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By Will Kimmey
College baseball is down to its Sweet 16, and we're just a week away from the College World Series. We've told you about these teams all year, but in one of the season's most exciting weekends, we turn the analysis over to professional area scouts and college assistant coaches who have watched the 16 remaining teams during the season.
These four super-regionals will be played Friday, Saturday and Sunday (if necessary). All times are Eastern. The four winners will open College World Series play Friday, June 18.
• Vanderbilt (45-17) at Texas (53-13, No. 1 national seed)
• Florida State (45-21) at Arkansas (43-22, No. 8 national seed)
• Arizona (33-24) at Long Beach State (39-19)
• Georgia (41-21) at Georgia Tech (44-19, No. 4 national seed)
These four super-regionals will be played Saturday, Sunday and Monday (if necessary). All times are Eastern. The four winners will open College World Series play Saturday, June 19.
• East Carolina (51-11) at South Carolina (48-15, No. 2 national seed)
• Tulane (41-19) at Cal State Fullerton (40-21)
• Texas A&M (42-20) at Louisiana State (44-17)
• Florida (43-20) at Miami (47-11, No. 3 national seed)
No. 15 VANDERBILT at No. 2 TEXAS
Coach: Tim Corbin (second year at Vanderbilt).
How Vandy Got Here: Won the Charlottesville, Va., regional in three games, beating No. 1 seed Virginia in the final.
Fab Five: Jr. LHP Jeremy Sowers (10-5, 2.64 with 118 strikeouts, 23 walks in 119 innings); So. 2B Warner Jones (.417-10-72 with 27 doubles); So. LHP Ryan Mullins (9-2, 2.36 with 95 strikeouts, 19 walks in 107 innings); Sr. 1B Cesar Nicolas (.341-15-70); Jr. SS Ryan Klosterman (.346-7-32 with 16 steals).
Lowdown on the Commodores: "I think Vanderbilt can beat Texas. Vanderbilt is very similar to Texas, but I think Vandy has more offense compared to Texas. They don't have the (same) depth, but they have more power. You have to figure out a way to get that little second baseman out. Warner Jones is just a baseball player. He has ability to swing the heck out of it. We didn't throw him any strikes the whole series, and we just couldn't get him out. He's the heart and soul of that team. (Cesar) Nicolas, the first baseman, he can hit and I don't know why he wasn't drafted last year (as a junior). Ryan Klosterman is a solid shortstop and leadoff man and makes them real good up the middle.
"With those lefties, they can dominate you in games one and two. You'd better be ready or Sowers will shut you down, and Mullins is pretty good, too.
"They pitch and play great defense and make you earn your runs. They play phenomenal defense and led the SEC in fielding percentage. To beat them, you just have to play as good defensively as they play and pitch like they do and hopefully outlast them. It's not real easy. The one thing is they didn't play great on the road in the SEC, so you might wonder about that."
Coach: Augie Garrido (seventh season at Texas; 10 trips to Omaha, including seven with Cal State Fullerton; four CWS titles, one with Texas)
How Texas Got Here: Swept through the Austin regional in three games, beating Oral Roberts in the final.
Fab Five: Jr. LHP J.P. Howell (13-2, 2.24 with 140 strikeouts and 44 walks in 117 innings); Jr. RHP Huston Street (5-1, 1.49 with 12 saves); So. RHP Sam LeCure (8-3, 2.35 with 103 strikeouts and 30 walks in 107 innings); Jr. C/1B Curtis Thigpen (.363-6-43 with 25 doubles); Fr. CF Drew Stubbs (.305-6-39 with 27 steals).
Lowdown on the Longhorns: "What's so important about Texas to me is they play the game without looking at the scoreboard. They play a nine-inning game and count on you to make mistakes and lose it. Texas just plays the game itself so well. They do not beat themselves. They're real tough to beat on that turf. If you're going to beat them, it will have to be how N.C. State did it--get amazing pitching.
"Texas has unreal pitching depth. The only thing I've seen close to it was the USA national team. They have as good depth on a college staff as I've ever seen. They have guys in their bullpen that throw 90-92 (mph) without other out pitches. Against Howell, we wanted to sit on his curveball, but I saw it and told our guys they just weren't going to have a chance. I just told them to look for a fastball up and try to slap it. Sam LeCure is good too; he has a good feel and command and works fast.
"They have just enough depth in their lineup in position players they can match up with you with a lefthanded hitter late. They don't have a lot of power. It's mostly (Curtis) Thigpen and (Taylor) Teagarden. Seth Johnston has some pop at second base. Stubbs is a super talent, and if he makes contact, look out. He's young, so pitch selection isn't a strong suit. They aren't afraid to give up an out to move a runner, and they'll hit and run and bunt. They take advantage of every opportunity and get big hits. That's what you have to do against them if you want to win.
No. 12 FLORIDA STATE at No. 8 ARKANSAS
Florida State Seminoles
Coach: Mike Martin (25th season at Florida State; 12 trips to Omaha).
How FSU Got Here: Won the Tallahassee, Fla., regional in four games, beating Central Florida in the final.
Fab Five: Jr. SS Stephen Drew (.353-17-55 with 12 steals); So. OF Eddy Martinez-Esteve (.391-19-81 with 23 doubles); Fr. 1B Ryne Malone (.330-12-54); Sr. RHP Rhett James (10-2, 3.26 with 91 strikeouts and 31 walks in 105 innings); Sr. 2B Bryan Zech (.347-8-45).
Lowdown on the Seminoles: "Early on if you asked me the weakness I would have said pitching. But they always find a way. Mike Martin is a great coach. What he did this year was they were struggling early, and a lot of the guys starting now came out of the bullpen early on. He just moved Rhett James and (Tyler) Chambliss and (Brian) Schultz into the rotation and now they're winning. James has command of the strike zone and can throw his slider for strikes when he wants to. Now (Mark) Sauls and (Eddie) Cannon are decent in the bullpen after being starters earlier, and either can still make a start if they need it.
"That lineup has developed as the year has gone on. You don't want Drew and Martinez-Esteve to beat you, but (Aaron) Cheesman and Malone are getting some hits behind them now, and don't sleep on the little center fielder Shane Robinson. These guys are coming up after Drew and Martinez-Esteve and cleaning up. They don't always hit the homer or doubles those guys do, but they keep things going with singles and getting on base. You can beat Drew and Martinez-Esteve inside with a fastball, but you can't miss in there. Mostly you just have to pitch them backward.
"The defense is solid up the middle with Drew and Zech and Robinson, but you might be able to beat them to first base with the short game because Malone hasn't played there a whole lot."
Coach: Dave Van Horn (second season at Arkansas; two trips to Omaha, both with Nebraska).
How Arkansas Got Here: Won the Fayetteville, Ark., regional in five games, beating Wichita State twice on the final day.
Fab Five: So. RHP Charley Boyce (9-2, 3.18 with 77 strikeouts and 20 walks in 105 innings); Jr. LHP Clint Brannon (4-3, 3.33 with 68 strikeouts and 29 walks in 97 innings); Sr. LHP Jay Sawatski (10-3, 3.51 with five saves. 79 strikeouts and 21 walks in 85 innings); Sr. 1B Haas Pratt (.321-8-52); Fr. DH Danny Hamblin (.311-8-40).
Lowdown on the Razorbacks: "They're a blue-collar team, not a bunch of high-profile guys. They're scrappy, well coached and can really execute. They grind it out with solid pitching, solid defense and good hitting, but none of it's great. The catcher (Brady Toops) throws very well and the center fielder (Casey Rowlett) covers a ton of ground.
"Be ready to swing it against their pitchers; they're going to throw it in the zone. They just change speeds and I don't think there's one guy who throws in the 90s, but they've got depth and can match up. Sawatski is a good, solid guy who can throw three pitches for strikes. But Brannon is the guy I really like. He can just pitch. He knows how to pitch. He throws 88 with a sinking fastball and good breaking pitch. He can move it all around and then catch you looking at it.
"They're aggressive offensively and do a little bit of everything. They don't steal a lot and don't hit a lot of home runs, but they don't swing at bad pitches or strike out in key situations. They get a big play or a key hit right when they need it. They play like there's nothing to lose. The amazing thing about them is you don't ever know who's going to beat you. All those guys are hitting .300. They can do it with a senior in Pratt or a freshman with the left fielder (Jake Dugger). They came back a lot this year and did it against Wichita State twice last weekend."
No. 21 ARIZONA at No. 13 LONG BEACH STATE
Coach: Andy Lopez (third season at Arizona; three trips to Omaha, two with Florida, one with Pepperdine, where he won the 1992 CWS title).
How U of A Got Here: Won the South Bend, Ind., regional, beating host Notre Dame.
Fab Five: So. OF Trevor Crowe (.337-5-31 with 23 steals); Fr. SS Jason Donald (.323-7-41); So. 1B Jordan Brown (.326-11-53); Jr. RHP Koley Kolberg (9-6, 4.52 with 110 strikeouts and 59 walks in 131 innings); So. RHP John Meloan (8-0, 4.89 with 55 strikeouts and 33 walks in 70 innings).
Lowdown on the Wildcats: "There are some great athletes; they have that freshman shortstop and he's going to be pretty good. Crowe can hit and he can run. Offensively they are very difficult to pitch to because they don't strike out a lot and run deep counts.
"Arizona took some good passes at Weaver the first time they played, and his strikeouts were low. So you have to play good defense because you won't get nine, 10, 11 strikeouts. If you get the first guy out it strips their game plan in terms of bunting and hit-and-run. They can put one or two (runs) on the board any time because they are so feisty and have good at-bats, but don't have the thunder to get a bunch at once.
"They have good flexibility left and right and they can run, but there's no big power. The addition of Brown into the lineup in the middle of the year has added a middle-of-the-order threat. He hit 11 home runs in like half a season. One through nine, they can hit. Even (second baseman John) Hardy's down at the bottom and he's legit.
"Kolberg without question has the stuff to be a No. 1 guy. The whole staff turns on him. He will stay in the game a long time because there's not a lot of confidence in the bullpen. If you get in that bullpen, you can really get to them. Be patient with Kolberg. He's thrown a lot of pitches this year, and came back to close that one in the ninth last week, so he could be tiring. I think Arizona has its hands full."
Long Beach State 49ers
Coach: Mike Weathers (third season at Long Beach State).
How the Beach Got Here: Swept through the Palo Alto, Calif., regional, beating Stanford in the final.
Fab Five: Jr. RHP Jered Weaver (15-1, 1.65 with 201 strikeouts and 19 walks in 136 innings); So. LHP Cesar Ramos (11-4, 2.12 with 94 strikeouts and 33 walks in 127 innings); Jr. DH/LHP Jason Vargas (.355-5-32 and 7-6, 4.23 with 86 strikeouts and 29 walks in 104 innings); So. OF John Bowker (.332-7-41); So. SS Troy Tulowitski (.313-6-41).
Lowdown on the Dirtbags: "It's the same old song and dance for them. It's all about legit pitching and defense. They are going to hit enough at Blair Field. They tend to hit more away from Blair. There are capable hitters in that lineup. If they get to Omaha they will be an offensive team and can surprise some people. To beat Long Beach you need to keep it close. They play little ball, but play it closer to the vest because they know they can beat you 2-1. They're not going to put you away because they don't score enough. If you stay close, you can get a big hit late and make a comeback, like St. John's almost did (in regionals). Four runs might be enough to beat them sometimes.
"With Weaver and Ramos and Vargas, they have as good starting pitching as is left in the tournament. Can you get enough runs to beat them? No one's really proved it yet. There's nothing conventional about their pitchers. Weaver, the way he throws with that delivery and command, you don't see that much. Ramos just goes changeups and fastballs and command. The number three guy, Vargas, he's the most conventional using mostly his fastball. All those guys are like golfers in the tee box: They just focus on the pitch, and it doesn't matter if they give up three hits in a row, they still look like nothing's changed. I'm not thoroughly in love with their pen. (Neil) Jamison and (Brian) Anderson are OK, but they're not starting. It's a good bullpen, not a great one.
"Defensively, Tulowitski is really good at shortstop. (Brad) Davis is a Gold Glover behind the plate and (Mike) Hofius is Gold Glove caliber at first. Second base has been a trouble spot. They're ranked really high in defense, but they don't make as many plays as most teams because the pitchers get so many strikeouts."
No. 9 GEORGIA at No. 4 GEORGIA TECH
Coach: Dave Perno (third season at Georgia).
How UGa Got Here: Won the Athens, Ga., regional in four games, beating Clemson in the final.
Fab Five: Fr. 1B Josh Morris (.323-16-68); Jr. RHP Sean Ruthven (7-1, 2.97 with 81 strikeouts and 29 walks in 79 innings); So. RHP Michael Hyle (7-2, 2.90 with 49 strikeouts and 28 walks in 78 innings); So. LHP Will Startup (7-2, 2.35 with eight saves, 58 strikeouts and 20 walks in 69 innings); So. RHP Bo Lanier (3-1, 2.68 with two saves, 38 strikeouts and 17 walks in 40 innings).
Lowdown on the Bulldogs: "This was a real surprise for me. I saw them in the fall and early spring and thought they were going to be in trouble. Their biggest star is Morris. I think a lot of teams have just been pitching around him as the season went on. He's got great bat speed; don't test it. I couldn't tell you another name off the top of my head, but they're kind of like Arkansas because no one sticks out but anyone can get big hits. The lineup is OK. (Third baseman) Josh Smith is a singles guy and (Second baseman Marshall) Szabo is a scrapper that will surprise you with pop every now and then. They play good team ball and can manufacture a run when they need it.
"(Lefthander Paul) Lubrano, Ruthven and Hyle all stepped up and had a great year. They don't have the best stuff, but they really overachieved on the mound. Ruthven has been great on Friday night. He gets that big breaking ball in there for strikes and it throws you out of whack for the rest of the weekend. He's not lighting up radar guns (at 85 mph), but he's a real pitcher. As good as the arms are at Georgia Tech, Georgia's guys have pitched just as well.
"Their bullpen is phenomenal. It's better than Georgia Tech's. Startup is 92 and Lanier is 90-95 and can just blow you away with that fastball. They can go lefty or righty, and they have a lot of confidence in their club if they get to one of them in the sixth or seventh inning. If they have a chance to win (at that point), they just put it in the hands of those guys."
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Coach: Danny Hall (11th season at Georgia Tech; two trips to Omaha)
How Tech Got Here: Swept through the Atlanta regional in three games, beating Texas Tech in the final.
Fab Five: So. RHP/DH Micah Owings (9-2, 3.52 with 108 strikeouts and 39 walks in 107 innings and .324-15-64); Jr. 2B Eric Patterson (.326-8-47 with 47 steals); So. OF Steven Blackwood (.367-4-64 with 21 doubles); Jr. OF Brandon Boggs (.329-9-58); Jr. RHP Andrew Kown (10-1, 3.49 with 94 strikeouts and 34 walks in 106 innings).
Lowdown on the Jackets: "The thing about Georgia Tech is they are so streaky and go hot and cold, especially the hitters. If some guys are hot, they play like the Yankees, but when one goes cold, they all seem to. Patterson, when he's on base, he can do some damage and make things happen. You have to keep him off. Right fielder (Clifton) Remole is the sleeper for me--he was cold early but I bet he hit .400 during the second half. Micah, even if he's struggling, he can beat you. Boggs is the most consistent guy because he always has good at-bats. Blackwood's just a good hitter.
"They have the pitching to get all the way to the national championship if it's going well. Owings is a big-game guy; they used him as a starter and in relief, whatever role they needed him in. Kown really got better with every start. He's 6-foot-7 and can throw his breaking ball for strikes. (Righthander Brian) Burks is a little 5-foot-9 guy who can sink it and cut it. He can be the Sunday starter or the closer; he's a wild card that way.
"They have big range up the middle with (shortstop Tyler) Greene and Patterson in the infield, Boggs in center and (Mike) Nickeas behind the plate. I should have said Nickeas when I was talking about those hitters. He's not a .270 hitter like he was this year. It wouldn't surprise me if he proved that now.
"Because they're such a physical group, if you get ahead of them early it's your best chance. They haven't had to do a lot of situational stuff like team offense and they are definitely free-swinging."
No. 5 EAST CAROLINA at No. 3 SOUTH CAROLINA
East Carolina Pirates
Coach: Randy Mazey (second season at East Carolina).
How ECU Got Here: Swept through the Kinston, N.C., regional, beating UNC Wilmington in the final.
Fab Five: Sr. DH Ryan Jones (.402-19-69 with 24 doubles); So. 2B Trevor Lawhorn (.298-21-66); Jr. 1B Ryan Norwood (.383-14-62 with 32 doubles); Jr. RHP Greg Bunn (10-0, 2.66 with 109 strikeouts and 30 walks in 102 innings); Sr. OF Jamie Page (.362 with 67 runs and 18 steals).
Lowdown on the Pirates: "The starting pitching doesn't blow you away, but they just get the job done. Bunn has good stuff, not great, but a good breaking ball. He has a good offspeed pitch, his fastball is a little flat, but he knows how to pitch and works the corners. If you make him throw strikes, he would probably struggle if you got his pitch count up. After him, they have a deep staff and will use them all, so they'll be fresh. All those guys have good command with breaking balls and changeups. They don't have a ton of velocity, but they don't make many mistakes.
"Hitting-wise, one through eight is very good. Their shortstop (Billy Richardson) is average offensively, but he's a plus defender. Page is a great leadoff hitter, then Jones is the Conference USA player of the year. Then you've got both Lawhorns, then Norwood and it just keeps coming. They can put five, six or seven lefthanded hitters in there against a righthander and if you don't have a good lefty, they'll hurt you. Their (home) park is real conducive to home runs, but they hit them on the road, too. Some of them have a slow bat, and you can get in there (with a fastball), but you've got to be precise. I wouldn't mess around with offspeed stuff over the plate because they'll get it, and you can't throw predictable pitches in predictable counts.
"They can also bunt and steal and move runners to put pressure on you. They barely let an opposing pitcher catcher his breath. And they can beat you in a close one because Mark Minicozzi is a plus defender at third base and the outfielders all run well. They're legit in all three phases of the game. They're well balanced, and it's the best East Carolina team I've seen. They've got a legitimate shot to get to Omaha."
South Carolina Gamecocks
Coach: Ray Tanner (eighth season at South Carolina; two trips to Omaha).
How South Carolina Got Here: Swept through the Columbia, S.C., regional, beating North Carolina in the final.
Fab Five: Sr. C Landon Powell (.339-19-64); Jr. LHP Matt Campbell (9-4, 3.02 with 129 strikeouts and 29 walks in 107 innings); Jr. 1B Steve Pearce (.326-19-63) Jr. OF Brendan Winn (.313-18-64); Jr. RHP Chad Blackwell (4-3, 2.96 with 17 saves, 73 strikeouts and 12 walks in 55 innings).
Lowdown on the Gamecocks: "They always have that superstar senior. It was the third baseman Brian Buscher last year, and that big first baseman Yaron Peters the year before. Now it's Landon Powell. I like him. He's a big league catcher. He's very good offensively, he's a brick wall behind the plate and he handles a good pitching staff and makes them great. He and that whole lineup are so physical. Pearce can be pitched to, though. (Center fielder Davy) Gregg can fly in center field and covers ground, but they figured him out during the second half of the SEC season and he didn't get many more hits.
"They're very solid on the mound with a first-rounder (Campbell), a second-rounder (righthander Billy Buckner), and that bullpen is nasty. Campbell and (righthander Aaron) Rawl have so much experience and just throw strikes. Buckner missed time with mono. If he's healthy he can make a big difference, but he wasn't himself after he came back. (Freshman lefty Arik) Hempy is a good one, he's going to be a real premium guy in a couple years. The staff is deep, but they really just use six or seven guys--but those guys are usually enough.
"That guy's just a great coach. He gets his guys to play so well when it counts. Just like last year they had an awesome first half, then stumbled a little and then really turned it on down the stretch and in the tournament. I think everybody expects them to win it now; South Carolina is my favorite."
No. 18 TULANE at No. 6 CAL STATE FULLERTON
Tulane Green Wave
Coach: Rick Jones (11th season at Tulane; one trip to Omaha).
How Tulane Got Here: Swept through the Oxford, Miss., regional in three games, beating Washington in the final.
Fab Five: So. OF/LHP Brian Bogusevic (.343-10-68 and 9-5, 3.70 with 82 strikeouts and 23 walks in 107 innings); Jr. OF Mat Barkett (.378-7-51); Jr. C Greg Dini (.356-11-50); Jr. OF Wes Swackhamer (.353-8-33); So. LHP J.R. Crowel (8-2, 3.33 with 73 strikeouts and 30 walks in 97 innings).
Lowdown on the Green Wave: "Of all their clubs in the last six years, this is the least talented, but they play well together and have gotten hot at the right time. They got two great transfers in Barket and Dini from Miami. That's made the offense a lot better. Dini is good behind the plate and Barket is a good hitter. They've got some power in Wes Swackhamer, and (shortstop) Tommy Manzella, who is very good defensively, sets the table. They don't hit with a lot of power like they did with James Jurries and Jake Gautreau, but they hit for a high average and play small ball like they always have. The two guys that scare me the most are (first baseman) Brian Bormaster and Barket, but Brian Bogusevic is their best player. He's a two-way guy with speed, power and average and he pitches in the high 80s and keeps guys off balance.
"All their pitchers will be in the strike zone, so be aggressive early and swing the bats. They have two good starters in Crowel and (Brian) Bogusevic, who's their best guy for me. (Righthander Cory) Hahn is very average; he's gone backward the last couple years. If you let Crowel and Bogusevic get ahead of you, they won't be on a pitch count. You can tell (Jones) is scared of their bullpen. Their bullpen is very average. If you can get in their pen, you have a legitimate shot to win.
"They've got a decent club, but from what I've heard about Fullerton, they're in trouble."
Cal State Fullerton Titans
Coach: George Horton (eighth season at Cal State Fullerton; three trips to Omaha).
How Fullerton Got Here: Won the Fullerton regional in five games, beating Pepperdine twice on the final day.
Fab Five: Jr. C Kurt Suzuki (.435-15-83); Sr. RHP Jason Windsor (10-4, 1.95 with 112 strikeouts and 18 walks in 134 innings); So. LHP Ricky Romero (11-4, 3.17 with 104 strikeouts and 35 in 131 innings); Fr. OF Clark Hardman (.356-0-31); Sr. 1B/C P.J. Pilittere (.347-4-48).
Lowdown on the Titans: "Clearly they're one of the hottest teams and have been since the middle of the year. Windsor has been as good as any pitcher in college baseball the second half of the year. Pitching-wise they don't make mistakes. But if you can get through their starters--it's really just the Windsor and Romero show--so if you outlast them and get into the staff in a three-game series, you have a chance.
"Suzuki and Pilittere are the leaders, and both have Omaha experience. You can't let Suzuki beat you--that's become real obvious. They are very confident at the plate, very offensive, and they feed off each other. They can drag and push (bunts), hit-and-run, take the extra base. You must get the first guy out so they don't get big in an inning, but they can also bunt and run. You'll need to pitch them backward, cross-count them a little, so you need a guy who can throw three pitches for strikes. You'll need a stud on the mound who can take the game to them and not let them get confident.
"Suzuki can defend the running game. They're OK up the middle with (second baseman Justin) Turner and the (Neil) Walton/(Blake) Davis platoon at short is good. Hardman is a very good freshman outfielder in center, and (Ronnie) Prettyman is good at getting to bunts at third.
"They play sound baseball from start to finish. If there's an open sore--you can't control the running game, miss cutoffs, whatever--they will exploit it. And if you're giving them a problem, don't expect it to last nine innings. That (coaching) staff is as good as any at making in-game adjustments and will fix it and take it away from you."
No. 19 TEXAS A&M at No. 10 LOUISIANA STATE
Texas A&M Aggies
Coach: Mark Johnson (20th season at Texas A&M; two trips to Omaha).
How A&M Got Here: Won the Houston regional in four games, beating Rice in the final.
Fab Five: Jr. LHP Zach Jackson (10-6, 3.54 with 119 strikeouts and 26 walks in 112 innings); Fr. LHP Jason Meyer (8-2, 2.45 with 109 strikeouts and 39 walks in 103 innings); Sr. OF Cory Patton (.335-11-67 with 18 doubles); So. SS Cliff Pennington (.341-4-33); Fr. 3B Austin Boggs (.339-5-52).
Lowdown on the Aggies: "This is kind of a streaky team. Its strength is in its starting pitching. It has to be their strength because they're so young in the bullpen. They might be able to (win at LSU), but I don't know, especially if they have to throw the freshmen (relievers) out there. Those guys are talented and can match up left and right, but they are still young.
"The key to winning there is you have to take the crowd out of it. Your starting pitchers can do it, but they've got to strike some guys out and send them back to the dugout to make those fans hush. That freshman Meyer could give LSU some fits because he's not going to throw hard. He'll come at them with all kinds of changeups and breaking balls and can really locate. Jackson, the first-round draft pick, might have problems because he's more conventional. He's a 90 mile an hour lefty; that's not going to faze LSU in that park.
"A&M will have to score a lot of runs to win, but they might not be able to. They're just OK offensively, but they are exciting because they have power. And they're always in a ballgame because of that power threat. It's a mistake-hitting team; you've got to bust them inside and throw offspeed for strikes. Cory Patton and (first baseman) Cory Mavroulis can really swing it, and (second baseman) Eric Schindewolf can stir things up from the top of the order. The shortstop Pennington had a great weekend at Rice, and he has to play well again.
"They get by on relying on talent more than executing more than other teams, but if they get hot, watch out."
Louisiana State Tigers
Coach: Smoke Laval (third season at Louisiana State; one trip to Omaha).
How LSU Got Here: Swept through the Baton Rouge, La., regional, beating College of Charleston in the final.
Fab Five: Jr. OF J.C. Holt (.396-5-48 with 20 steals and 18 doubles); Jr. OF Jon Zeringue (.389-12-54 with 19 doubles); Jr. OF Ryan Patterson (.341-13-61 with 21 doubles); Sr. RHP Nate Bumstead (10-3, 3.51 with 51 strikeouts and 17 walks in 101 innings); Jr. SS Blake Gill (.344-5-40).
Lowdown on the Tigers: "LSU is tough to play at the Box (Alex Box Stadium), but it's not as tough as it is fun. Our guys were more motivated than intimidated.
"Their defense is good, not great. Compared to last year with Aaron Hill and even Ryan Theriot before him, the shortstop isn't as good, but there's going to be more pressure on A&M's shortstop than LSU's because of they way they hit. Next to South Carolina, LSU has the deepest lineup in the SEC and puts constant pressure on you.
"One through nine, everybody can beat you, but I just don't think they're as scary as LSU of the mid-90s. They are definitely not as powerful as those teams. They have some guys with 13, 14 homers, but should have more in that park. They are very aggressive swingers, especially early. If you mix it up early, you can get ahead. I think you can jam a lot of their guys, and they'll chase breaking balls in the dirt and changeups away if you get ahead of them. You can get in on Zeringue, he's got some holes in his swing. Good lefties can get Holt, too.
"LSU's pitching staff is real average. Bumstead is just away, away, away--all sliders and changeups. Get on top of the plate and take the outer half away from him and you've got a chance. (Lefthander Lane) Mestepey, he just competes. He's so emotional on the mound, and when he doesn't pitch he's always the first one running out of the dugout. If he pitches and wins the first night, they've got a great chance. They're real reluctant to go to the bullpen. Basically, there are one or two guys they're comfortable with. If you can get to their starters early, you'll be business. But you're going to have to hit because they will score their runs."
No. 16 FLORIDA at No. 1 MIAMI
Coach: Pat McMahon (third season at Florida; one trip to Omaha with Mississippi State).
How Florida Got Here: Swept through the Oklahoma City regional in three games, beating UCLA in the final.
Fab Five: Jr. RHP Justin Hoyman (11-1, 2.71 with 86 strikeouts and 37 walks in 133 innings); Sr. OF Ben Harrison (.357-17-68); Jr. 1B C.J. Smith (.347-14-63); Jr. RHP Connor Falkenbach (10-6, 3.33 with 76 strikeouts and 11 walks in 119 innings); Fr. C Matt LaPorta (.279-13-36).
Lowdown on the Gators: "You've got a number one in Hoyman. That guy's going to give you nine innings and (as the opposing team) you're probably not going to win when he pitches. For Florida, it needs to win 18 innings to win the series, and with him half could already be a success. That's why they used him on Saturday a lot, to rest the bullpen after using everything on Friday and then everything they had again Sunday. After him, the pitching drops off some. Falkenbach, (righthanders Tommy) Boss and (Bryan) Ball are OK, but once you get past them, it drops off pretty hard. As long as they're playing just a three-game series, the depth might not be an issue.
"They've got enough offense. It's either the best or second-best in the SEC. There are a lot of athletes on the field and strong bats in the middle of that order. Harrison and Smith are veteran, good hitters and some freshmen in (second baseman Adam) Davis, (the catcher platoon of) LaPorta and (Brian) Jeroloman can also hit, but you have to make one of the younger guys beat you, not those big two.
"You've got to outscore them. In the Hoyman game they've got the upper hand. If you can win that game, or at least maybe get into the bullpen you might be able to outlast them in three games."
Coach: Jim Morris (11th season at Miami; eight trips to Omaha; two CWS titles).
How Miami Got Here: Swept through the Coral Gables, Fla., regional in three games, beating Florida Atlantic in the final.
Fab Five: Sr. 1B Jim Burt (.374-14-71 with 24 doubles); So. SS/DH Ryan Braun (.362-9-42 with 20 steals); Fr. OF Jon Jay (.358-4-48 with 19 steals); So. RHP Cesar Carillo (10-0, 2.89 with 76 strikeouts and 36 walks in 97 innings); Sr. LHP J.D. Cockroft (9-4, 3.22 with 58 strikeouts and 33 walks in 95 innings).
Lowdown on the Hurricanes: "They crushed Long Beach, roughed up (Jered) Weaver. They're seeing the ball well and busting good pitches for extra bases. They hit everything we threw. Burt right now is just a great hitter. He was hitting balls down and away, everywhere. We couldn't get him out. With Braun, pitch him up; he's a low-ball hitter. Down and away, he crushes that, so you've got to try to tie him up and stay up in the zone. (Third baseman Gaby) Sanchez has kind of a long swing, so tie him up inside, too. These are all great hitters in hitters' counts.
"They play really good defense. Jim Burt looks like he might not be that great at first, but he's pretty good. Sanchez is the weak link in the infield. He tends to play real deep and you can attack with the bunt.
"Carillo is their best guy in his first year on that staff (he sat out his freshman year as a partial qualifier). He's the only one with great stuff. He gave up four in the first against N.C. State, but they got it back and he settled down. That's a positive for them. Cockroft is Cockroft. If you start a bunch of lefthanders against him, he will struggle. He has no pitch for them. He just throws that 58 mile an hour changeup that gets sucked into the dirt. He has a good move to first but you can run on his leg kick--just go before he gets it all the way up. The problem is that (catcher Erick) San Pedro is good enough behind the plate to make up for that a little bit. The bullpen has some younger guys like (freshman righthander Danny) Gil, but he's been good lately and all those guys have the confidence to close out games.
"They have great confidence playing at home. You know how Yankee Stadium is in October? That's Mark Light during regionals and super-regionals. They play so many games there during the regular season (45) and win, so they just kind of expect it to and are confident in the tournament. It's a different team in Omaha."