CWS Finals Chat

 Q:  Jimmy from High Point, NC asks:
much of an advantage will Georgia get out of having Sunday off? Or will
their lack of recent game action actually work against them?

Aaron Fitt:
Greetings from Omaha, where it’s mostly sunny and should be a great day
for baseball. It’s been a great CWS, and I’m fired up for the
all-Bulldogs Finals. Let’s get going.

Aaron Fitt: It’s a
significant advantage for Georgia, more because Fresno had to use its
top two pitchers over the weekend than anything else. Fresno’s rotation
is in shambles heading into the Finals, but Georgia has its rotation
set up exactly as it would draw it up, with Trevor Holder going today
and Nick Montgomery going tomorrow. Also, Georgia’s bullpen has been
used heavily out here, so the extra day off certainly did those guys
some good. Fresno had to use Holden Sprague each of the last two days
and Brandon Burke for two innings Sunday.

 Q:  Steve from Ocala, Fla. asks:
What has changed for Fresno State that explains their turnaround from early in the season to now?

Aaron Fitt:
I wrote about this in today’s CWS Finals preview, so check there for a
more detailed explanation, but the long and short of it is the team’s
attitude just did a 180. Last week, Fresno players admitted that the
team’s early expectations and preseason ranking had a negative effect
on the way they went about their business. But the seniors really took
over this team about six weeks ago and got everybody in line. It’s
really a terrific story.

 Q:  James D. from Houston asks:
ESPN announcers love to talk about how dominating Josh Fields is, but
he looks to me like a guy who can’t throw a breaking ball for strikes
and struggles to locate his fastball. Is that fair?

Aaron Fitt:
I would call him effectively wild. You’re right, command isn’t his
forte, but he’s thrown some awfully good curveballs out here, and
whenever he gets in trouble he seems to locate his fastball exactly
where he needs to. His stuff is so overwhelming that he doesn’t even
need his best command to dominate. He’s also one of those guys who, for
whatever reason, simply performs better in save situations than when
he’s got a big cushion. That’s not entirely uncommon among good
closers. Don’t put too much stock in his shaky outing against Stanford
on Saturday.

 Q:  Darren from Virginia asks:
What is the kryptonite of Georgia and Fresno St?

Aaron Fitt:
For Georgia, it’s the starting pitching. Those guys have been very
shaky for most of the postseason, and no UGa starter has lasted more
than four innings in Omaha. Georgia is very good at jumping on teams in
the first inning, but if Fresno wins the early battles and knocks out
Georgia’s starters early yet again, it could be in good shape. Fresno’s
kryptonite is probably just its lack of pitching depth. FS really only
has two reliable starters, and they threw Saturday and Sunday, leaving
very few options for today and tomorrow. We’ll see if guys like Sean
Bonesteele, Kris Tomlinson and Jason Breckley can come up big again
this week like they have earlier in the postseason. They weren’t a very
reliable group in the regular season.

 Q:  Darren from Virginia asks:
there any chance the Fresno St head coach, Bastole, might show interest
in another future high profile coaching job after his recent success
here at the CWS?

Aaron Fitt:
He loves it there, but everyone has his price — just ask George
Horton. If the right opportunity came along, like it did for Horton,
I’m sure Batesole would have to consider it. But there aren’t any
significant West Coast openings right now, and he’s a West Coast guy.
Besides, I’m sure he’ll enjoy the recruiting windfall this CWS run will
be for his program. Fresno is set up to be a factor on the national
scene going forward, and Coach Batesole will have a chance to build
himself quite a legacy there.

 Q:  Garrett Addison from La Quinta, CA asks:
If Fresno State wins the title, where do you think it would rate in terms of all-time upsets in NCAA history (any sport)?

Aaron Fitt:
The funny thing about this Fresno run is that it doesn’t really feel to
me like a Cinderella story. It just feels like a good, experienced team
that entered the season with significant expectations getting hot at
the right time and playing up to its fullest potential. I know that on
paper, it would be an almost unparalleled achievement; a No. 4 seed in
a regional winning a national title would be the equivalent of a No. 13
seed in basketball winning the title, and no team seeded 13th or higher
has ever even reached the Elite Eight in hoops, let alone the Final
Four or the championship. Still, there is not a drop of
“happy-to-be-here” vibe coming out of that Fresno State clubhouse.
They’re here to win the national championship. Most Cinderellas don’t
carry themselves like that.

 Q:  Adam Brock from Lakeland, FL asks:
you think Fresno State underachieved during the regular season or is
just playing over its head right now? It doesn’t make sense that a team
could lose 30 games (9 to teams with losing records) and still be
playing for a national championship.

Aaron Fitt:
Just to follow up on the last question, Fresno absolutely underachieved
for the first two-thirds of the season. You’ve just got to give them
credit for righting the ship down the stretch.

 Q:  Luke from Des Moines asks:
What’s the latest on who Fresno State is going to start for today and tomorrow? Who will be available in the bullpen?

Aaron Fitt:
Haven’t heard an update from Fresno, but my money’s on Justin Miller to
start and work a couple of innings, followed by a healthy dose of Sean
Bonesteele. Bonesteele would be my other guess for the starter.

 Q:  Matt from Omaha asks:
do you see next year shaping up for Fullerton? Where will they rank in
the Big West? How will their weekend rotation look? Can Serrano get
them to Omaha?

Aaron Fitt:
I’ve got the Titans pegged as the very early favorite to win the Big
West and a bona fide Omaha contender. The lineup should be outstanding,
centered around playmakers like Josh Fellhauer, Christian Colon and
Gary Brown. The rotation is more of a question mark, but I would expect
guys like Daniel Renken, Michael Morrison and Jason Dovel to take steps
forward. Dave Serrano always finds a way to get the most out of his
pithing staff, and I’m confident he’ll do so next year, too.

 Q:  Vince from Juneau, AK asks:
this question is completely unrelated to the CWS, but I was wondering
how well you’ve gotten to know Oregon State coach Pat Casey and your
thoughts of him? Having played for him in his days at George Fox
College, I came away thinking he was a good coach and an even better
person. Also, how is he perceived nationally by the other D-1 coaches?

Aaron Fitt:
That question’s out of left field, but I’m always happy to heap praise
upon Pat Casey, one of the game’s great coaches and a quality person to
boot. It shouldn’t be any surprise that Casey is very well respected
among his peers — he does things the right way, and the way he’s
turned Oregon State into a cold-weather dynasty is nothing short of

 Q:  Davey Connor from The Losers bracket asks:
do you feel a Fresno State championship would mean overall for College
Baseball? Is a good way to get casual fans interested, a la Davidson in
this years basketball tourney? Or will the lack of a traditional power
being the champ for the third straight year keep only hardcore fans

Aaron Fitt:
For whatever reason, I don’t get the feeling the fans are rallying
around Fresno the way they’ve rallied around UC Irvine and Oregon State
over the past few years. The small crowds seem to bear that
out—attendance is down more than 35,000 from last year. I think Fresno
is a wonderful story and I hope college baseball fans around the nation
embrace that team, but I’m not overly confident they will.

 Q:  Jeff from Los Angeles, CA asks:
which program do you think has been the biggest underachiever in recent
years? You mentioned Vandy during the regional podcast. Long Beach
State has failed to make the CWS despite a ton of future big league
talent. Florida State or GT always seem to struggle in the postseason.
Any other teams stick out?

Aaron Fitt:
All of those coaching staffs and players work hard, and I don’t want to
rip them, but the fact is some programs have struggled to translate
their immense talent into postseason success. Vanderbilt, Long Beach,
Virginia, UCLA, Georgia Tech and San Diego come to mind for me. You
could certainly put Florida State and Clemson in that group too, but at
least those teams get to Omaha with some regularity. That’s a great
achievement in itself.

 Q:  john cusp from greenvile south Carolina asks:
When will your freshmen all America team be announced?

Aaron Fitt: The Freshman All-America teams and Freshman of the Year will be released and posted online Friday.

 Q:  dan banks from Houston Texas asks:
Who is going to be next years joshua fields? Aj griffin, kevin rhoderick, Jason stoffel?

Aaron Fitt:
Stoffel is the most similar stuff-wise, with a plus fastball and plus
downer curve. If anything, Stoffel has even better command.

 Q:  Craig from Talahassee, FL asks:
this point, can we just cross off any ACC team as a National Title
favorite until one actually gets it done? It is almost heartbreaking
watching teams like Florida State, Clemson, GT and North Carolina fail
to reach the ultimate goal every year despite being fully capable. Is
this becoming a mental roadblock for some of the coaches and/or

Aaron Fitt:
I really don’t think any ACC coach or player ever gets to Omaha and
thinks, “Man, I’ve got to do this for the ACC, because it’s been 53
years.” That kind of thinking is for media and fans, but the teams are
just focused on playing the game. Unfortunately for the ACC, other
teams have played it better in Omaha for the last half-century. The
drought will end eventually, but it does not speak well for the league
that Miami, Florida State and North Carolina couldn’t get it done this
year despite entering the postseason as the three highest-ranked teams
in the nation. Yet for all that, I’ve still got North Carolina pegged
as my super-duper-early national title favorite in 2009. Those guys
have acquitted themselves very well out here for three straight years;
you can’t tell me it was a lack of toughness or a mental roadblock or
anything like that. They played well in Omaha three years straight, but
they were beaten by hotter teams three years straight. Simple as that.

 Q:  Clay Williams from Athens, Georgia asks:
lot of people dont give the credit to UGA’s outfield, I believe. Lyle
Allen has made an awesome CWS. Why doesnt UGA outfielders get the

Aaron Fitt:
It’s easy to overlook that group when you’ve got infielders Beckham,
Peisel and Poythress tearing it up, but Georgia has gotten solid
contributions from Allen, Cerione and Olson too. This is a dangerous
team top to bottom. Cerione and Allen will make for a fine one-two
punch in the outfield next year.

 Q:  Dave from Albany,NY asks:
down the road somewhat, what one player has stood out to you at the
CWS(aside from Alex White)in regards to improving or solidifying their
draft status in the future? Thanks for your time.

Aaron Fitt:
How about Dustin Ackley hitting .522 in Omaha to finish the year at
.417? That guy is just a hitting machine. I think he’s really moved
himself from a likely first-rounder next year into a potential top-10
overall pick.

 Q:  Steve from Owltown asks:
Are you ready to give your 8 for Omaha for 2009?

Aaron Fitt: As soon as the CWS ends. Let’s say Thursday.

 Q:  Frank D from Chicago asks:
Do you want to give an early call to the finals? I say – GA in two.

Aaron Fitt:
I’m picking the opposite of whatever John Manuel picks. My prediction
is he’ll take Georgia, so I’ll take Fresno State. I can get on board
with the “team of destiny” talk.

 Q:  Steve from Owltown asks:
You have been around Omaha town for a while.
Any under the radar resturants?

Aaron Fitt:
I don’t know how under the radar this is (it’s a favorite of Texas
coach Augie Garrido, and I saw a bunch of LSU fans there last week),
but Lo Sole Mio is a wonderful Italian place up on 32nd Ave. It’s
tucked into an out-of-the-way neighborhood, but well worth a visit — I
recommend the chicken and prosciutto over pasta in an asiago cream
sauce. And you’ll love the free bruschetta that comes with every meal.

Aaron Fitt:
On that note, I need to grab a quick bite to eat before heading over to
Rosenblatt. Thanks for stopping by, everyone, and enjoy the Finals.