Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The U

#2 Miami Hurricanes

Record: 36-22

Bid: At-large, from ACC

Regional Appearances: 36

CWS Appearances: 22

National Titles: 4

Players to Watch: For starters, there are some names on the roster that should be familiar to folks in Columbia. Sophomore CF Blake Tekotte was a star at Hickman and hit .345 this season while appearing in all 57 games for the Hurricanes. Fans from St. Louis should recognize the name of Jason Hagerty, a freshman catcher who was the 2006 Missouri Gatorade Player of the Year. Given Miami’s storied history, it’s hard to blame these kids for leaving the state, but it sure would be nice if they regretted that decision by next Monday… Miami’s biggest threat at the plate is sophomore first baseman Yonder Alonso (.378, 18 HRs and 74 RBI). The fact that he was only a second-team All-ACC selection with those numbers goes to show how deep that conference is… The pitching rotation is led by freshman left-hander Eric Erickson (10-3, 2.00), who was an All-ACC selection. Junior lefty Scott Maine (5-5, 3.03) appears to be the No. 2 starter, striking out 73 batters in 92.0 innings pitched… Danny Gil (3-0, 3.73) is probably the best arm out of the bullpen, appearing in 31 games and earning 5 saves.

Pretty much anyone who follows college baseball can tell you that Miami has a rich tradition of winning. Their trip to Columbia marks the 35th consecutive regional appearance for the Hurricanes, which is an NCAA record. Miami has also won 13 consecutive regionals and appeared in last year’s College World Series. Even more daunting is the fact that Miami is 27-2 in its last 29 regional games and has not suffered a regional loss to a team other than Florida since 1998. Still, history alone will not get Miami through to the next round and this year’s Hurricane squad is not as dominant as we have come to expect. Despite winning 10 of their last 13 games, they earned only a No. 5 seed in a very deep ACC tournament and ended up falling to No. 8 seed Wake Forest. They’re bound to lose eventually… right?

It’s hard to know what exactly to expect from Miami this weekend. They have played extremely well at times, including two wins against No. 3 Florida State and No. 13 Clemson. But they also had their share of bad games against teams outside the top 100 in RPI, including two losses to Mercer (RPI 101), a loss to St. Bonaventure (RPI 204), and a loss to North Florida (RPI 152). The one thing we do know is they have postseason experience, so being away from home probably won’t bother them. After all, they made it to the College World Series last year without hosting a regional. I know I’m not going out on a limb here, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Mizzou and Miami facing off on Sunday for the Regional Title. Who comes out on top is anybody’s guess… but my gut reaction, unfortunately, is Miami. Prove me wrong Tigers!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Let's play ball!

By Tiger Fan

After a LONG hiatus as I finished up my second year of law school, I’m back to preview the Columbia (yes, MISSOURI) Regional for the NCAA Baseball Championship. This, my friends, is a program on the move. Congrats to Tim Jamieson and Co. on their fifth straight postseason. I’d love to see other teams at Mizzou step up and match that consistency. I’ll preview Kent State and Louisville today, Miami on Wednesday and our Tigers on Thursday, so keep checking back for updates. I will also be in Columbia on Friday for Game 1, which should ensure two things based on this year’s track record: 1) rain, and 2) a Tiger victory. Mizzou-Rah!

#4 Kent State Golden Flashes

Record: 33-24

Bid: MAC Tournament Champions

Regional Appearances: 8

CWS Appearances: 0

National Titles: 0

Players to Watch: Senior Andrew Davis led the Golden Flashes in hitting for the second straight year, batting .335 and driving in 53 runs. He was the only player to start all 57 games and also holds Kent State’s career hits record… Freshman Anthony Gallas was a big source of power for Kent State, hitting 10 HRs, driving in 43 runs and registering a .554 slugging percentage. On the flip side, Gallas also leads the team in strikeouts with 48… On the mound, righthanders Evan Smith and Kyle Smith have made the most starts for KSU this season and both have ERAs under 4.00. Ryan Davis, who has earned 8 saves, is the Kent State closer… Earlier today, Baseball America predicted that Chris Carpenter might get the start against Mizzou on Friday. Carpenter does not have a lot of starts this year because he is coming back from injury, but he has gone 4-0 in five starts with a 3.55 ERA and 25 strikeouts.

After falling just short of the NCAA tournament a year ago, Kent State is excited to be headed to Columbia. They are coming in with quite a bit of confidence, too. They already beat No. 3-seed Louisville earlier this year and the Golden Flashes have won 16 of their last 17 games. KSU also took 2 of 3 from Florida in Gainesville, which doesn’t mean as much as it has in years past, but is still impressive for a No. 4-seed. Much like the Tigers, Kent State has found ways to win all year, including four extra-inning victories and a number of one-run games. All in all, Kent State is a solid team that will certainly not be a pushover. I don’t see the Tigers losing on Friday, but anything is possible in baseball… particularly if Carpenter plays at his best. The bottom line is this: If the Tigers from Saturday’s 13-1 win over OSU show up, we will win. If the Tigers who lost to Baylor and Oklahoma show up, things could get interesting.

#3 Louisville Cardinals

Record: 40-22

Bid: At-large, from Big East

Regional Appearances: 2

CWS Appearances: 0

National Titles: 0

Players to Watch: The senior tandem of Isaiah Howes and Logan Johnson anchor the Cardinals’ attack. Howes hit .387 with 15 HRs and 55 RBI. Johnson hit .372 with 13 HRs and 55 RBI… CF Boomer Whiting is the nation’s top base-stealer, with 69 stolen bases… On the mound, it’s all about junior Zack Pitts (Big East Pitcher of the Year) and freshman lefty Justin Marks (Big East Rookie of the Year), each of whom has started 15 games. Pitts has eye-popping numbers: his 8-3 record is accompanied by a 1.78 ERA and 80 strikeouts, compared with only 21 walks. In his first year, Marks has compiled a 7-2 record with a 2.44 ERA and struck out 72 while walking only 26… Trystan Magnuson handles the closing duties for Louisville, recording 8 saves and striking out 49 while giving up just 5 earned runs in 31 appearances.

Many have said that Louisville is a weak No. 3, but I’m just not seeing it. Perhaps the Big East is not the strongest baseball conference, but Howes and Johnson have put up huge numbers that have been complemented by equally impressive pitching. The rest of the line-up seems to drop off considerably after their star players, but if they are all playing well, I’m not sure it will matter. The loss to Kent State earlier this season has to be a concern for Cardinal fans (as does their 7-10 mark against the Golden Flashes all-time), and they have a very formidable opening round match-up with perennial power Miami. Still, it’s not crazy to think Louisville can make some noise in this regional. The question is, where do they turn for pitching after Pitts and Marks? The answer is not readily apparent, which probably means Columbia will be their last stop this season.