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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Mizzou fans! If you are looking for a fun and free pre-game blitz before the big arch rivalry game then go here: http://stlouis.metromix.com/events/bar_club_event/metromix-pregame-blitz-downtown/567891/content