Friday: 10:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Saturday: 5 p.m. (ESPN)
Sunday: 10 p.m. (ESPN2)
|CAL STATE FULLERTON|
Postseason History: Ninth super regional appearance (seventh in a row). Seeking 16th trip to Omaha.
Postseason Route: No. 1 seed in Fullerton Regional. Won in three games, beating Utah in the final.
"They're very experienced offensively. They're a team that will do anything at any time. They will drag, they will push, they will steal. They will do anything to get things going. They're extremely experienced, they're tough outs, they all can bunt, they all can hit-and-run. And they don't strike out much, so there are always balls in play.
"I think the guys that scare you the most would be Fellhauer, Clark, Davis, those guys scare you the most. Their best hitters are Fellhauer and Colon, and their toughest outs for me are Fellhauer and Colon. They have very good team speed. I think (assistant coach Greg) Bergeron has just done a great job of running that offense. He's really good at offense, and he takes advantage of all his bullets. They're a competitive, confident group, and they can exploit your weaknesses. If you have weaknesses on defense, and a lot of clubs do, their offense is going to run you into the ground. If you have a team that doesn't hold runners, they're going to demolish you. I think a California team is the best team to beat them. This sounds crazy, but I don't know if a non-California team can really play at the speed that they play at. Not to say the LSUs and the North Carolinas and the Louisvilles can't beat them, but they were 17-7 in their conference, so somebody beat them.
"Defensively, they're very, very good. You're talking about a USA player at short, a fifth-year guy at second, a fifth-year guy at first, a fifth-year guy behind the plate, a serviceable guy in Siddons at third, Fellhauer can track it in center. Speed shows up more in defense than offense sometimes. Gary Brown is the fastest guy in the country, his speed shows up in defense all over the place. They're a veteran defensive team.
"I do like their starters. Renken is very competitive, with the split, the change, he'll get lefthanders out, he'll come right at you and throw strikes. I like Noe Ramirez a lot too, he doesn't give in. I like Noe Ramirez quite a bit better than Pill. He's got a good, quick arm, a good fastball, a good slider, and he's got a good change. I thought you could kind of get to him with runners in scoring position, but when he's rolling he's really, really good. He's got three above-average pitches. Pill's got plenty of fastball, I thought his breaking ball was extremely slow, not really a knockout breaking ball. But I do think Pill is good.
"In the bullpen, I like Nick Ramirez on the mound. He's not a powerful guy, 84-87, with a lot of pitchability and good demeanor. He does a good job out of the bullpen. I like (Ryan) Ackland a little bit. Ackland and Mertins are serviceable, competitive guys, but you can get to those guys. Ackland's got some deception, he can get a couple righthanders out. He's underhand almost—there's a place for him.
"You've got to punish their pitching. For me, the way you beat them is you've got to pound their pitching and get into their bullpen. It's just not that deep of a bullpen. They clearly weren't even challenged at all this past weekend, and that was expected. I question their depth on the mound, but their offense is so good, they overcome it. When they give up five, they score six, and when they give up eight, they score nine. It's almost like their pitching depth doesn't ever come into play unless their backs are against the wall. But as long as Pill, (Noe) Ramirez and Renken are out there, they're just so good defensively and offensively, those guys are plenty good enough."
Postseason History: Second super regional appearance (last in 2007). Seeking second trip to Omaha (last in 2007).
Postseason Route: No. 1 seed at Louisville Regional. Won in four games, beating Vanderbilt in the final.
"They're confident. That's the one thing Dan McDonnell's done, besides having good players. They're high-energy guys, they run on and off the field, they play an aggressive style of baseball, they're very aggressive on the bases. They're not going to be more talented than Fullerton, but they're going to play very hard. They play off momentum, and when they've got something going well, they can really ride it out.
"They have catalyst players at the top. Richmond has a fiery red mohawk right now, he fires up the crowd every time he takes off his helmet. He's one of those kids you love him if he's on your team, you hate him if you're playing him. Duvall's a good player, just solid tools. He can run. Clark is Clark; he can beat you with one swing, gets his hits. Dominguez is a mistake hitter; you miss over the plate, he can hit it out. He's dangerous. Wunderlich may be their best hitter. Hitting behind Clark and Dominguez, he gets a lot more pitches to hit. He's kind of a clogger on the bases—he's a thick guy—but he can really hit.
"They have younger kids after that. The Wright kid has a little bit of power, not too much. He's a solid guy, he's not driving the ball to the fence every time, he just puts the bat on the ball. Their catcher, Arnold, is good. He's not a great hitter, but he's solid behind the plate, he blocks everything, he's accurate when he throws, about 2.0 (seconds) to second base, on the money every time. Dao at shortstop can flat-out pick it. He can really, really, really play defense—picking balls, short hops on the run, making Jeter plays in the hole. Their center fielder (Haynes) is just a guy who's 5-foot-7, does nothing but slaps the ball the other way, plays a hell of a center field.
"Marks is throwing four pitches. Early in the year he was going more to his slider, but now he's using his curveball more. It's a good pitch, it's got some depth to it. He throws it for strikes to lefthanded hitters and righthanded hitters and buries it when he needs to. He goes left, right, up, down with his fastball. His changeup and slider are good.
"Kiekhefer is a low three-quarters trick pitcher lefty; if you don't have a good approach he'll frustrate everybody. If you don't make him elevate and use the whole field, he'll get ground ball after ground ball and frustrate your hitters. (Bob) Revesz is pretty good. He's OK, not great, mostly a two-pitch guy, fastball-slider. The fastball is firm, around 90, the slider is kind of a sweeping, slurvy pitch, 2-to-8 plane on it. It's the guys with the third pitch who are a little bit tougher—he didn't really have a third pitch. I think they'll move Zych to the three-spot, he's better. He's got a short three-quarters arm, a bit sneaky, the fastball gets on you good, low to mid-90s. He's got a slurvy 10-to-4 slider that he throws to righties and lefties, throw it over early and bury it later in counts. He'll throw a changeup to lefthanded hitters as well. I guess he's pitched pretty well two outings in a row. So they've certainly got enough pitching.
"You look at them, you don't say, 'That's an Omaha team,' but when they're confident like they are now, I could see them pulling off an upset. That's going to be tough to do at Fullerton. McDonnell's an Ole Miss guy. They've got a lot of sizzle going on. They're doing the motivational stuff, the big meeting in the outfield, getting everybody fired up. They're an emotional team, they're very reactive. So when things are going their way, momentum's on their side, they're very dangerous. But if you hit them in the mouth when the bell rings, it's going to take a huge momentum shift for them to get back into it. But they definitely have some players, and they're going to play defense."
Friday: 12 p.m. (ESPN)
Saturday: 12 p.m. (ESPN2)
Sunday: 12 p.m. (ESPN)
Postseason History: Ninth super regional appearance (second in a row). Seeking 20th trip to Omaha (second in a row).
Postseason Route: No. 1 seed in Tallahassee Regional. Won in three games, beating Ohio State in the final.
"What they have going for them is they've got the best coach in college baseball sitting in their dugout. There's no question about that, I really don't think that's arguable. Anybody that's seen them play will know there's not a ton of talent on the field for them. But they all play the same way: They play hard, they compete, and they all do the little things well. They extend pitchers, they drive up pitch counts, and they exploit bullpens, which is what makes them successful. As long as Coach Martin's sitting in there, they've got a chance.
"I think the first two guys in their lineup make them go, with Holt and Cardullo. Holt can run, he'll steal you a bunch of bases, plays great defense, and understands his role as a leadoff guy as well as anybody we played this year. When those two guys are on base, they are hard to beat, because then you've got to deal with McGee, Stidham and Tapley with guys in scoring position. McGee really came out of nowhere to hit a bunch of home runs; he's hitting with a bunch of confidence in the batter's box. Stidham's been a .350 hitter for three years, so he knows what's going on. If you make the slightest mistake to Tapley, he's going to hammer it. I think Tapley's the easiest one to pitch to, but I felt like he was the most dangerous one. Even if you pitch to your plan, you have to execute your pitch. If you hang it the slightest bit or leave the fastball up the slightest bit, he's going to hammer it. The bottom of their lineup, you have to go get out. You have to attack them and go get those guys out.
"Defensively, I think Cardullo's stabilized things. Stidham's a solid second baseman, Tapley makes the routine plays at third. The biggest thing for them from last year, by moving Cardullo to shortstop, that gives them three solid guys who will make routine plays. Last year the routine play is what they'd kick. They're solid in the middle and on the corners, then in the outfield, Holt can go get it with anybody. The only way you hit it over Holt's head is if you hit it out of the ballpark. Lopez is just OK, there's nothing special about him. He can really throw, he's got a strong arm, which helps him control the running game. I think he's more comfortable back there than he was early. You look at them on the field, there's nothing spectacular about them, but they win. They know how to win.
"Busch moves it in and out, he's got a decent little slider, and a good feel how to pitch. He won't beat himself, he throws strikes—you have to hit to beat him. Gilmartin has a good breaking ball. He can throw it in the strike zone or out of the strike zone, and his breaking ball makes his fastball play up. Both of them can run their fastball in to righthanded hitters, which will get them off the outside of the plate and make their breaking ball play well.
"I think (John) Gast and (Geoff) Parker moving to the bullpen kind of helped solidify their bullpen. Both those guys were in the rotation early but were moved to pen and have had good years in the pen. Marshall has a good fastball-breaking ball mix, and when he's in the strike zone, he's pretty dominant.
"To beat them, you've got to get the bottom guys out, and you have to hit and score runs on them. And you have to have depth in your bullpen, because they're going to make a starter work. If you can get six innings out of your starter against them, then he pitched a pretty good ballgame. I think being at home will be a huge factor. How to beat them? Hopefully they're on the road. I think they just feed off the atmosphere, and they're a tough team to beat there at home. Their history, and that ballpark, they'll have four or five days to prepare for an opponent. They'll play with energy and excitement, that's why it's so tough to beat them there."
Coach:Dave Van Horn.
Postseason History: Third super regional appearance (last in 2004). Seeking sixth trip to Omaha (last in 2004).
Postseason Route: No. 2 seed in Normal Regional. Won in three games, beating Oklahoma in the final.
"They're just another SEC team that doesn't have a superstar. The thing about the SEC teams, everybody's been through some adversity. Arkansas has really been through some stuff; I thought they were kind of lost with their arms there, but then Smyly throws a great game for them in regionals.
"The key to beating them, you've got to have velocity. Velocity beats their bats. They absolutely destroy mid-to-upper-80s pitching—they destroy it. They will hit the crap out of teams that are throwing that speed, crush 'em. You've got to beat them with good fastballs. One thing about their guys, Dave Van Horn's kids will sit offspeed a lot. They'll sit offspeed with runners in scoring position. If they hit a fastball for a laser foul, they'll sit offspeed the very next pitch. They very much practice hitting offspeed.
"Their catalyst is Tschepikow. He's their catalyst at shortstop, he's a pretty damn good hitter for them. The other guys are OK. Tschepikow's their best senior by far, but Leavitt and Lyons are solid. Wilkins is definitely a power guy, but you've just got to jam fastballs right up his rear end. If he gets anything soft over the plate and gets extended, it's a home run. Cox is a dead-red fastball hitter. He is a legitimate, pure hitter. You're going to see those numbers consistently grow. He's a professional hitter, reminded me as a freshman of Hunter Morris at Auburn, in that category.
"Kuhn's a good little player. (Travis) Sample and McKinney were playing more for them in the SEC tournament. He and McKinney both have juice in their bats, but you can beat them with fastballs. When you make mistakes up and over the plate, they punish those. They've got some good young players: McKinney, Cox and Kuhn are going to be good players, and some of their sophomores, Wilkins, (Jacob) House, Eibner.
"Eibner's another cripple hitter, a 6-4 athlete with a power arm. If you hang something, he hits it out. But he's got a big arm. He's a mid-90s guy. He's just a long-limbed kid, a tall, lean, fast-twitch kid, just wired tight. He's got a good arm, just throws the crap out of it.
"Their pitching is OK. Keuchel can beat anybody. He's a guy that can throw a lot of pitches, throws them where he wants to, does a very good job living down in the zone, getting hitters to chase out of the zone and make contact out in front. You just have to raise the window, look for stuff up above the belt, zone hit with him. That's a unique lefty, because he has the heavy ball. He has the fastball that if you don't lay off of, you'll just swing over it all night. He's a lefty that sinks it; a lot of lefties run the ball, but he's got true lefthanded sink. He has a heavy, sinking fastball, and if you don't know that's coming, it can cause you problems for a while until you figure it out. His breaking ball is OK, but it maybe caused him some problems. He throws a changeup off that fastball, I would call the breaking ball a third pitch for sure.
"In the bullpen, I like Bolsinger. He's got a decent fastball from a three-quarters slot, a pretty firm fastball, but the slider's definitely his best pitch—a hard, 10-to-4, sweeping kind of slider. He does a good job burying it and expanding it late for an out pitch. He's a two-pitch guy, doesn't throw the changeup very much. If you can lay off the slider below the belt, attack fastballs and hit the slider up in the zone, you can hit him OK. But he does a good job of commanding the slider. Richards is a three-quarters guy who's got an absolute bastard slider. His fastball has arm-side run. He comes after hitters with a fastball-slider mix and lives down in the zone. His slider has hard, frisbee action, and he uses it to expand away from lefties, uses it as a back-foot pitch against a righthander. He's really effective when hitters leave the zone."
Friday: 2 p.m. (ESPN2)
Saturday: 12 p.m. (ESPN2)
Sunday: 3 p.m. (ESPN)
Postseason History: First super regional appearance. Seeking first trip to Omaha.
Postseason Route: No. 2 seed in Irvine Regional. Won in three games, beating UC Irvine in the final.
"They're solid in all aspects of the game: They play good defense, they pitch the heck out of it. Their lineup one through nine was stronger than North Carolina's was. They don't have the premium players like (Dustin) Ackley and (Kyle) Seager, but one through nine you have to pitch to them, and you have to have a good plan on the mound to get them out, because they can hit one through nine.
"I don't think they're particularly vulnerable against lefties. I think they're balanced lefty-righty one through nine, it doesn't make a difference. They seemed to handle a pretty good righthander on Friday night in their regional (Stephen Strasburg), they've beaten righties and lefties this year. They have a very balanced lineup. They don't have one or two guys that have 19 or 20 home runs, but a bunch of guys in that six to seven range. They play such an aggressive style of baseball, if you're calling pitches against them, you have to worry about a lot of things: You have to worry about the hit-and-run, you have to worry about the stolen base. They're powerful enough to drive the ball into the gaps and create a bunch of havoc on the bases.
"Parker's gotten better every game that he's gone out. The biggest difference from last year is how much stronger he's gotten. He's really snapping the barrel through the zone. He can go foul pole to foul pole from a power standpoint—there are not too many guys with that ability. Grovatt wakes up in the morning hitting line drives. It's jus