Texas Christian (40-20) at No. 2 UCLA (45-14)
Friday: 9 p.m. (ESPNHD)
Saturday: 9 p.m. (ESPN2HD)
Sunday: 10 p.m. (ESPN2HD)
Coach: Jim Schlossnagle.
Postseason History: Third super regional (last in 2010). Seeking second trip to Omaha (last in 2010).
Postseason Route: No. 2 seed in College Station Regional. Won in five games, beating Mississippi in the final.
|CF||Kyle Von Tungeln||L||Jr.||.301||.400||.420||2||24||29||50||12|
“They have been playing the game at a really high level down the stretch. Offensively, with Elander and of course Cron has come on and started to swing the bat, even kids like Odell who I think is talented, are starting to swing the bat very well at the end of the season. Jerrick Suiter is very talented. It starts at the top with Von Tungeln, a guy that can run, just does a tremendous job of setting the table up there. On the mound, they have guys that throw strikes, guys that maybe aren’t as conventional. Morrison really knows how to sink it and throws a ton of strikes, and they really play defense behind him. Mitchell has electric stuff. The rest of their guys are very, very solid. When you have a team that plays good defense and has a staff full of competitive strike-throwers, you’ve got a chance.
“They have guys that can drive the ball out of the yard. Cron, no doubt, has true power. He can drive the ball out to any park. He can be scary in the middle of that lineup. Elander’s the same way. I think his home run numbers were probably hurt playing in such a big yard. But up and down that lineup, they have some guys whose numbers are probably deceiving, like the Odell kid. They have a pretty dynamic offense. They have guys that can run, they have guys in the middle that can drive one out of the yard. And even in the bottom, they have guys who can drive the gaps and run one out as well.
“Keaton Jones does a great job at shortstop. Defensively he’s really talented, Witte is very solid at third base, and of course Von Tungeln’s great in center field. Behind the plate, it’s not pretty with Elander, but what he brings is a ton of confidence, a lot of experience, and at the end of the day he just gets the job done. Couple that with his offense, you’re looking at a guy who’s leading that team. I think there have been some knocks on him defensively, he doesn’t show the typical actions you want to see in a front-line catcher, but gets the job done.
“With Morrison, it’s kind of a sidearm delivery. The Scharf kid is a true submariner, a knuckle scraper. Morrison is more sidearm, works anywhere from 82-85 and creates a lot of sink with his fastball. Then he has the ability to command a solid changeup and an average slider that he throws for strikes at well. It’s hard for guys to elevate off him. He creates a ton of ground balls. They do a good job of defensive positioning, they’ll put the shift on a lot of hitters, he’ll throw to that half of the plate and make them hit the ball into the teeth of that shift.
“There’s a lot of deception to Scharf’s delivery, and the ball has a different action coming from that submarine slot. He does a great job throwing strikes and commanding it, and he’s a competitor too. He wants the ball, competes his tail off on the mound. Much like Morrison, he lets them put the ball in play, and most of the time they put it in play on the ground.
“Mitchell is a guy with absolutely electric stuff. When he comes into the game, if he’s on, it’s going to be a tough day for any lineup. It’s a tremendous fastball that works low 90s and can reach mid-90s, and a true power curveball that’s a swing-and-miss pitch. When he’s on, he’s really tough. Crichton is an 88-92 guy, commands it, can really pitch. Brandon Finnegan is a lefty with a great arm. His breaking ball is average and his command of it is average, but he can throw in the low 90s and just has a great fastball. I think he’s going to be a really, really good player. He’s a smaller, stocky guy but he’s really aggressive.
“I think they’re a very dangerous club.”
Coach: John Savage.
Postseason History: Fourth super regional appearance (last in 2010). Seeking fourth trip to Omaha (last in 2010).
Postseason Route: No. 1 seed in Los Angeles Regional. Won in three games, beating Creighton in the final.
|SP||Nick Vander Tuig||R||So.||9||3||0||4.53||97||23||64||.281|
“I think on Friday, Plutko’s done a real good job. It’s not like it’s just overwhelming stuff, but I think he does a real good job pitching just above the hitting zone and just below the hitting zone. He’s got that fastball just above the hitting zone, and guys want to swing at it and pop the ball up. It’ll be 88-89, I don’t think we saw any 93-94s, maybe hit 90. But there’s a good change there, he can pitch. I think John (Savage) does a real good job with him, moves the ball in and out, elevates. Vanger Tuig on Saturday, he gets just enough on his fastball that when he elevates it above the hands, it can be pretty good. When he throws the breaking ball well, I think it’s a good pitch. I think it’s inconsistent, but at times it has real good break. Same slot as the fastball, which makes it more difficult. I think they make it tough because they’re around the zone, they’re not precise in the zone necessarily, they’ll go to three-ball counts, but they are around the zone enough that it’s tough to lay off.
“Then you’ve got Weiss, he’s been kind of up and down. I think he walks more guys. He’s got to really be on to get it going; I think they have a little bit shorter leash with him. And that’s where the (freshman lefty Grant) Watson kid really comes into play. Because they’re not really lefthanded out of the bullpen, he’s really their one lefty. And they’ve ridden him hard because they’ve won all those Tuesday games with him starting. They’re really a seven-man staff, those three weekend guys, Watson, (freshman righty David) Berg, (righty Ryan) Deeter and Griggs. If they have a bigger lead, maybe they’ll throw in another guy or two, but it’s the same cast that pitches every game.
“I think the two keys for them this year have been the two freshmen: Watson on Tuesdays and Berg throwing every single game. The guy (Berg) has just been an absolute machine. There’s good movement, he’s fearless, he attacks the strike zone, it’s from a tough (sidearm) slot that not a lot of guys see, he can throw the fastball right and left and has a nice breaking ball. He’s been invaluable. Deeter’s done a great job as the eighth-inning guy. John’s done a nice job having those established roles in the seventh, eighth, ninth. Griggs is like the cardiac closer: It may not always be pretty, but the job’s getting done. He walks a lot of guys but he strikes out a ton. And he doesn’t give up any hits. The breaking ball is his best pitch and it’s the pitch he probably has the most command of. There are times you’ll see 3-2 curveballs because it’s the pitch they think is going to be a strike. It makes it tough on a hitter, because the stuff is so good, but you don’t know when it’s going to be in the zone. Deeter’s got a good arm too, probably up to 94, pitches in that 90-92 range, has a change and a breaking ball. He’s another guy that attacks the zone, has a boring two-seamer into righthanders. I think all three of those kids have done a nice job of shortening the game.
“A lot of people think they could be vulnerable to lefthanded pitching, but their record says they’re pretty good against anybody. If you look at some of those kids’ numbers, some of them do as well against left as right, because they can be really lefthanded and they see a lot of lefties.
“I think losing (second baseman Kevin) Williams was a little bit of a blow to them, but they just kept moving on. Obviously Gelalich has had a big year. Amaral is a really, really good player, and he kind of is the catalyst. The guy that gets overlooked a little bit is Keefer. He can really really play left field. Amaral can really play center, and those three kids can cover a lot of ground out there, so they take a lot of hits away. They’re solid in the infield. Heineman may be the most improved player in our league, going from hardly ever playing to being an eighth-rounder. He’s kind of the captain of the infield. He takes charge out there, takes charge of the pitchers, makes sure they’re on the same page. Then you’ve got Trevor Brown, who might be the most valuable player on that team overall—he leads them in RBIs, he can play every position on the field. He started out the year at first base, then goes to second when Williams gets hurt, and when Heineman was out for a weekend, he catches every game and they don’t miss a beat. He’s tough after all those lefthanders, then you’ve got him and he can be dangerous.
“Gelalich absolutely can put a real charge into the ball. I think the key to him is you’ve got to be able to get in on him. He wants to get extended, he has pop, obviously. I think there will be times he sits on pitches, but good fastballs can get in on him, and you’ve got to hit your spots. Change the way you pitch him a little bit. But he can put a juice into a ball, and if you make a mistake, he can really make you pay. And he gets out of the box so well that if he hits a line drive into left-center, it can be a double.
“Valaika, I’d say he’s pretty steady at short. I don’t think it’s the most flashy, I think he does a solid, good job, and that’s what they need from him. The routine play he makes, and you’re out. He’s an accurate thrower with a good arm, Brown’s an accurate thrower with a good arm. Kramer at third, he’s got a good arm and accurate. So it makes it real nice to be able to have that flexibility. I think they’ve done a good job of mixing some guys into that DH spot or even at first base—against a lefty it might be the Zeile kid. All those kids have been just kind of accepting their role and doing their thing.
“I think they play hard. They don’t strike out a ton of guys, but I think their outfield cuts out a lot of hits. So I think the total package, of teams that we’ve seen, they’re as good as any out there, total package. There might be a little bit better offense, a little better starting rotation, a little bit better bullpen. But you’re not going to see too many that have all three like they have right now.”
Stony Brook (50-12) at No. 7 Louisiana State (46-16)
Friday: Noon (ESPN2HD)
Saturday: Noon (ESPN2HD)
Sunday: 1 p.m. (ESPN2HD)
Coach: Matt Senk.
Postseason History: First super regional appearance. Seeking first trip to Omaha.
Postseason Route: No. 4 seed in Coral Cables Regional. Won in five games, beating Central Florida in the final.
“I was trying to tell everybody, ‘They’re probably the greatest four seed in the history of the tournament,’ and you see what happened. They’ve got a great offensive lineup. A couple of things they do well is they don’t strike out. They’re very tough to strike out—not just Tissenbaum, the whole order puts the ball in play and puts pressure on your defense. They all run well, even if they don’t steal 30 bases like Jankowski, they all get up the line well and bunt well. Because their numbers are so good, everyone’s harping on that. Jankowki’s obviously a big star, he’s a sandwich pick. But what goes untold is they pitch to contact and they play great defense. There’s three aspects to the game, and they’re very good at all three.
“Even their 7-8-9 hitters are all very capable hitters. One of the toughest hitters for us was Courtney, the No. 9 hitter. There aren’t a lot of holes in their swings to pitch to them. Anybody can hurt you. Whenever you play a team like that, you’ve got to be on your toes and pitch well. A lot of times you really pitch to a six-hitter lineup. You can’t do that with these guys.
“There’s no question, Jankowski’s a dangerous guy. He runs well, he’s obviously got plus-plus speed. He’s really progressed in the last 12 months—he’s not the same player he was as a freshman or sophomore. I think the Cape helped him out a lot. He used to hit everything the other way, now he’s pulling the ball a lot. He’s either going to hit a double out of the box or he’ll steal second base, or they’ll move him over with the hit-and-run. He’s an impact, impact guy. He’s the one guy you want to keep off base. Carmona and Tissenbaum can hurt you, but those guys are a lot better hitters when they’ve got Jankowksi on base. He goes first to third so well. He puts so much pressure on defenses to be perfect. His speed is just unbelievable in the outfield, he catches up to balls that most guys don’t. We hit some doubles in the gaps and all of a sudden he’s underneath them.
“Tissenbaum is a great contact hitter. But he’s also a great big-game hitter. You watch what happened in regionals, he was their two-out RBI guy, their clutch hitter. In their lineup he’s probably their big-hit guy of them all. Jankowski is the table setter, and this kid drives him in. He’s very solid defensively, certainly a draftable guy this year. He was one of those guys that, scouts are always looking for the big-name guy or the big-tool guy. Tissenbaum is one of the best college players I’ve seen. Maybe it’s not great range or big tools, but he makes all the plays. He’s a total baseball player.
“Carmona hits the ball as hard as anybody. he’s another guy that I’ve heard so much about, ‘He’s got no position.’ I’m baffled that the scouts aren’t talking about this kid higher than they are. He’s a heck of a hitter, a switch-hitter with power from both sides of the plate—how many times do you see that? He doesn’t have a lot of holes either, not a lot of swing-and-miss pitches you can go after with him. He’s certainly a mistake hitter, when you put the ball across the middle of the plate, he can jump on it. You’ve got to keep the ball down and away or really, really in on him.
“The other guys are all very similar, contact guys who run well. Goldstein is a tremendous runner; he’s going to be a good player when he gets older. Peragine again is a good runner, doesn’t have as many stolen bases but gets big hits. Cantwell is one of my favorite players, like another coach in the field. Great catcher, good feel for the game, obviously got a hell of an arm. He just really catches the game. I know they put him in the 2-hole, and he’s such a good leader on the field that I can see why Senk puts him there. Nivins, if he can get hot, he’s the one guy that struggled a little bit down the stretch, and I don’t think he had a lot of big hits in the regionals. But he’s a good player, he usually has some power too, surprised his power numbers are down. Good player. Courtney is dangerous, because he sits over at first base and plays a good first base, but he hits down in the No. 9 spot, and he’s got some lefthanded power. Probably the most dangerous No. 9 hitter around.
They don’t make many mistakes defensively. You can see it in the games they played down there (in regionals). They play on turf, it’s interesting to see them play on grass now and still play quality defense. I think the only weakness is Carmona makes some errors. He’s got a big arm, but kind of a block it and throw kind of guy. They have one of the best catchers around—I think he just went in third round. And Peragine and Tissenbaum are very solid up the middle.
“Johnson has a little more movement than McNitt—those are their two best arms that are starters. But they’re very similar guys, not overpowering guys. The other thing is Stecko-Haley is their third guy, more that tall, harder thrower guy, 90-91 but a little straighter, gets hit harder. He certainly is very capable also. But their strength is the bullpen. The kid Campbell is outstanding, a 94 mph arm that kind of blossomed. He has a very good power slider too—that’s his strikeout pitch. (Reliever) Frankie Vanderka is a carbon copy of McNitt. They’re both 85-87, a lot of two-seamers, a lot of changeups. Their breaking balls are their third pitches, but they throw them for strikes. These guys are always in pitchers’ counts, not a lot of hitters’ counts. Johnson is about the same, only about 85-86 at best, but he’s got great movement, unbelievable movement. He really, really goes after you too. (Righthander Joshua) Mason will come in and throw in a setup type of role. They’re all the same type of guys, except for Campbell. You can clone all those guys.
“To beat them, you need to pitch, pitch, pitch, and you’d better hit your spots, because if you leave balls up, they’re going to get hit. Either that or you’d better be ready to come out and score a bunch of runs.”
Coach: Paul Mainieri.
Postseason History: Ninth super regional appearance (last in 2009). Seeking 16th trip to Omaha (last in 2009).
Postseason Route: No. 1 seed in Baton Rouge Regional. Won in three games, beating Oregon State in the final.
“No doubt, the pitching is their greatest strength. What is there to say about Kevin Gausman? Not only is he very talented, but he’s a true competitor on the mound. He anchors a very good staff. You’re running out the fourth pick overall, you have to feel good about your chances in game one. To beat him, your pitcher has to hold their offense to zero to one run, that’s the key. Whenever you face a pitcher like Gausman, it has a lot to do with what your starting pitcher does against their offense. If there’s going to be an inning or two where he walks a guy or there’s an error, you’ve got to execute and push runners across. Most of the time you beat those guys 1-0, 2-1, maybe 3-2. You talk about his command, it looks like over the course of the year he’s gotten better and better. The breaking ball’s much improved, his changeup’s terrific, that’s his second-best pitch. And of course the fastball’s electric. When he can command it, especially down in the zone, then elevate it when he wants to, it’s really really tough on hitters.
“The guy who’s been pitching really, really well for them, especially of late, is the freshman Nola. He’s got good stuff from a three-quarters slot, the fastball is down and has sink, and he throws a ton of strikes. He’s a tough No. 2. Eades has as good of stuff as anybody around; the fastball will be up to 94, 95, 96, he has a very good breaking ball, and he is very athletic on the mound. Their three starters are as good as anyone out there.
“At the back end of the bullpen, Goody was unhittable for most of the year, I think he got roughed up a couple times late. Then they do a good job with (lefthanders Chris) Cotton and (Brett) Bonvillain, then (righties Nick) Rumbelow and (Joey) Bourgeois, they do a great job of playing matchups and putting their guys in position to have success to get to Goody at the end. Goody comes right at you. He’s a strike-thrower, and he just gets after you—it’s 90-93 with a really good breaking ball. When he comes in, they have a lot of confidence that they’ll win. Cotton, he’s more of the 84-86 mph lefty that has an OK breaking ball and a lot of pitchability. They do a lot of great job of bringing him in right after one of those hard-throwing righthanders, now you’re going to get a different look. Other times they’ll use Bonvillain to come in and face lefties, he’ll be 87-90 if not even a little better at times and have a good slider that’s tough on lefthanded hitters.
“I think Rumbelow has a really good breaking ball. He’ll come in and throw it a lot, but he’s got a good fastball as well, will run it up to 92 mph. Bourgeois is probably similar to Rumbelow, maybe more of a slider guy, but it’s not as good as Rumbelow’s breaking ball. That’s basically what they do, those four guys—Cotton, Bonvillain, Rumbelow and Bourgeois, they can go right-left-right-left, whatever they need to do to take it from the starter to Goody.
“Offensively, I think they’re scrappy. I think they’re guys that compete. I think they’ve gotten better as the season’s gone along. The early report on them was they weren’t offensive and they were free swingers who would chase, but as the season’s progressed, those guys have gotten more at-bats. You have great senior leadership out of Nola and Hanover, guys like that. Offensively they’ve seemed to click a little bit. I think it’s an offense that’s much different from the one at the beginning of the year. I think they can be dangerous. The glaring thing is they’re righthanded hitter-laden, they don’t have a lot of lefties. But they compete and do a good job, finding ways to score runs.
“Katz, that guy does not get cheated. He takes hacks. He has bad intentions every time he swings the bat. He’s looking to drive the ball every chance he gets. Certainly he’s the guy that’s the biggest power threat in the middle of the lineup. He’s pitchable but he can fool you, because he will make adjustments if you attack him a certain way. You just can’t fall into patterns. The thing that Rhymes does at the plate is he has a great approach, a very quick, short swing, and obviously has great hand-eye coordination. And he just stays in the middle of the field, hits everything right back up the middle. He does a great job staying on pitches. He’s one of those guys who’s just been locked in all year.
“When you talk about their defense, the one guy you have to talk about is Nola at shortstop. He makes every play. He makes the routine plays look easy and the hard plays look easy. He is phenomenal. He’s a senior, he provides such a presence out there, and he’s so consistent. I don’t think Nola gets enough credit. Even offensively, what he does at the top of the lineup, I’m sure he’s hitting around .300, but it’s a loud .300. I feel like he gets a lot of big hits. You’re talking about a guy who’s been there, done it—he’s just the anchor of that infield. But as well, Hanover’s been there for four years, a tough, gritty player. You talk about those guys on the left side, they anchor that defense. JaCoby Jones is a very good athlete, a guy I think that will figure it out at the plate. He’s got power, I think it’s just one of those years where maybe it hasn’t clicked for him exactly offensively, but a super talented player. Ty Ross does a solid job, receives OK, blocks OK, throws OK, just very solid. I think he’s provided a spark for them offensively too.
“I do think they’re a legitimate national championship contender. You talk about their starting pitching, their bullpen, defensively they’re playing very well and offensively they’re playing better toward the end of the season. They’ve gone to some big places and won series. I think they went to Florida and won that series. You have to believe they’re as good as anybody Friday night, game one. The rest of their pitching keeps them in every game. Defensively they’re not going to beat themselves. If they can continue to scratch out runs, they’ll be tough.
“I think the one thing that’s going to get Stony Brook—of course they’re going to face Mr. Gausman, but they’re also going to face Alex Box Stadium. I don’t know that those kids have faced an environment like that in their life.”
St. John’s (40-21) at Arizona (41-17)
Friday: 3 p.m. (ESPN2HD)
Saturday: 3 p.m. (ESPN2HD)
Sunday: 4 p.m. (ESPN2HD)
Coach: Ed Blankmeyer.
Postseason History: First super regional appearance. Seeking seventh trip to Omaha (last in 1980).
Postseason Route: No. 3 seed in Chapel Hill regional. Won in three games, beating North Carolina in the final.
“They’re pretty talented, man. They’re very old, they have a lot of experience. These (juniors) were freshmen when they were in the Virginia regional championship when Virginia was really good. They’ve got three really good experienced starters. Hansen’s kind of a wild card, because he can beat anybody. When you get Hansen and he’s on, he can really, really pitch and shut you down and can get some punchouts. He’s a bit of a three-quarters arm slot guy. He’ll pitch 89-91, then the next thing you know he’ll get some 94s and 95s when he needs it, with a really good slider. He’s kind of a loose kid, you don’t always know if you’re getting his best shot, most focus. But when he wants to win, he can win pretty easy. You get a lot of kids frozen off of him, with the size and the arm angle and everything. He can compete too; I’d take him in a heartbeat.
“The best guy they’ve got is the lefty, Hagan. He’s the best guy. He held North Carolina down in that game last week. It’s just pitchability. A big kid, 87-88, three pitches for strikes, fields his position—he just does it all. He’ll give up some hits, but he’s not giving up many runs. Nothing knocks you out, but he’ll throw one a little faster, one a little slower, one that knocks you off. He’s the best guy on their staff.
“Carasiti has been pretty good his last couple starts. It’s definitely a plus arm. I think he’s the third guy out of the staff. He was 90-92 as a starter, just trying to pitch. I’ve seen him up to 96 when he was the closer, and it was just grip it and rip it. I think he’s learned how to pitch a little more this year. He’s got a split, a little slider, but the fastball and the movement on the fastball are the things.
“The bullpen can really match up with you, because they have (lefthanders Brendan) Lobban and (Kevin) Kilpatrick, two senior arms, they were the two starters last year. They can really pitch. And they have two righties, Rivera and (James ) Lomangino. Rivera’s not special but it’s good, 88-90, good curveball and change and really knows how to pitch. The two lefties are maybe mid-80s guys, maybe a tick more. Just four older guys that will come out and throw strikes under pressure.
“Baltz is a very good player, a very good hitter. He’s a big kid, but I think if you look up his stolen bases, he runs the bases. He does a lot of good things for you. He’s the guy that hits the good pitching, he can hit everybody, just a good player. Everything’s clutch. When they need a hit, he can hit against anybody. He’s the guy that scares you the most in that lineup. They have one other really good guy in the Wessinger kid. He’s gotten a lot better. I didn’t think he was a great player earlier in his career, but I think he went pretty high in the draft (fifth round). They lost a shortstop (recruit) late, nobody thought Wessinger could do it, but he did, and he had a great offensive year. Those two are the heart and soul of that offense. Wessinger’s just a good runner, not like a Trea Turner. But I think half his stolen bases are stealing third. He’s athletic and he bounces around at short. You need that, need to be able to cover some ground up the middle.
“The rest of the lineup is just good players. There’s no special guy outside of those two. Those two guys are really good. The other guys, they play just like their head coach just very gritty, tough, hard-nosed New York City kids. Every (guy) is like the same, they all play hard, man. There’s a couple seniors, a couple young kids, and they play hard until the last out’s made. I think they got better as the year went on defensively. They’re solid on defense, they’re not great. That may be what hurts them. Bethea’s fine back there, wasn’t bad but you also don’t remember him a ton. Baltz, you’d call him average out there. The center fielder can run and catch balls.
“The pitching’s a little high end, got a couple good hitters in there. But they just really compete. They’re just tough kids, man, they play hard. And they’re playing well right now.”
Coach: Andy Lopez.
Postseason History: Third super regional (last in 2008). Seeking 16th trip to Omaha (last in 2004).
Postseason Route: No. 1 seed in Tucson Regional. Won in three games, beating Louisville in the final.
“It’s a really good team that is really hot. And they just play really well in that ballpark. You kind of get suckered into playing up and then it’s all triples. And ground balls are rockets. They play it about as good as anybody. They come out of the box hard, they play hard, they’re very aggressive on the bases, and they’re pretty physical. They look to take the extra base right out of the box. Those guys don’t try to hit homers. They backspin homers, but they’re trying to use the gaps, hit doubles and triples, hard contact through the middle of the diamond. They can really chop that ball and use the hard dirt—they’ll chop it as high as the roof of my house. And they get out of the box hard because they get rewarded for it with infield hits. They can cover some ground, and in that yard, you have to really, really be able to cover ground in the outfield. You’d better cover some ground, because otherwise it will be triple after triple after triple. But you see what they did in their regional. They just kind of destroyed the field. It was pretty impressive.
“Position player-wise, I thought they’re great. They may be the best position player group in the country, the way they play together. They’re all physical, all can run, and right now they’re all swinging it. That’s the exciting thing about them. Their shortstop, Mejia, is an absolute stud. You would think he and Mejias-Brean have played together their entire life. I’ve never seen two infielders move and talk and communicate the whole game like those guys do. They really play aggressive, just two really good players. Those three dudes in the outfield, they’re really good college players too. They all run, they all defend, they all throw. They’re just all good players, not the one-dimensional kind of guy. They all kind of play the game the same way. The first five guys are all righthanded, good bodies and they all run. Mejia is their three-hole hitter, and he has their most sac bunts. There’s not a real big mule four-hole hitter, but it feels like you’re facing five three-holes. Field’s leading their team in hitting in the two-hole. It’s a nice lineup the way it works. Some of their younger guys are at the bottom, but they’re playing well too. The sixth hitter, Brown the DH, a lefthanded hitter, he’s good too. The freshman catcher Riley Moore, then Gilbert and they platoon Maggi and Brandon Dixon. I think Maggi’s a little better defensively. They flip them depending on the matchups.
“The key to beating them is you’ve got to be able to beat them inside when you pitch to them. They like the ball away from them, they do a good job to right-center, they kind of dive and hook. It’s an older team. You think about Mejias-Brean, Mejia, Refsnyder, Rickard—they all have been in the starting lineup virtually every day for three years now. But if there is any one person who makes that team go, it’s Mejia. He’s in front of every single ball, it’s amazing. And he’s the leader on defense; the way they communicate on the field, it’s special.
“They’re a great defensive team, they’re a great baserunning team, and put the offense with it, they’re just very well rounded. It’s almost like they’ve got coaches all over the field. It’s like the third baseman is running the scouting report out of third base. Usually I’m having to scream at guys left and right, but their guys are talking, running, they really know how to play the games.
“Heyer’s a stud, with pitchability. The stuff is good, but the pitchability is great. You can see why he’s done what he’s done this year. They are really good defensively, so they take a lot of hits away. What happens is, he probably gives up a little bit of contact here and there, but they make up for it. It’s 88-90 with a good slider. maybe touches some 92s, but it’s not like overbearing stuff, just really knows how to pitch. The Wade kid, if somebody keeps the game tight, I don’t know if he’s going to handle it. You feel like they’re ready to take him out at any moment. As soon as we got a guy to third, he wanted to go right back to the windup. It just seemed like there wasn’t a lot of confidence out there. It’s a lot of HBPs. He’s a big inning waiting to happen. Once he settles in, his last five or six starts haven’t been great, because he has that one big inning.
“Farris is a competitor. Solid stuff, probably 85-87, pitched off the fastball, flipped some breaking balls in there. Third starter with a great defense behind him. We had hits off him, but he buckled down when he needed to. It just wasn’t special. You’re getting good swings on him. I think that’s how you do beat them—those next two guys, Wade and Farris. Their weakness is definitely going to be their pitching.
“In the bullpen, Troupe attacks the strike zone, pretty good fastball, 88-91, and has the slider and the change. He kind of throws at times uphill where he gets underneath the ball, but it’s effective for him because he’s down enough and the ball almost rises up and is on a hitter. The lefty (Tyler) Crawford was 83-86, and he struggled with command. (Righty Tyler) Hale was 88-91 with a curveball, attacked the zone. But if there’s one area they’re vulnerable, that’s it. If you can get their starter out early and get into their bullpen, you’ve got a pretty good shot.
“They’re fun to watch. I think they could go deep. They’re going to match up great on opening night, with Heyer. And you’re going to fight them that next game. Those guys aren’t awful by any means, but usually when you get into a super regional, you’re facing two or three good dudes. The other guys keep them in the game. I think they can win it all if the pitching holds up. I know Florida has good position players, but I would take Arizona’s. That is a great group of position players. The attitude they have, it wasn’t cocky, but they play the game of baseball, and they love it.”
Stanford (41-16) at No. 3 Florida State (46-15)
Friday: 7 p.m. (ESPN2HD)
Saturday: 6 p.m. (ESPN2HD)
Sunday: 7 p.m. (ESPN2HD)
Coach: Mark Marquess.
Postseason History: Ninth super regional appearance (second straight). Seeking 17th trip to Omaha (last in 2008).
Postseason Route: No. 1 seed in Palo Alto Regional. Won in three games, beating Pepperdine in the final.
“I think offensively, physically, they’re just scary. It’s one of the biggest teams we’ve seen, overall, when you’re looking at Wilson and Stewart and Gaffney and Piscotty and (Kenny) Diekroeger and Ragira. All those guys, then you throw in Smith hitting .330 on top of them, and he’s kind of in that mold of (former Stanford catcher) Zach Jones, just a really good catch-and-throw guy. He’s just solid; you get through those good offensive players and here he comes, and he can hurt you too.
“I think offensively they’re vulnerable against a real good righthanded pitcher, or a lefty who can throw the change, come inside, elevate, really command his fastball. They’re pretty fastball-aggressive, but if you locate your fastball well, I think they’ll get themselves out, because they’re aggressive with the fastball. But they can change the game with one swing. I think their offense changed a little for the better once Blandino got in the lineup, because he provided a lot of power. Where you thought some of those other guys would provide it, he provides it. Wilson is dangerous. He plays hard and he can run, and if you leave a ball out over the plate, he can double or homer because he’s that strong. Piscotty, obviously, is a very good offensive player. (Kenny) Diekroeger’s dangerous. I don’t think Diekroeger scares me as much as what Piscotty and Wilson and Ragira can do at the plate, or even Blandino right now. With (Kenny) Diekroeger, it’s tough to get a feel for him, because sometimes you think he’s a breaking ball out, other times you feel like you can beat him inside. I think freshman year, he was a better hitter than he is now. With that being said, I think this year he’s a way better hitter than he was last year. I don’t know what was going on in his head last year, but he’s much better now. But I still think that he’s pretty pitchable.
“I think there’s no doubt Stewart and Wilson have improved. Last year, Wilson struggled, especially for the first three quarters of the year, with good velocity. I think he’s better with that, better with the breaking ball, shorter to the ball. With him, he wants the ball up, out and over the plate, let me get extended and see what happens. When he barrels it, he’s so strong that the ball jumps off his bat, too. You’ve got to be able to tie him up, but when you go in, you’d better get it in. Stewart, I still think there’s swing and miss there, but he’s done a better job of not missing his pitch when he gets it. He used to just foul it off, but now he hits it, and he’s dangerous because he’s strong and he can run. I think he has improved at the plate, without a doubt.
“Piscotty, overall, is their best hitter. I think he gets into some counts, guys see who he is and they’re fearful of throwing the fastball, but a lot of times that’s how you get him out. Beat him away, expand away. He can hammer the cookie breaking ball, the get-me-over early in the count. He’s looking for ball up and out over the plate, and he can hit it. Especially when he gets into hit mode with runners in scoring position. Their whole team is in swing mode with runners in scoring position. You’re not going to see them take a whole lot. The thing that makes Piscotty dangerous is he can hit to right-center, center and left. He’s not a one-field hitter. He has enough juice to hit the gap in right-center, and enough power to hit it out to left. I think that Ragira’s one of those guys with men in scoring position you don’t want to face, because he swings and he swings a lot. And a lot of times those guys are dangerous, because you try to set them up and punch them out, but before you set them up, he’s put the ball in play to drive in a run.
“They can get the extra-base hit, they can pound it over the outfielder’s head. So offensively I think they’re pretty strong. They got behind against Pepperdine, the next thing you know they hit a homer and they were back out in front. But I think they have to hold on for dear life on the mound, other than when Appel pitches.
“I think the thing with Mooneyham is, if Mooneyham’s on, you’re in trouble. He has good enough stuff that when he throws his breaking ball and his change, and commands his fastball some, you’ll be in for a tough day. Because it’ll be 91 and a curveball, all arms and legs and deceptive, it’s seven innings with nine strikeouts and one run. Or, he could be four walks in two innings and four hits and the next thing you know it’s five runs. So it depends on what they’re getting from him that day, which is tough. Piscotty’s only been pitching really the last five or six weeks, and he’s done a nice job. But it’s predominantly a fastball from a lower slot. Probably his inexperience on the mound will show up some. They’ve been winning the majority of Appel’s games, so they’re 1-0 on the weekend, and they’re hitting enough to win the other ones. I think if they lose Appel’s game, they’re in trouble.
“Appel’s second half of the year, the strikeout numbers he’s putting up, I didn’t see necessarily coming. Because for a long time, it was always, when he pitched, the hitters would come back and feel like it was a comfortable at-bat, over the last couple years. It was firm, it was going to be 94-96, but you could see it, and he had to throw his breaking ball for a strike, because the fastball was somewhat straight. It was hard, so some guys he could beat up with the fastball, but he would leave it out over the plate where you could whack it. The last part of the year he’s just been putting up great games of eight or nine innings with two runs or less, and a lot of 10-strikeouts games, it seems like.
“I think they’ve done better at the end of the game, because I think Vanegas has done a nice job of closing some things out. It seems like he’s found a split-change deal, and he’s got the breaking ball, but the breaking ball hasn’t turned into the pitch that everyone thought it might turn into. But I hear he’s starting to flash a lot of 96s, and if that’s the case, it makes it really tough. But I think you’re going to get a pitch to hit against him, if you’re on time. (David) Schmidt was kind of like their go-to guy earlier in the year; it’s got some arm-side run and sink, a little breaking ball but mainly fastball. He’s a freshman, so he’ll miss out over the plate. (Dean) McArdle, it depends on what he is that day. I think that’s kind of the issue with them on the mound this year, the inconsistencies. The (Sahil) Bloom kid has done a nice job for them being a little more reliable. I think it’s 88 with a breaking ball and a change, just kind of a spot-up guy with a decent breaking ball. I don’t think the stuff is overwhelming, but he competes and can hit his spots. He’s done a real nice job of keeping them in some games or giving them a chance if the starter didn’t do well.
“Blandino, I think, is an upgrade defensively from Piscotty at third, in a big way. I think (injured shortstop Lonnie) Kauppila could make highlight plays at shortstop, but then he could just totally airmail a routine play. I think there’s more range there with Kauppila than with Diekroeger, I think Kauppila has a better glove than Diekroeger. I think Diekroeger does just fine, he can move around well. I thought he did a real nice job at third a couple years ago. But I think they’re vulnerable a little bit defensively in the middle. I think Ragira’s turned himself into a decent first baseman, but I don’t think it’s gold glove material. But at the same rate, I think all three of those guys can drive in runs. I think they’re good in the outfield. Stewart’s really good in center, Wilson is really good in right, and he has an absolute rifle for an arm. Depending who’s in left, whether Piscotty or Gaffney, it’s serviceable.
“Overall, it’s tough not to like that team with how physical they are compared with everybody else. The thing that scares me the most is if they do get shut down, can they shut the other team down, beyond Appel? Because I think Mark has shown that he can do that on a consistent basis. It’s a coin flip what you’ll get from the other guys.”
Coach: Mike Martin.
Postseason History: 12th super regional appearance (fifth straight). Seeking 21st trip to Omaha (last in 2010).
Postseason Route: No. 1 seed in Tallahassee Regional. Won in three games, beating Samford in the final.
“The big thing they have is a veteran ballclub position-wise. They’ve got seniors and juniors all over the field. With Ramsey, and Johnson at third, Gonzalez at short, Travis at second, Jayce Boyd at first—those guys have been around forever it seems like, and those guys are really good players too. I think they’ve got one of the best defensive infields I’ve ever seen in college baseball. All four of those guys—and Boyd’s a plus defender at first—those four guys can really, really play defense. That’s probably why those freshmen on the mound, Leibrandt and Compton, they’re like, ‘Screw it, I’ll just throw it over the plate, these guys are going to hit it on the ground, and my guys are going to take care of it.’ Because they do. Sherman Johnson, especially, that guy’s killed us making plays for the past three, four years. He just makes plays. And Gonzalez is solid at short, Travis will surprise you, kind of a bigger-bodied kid but will surprise you with his athleticism, being able to make the slow roller. Jayce Boyd, he’s so athletic that you think he could play the outfield, but you watch some of the plays he makes at first base, you see why he’s playing there. He’s saving throws from the infielders, or making plays in the four-hole that a normal first baseman wouldn’t even think about getting there. That’s a difference. If the ball’s hit on the ground, there’s a great chance it’s going to be caught.
“They’re a solid club that plays with a lot of swagger, and that comes from playing in that program and that coaching staff, and James Ramsey. He’s an unbelievable person and leader, they all look up to him. He plays the game the right way, and they just feed off it. Ramsey’s a plus defender in the outfield, probably an average thrower. He has unbelievable hand-eye coordination, he can get fooled but still gets the barrel on the ball. The one thing that will shock you is the dude can really fly. I got him a couple times 3.97 (seconds down the line to first base) on swings. The way his swing is, if he hits the ball on the ground, he’s always kind of jail-breaking, but that’s the way he swings all the time. As soon as you hang him a breaking ball, he hits the ball over that green monster down there at Florida State. He’s just a tremendous player, and obviously he made the right decision to come back to school.
“Sherman Johnson is what they need for leadoff, a patient guy, will take a strike, try to get on. Travis is good, I think you can beat him with a fastball—he has a little bit of slider bat speed, but if he runs into one he can hit it into the gap. Gonzalez has some juice, he’s scary because he hits in the bottom of the order and he can jump up on you. Boyd’s power is to the opposite field, he’s got those long arms and the leverage, he’ll go the other way. You’ve got to get in there, because he wants to get extended. He wants you to throw him a breaking ball or a fastball away. He doesn’t want any part of the ball in.
“McGee is solid, he’s a solid player, but a below-average thrower. Their pitchers do a great job of controlling the running game, but if you can run and not get picked off, you can steal bags all day. If they match up with a team that can really run and get guys on, he’s going to get exposed. I really like Delph; I think he’s really going to hit over his career. He’s an average player otherwise but I think he’ll hit. Brizuela has some athleticism and spark to him; I think he’ll be good too.
“Their pitching staff’s strength is their bullpen. What they do with those freshman arms and the other guys is they try to get five to six innings out of them. I think they’ve got three or four lefties in the pen, one sidearm righty and another righty, then Benincasa is really good. They try to get five or six innings from the starters, then bam, to the matchup bullpen. Leibrandt can pitch, 85-87, good changeup, really good pickoff move, so he does a good job controlling runners. Compton’s numbers are really good, he’s got enough, throws an 87-89 mph sinker, kind of a slinger with a decent slider. Scott Sitz, he’s OK. He’s kind of like Compton: 87-90 with a decent feel for his breaking ball, but his job is to throw strikes, get it to the sixth inning and turn it over to the bullpen. It’s nothing special or overpowering, just fill up the zone with a three-pitch mix.
“After that, the other guys are just average until you get to Benincasa. I think he’s really, really good. He’s 89-92 with a plus breaking ball, and he can throw the breaking ball anytime he wants for a strike, and command of the breaking ball is really, really good. Gage Smith, the sidearmer, is good against righties. (Lefthander Brian) Busch and (righty Hunter) Scantling are serviceable. The one thing they do, and they’ve always done it at FSU, their guys out of the bullpen can throw strikes with the slider anytime they want. They’ll bring Scanting in and it’s slider, slider, slider, slider. Then Busch will come in and throw fastballs from a sidearm angle, and throw the breaking ball over the top. They’re serviceable, not great, but got enough combinations.
“They have a system. If you talk to pro guys in the fall when they see Florida State, they say, ‘They’re not going to be very good this year,’ and every year they win 50 games. That’s the way they coach, and the kids buy into the system. It’s a typical Florida State team: some decent talent, a good college player in Ramsey, but it’s not like they’re Stanford or Florida, having seven guys go off the board in the top five rounds. But that’s a credit to their coaching staff.”