Archive for June, 2011
It wasn’t long ago I was complaining about the new TD Ameritrade Stadium. I found it boring and suffering from a lack of flair. Unfortunately my criticism for this year’s series isn’t ending there. The games of the 2011 College World Series have been lackluster and filled with uninteresting innings. I can’t remember any series where I’ve been more disinterested in the action on the field.
Chicks did the long ball, not small ball. This CWS has suffered from a tremendous lack of offense. In the twelve games to date in this CWS the total runs scored by the losing club has yet to eclipse four runs. The losing team has tallied a total of 25 runs for an average of just over two runs per game. It’s a whole new ballgame at this year’s CWS.
There have only been seven homeruns total in the twelve games this past week. In a game earlier this year, the James Madison Dukes hit six homeruns in one inning. Now that was a freak game and no one wants to see a videogame scores like the 37-7 final score from that contest, but fans do want to see some offense.
The BBCOR bats which limit offensive clout deserve much of the blame. Homerun numbers have melted faster than a Zesto’s cone in the sun. Last year Fresno State’s Jordan Ribera led the nation with 27 homeruns. This year his total dropped to eight. In 2010 Miami’s Harold Martinez launched 21 balls over the fence. This year, three.
The change in bats isn’t the only reason offense is down. Their partner in crime is TD Ameritrade’s layout. Unlike at Rosenblatt where the prevailing wind gave warning track hits a little extra push to clear the wall, the breeze at Ameritrade rushes in and slaps them down as if they were in a Three Stooges film.
Last year a team scored double-digit runs in four games. This year the highest offensive output has been eight.
The games haven’t been close either. Only four games have been decided by two runs or less –and two of those weren’t until last Friday.
The most defining moment of the series so far hasn’t had anything to do with on the field play. Aside from the new stadium, the biggest buzz about the series has been the storms which halted and suspended play for a night. The most exciting game of the series to date wasn’t decided by a walk-off hit, but instead a squirrely bunt followed by an error.
The good news is that there are still games left to be played. There are plenty of chances for the action and drama that have made the College World Series such an extraordinary event. It only takes a single pitch to make a memory. A race to the plate or long drive to centerfield could vault their series out from obscurity and immediately make it one to remember.
There has been such a drop off in offensive numbers during this CWS that Imodium A-D should be a sponsor due to the lack of runs.
No one should be surprised that a pair of SEC teams are in the driver’s seat. How incredible is it that the top two performing teams in the CWS are not just in the same conference, but the same division. Actually, you need to drop some kudos on Vanderbilt too – if it weren’t for a single swing of the bat, they could be undefeated as well. The players and fans from the Southeastern Conference simply know how to bring it. Their dugouts have the most chatter and their fans are unquestionably the loudest. Florida and South Carolina even brought their mascots. Here’s to hoping the Gators (or Commodores) and Gamecocks meet up for the championships series.
It’s amazing how famous Jackie Bradley Jr. around Omaha. I thought last year that he could run for mayor if he wanted to. This year I think he could be governor. There is a huge banner of him behind centerfield and as large as it is, it doesn’t seem to do him justice. How does he find time to reply to so many people on Twitter? When he was injured was his wrist replaced with Luke Skywalker cyborg robot parts included to directly connect him to the Internet?
Pete Rose was here on Monday. If you bought a hat from Lids he would autograph it for you. After much debate I decided I’d buy one as I had been a monster “Charlie Hustle” fan as a kid. To my dismay the inflated price tag on the cap was over $37 with tax so I torpedoed that idea. I wasn’t going to pay that much for Rose’s signature (although that’s actually probably a steal for how much he usually charges). However the biggest mind blower was why people were paying that much have Pete Rose sign a Texas Longhorns or College World Series cap considering he is from Ohio and didn’t finish high school. I did however swipe the Diet Pepsi he was drinking so look for it on eBay soon!
Speaking of autographs, Rose wasn’t the only baseball legend in town. Rod Carew, Robin Yount, Mike Schmidt and Jack Clark (a bit of stretch to be a legend, he was barely a star) were also in the house. Of the four I believe only Schmidt played baseball in college (his Ohio Bobcats made it to the CWS in the early 70’s). It was cool that these players were in town, but corporate branding only allowed fans to have them sign pictures with AT&T logos on it. I saw one little boy present a ball to Carew only to have some corporate executive shoot him down before Carew’s outstretched hand could collect it. Shame. I saw something similar with Rose. He could only sign Lids hats for people; however one person who purchased a dozen hats was allowed to have Rose sign a jersey. Why did you bring those players here, AT&T? Was it for the fans or for the money?
When they built the new downtown baseball stadium there was some thought that it may bring in more black fans as the majority of African-Americans in Omaha live just to the north of the stadium. That has not happened. I jokingly posted a tweet earlier in the week that when South Carolina played the number of black people in attendance doubled due to Jackie Bradley Jr. and DeSean Anderson being on the diamond. Sadly, this is not that much of an exaggeration as many of the black people at TD Ameritrade are ticket scalpers not fans. In a related side note, it was nice to see former Grambling Head Coach Wilbert Ellis honored during the game on Monday. I don’t know what it will take to get more minorities involved in college baseball, but let’s keep looking.
The Big 12 going 0-4. Who that coming? With that being said I’m especially disappointed to see Texas go. Not because of anything to do with their players or coaches, but because they had one female fan who (seemingly) wore nothing on her top except for a strategically placed Stetson hat. Everything is bigger and better in Texas.
There seems to be record number of tailgaters this year. The bulk of them have settled in Lot D just to the east of the stadium. Unfortunately, many of the new tailgaters are dudes in their mid 20’s who seem to have some sort of medical aversion to wearing their shirts. They also play a lot of cornhole with a Jagerbomb in their nonthrowing hand. They should add a “Bags” to the end of the lot name they are partying in.
My verdict is still out on Jenn Brown as a replacement for Erin Andrews. Erin was getting a little too big for Omaha. Wherever she went there would be catcalls, drunk guys (probably many of who are in Lot D now) pestering for her and people yelling for her to put on one of her skimpy Dances with the Stars outfits. Now Orel Hershiser is getting all those requests.
Greetings noble baseball fans!
I am writing from a nice city called Medford, Oregon. A VERY long way from Pensacola, and even farther from my home in Naples, FL.
I wanted to focus this blog on the topic of what summer ball can mean to different types of players across the country. It will also include an update on how I am doing, and what I feel I’ve been able to learn so far this summer.
So, lets jump right into it!
While I was sitting in the dugout during our game today in Oregon I was thinking about what summer ball was really all about. For me, a opportunity to travel the country and get much needed experience so I can put myself in a better position to help contribute to my team next season. For some, an opportunity to perform in front of scouts to either raise your draft stock, or try to get signed.
When I talk about my experience I have to start with decided the appropriate league to play in. The league I’m playing in this year is the Sacramento Rural League. (http://bit.ly/summerleague) A league like this is mostly comprised of college baseball players that are from the surrounding areas. My team is comprised of players from around the Bay Area in San Francisco. I am able to play against competition that is challenging for me, but still able to compete. At the stage in my development as a pitcher, it is important for me to be in a situation where I can be successful! It wouldn’t make sense for me to travel to a more prestigious league where the main focus is to WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP! I want to be in a league where the main objective is, getting experience! Obviously the main objective is to win each game, but being able to be put into certain situations that will help in the development of a player is key in the type of league I am in.
From a different perspective: The player that is a stud, looking to face the best competition. For a player like this, the goal of summer ball is a little bit different than what I am doing. Most often in a better league, such as, The Cape, The Valley League, The Alaska League, etc., players are there to be seen. It is their opportunity to be in a situation where more people can see them. They are also there to get better, because in my opinion, the more innings you get, the better you will be. But, the main reason for a type of player of this caliber is to see a higher level of competition to prove they can play at the next level.
Now for my first pitching update of the summer!!
I’m playing for a great team called the Walnut Creek Crawdads. I’ve been with the team for over a week now and I’m just starting to open up and be able to be myself. Its funny how no matter where you play the game, baseball players are all the same. The comrade among a team is always the same. The group of guys on this team are funny, and I fit in just fine.
When I first arrived there was a lot of questions about what it was like to win the World Series, and at the time it was still hard to describe. I was put on the mound the first day I arrived, which was after a flight from Pensacola to Atlanta and Atlanta to San Fran. Needless to say, my flight left at 7:30 in the morning, and my 22nd birthday was the night before I left, so I didn’t get a lot of sleep. Anyways, pitched the 9th inning and finished the game allowing 1 run.
I have found a lot more consistency with my slider, which has been a big problem for me throughout the whole development of pitching. My work in the bullpen has been legit! It feels like one more thing that I can check off my list of improvement. It starts in the bullpen, and ends on the field. I have to continue to keep telling myself that if I can do it in the bullpen, I just need to transfer it to the field. I think as a pitcher, that is one of the hardest things to do. It’s always different with a batter in the box. Everything speeds up, and each pitch means something.
In my last outing I was put into a situation like I had never faced before. Bases loaded, no outs, tie ball game….. yikes! I was able to block out the situation, and focused on the hitter. I got the first guy to fly out to shortstop, the second guy flew out to second base, and I had a 2-2 count on the next batter. I had the momentum, and I just needed to execute one more pitch. I hit the batter in the leg, run scored. I was mad at myself, but calmed down before the next pitch. I got the next guy to fly out to 2nd base.
Down by one in the top of the last inning, we got 2 runs, so I had a lead to work with when I went back onto the field. I was thinking about how Shane Waller had been so dominant in these situations, and I give him so much credit for being as dominant as he was all year.
A new situation for me, pitching with a 1 run lead to win a game. I walked the first guy on 4 pitches…. UGHHHH! So frustrating for a coach, and team. It was also my first opportunity to experience and umpire “squeezing” the zone. I am as accountable as any person that plays the game, but the strike zone from the first inning I pitched to the second was a lot smaller. There were 3 good pitches that were closer to being strikes than balls, but the umpire called them balls. I guess its just the way the cookie crumbles some times.. I eventually walked the 2nd batter. Our coach made a pitching change, and I was able to reflect on my outing.
I am throwing the ball well in my opinion, I am around the plate with my pitches, and I feel comfortable on the mound in a tight situation. The problem for me right now, which has been a problem since I started pitching is I’m killing myself by giving free bases. The runners that have scored against me this summer have all gotten on base by being walked or hit. Now its only been 3 runs in 6 innings, but my immediate goal for my next outing is to not hit or walk a batter. I feel great though, and I’ve loving every minute I have out here! Most players work during the summer…. I want to play baseball! I have the rest of my life to work!
Stats so far… (which I DO NOT care about, but some people may be interested in)
4 appearances, 6ip, 4h, 3runs, 3k’s, 5bb, 4hbp, 1 W (which happens to be the first of my career)
I will keep everyone updated soon! Thanks for all your support!
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GO ARGOS…. and CRAWDADS!!!
I’m not crazy about the new stadium. Not because I’m some sort of Rosenblatt apologist, because I never cared for it either. That place was a dive, but at least it had some personality. Like the Homy Inn in midtown Omaha.
TD Ameritrade Park is great because it’s new. Ten years ago I loved my Ford Focus – (well not loved necessarily “loved”, but a strong “like” nonetheless – it was a Focus after all). Why? Because it was new. I had been driving a manual shift Chevy Cavalier without air-conditioning so anything else was a godsend. The new home of the CWS seems great now, but how is going to be once there are some miles on it and the tires need replaced?
The stadium reminds me of Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium – minus the waterfalls and ample parking. It’s round. It’s blue. It’s a baseball diamond. There is nothing interesting about TD Ameritrade Park. No big baseball mitt or soda bottle beyond the outfield wall. No party deck or hot tub for people to watch the game from. No glamorous skyline view showcasing the city. No river or cove outside the fences. Nothing. Instead, TD Ameritrade Park seems like a big advertisement for the Qwest Center which rests prominently outside center field.
The Fertile Ground mural outside the stadium is incredible. If it would have been more prominently featured it would have made for a distinct scenic view with some pop. How about a big steak or something else unique and local beyond one of the outfield walls? Sounds silly maybe, but I don’t know, wouldn’t it be fun to see a big cow out beyond the outfield fence? Like an updated, Midwest version of the Bull in Durham, NC. Maybe a monster version of the Road to Omaha statue? Heck. I’d take one of those blown up air dancing inflatable guys you see outside used car dealerships.
Across town at Werner Park, the home of the Omaha Storm Chasers, you know what they have at their baseball stadium? A merry-go-round. You know what else? A miniature Rosenblatt Stadium for kids to play stickball. Pretty cool. It also has berm seating, bullpens you can walk right up to and food from restaurants I’ve heard of.
TD Ameritrade has a concession stand named “Burger Burger” which touts itself as an Omaha “tradition”. Tradition: [truh-dish-uhn] – a long-established or inherited way of thinking or acting. Before it was even opened it was deemed a tradition? Zestos. That was a tradition. Give them a booth in TD Ameritrade. Not some over priced burger on a cheap bun.
It doesn’t need to be kitschy or gaudy. Let’s not bedazzle the place or hang up some streamers in order to spruce it up a bit. But something should be done. Why does one of the most exciting events in the country have to be played in one of the most boring places? There is a reason people go to exotic places for their honeymoon. Big events deserve a big backdrop.
The College World Series deserves a place that has some pizzazz. A place that has some personality. A place that has some character.
You know what TD Ameritrade has? Some little coniferous trees out beyond centerfield.
One more thing. Bring back John Routh and the CWS Maniac.
Alright people, I know I’m a slacker… but honestly… did you really expect me to jump right onto the computer after winning the NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP? I’ve been celebrating… and it’s never felt better to be a winner! Remember that team that lost in the conference tournament, and most people counted us out to compete in the South Region? The team that people chanted “overrated”, or the team that got “lucky” to win… Well that team is now Division 2 National Champions! Let it soak in for a second…. National Champions! Whenever someone says that, it just brings a smile to my face. It really started to hit me when we got on our chartered flight back to Pensacola and the flight attendant addressed us as, The National Champion UWF Argonauts.
The experience cannot be matched by any type of winning… This is the ULTIMATE goal that every player plays for. It’s the reason why we wake up early for weights, when other students don’t wake up until noon. The reason why we kill ourselves in the gym 4 days a week, with a intense conditioning day on the 5th day. It is a combination of every sprint I’ve had to run during team punishment (and I was apart of the 2008 team that could probably compete with most Cross Country teams). It all paid off on June 4, 2011.
June 4th, the day that will live on in 28 players lives, and over 500 UWF fans, as the day that UWF made history by winning their first ever NCAA National Championship. Winning was gratifying, but when I take a moment to look at the big picture of what it meant to win, I think about the city of Pensacola. Before this team started the 2011 season, there was little support for UWF Athletics. When this team started winning, people started seeing that a UWF baseball game was an enjoyable experience to be apart of. From the dugout you could see the enjoyment on peoples faces when the bench players would do our LOVE IS GONE dance, or inning stretches. You started to see the community want to be a part of a winning team, and a sport that most people are fans of, regardless if they had ever picked up a baseball. It’s the American past-time… We started to see little league teams come out asking for autographs, and watching their coaches say, “watch how Greg Pron hits” or “watch Danny Vargas strike this guy out”. We had a winning team, but looking back on the year, when the community started coming out, it became a winning environment! Its obvious when you look at the stats, 33-2 at home! That’s hard to imagine.
One Last Time Together
Looking back on the World Series victory, you can’t look past 2 main contributors during the post season. Obviously there was the same production from Vargas, Pron, and Lawley as there had been all year, but Josh Huggins and Taye Larry elevated their games at the right time, and was the defining reason of why we are champions. Before the regional, Coach Jeffcoat pounded the saying, “If you don’t care who gets the credit, we will win”! That couldn’t be more true. Throughout the entire year, you heard about the record breaking performances from Greg Pron, the power display by Lawley, and the down right dominance of the pitching staff. What you didn’t often hear about, was how Huggins and Taye battled all year going threw hot streaks and cold streaks. Both players were struggling for the last few weeks of the season and the conference tournament. Both players took a non-selfish approach at the plate, realized what they needed to do to help the team, and put it into action! Taye started pounding the ball into the ground and beating out infield hits. Josh started shooting the ball to right field, which would generally score Pron or Lawley. These 2 players, among others deserve a lot of credit, because they are the unsung hero’s of a team that was destined to win a championship.
For 12 seniors, their last collegiate game will always be a victory. They will never have to remember what it was like to lose a game on the biggest stage of college baseball. It’s my opinion, that it doesn’t matter if we were winning in Cary, N.C. or at Omaha. It was going to feel the same. Personally I would have rather won in front of 500 Argonaut fans then 20,000 people that are just at the CWS for the experience. It was more personable to win it in front of the people that genuinely care about you and UWF.
The 6 Survivors!
For me, I say goodbye to 5 Seniors that I came to school with as freshmen, and 7 others that I have spent 2 years with. Each and every one of them are life long friends, that have helped accomplish history. For the 7 JUCO guys, they came into a program that was winning, for the 5 seniors, including myself who were at UWF in 08′ when we were 20-32 its a feeling of gratification. No one would have ever thought that in 4 short years, we’d be making history on two different spectrum’s of the grid. From worst to best… and looking back at all of the sprints, all of the bad times, that single moment of rushing the field and flying on top of the pile wipes away any bad memory that we had. There will only be that numbing feeling of watching Shane Waller strike out the last batter, and sprinting on the field to try and tackle someone and jump on the pile. The feeling that someone can never get used too, but will never forget.
We won, no one can ever take that away from us. But after a few days, or for most of us, a week of celebrating, its back to work! Time to prepare to DEFEND our championship. A chance to prove that UWF is not a one-year wonder. Its my responsibility as a 5th year player in this program to continue the legacy of what my teammates are leaving behind. With winning comes great responsibility. Regardless of who we have on our team next year, there is a certain way we play baseball at UWF. It’s blue collar, we play hard, we are humble. We know that if we get complacent, the game will come back and punch us square in the jaw. There will be an even bigger target on our back then ever before… do we want that? Of course! We won for a reason, because we were the best. Coach Jeffcoat will always want to be the best, and he’ll be the first to tell you if he doesn’t feel that way he’ll throw in the towel. At the beginning of the season Coach Jeffcoat told us his biggest fear was we wouldn’t reach our potential.. well Coach we did!
I’m now in a town called Walnut Creek, CA which is just outside of San Francisco playing summer ball. A complete change in scenery… mountains and NO humidity! I’m loving it! I will keep everyone updated with occasional blogs. Also, I’ll probably try to write more of a column type blog throughout the summer… Just writing about different aspects of baseball. Our championship season is over, but a new one starts now! TIME TO PREPARE LIKE CHAMPIONS!
Thanks for all of the support this season, it has made writing more enjoyable knowing that people actually enjoy reading me rambling on about baseball.
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Philip Ebert 36
Super Region Pretwittions – An amalgamation of predictions & twitter.
College Baseball Lineup predicts makes it to CWS in 140 chars.
Mississippi State Bulldogs at Florida Gators
Gators batting .311 4 yr. Music group 311 from Omaha. Coincidence? I think not. UF sweeps in2 CWS bhind prolific offense & stingy staff.
Arizona State Sun Devils at Texas Longhorns
Wud pick ASU if gm n Tempe. UT stout @ home n Devils struggle on road. Low scoring series 2b won base to base. Rnt Devils suspended NEway?
Stanford Cardinal at North Carolina Tar Heels
UNC plays fndamental ball: hit, pitch, dfense. Stanford is tested, playd 5 Super Regnl teams. Look 4 host Heels 2 advance 4 5th time n 6 yrs
Oregon State Beavers at Vanderbilt Commodores
Dores will finally make trip 2 Omaha. Solid lineup, even better rotation. Beavers have aces 2, but batters cant compared 2 VU. Vandy sweeps.
UC Irvine Anteaters at Virginia Cavaliers
UCI has title run moxie but usurping Cavs 2 tall an order. UVa has lost only 1 gm 2 a non ACC team this year. This weekend will not b 2nd.
Dallas Baptist Patriots vs Cal Golden Bears
We’ve been believers of DBU all yr. Rankd 4 > month. Both teams great stories. Bears staved off program elimination, but not this week.
Texas A&M Aggies at Florida State Seminoles
Every bone in bod says FSU but gut says A&M. Aggs w/o Stilson but Fozzie Bear’s fav hurler Wacha equaly awesum. Noles favs but A&M advances.
Connecticut at South Carolina
Can Conn upset 2nd Palmetto St team? Magic 8ball says Outlook good. Huskies hv 2 1st round pix on roster. USC 34-4 @ home. 3 gms, Cocks win.
Chase Larsson of the Cameron Aggies is the recipient of the 2011 Tino Martinez DII Player of the Year Award. The award is presented to the most outstanding player in DII college baseball. The annual honor is named after the former University of Tampa Spartan , United States Olympian, first round draft pick and MLB All-Star, Tino Martinez.
Larsson didn’t just have one of the most prolific offensive seasons, of the year, he complied some of the most impressive numbers in DII history. The slugging 6’4” outfielder from Vancouver , BC , finished the season for the Aggies leading DII in home runs (29), RBI (84), slugging percentage (1.000) and total bases (190). He also finished the regular season batting .432, good for 11th overall in the nation.
A former 18 th round draft pick by the Kansas City Royals out of high school, Larsson has also recently been named the Lone Star Conference Player of the Year and was awarded the South Central Region Player of the Year by Daktronics, the American Baseball Coaches Association and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association.
Earlier this season Larsson tied a school record with eight RBIs in a single game and matched a school and conference records when he belted three home runs in a single contest. Larsson also incredibly established a new NCAA Division II record when he mashed a homerun in nine consecutive games during a stretch in March.
Following the season Larsson was selected by the Atlanta Braves in the ninth round of the Major League Baseball’s Amateur Draft (296th selection overall).
The winner of the Tino Martinez Award was chosen by a panel of DII baseball media and coaches from across the nation. Their votes narrowed down a list of 47 semifinalists to eight finalists. A final ranking of the remaining student-athletes was then tallied to determine the winner. Fans and supporters were also given the opportunity to participate in the selection process as an online vote was also taken. Those results were combined with the panel to select the winner.
Mount Olive’s Carter Capps, the 2011 National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association’s National Pitcher of the Year, finished in a close second. Matt Johnson of the Arkanas Tech Wonder Boys and Barry’s Dean Green also fininshed near the top, placing third and fourth respectively. Dodson McPherson of Wingate was fifth, Ryan Thompson from Franklin Pierce was sixth and Ashland pitcher Ajay Meyer and Nathan Minnich from Sheperd rounded out the top eight.
Last year, Bryan Fogle of Erskine won the first edition of the award after batting .430 and leading DII with 28 home runs, 103 RBI (the second most in NCAA history) and 203 total bases. Fogle was drafted by Tampa Bay following the season and is currently in the Rays’ minor league system. Runner-up Hayden Simpson of Southern Arkansas was a first round draft choice of the Chicago Cubs.
Regional Predictions: Part I
The Gators were our preseason pick to win the title and that hasn’t changed, so needless to say UF is our choice in this region. Mike Zunino is batting out of his gourd and the Gator pitchers have been impressive, most impressive. I only feel bad for the guy who suits up in the mascot costume as he made the trip to Omaha last year and it had to be a bizzilion degrees in there. If any team is going to take a game from the Gators it will be Miami. The Canes are a strong number two seed and have an excellent staff as well. Had Harold Martinez put up the power number he was projected to post, maybe I could be swayed to choose the “U”. The last time Manhattan was in the Regionals they pulled out a win over Joba Chamberlain in Lincoln.
I can’t see anyone other that host Georgia Tech taking this region. The Yellow Jackets have a balanced ballclub which dominates at the plate and on the mound. Matt Skole has an awesome power stroke and Mark Pope and Buck Farmer combined for 21 wins with only seven losses. The Golden Eagles went to Omaha two years ago via Atlanta, but two of their best players have been suspended for academic reasons. Additionally, their leading hitter is questionable due to a hamstring injury. Mississippi State is good but not great and Austin Peay is fun to root for, “Let’s go Peay!”, but neither should contend for the region crown.
Arkansas is steamin’ mad they didn’t get to host a regional and were shipped across two time zones to play in Tempe. It also took some time to see if the Hogs’ games were going to able to be seen on the Internet so their fans have been pretty riled up as well. If Arkansas gets past Charlotte (who is a pickle of a three seed), DJ Baxendale will likely take to the mound against in hopes of propelling UA to the next round. Personally, I kept waiting to hear that Arizona State wasn’t going to be eligible to play this season, but considering they’re hosting, the Sun Devils obviously received a stay of execution. Arkansas has been the popular ‘dark horse’ pick to advance, and ASU always dominates at home. As such, I’m gonna go with Charlotte. 49ers pitchers have 11 shutouts this season and a pair of aces with sub 2.00 ERA in Andrew Smith and Tyler Barnette. This has been the year of the pitcher and the A-10 Champs know how to hurl.
Texas received a nice draw for their region. Texas State and Kent State are exceptional mid-major programs, but don’t have the experience of playing weekly games against competition at the level of the Longhorns. There are some exceptional players on the Bobcats and Flashes, namely Casey Kalenkosky and Carson Smith for TSU and a three headed beast of a rotation in Andrew Chafin, Kyle Hallock and David Starn for KSU. As good as they are, they can’t compare to the top talent on the Horns. Taylor Jungmann has a 0.95 ERA and a perfect 13-0 record with five complete games. UT other two weekend starters each had a least a strikeout per inning and combined for 12 more wins. Add closer Kendal Carrillo and his 16 saves and forget about it. UT rolls in Austin.
Vanderbilt has been close to making the trip to Omaha and this should be their year. Sonny Gray is an incredible pitcher and hard to root against. He’ll be joining his fellow Commodore David Price in the majors soon. The ‘Dores can hit with the best of them too. Jason Esposito is the team’s most prolific hitter and leads and offense that batted an SEC leading .318. Oklahoma State’s Zach Johnson has been one of the Big XII’s best hitters, but he and Dan Phillips are the only Cowboys who batted over .300 for the season (playing Texas didn’t help). Troy IMHO should be the second seed in this region as the Sun Belt is slowly becoming a power conference. The Trojans won the conference regular season title and Adam Bryant and Tyler Ray won the SBC’s Player and Pitcher of the Year awards. Belmont does have an advantage over OSU and Troy since they’ll be playing in their hometown of Nashville.
Interestingly, the team with the highest batting average in the region is Georgia with an unimpressive .277 average. This gives the club with the best pitching an advantage. Of all the teams in the tournament I one I’ve seen the most this season has been Creighton as the Jays play down the street from my house and I can tell you that Jonas Dufek is the real deal. Grab the kids and huddle around the TV or computer when he takes to the hill. Hopefully he’ll throw against Oregon State’s Sam Gaviglo in a second round matchup that could last just over two hours as the two toss zeroes on the linescore. Georgia is esy to overlook considering they are a single game over .500, but the Bulldogs will be playing spirited ball in honor of their teammate Jonathan Taylor who broke his neck during a collision earlier in the season. I’m probably biased in saying this, but I think Creighton will take this region. I give CU the advantage largely in part to Trever Adams who was the Missouri Valley’s most dangerous hitter.
The Titans should win this conference without much problem. CSF is making their 20th consecutive NCAA postseason appearance and has hosted a regional in half of those appearances. This year the Titans are lead by Nick and Noe Ramirez (no relation, but they may be blood brothers). I saw Nick last year when Team USA and thought he was the most impressive player in person I saw all season (you know who else looked good Bethune Cookman’s Peter O’Brien). Nick lead the team in homeruns with nine when no other CSF player had more than two, and had 16 saves as a utility player. Stanford played a tough schedule, but being battle tested doesn’t make them good. The Cardinal should be more of a threat to the Titans in the west next year. Kansas State knows how to create runs and I can see them sneaking in an upset win somewhere. Nevertheless, neither Stanford, KSU or Big 10 Champion Illinois should be able to upset Fullerton. Illinois BTW has to be the best four seed in sometime. They won the conference’s regular season and tournament titles and won 16 of their last 20 games.
CHAPEL HILL REGIONAL
I didn’t expect much from UNC this season, but man was I wrong. The Heels finished 45-14 and were 20-10 in the ACC. For their effort they earned themselves the number three national seed (which, despite the wins seems a bit of a stretch). The Heels weren’t particularly dominating at the plate or on the mound, but they won nonetheless. Levi Mitchell is a top pro prospect and Colin Moran led the team in hitting as a freshman. Patrick Johnson, who has won of the most boring names in baseball, has one of the most exciting arms. He went 11-1 with 102 K’s. UNC’s challengers will be Florida International and James Madison. FIU was in the spotlight when Garrett Wittels attempted to break Robin Ventura’s hit streak to start the season. The Panthers had five regular players bat over .330, but can’t boast an equally stunning pitching staff. Something similar could be said for James Madison. The Diamond Dukes punished the ball as the top scoring team in the nation with over nine runs per game and a nation leading .527 slugging percentage. However JMU’s pitching staff had a robust 5.77 ERA for the season. Some of that is inflated because they play in the hitter friendly Colonial Athletic Association, but much of it is because they’re simply not that great on the hill. Want to know something surprising. Fourth seeded Maine has been to the CWS seven times. That’s the same as Vanderbilt, Georgia Tech and Texas A&M combined. This year won’t be their eighth. UNC will advance, but no team would be a shocker – a surprise, but not a shock.
Tuesday’s game could be characterized as extremely “emotionally draining”. As the heavy, musty fog poured into Coleman Field in Cary, NC the Argos had a commanding 5 run lead over Sonoma State and Jason Postill was cruising. Postill threw the ball well on Tuesday, and definitely gave our team a great opportunity to win the game! The offense got going with a CLUTCH 1 out, 2 strike base hit by Josh Huggins. With runners on 2nd and 3rd, Huggins hit a ball foul that the right fielder intentionally let drop so the run wouldn’t score. A few pitches later, Huggins drove a ground ball into right field to plate the first 2 runs of the game! A great at-bat that really started everything for the team.
Jason Postill: courtesy of PNJ
We eventually scored 5 runs, and Postill ran into a little trouble in the 7th inning. With one out and the bases juiced, Coach Jeffcoat called to the bullpen and brought in the Bearded Giant, Jordan “Big Beard” Raskinski. Jordan came in throwing gas, but let one slip and drilled the hitter in the hand. I would imagine his hand did not feel good after a 94 mph fastball off the knuckles. Jordan settled down and threw a jam sandwich to the next batter and he grounded out for a huge out. Another runner scored, and the Coach brought in the All-American Closer, Shane Waller.
With 2 outs in the 7th, a shallow fly ball was hit to left, and Taye Larry dropped the ball. Taye wears clear prescription oakley glasses during the games, and with the foggy conditions he has constantly had to wipe his glasses off and this could have been the reason for the drop. Regardless of what happened, the next batter got out and the score was 5-4.
Both teams failed to score any runs in the 8th, and the stage was set for the top of the 9th! Waller had already thrown more pitches than he had all year, and he was far from over. Lets fast forward to runners on 1st and 2nd with 1 out, Waller walked the teams best hitter. The next batter struck out, and Waller was running on E! Based loaded, with Sonoma State’s all-time hits leader up to bat, and a 2-2 count. Waller took a deep breath, channeled his inner beard strength and delivered a fastball on the black that the batter took, and STRIKE THREE! GAME OVER! We rushed the mound to celebrate with an exhausted Waller. With sweat pouring from every part of this body, it took Waller 67 pitches to get his toughest save of the year, and the biggest win of our lives.
Shane Waller: courtesy of PNJ
We used our much needed off-day to rest, and we worked out at Duke University. After our workout we toured Cameron Indoor Stadium, which was awesome! It’s hard to imagine a tougher atmosphere to play in for college basketball. After Duke, we returned to UNC Chappel Hill to view the Smith Center, and recently opened North Carolina Basketball Museum. After seeing that, I’m glad I decided not to play basketball at Duke or North Carolina.. It would have been too difficult of a choice. P.s. I’m an awful basketball player…
Big Game against Mount Olive College on Thursday! It is going to be a hot day, and everybody will need to be ready! One more win and we play for a National Championship! Loving all the support we are getting from Pensacola, and my Twitter followers! Keep it coming!
Philip Ebert 36
Regional Predictions: Part II
Virginia is the clear cut favorite in this region and rightfully so. The Cavs boast one of the best players in Danny Hultzen, who if it were not for Trevor Bauer, would have a mantle full of postseason individual trophies headed his way. Virginia’s pitching staff has a tiny 2.34 despite playing in one of the best conference in the nation and defensively you can’t get much better than the Hoos. Second seeded ECU has been to the NCAA’s a number of times with better teams and has yet to make it to Omaha; this won’t be the season either. St. John’s will probably win a game or two out of spite as seemingly no one outside of New York thinks they deserve to be playing.
LOS ANGELES REGIONAL
The Bruins’ Trevor Bauer and Gerrit Cole have nearly 300 K’s between them and will surely eclipse that mark the next time either takes to the mound. Offensively UCLA doesn’t have much to write home about, but when your staff holds opposition to a .205 batting average, you don’t need to score a bunch of runs. Fresno State’s Dusty Robinson has only one less homerun than the Bruins do as a team and Jordan Ribera led DI in homeruns last season, but if the Bulldogs are to advance it will likely be due to senior leader Danny Muno who was a valuable freshman when FSU won the title in 2008. FSU also has an ace of their own in Greg Gonzalez who is a perfect 11-0 so far this season. Irvine’s fundamental small ball team is a great dark horse to win the region, but UCLA’s aces and home field advantage should get them through to the next round.
FORT WORTH REGIONAL
If TCU is to return to Omaha for the second year in a row they’ll need the arm of Matt Purke to recover from soreness. Ace Kyle Winkler is having a first team All American year himself, but the Frogs have a difficult draw and will need all their talent to advance. Like TCU, Oklahoma was a consensus top five pick at the beginning of the season, and but hasn’t quite lived up to expectations. Nevertheless, the Sooners are experienced and have the talent to make another run to the CWS. Dallas Baptist has earned wins over Rice, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Charlotte this season and can not be taken lightly. Slugger Jason Krizan has a .431 batting average and established a new season record with 37 doubles in a season. It wouldn’t be a shock to see any of the top three advance, but the Sooner’s team chemistry makes them our choice to continue playing for another week.
Rice quietly put together another solid season and earned a national seed for the fourth time in the last six years. However this year’s edition of the Owls doesn’t seem as formidable as teams past on paper. Anthony Rendon lead the team in most major offensive categories, but didn’t create the video game type stats that he was projected to – albeit he was walked 78 times. Both Baylor and Cal are capable of upsetting the Owls, but that shouldn’t be the case. Baylor batted only .268 during the regular season and finished fifth in a lackluster Big 12. Cal can play ball, but how much extra kudos are the Bears getting for their feel-good story of being brought back from nearly having the program cut. Cal was 7-15 against teams with a RPI in the top 50. Look for Rice to win easy, but not impressively.
Florida State should have little problem winning their hosted region. The Seminoles are 21-14 against teams in this year’s field and won the ACC regular season title. Sean Gilmartin has been dominating with a 11-1 record and the Seminoles have four regular starters who batted at least .330 during the regular season. UCF seems a bit of a stretch to be a number two seed considering they finished fourth in the Conference USA. Alabama finished in a tie for second in the SEC West, which sounds impressive until you see that doing so only required finishing a game below .500 for the conference season – that’s like finding out the model your buddy set you up with works for Layne Bryant instead of Victoria’s Secret. Bethune-Cookman has won an NCAA record 46 conference games in a row. Again, see the Layne Bryant analogy as BC plays in the MEAC.
COLLEGE STATION REGIONAL
The Aggies lost their ace John Stilson to a season-ending labrum. Despite the loss, the Aggies should be able to win their Region, but making it past that would be a feat. The Wildcats can give A&M a run as the young team has been peaking late, winning 12 of their last 15 games. The Wildcats were one of the best hitting teams in the Pac-10, which is impressive considering the talented arms in the conference. Wright State batted .329 for the season and would be a better bet than third seeded Seton Hall to make an upset bid. No team in the region really is the cat’s meow, but the Wildcats are the choice the move on to the next round.
Connecticut was a preseason favorite of many to go deep into the post season, but a lackluster start of the season dropped the Huskies off the national radar. UConn had an exceptional second half of the season, lead by Team USA vets George Springer and Matt Barnes, to gain some of their ground back. UConn will have to usurp Clemson if they are to advance to a Super Regional which is a daunting task. Tiger pitchers complied their best team ERA in 15 years and have the ACC Player of the Year, Brad Miller. Had Kyle Parker stuck around for another season on the diamond as he did on the gridiron, Clemson would be a favorite to win a national title. Coastal Carolina has had better lineups and accomplished less. It’s a coin flip between the Tigers and Huskies. If the games were played up north, UConn would be a solid choice, but playing in Kingsmore Stadium gives Clemson too much of an advantage.
Even with an injury to last year’s CWS Most Outstanding Player, Jackie Bradley Jr. (who had been underperforming statistically) USC should easily prevail in their region. Christian Walker swings a mighty bat and the Gamecocks have stellar starting and bullpen pitching. Stetson made its way into the top twenty rankings midseason, but had a late season swoon that is hard to explain. The Hatters will have to get by NC State in the first round who has some good talent, namely Pratt Maynard, but not enough of it. Look for the Gamecocks to sweep their way into Super Regionals.