We know the full schedule for the first weekend of games but since we may only play each team once its not practical to lay out everyone's lineup like we usually do. Clemson really has a tough road in Omaha (who doesnt) this year as I think you could call us the weakest team in the field overall. We've overachieved and everyone knows it. The thing about the CWS is that its not always the best team that wins, its the hottest team.
And if the last two weeks are any indication, we have a shot. If we can stay in the winner's bracket our lack of pitching depth and our weak bullpen may not become apparent.
NCAA CWS Bracket - double elimination format.
Rivals breakdown of the entire field.
Game 1 - Sunday 7pm ESPN - Arizona State (52-8) vs Clemson (43-23)
Blair is a 1st team AA.
ASU defeated us in Tempe last season in the Super Regional round, and in my opinion they were definitely the better team then. They had great pitching and their hitters just got their hits at the right times. Their defense was also quite good.
However in December, they fired head coach Pat Murphy, the man that had built the program over the last 15 years. Allegations of academic fraud, recruiting violations and conflicts of interest involving players working for Murphy's non-profit youth athletic program were made by a former baseball program employee. Tim Ensmay, who Murphy had fired, was made interim coach thereafter, and still led the team to a Pac-10 Championship. Its their 4th straight. He's now the head coach without the interim tag, after getting ASU the #1 national seed.
In the NCAAs so far they breezed through the Regional round, but had a serious fight with Arkansas. Two rallies with a team down to its last strike. Two 12th-inning, game-winning hits. Arizona State defeated them 2-1.
Its a deep lineup, with 7 starters hitting over .325. 9 regular players hit over .325 total. Its not a lineup heavy on home run power, but they hit like mad, steal bases, they work walks.....and are well balanced left/right. If anything it may be slightly more RH dominated but they've got switch hitters and leftys sprinkled in. The team slugging percentage makes up for the lack of HRs. They'll just smack doubles and lots of triples off the wall.
There are 3 hitters hitting over .390 for ASU. Riccio Torrez hits .399 with 10 HRs and 53 RBI, and 27 2Bs and 20 Steals. Zack McPhee hits .394-9-64 with 19 steals, and Deven Merrero hits .394-6-41 with 11 steals. Kole Calhoun hits .327-17-59 with 62 walks. Things gan get ugly fast.
If we have any edge it is with the longball via Schaus, Miller and Hinson. Shaffer did well against Alabama. Parker hasn't really driven the ball well in over a month, and is hitting about .260 in the postseason. Its time for Kyle to get hot, he is due and we badly need the power now. I still think he's stepping in the bucket at the plate.
It appears Epps will get some PT as DH to allow Lamb to worry about pitching, so God help us. I predict he gets a strikeout and a walk in each game.
The College Baseball Blog goes over the Sun Devils here. Their staring pitching is again dominant:
It starts at the top with Seth Blair, the 46th overall pick of the St. Louis Cardinals, who is 12-0 with a 3.35 ERA in 17 starts this season. Blair has worked incredibly hard to improve his changeup, which has in turn made his electric fastball – which usually peaks around 93-94 miles per hour — even more difficult to handle.
Merrill Kelly, the team’s No. 2 starter, has gotten better as the season has progressed. Though he tends to get himself into jams, he is impressively adept at squirming out of them. Kelly (10-2, 3.57) does a good job of keeping a fast pace and attacking hitters inside. When that’s working he is difficult to hit, though it has led to some control problems this season.
No. 3 starter Jake Borup (11-1, 4.08) has performed well in the role of the Sunday arm, and though he wasn’t used in the Super Regional, Esmay will trust Borup to take the ball in Omaha.
Like last year, they are deep but they don't use up alot of guys. There are only 10 pitchers who have recorded innings. Clemson has 15. This is a team that will stick with their starters or go to long relief, very few seem to come in for just one inning at a time. 5 players have over 68 innings, and 3 more around 30 innings, then two more guys at 12 IP. Jordan Swagerty is the closer, with 14 saves in 35 IP and a 2.06 ERA.
I see no weakness in this ASU team anywhere. Their defense is also quite good. It'll be tough for the Tigers to win this game.
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