|CAL STATE FULLERTON|
Coach: Dave Serrano.
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.
"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."
Coach: Dan McDonnell.
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 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."
Coach: Mike Martin.
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.
"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.
"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."
Coach: Brian O'Connor.
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.
"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 just who he is—the kid can hit. Gosselin has as quick a bat as you'll see. They can hit, and they hit good pitching. It really didn't surprise me one bit at all that they went out and won their regional.
"Hultzen should be pitching in A-ball right now. He's that good of a talent. From the left side he can move his fastball around, and it's a good fastball. The kid really likes to compete, he competes hard when he's on the mound. Carraway's a senior who's won a lot of games for them. I don't know if Morey's on that kind of radar screen yet, but I think he's going to be a first-round pick next year. I saw a lot of velocity as well as the good slider.
"In the bullpen, (Tyler) Wilson and Arico both compete, they both attack the strike zone, they both have a couple pitches they can throw in the strike zone. The thing about Virginia, they're going to get six or seven innings out of their starter, and those two guys let them turn it into a seven-inning ballgame. And Packer has as good of stuff as anybody, so when he's in the strike zone, he's a dominant guy too. Then they have a bunch of pieces they can mix and match from there.
"You have to be as balanced as they are to be able to beat them. You have to be able to match them pitch for pitch, and you're going to have to score seven or eight runs to beat them. You have to find a way to turn it into an 8-6 or 9-5 ballgame. They're going to win the low-scoring 2-1 games, because they're used to playing tight ballgames. They hit, but they don't hit enough home runs to really separate themselves from their opponent. Everybody on their pitching staff's going to attack the strike zone, they're going to go out there with a plan on both sides. They're not going to chase it as hitters, and on the mound they will attack the zone with all their stuff. I honestly think their age might be the only thing that keeps them from being an Omaha team this year. But you could have said that with them going out to Irvine, and it didn't seem to bother those young kids too much."
Coach: Mike Bianco.
Postseason History: Fourth super regional appearance (last in 2007). Seeking fifth trip to Omaha (last in 1972).
Postseason Route: No. 1 seed in Oxford Regional. Won in four games, beating Western Kentucky in the final.
"What Mike (Bianco) has done there has been pretty neat with that program, with the fans and the interest in the program. Their crowd is a factor now. That crowd's been a factor the last three or four years—that's a tough place to go play. They've always done it with those big arms; they had those big righthanders a couple years ago, and it's amazing what the Pomeranz kid did this weekend. He's got a big lefthanded body, and a great fastball. His breaking ball's very good, but seeing a big guy sitting in the low 90s from the left with some hop in the finish, that's pretty special.
"They've been searching to replace Zack Cozart at short for a couple years now. Mort's been steady, but it's not what they had. He's not over the top special or anything. Miller's 5-foot-8, doesn't look the part but gets it done. They just sort of put it together. I just think they dominate the routine play. I don't think they make great plays, other than Henry in center. I don't think the left side can make a great, great play, but I think they'll dominate the average play. They've got a JC catcher that's wound up catching more than a 16th-rounder who's come back for his senior year, Brett Basham. Henson's wound up catching many more innings.
"Credit goes to the coach; they've got a style to play. They're not the best position-player team you're going to diagram, but they've got two or three good arms and some other guys. I guess they're not too deep or they wouldn't have had to use their No. 1 on two days' rest in the regional. It'll be interesting to see how they navigate the next step, and if they keep advancing, the next step after that. Because that workload could take a while to recover from.
"It's a deep lineup, but no superstars—who's got 20 home runs? Nobody. Matt Smith is a big donkey, a gap hitter. Phillips is a big, physical guy. Their stolen bases come from Henry, but not a lot throughout the lineup. I just think they've got some age and some craftiness about them. Henry is just a table-setter—he makes an offense go, with his ability to steal a base. If he gets on to start an inning, he does a real good job with it. Then you've got some scrap hitters like the Miller kid, not the best guys in the world, but scrappy. Then guys that can hit it out, go opposite field like Matt Smith or the Button kid. It's built around pitching and Henry in the leadoff spot. They've just got a very aggressive approach; we threw them a ton of first-pitch changeups, and they got themselves out. They're not going to take a lot of first-pitch fastballs. They don't miss many fastballs.
"To beat them, I just think it's that first pitch. They're sitting so dead-red that if you can get an offspeed pitch over, that's your best chance. If you're going to consistently give them fastballs in fastball counts, you'd better have a good fastball. They're ready to swing 0-0. Then with two strikes, they do a good job of putting the ball in play with two strikes. A lot of times it forces you to have to get inside of them with a fastball. Throw them a breaking ball with two strikes, their offense does a good job with it. They've got a home run leader of eight, how are they scoring their runs? They're piecing it together. Especially if they've got a runner on base, they're coming out of their shoes the first two pitches, and they like to hit-and-run. They force you to pitch. (Bianco's) running a good offense, he's got the entire team buying into the team concept. But it all comes back to Pomeranz and Irwin."
Coach: Wayne Graham.
Postseason History: Ninth super regional appearance (fifth in a row). Seeking eighth trip to Omaha (fourth in a row).
Postseason Route: No. 1 seed in Houston Regional. Won in five games, beating Kansas State in the final.
"I think their overall record was somewhat affected by those pitchers they didn't have. When Berry and Ojala did get healthy, they weren't throwing complete games right away. I think if you look at their overall record, everyone's saying they're not as good, but I'm telling you it's the best team we've played. Defensively, unmatched. They're so good defensively it's not even funny. They're the best defensive team I've ever seen. You've got to crush it to get it through the infield against those guys. The range, the arms, the speed in the outfield, it's all there. Their catchers are OK, I guess if there's one area that isn't as strong, that's it. Positionally, they're just really good. They don't have anybody that's bad defensively. Some of them are better hitters than others, but they can all hit at least a little bit. Their first baseman, Comerota, was a very good high school shortstop.
"Sultzbaugh is huge. The scouting reports just say, yeah, whatever, don't walk him. How can he get overlooked? He's like the first guy you see when you walk in there. He's a Greek god. He can run—he might be the fastest guy on their team, he just looks big so you think he's playing first or something. And he's a great center fielder. And Hague's going to play in the big leagues, and not just because he can hit—he's got it all, man. Maybe his numbers weren't as good, all you hear is knocks on him, but that guy is going to play shortstop in the major leagues. He's got a plus arm, he can run, he's going to hit enough. And someday he may have unbelievable power. He's got all five tools.
"Offensively, they're very tough to pitch to. You can't get them out the same way more than maybe one or two times. They make adjustments, they know what your pitcher's doing. They figure it out, and they get him out of the game. They're very smart, and they're very capable. Their spray charts are all over the place. These are not guys who hit the ball in the same place all the time. You know what else? They're a very, very good two-strike hitting team. Like a lot of teams that are good offensively, they strike out a lot, because they're aggressive hitters, but they're very tough with two strikes.
"I think Berry's got good deception with his delivery. He's obviously got great stuff. He's a real easy thrower, and the ball gets up on guys. There's not a whole lot of effort in there, he just kind of flips it in there low 90s. Ojala has command of three pitches. He's similar to Berry. Neither one of them is a conventional-looking guy. They throw a little different, little extra movement with their bodies and gloves, they go for the deception thing a little bit. They know how to pitch, they throw you different pitches in different counts, they throw fastballs in well. And they've got deception to their deliveries. That's why they don't get hit.
"With Wall, here he is as a freshman on a team that's supposed to win every series, and instead of going Sundays, he had to go Fridays after those other guys got hurt. I see a guy who's probably learned a lot throughout the season. He's had the spotlight on him. He cross-counted, he mixed it up, threw in effectively, threw up. He would go up late with his fastball, throw his changeup. He doesn't have great stuff, but he's got very good command, he knows what he's doing and he's very confident at this point. He probably benefited from Berry and Ojala being out for a while. If they were to make a run and win that super regional and do well in the College World Series, it's going to have a lot to do with the fact that when those guys were hurt, other people had to pitch. Jared Rogers, Wall, they have been pitching in big spots. It gives them guys in the middle innings and late innings that pitched a lot more than they were supposed to, so they've got experience.
"In the bullpen, (Matt) Evers and Jordan Rogers have great stuff, although their numbers aren't spectacular. I would say the bullpen might be their Achilles' heel, because those guys have great stuff but their command isn't great, and their confidence level, it's not like they're sitting there with 15 saves. So that might be the one question mark with them. First of all, they're not going to take those other guys out, unless they're losing by a lot. I'm sure they'll manage it in an intelligent manner.
"You're going to have to play a real good game to beat Rice. If you have a guy that can really pitch, and can hold them down, then maybe get into their bullpen, that's your best chance. You've got to get those starters out of the game. But if you don't have good command of your fastball or you don't have a second pitch, they'll wear you out."
Coach: Paul Mainieri.
Postseason History: Eighth super regional appearance (second in a row). Seeking 15th trip to Omaha (second in a row).
Postseason Route: No. 1 seed in Baton Rouge Regional. Won in three games, beating Minnesota in the final.
"It's an unbelievable level of consistency to do what they did in the SEC, winning nine of 10 conference series. They've got a unique starter in Coleman; he's different. He throws across his body a little bit. He's like 6-foot-5, he's long and lanky, then he lifts up and steps toward the third-base coach's box and delivers the ball at a fairly severe angle toward the plate. Righthanded hitters feel like the ball's coming at your ribs a little bit. He's probably 89-91 himself, and using his breaking ball in there. It's not what you teach, but it works for him. He's just very, very deceptive. We didn't see anybody like him all year.
"I'm not sure their pitching staff runs deep. You've got a power arm, then you've got an Ichabod Crane, across-his-body guy the second day, and a legitimate closer. Three legitimate pieces to a pitching staff: a No. 1, No. 2 and a closer. Then they've got some guys who compete a little bit like Ross and (Daniel) Bradshaw, but it really drops off.
"I like the Nola kid a lot defensively—plus arm, good range, solid glove. He's a good player. I think putting him in there at short made them better. I always thought LeMahieu was a bigger kid, longer swing, a little slower actions because he's longer. You need a little more quickness at short. I think second matches his body more. I think it's a better match with Nola. Ochinko playing first base is pretty scary over there, but it's better than having him at third base or behind the plate. But it's good to have his bat in there; not a great bat, but competitive. The little Hanover kid at third, he's just a little winner, dirtbag guy. He wills everything he does. He'll dive either side, get dirty; I respect that. That's a freshman left side of the infield that's worked for them.
"In the outfield, they pretty much can go get it. Mahtook, I think he's going to be dynamic—he might be the best of all of them. He's a big kid, gets great jumps, can run, and I think he's really going to swing it. He really got the bat head through there. He's good, going to be somebody to contend with for a while. I thought he might be their most explosive big league body guy.
"I really think a lefty is the way to go against them. You get Dean, Schimpf, Mitchell and (Leon) Landry left-on-left, and you get Gibbs from the right side. They just really stay on the ball better against a righthander. Mitchell can be pitched to, but if you miss, he's dangerous. If you leave a fastball out over the plate, he can really hurt you. But if the fastballs tight on him a little bit, he doesn't like it, or a left-on-left breaking ball, he doesn't like that at all. That's a pitch you can throw multiple times and be safe with.
"Schimpf is the one who's a polished, balanced, short-approach guy. He's put up numbers for them this year. Dean's been playing better of late; a lot of it has to do with how he's been pitched, because people know he can hit. His numbers are not as good as last year, but he's a very mature hitter as well. Landry's another football guy, a great athlete.
"If your guy throws a fastball that comes in there a little bit straight, doesn't change planes, that strong, four-seam fastball that has no action on it, they're going to knock that silly. But if you've got a fastball that can change planes, you've got a shot. You've got to be good to beat them. You better not be out there 87-88 with a straight fastball and an average breaking ball. If those pitchers aren't getting life on their fastballs, LSU is going to be there. You're going to have to have not just run, but some sink, I believe. If a righthander sincerely beats them, he's done a heck of a job."