College World Series Chat With Aaron Fitt

Moderator: Aaron Fitt will stop by the chat room from Rosenblatt Stadium to answer questions about the College World Series at 3:30 p.m. ET.

 Q:  Eric from Huntington Beach asks:
I don't think I have seen anything like the Fullerton game yesturday in a long time. What do you think?

Aaron Fitt: Hello everyone, and greetings from Omaha, where the Beavers are back to playing Beaver baseball. Jonah Nickerson's in control, and Tyler Graham has been a dynamo in the field and at the plate (where he laid down a perfect drag bunt to score Cole Gillespie back in the third inning), and Oregon State currently holds a 4-2 lead through five innings. Now let's get down to a quick chat.

Aaron Fitt: Eric - that Fullerton game was wild, wasn't it? Here in the press box, we kept waiting for the inevitable Titans rally, and it was starting to look like it would never come. With two outs and nobody on in the ninth and Wieters throwing gas, that game was all but over. You just can't count out the Titans. They're one of those teams that just never stops coming, and they do the little things so well that they're bound to get some breaks, like they did on Cory Vanderhook's squibber up the middle with the bases loaded yesterday. George Horton was on the money when he said afterward that good teams create their own breaks. Once Blake Davis started things off with that two-out base hit, you could feel the comeback coming.

 Q:  Mike from Philly (PA) asks:
Aaron, what's the deal with Rice closer Bryce Cox? He looked tremendous Saturday. Did the Red Sox get a steal here in the 3rd round? Thanks.

Aaron Fitt: He's been money down the stretch. Cox has always had great stuff, but he has finally figured out his command after making a minor adjustment with his delivery (you can read more about that in John Manuel's scouting report in our draft preview). It's a measure of how far he's come that Wayne Graham has enough confidence in Cox as his closer that he's starting normal closer Cole St.Clair against Miami today. It's an intriguing gambit -- the Hurricanes have five lefthanded regulars, and St.Clair brings heat from the left side. But that move wouldn't have been possible if not for Cox's emergence.

 Q:  tiffythetitan from Oakland, CA asks:
Can the Titans still win this thing? I don't think they are set up so badly if Lauren Gagnier starts tomorrow after throwing 2 innings on Fri night and if they can move on have Wes Roemer start the next game. Your thoughts?

Aaron Fitt: You're right, they can beat Clemson with Gagnier, who will have four days rest after throwing 42 pitches in relief against the Tar Heels on Friday. And Roemer will have five days rest should they get by the Tigers, which isn't quite as much as he usually gets but is still enough that he can be effective. But after that I think their lack of starting pitching depth will start to catch up with them. Remember, they'll have to beat Carolina twice in a row, and while they'll have a shot with Roemer against Daniel Bard, it will be difficult to beat a rested Andrew Miller with Dustin Miller on short rest. And should they get to the championship series, who knows what they'll do? So to sum up, I think they are still a factor and can still beat Clemson and maybe take one from the Tar Heels, but winning the whole thing will be very difficult.

 Q:  Heels Fan from Chapel Hill, NC asks:
So is UNC as set up to make it to the championship series as it seems? Woodard's gem seems to make them the prohibitive favorites, doesn't it?

Aaron Fitt: Yeah, clearly Carolina is sitting pretty right now. Woodard's superb outing was crucial not only because it got the Heels off to a 2-0 start in Omaha, but also because it gave that Carolina bullpen a chance to rest after getting worked quite a bit in that 13-inning game against Fullerton. Now they'll come back with a first-round pick in Daniel Bard against whoever emerges from that Fullerton-Clemson battle (and that should be a terrific matchup, by the way), and they'll have Miller rested and ready after that. And if Bard struggles early like he did against Alabama in the super-regionals last weekend, Mike Fox can feel good knowing he's got Matt Danford, Jonathan Hovis and Andrew Carignan recharged and ready to come in -- not to mention freshman righty Luke Putkonen, who has been very good as Carolina's midweek starter this year. On top of all of that, the UNC bats have been red-hot all tournament, even though Clemson's Stephen Faris did a great job keeping them in check yesterday. The Tar Heels are firing on all cylinders right now, and maybe even more importantly, they're loose as can be - Fox seemed right at home on the podium in the post-game yesterday, a contrast from when the Heels first arrived in Omaha and he seemed a little nervous.

 Q:  Whiskey Steak from The Drover asks:
Who's going to start the next game for Clemson, and who is going to start for Fullerton? It seems like the Titans are almost out of pitching already.

Aaron Fitt: Clemson's definitely going with either Cribb or Berken, both of whom won nine games for the Tigers this year. I don't think Jack Leggett has officially announced his starter, but my money's on Cribb - that way Berken has plenty of time to make sure that collision at first base in the super-regionals is completely behind him. The Titans will throw Lauren Gagnier. It's too bad they had to use him in that first game against UNC, but it's not like he went out there and threw 100 pitches. He should be fine.

 Q:  CWS fan in Alaska from Anchorage asks:
So handicap the rest of the tournament. Do any of the teams in the losers brackets have a chance to get to the championship series? Who is your title pick now?

Aaron Fitt: I think it will be real tough for Clemson or Fullerton to get two wins against North Carolina. That's not to say it couldn't happen - those are two supremely talented teams - but it's gonna be hard. I'm sticking with the Heels on that side of the bracket.

Aaron Fitt: On the other side, I don't think the Beavers or Bulldogs have quite enough pitching depth to come all the way back through the loser's bracket. Should the Beavers hold on and win this game today (they're up 4-2 at the moment in the top of the 7th), they can feel good with Stutes pitching tomorrow, but they're going to run out of arms before Rice is, that's for sure. We haven't even seen Crow or Bell yet for the Owls.

Aaron Fitt: My feeling is that Miami can win against Rice today with a hot Danny Gil taking the mound (particularly since that young Hurricanes offense is playing with so much confidence right now), but I actually still like the Owls to win that half of the bracket. They've got enough pitching depth that I think they can outlast Miami even with a loss already on their ledger. In the championship series, it's hard not to like the Tar Heels right now. I'll take them (especially if Bard pitches well on Wednesday and Carolina can win that game, saving Miller for the opener of the championship series.)

 Q:  Jurgen Klinsman from Stuttgart asks:
Everyone talks about North Carolina's pitching, but I think Josh Horton might be their best player. He looks like the real deal at shortstop. Agree?

Aaron Fitt: He's terrific offensively, and he's been playing so well lately that scouts are already looking at him as a likely first-rounder next year. The question has been his defense (he has 23 errors this year), but he made a wonderful play in a crucial spot in the seventh inning last night against Clemson. With two runners on base and two outs, Horton charged in on a chopper, scooped it up on a short hop and fired a strike to first to end the inning. It was a nice, instinctive kind of play, and he has shown the ability to do that kind of stuff all year. He gets into trouble when he has too much time to think about making a throw - he just needs to relax and let his instincts take over.

 Q:  Steve from Corvallis asks:
Any young guys playing in the CWS that you would tab as future POY's?

Aaron Fitt: Well, Josh Horton has to be on a short list of early candidates for next year's award, in my mind. Jemile Weeks for Miami looks like the real deal - I'm very impressed with his power-speed package. Brian Friday had a marvelous sophomore year, earning first-team All-America honors, and he's got a shot. But the very clear favorite for me (and for Will Kimmey as well) is Georgia Tech's Matt Wieters. You just don't see catchers who hit like he does, and he also is a lock-down closer for them... usually... He was locked in in the postseason, and you love to see a guy playing his best ball when it matters most. He's the most impressive talent I've seen in Omaha.

 Q:  Kurt from Houston asks:
Any chance that Wayne Graham hits Joe Savery from the DH spot this evening? He hasn't been on the mound lately, but if we need him, it'd be better if he's rested!

Aaron Fitt: That seems unlikely. Savery threw the other day and apparently did not look good at all, so don't expect to see him pitching this week. I wouldn't completely rule it out 100 percent, but chances are you'll only see him at first base.

 Q:  tiffythetitan from Oakland, CA asks:
I admit it...I was screaming at the 3b coach to send Blake Davis in the 9th on Brett Pill's double. What was the take on the play where you were sitting?

Aaron Fitt: I'm with you, Tiffy. I can understand why he held the runner (and clearly it worked out), but at the time I felt like you've got to take your chances and hope for a bad throw, because I think you've got a better chance of scoring in that situation than you do getting yet another base hit with a pinch-hitter against Wieters. But hey, it worked out, as Cory Vanderhook bailed out his uncle Rick, the third-base coach.

 Q:  B.T. from Houston, TX asks:
Strange year for Rice this year. We almost always have two solid starters to anchor our pitching staff. This year it's Degermann and and friends. With Cole St. Clair going today, we have had a different Game 2 starter each weekend for the past three weeks. I'm not use to the uncertainty, but I love the depth. Do you think the fact that Cole St. Clair is starting is more a function of his consistency as of late or the fact that he is a lefty that poses match-up problems and can slow down the running game?

Aaron Fitt: I think this will have to be the last question - got to get back to the game, which is winding down on us.

Aaron Fitt: I think in the back of Wayne Graham's mind, he wanted to save St.Clair for today in case Miami beat Oregon State, because the Canes are so left-leaning. I think that's one reason St.Clair only faced two batters against Georgia, although it made sense to take him out when Graham did with some righties coming up. But if the Owls were up against the Beavers today, I'm not so sure you'd see St.Clair get the start.

Aaron Fitt: That's all for today - thanks for the questions. The Beavers just tacked on another run, as Mike Lissman punched one through a drawn-in Georgia infield, so Oregon state leads 5-2. More bad news for the Bulldogs: Kevin Gunderson is in the game. He took the loss against Baylor when Oregon State was eliminated a year ago, but he didn't get beat on a mistake. He threw a good pitch in on Pankratz's hands, and the Beavers lost on a little flare. Kinda reminiscent of Fullerton the other night. Anyway, I don't think there's any way the ultra-competitive Gunderson takes the loss again -- even against a Georgia team that has a propensity for comebacks.