but he throws strikes.
“The two Henrys at the top of the lineup, you’ve got to keep them off base, because they’re not a team that scares you offensively. They’re both lefthanded hitters that can run. They’ve got good solid players, Cozart’s a solid player. (Third baseman Cody) Overbeck’s a solid guy with some pop, but they have nobody that puts fear into you.”
“Their bullpen is average. The key I think in a lot of ways to beating
those guys is you’ve got to try to get them to elevate their fastballs.
That’s it. Those guys are power-armed guys, I’m telling you, Lynn and
Satterwhite, they’re power-armed guys. You know they’re going to come
at you with a high percentage of fastballs. You’ve just got to hope
they elevate the fastball, that’s it. Kline and Lynn, you roll those
guys out there, their rotation is as good as it gets. You’ve got to get
them to elevate their fastball and get them out of their rhythm.
They’re going to try to get you to chase an 0-2 pitch way off the
plate, then come back at you with the fastball. Plain and simple.
“It’s kind of a fallacy when people say they’re not that offensive, they’re just so pitching dominant, that’s the better part of their game. They’re a solid club.”
WICHITA STATE (53-20)
Coach (Record at school): Gene Stephenson (1,605-531-3, 30 seasons).
CWS History: Seven trips to Omaha, last in 1996; one championship in 1989.
CWS Route: Won Wichita regional, beating Arizona in the final.
|Top Players||Key Stats|
|Damon Sublett, 2b||.364/.470/.510, 5 HR, 45 RBI, 14 SB|
|Derek Schermerhorn, 1b||.350/.408/.481, 7 HR, 38 RBI, 23 SB|
|Tyler Weber, c||.306/.373/.507, 11 HR, 49 RBI|
|Travis Banwart, rhp||10-5, 2.68, 111-33 K-BB, 111 IP|
|Aaron Shafer, rhp||8-2, 2.43, 85-21 K-BB, 78 IP|
|Noah Krol, rhp||2-2, 2.18, 12 SV, 47-7 K-BB, 33 IP|
“They’re a very athletic team. They have really, really good team speed, and that makes them difficult to deal with because they can take extra bases, get themselves in scoring position without necessarily having to give up the outs with sac bunts. On that turf, it’s even more of a challenge when they’re running out (outfielder Andy) Dirks and Sublett and Schermerhorn, a lot of guys who can get down the line and put a lot of pressure on defense. I’ll give their lefthanded hitters credit, some of them are very good at hitting to the opposite field. (Third baseman Conor) Gillaspie and Dirks are real good at using the whole field. They’re a handful from the offensive side. Put a guy like Weber in there who’s got some pop in his bat, and a guy like (DH/first baseman Danny) Jackson, if he gets going, that makes them more dangerous. It’s a good mix of speed, some power, a lot of athleticism.
“You attack them with lefthanded pitching, that’s what you’ve got to do. You’ve got to attack them with lefthanded pitching. If you can do that you have a chance. If all you’re going to run at them are righthanders, you leave yourself vulnerable to what they want to do. They’re going to run six lefties at you, you’ve got to have lefties to neutralize that. That helps control the running game to have those lefthanded pitchers, keep those guys from running all over you, that’s where teams can keep them under control. To neutralize Wichita’s offense, you’ve got to have some guys who can go out there and spin the ball. But I think (UC Irvine’s lack of lefties) is an advantage for Wichita.
“You can’t mix in a lot of free stuff against Wichita. If you get involved with a lot of walks and hit by pitches, with some of those runners, a walk turns into a double. They’re hard to double up, a lot of the guys they have can run, and on turf they hit some of those chopper balls and run down the line. It puts a lot of pressure on your defense and your pitching staff hitter to hitter.
“I think obviously for Shafer to compete in a super-regional, he’s going to have to get that good fastball back. They brought Banwart back Monday, I don’t know if they’ll bring him back (in Game One) or go with Shafer or (lefthander Rob) Musgrave. Shafer on any given day can be as good as anybody in country, then they have a couple of solid lefties with (Anthony) Capra and Musgrave, real deep rotation. They’ve already got some lefties in bullpen with Krol and (Noah) Booth. Then you bump one of those guys (Capra or Musgrave) into the bullpen, it gives you even more options. I think Irvine’s got their hands full.”
UC IRVINE (43-15-1)
Coach (Record with school): Dave Serrano (110-64-1, three seasons)
CWS History: No trips to Omaha.
CWS Route: Won Round Rock regional, beating Texas in the final.
|Top Players||Key Stats|
|Cody Cipriano, 2b||.341/.436/.600, 12 HR, 55 RBI, 10 SB|
|Ollie Linton, of||.370/.432/.528, 8 3B, 12 SB|
|Bryan Petersen, of||.308/.404/.438, 5 HR, 33 RBI, 27 SB|
|Scott Gorgen, rhp||11-2, 2.91, 98-34 K-BB, 118 IP|
|Wes Etheridge, rhp||12-4, 2.68, 106-28 K-BB, 117 IP|
|Blair Erickson, rhp||0-0, 2.57, 13 SV, 28-12 K-BB, 21 IP|
“They’re great. I think this is the best coaching job in America, what they’ve done with that club. I don’t want to sell those kids short, they’ve got some great players, but what they’ve done is incredible. They’re playing a great schedule, playing everybody. I’m surprised by what they did at Texas, but yet I’m not. Gorgen has just been awesome, him and Etheridge. If you look at Gorgen’s numbers in his last five or six starts, it’s incredible. They’re really durable, they’ve pitched a ton of innings, and Serrano’s done a great job not overstretching them through the year. Gorgen, he throws strikes and competes, he’s 88-92 with his fastball, and he’s gotten better as the year’s progressed for some reason. He’s got a great changeup with a solid breaking ball. Just a competitor, not a pure strikeout guy. His change and fastball are both plus pitches, and the breaking ball is solid. His fastball has some movement, he’s not a prototypical pro guy because of his body, but about 5-foot-11, strong.
“Etheridge, he doesn’t throw many sliders, his ball sinks so much with that sinker and change, people think he throws a lot of breaking balls, but the truth is he throws no more than four or five breaking balls a game, just his fastball has so much sink. He’s one of those guys that the more he pitches, the more his ball sinks. He doesn’t get tired. He throws low strikes, and they play defense behind him.
“They’re just well-schooled. Dave (Serrano) runs a great game, there’s a lot to be said for a coach that really understands and can run a great game. He’s been there before with Fullerton, nothing overwhelms him. Defensively, they’re not quite as good as Arizona State, but they didn’t make an error in Texas. Those two teams are the best defensive clubs I liked all year. Arizona State’s phenomenal, and Irvine’s really good. (Ben) Orloff has been a great divider at shortstop, and when they put (Taylor) Holiday at first base, it gave them an athletic guy there with some bounce in his step. Cipriano’s good, Tayler Vaughn’s as good a third baseman as there is. They’ve got a great mix, (guys) who believe, who think they can beat the world.
“Those starters are going to get you really deep, and (righthander Dylan) Axelrod will be the other guy they use. Erickson, they pick his spots. He came in after the rain delay in the championship game (of the Round Rock regional), and he couldn’t finish the inning. You look at his numbers, they’re great, but he is pitching on ice every time. He’ll be in there with the bases loaded, two outs, and punch the last guy out. His stuff is electric, the fastball and slider are two plus pitches. You would think as long as he’s been around, he’d have ice water in his veins, but he really doesn’t. We saw him 90-93, but he’s been 95, he’s done that.
“(Righthander Eric) Pettis is your typical third guy that just throws strikes and competes. He’s really found his niche lately. Petersen’s pitched a little more lately, but it will probably be tough this weekend with him playing the outfield. Petersen’s a great athlete. I think because his velocity’s been so good the last few weeks, people like him on the mound now, but he’s a lefthanded hitter who can run, good power, good baseball player.
“They bunt a ton, they execute. They’ve always bunted a ton, but now they’ve got some power, not just a bunt club. They’ve got 109 sacrifice bunts, 133 stolen bases, look how much pressure they put on you offensively. They handle the bat offensively, nonstop pressure, and they’re hitting .323, so it’s not like they have to do that. Constant pressure, and 35 homers now–they play at a huge park. They’ve got it going, they know how to play baseball. They’re the best baseball team in America, just flat-out playing baseball. Arizona State does a great job too, but this team, their numbers show it, and the fact they’ve won 42 games. They went to Texas, a team we know plays good baseball, and they beat them at their own game. When you’re playing against them, you’re on your toes every second. Cipriano, Petersen, Taylor Holiday’s been outstanding, and little Ollie Linton gets that club going, a little speed guy. Orloff bunts guys into position, but he’s still hitting .348. He sets the table for those big guys in the middle, with Cipriano, (outfielder Matt) Morris and Petersen. They do whatever it takes to beat you. But they’re going to stay within their game, like Augie Garrido’s done for years.
“The one thing Irvine doesn’t have is a lefthander. But Gorgen’s best pitch is his changeup, so that’s what you do to lefthanders. Etheridge being a sinker guy, he handles lefthanders well, because everything sinks away from those guys. So if you’re going to have righthanded pitchers against Wichita State, those are the two guys you want. (Catcher Aaron) Lowenstein does a great job back there, they’re going to be around 40 to 50 percent throwing out guys out. They’ve only allowed 24 stolen bases in 53 attempts. Those pitchers do such a great job holding runners, that’s a big part of it.”