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REGIONAL PREVIEW: COLUMBIA, MO & FAYETTEVILLE
May 31, 2007

Columbia, MO | Fayetteville

SCS.com A late season surge has given Missouri the opportunity to host at least one weekend of NCAA postseason play. The Tigers will be welcoming second-seeded Miami, on a roll themselves, as well as both Louisville and Kent State. That survivor will then take on the winner from Fayetteville next weekend. Arkansas, the top seed at home and the seventh overall national seed, will see Creighton, Oklahoma State, and Albany make their way to town this weekend. Are the Tigers and Hogs on a collision course, or will someone else break up the party?

COLUMBIA, MO REGIONAL
  vs Fayetteville Regional

The Field

(1) Missouri (40-16)
It’s been a great season for the Tigers, who finished a surprising second in the Big 12 at 19-8. Despite a 1-2 showing in the Big 12 tournament, they were still chosen to host a regional for the first time since 1965.
(2) Miami (36-22)
Miami was penciled in as a potential title contender, but finished in the middle of the pack in the ACC. This is the second straight year the Hurricanes go to a Big 12 school for the postseason, having gone to Nebraska a year ago.
(3) Louisville (40-20)
The 2007 season has been a historic one for Louisville. The Cardinals, under first-year coach Dan McConnell, have won a school-record 40 games, and make only their second regional appearance in school history. The Cards finished third in the Big East with a 19-8 record, one game behind St. John‘s and Rutgers, and went 2-2 in the Big East tourney.
(4) Kent State (33-24)
The Golden Flashes captured the Mid-American‘s Eastern Division title with a 19-8 record, then won four in a row to win the automatic bid, knocking off #1 seed Eastern Michigan twice in the process. The Golden Flashes enter their first postseason appearance since 2004 on a hot streak, having won 16 of their last 17 games.

The Venue

Taylor Stadium at Simmons Field, home of the Tigers, has an official seating capacity of 2,200. The stadium has been in use since the 1950s, but underwent extensive renovations in the late 1990s to make it on par with other top Big 12 facilities. Its dimensions are 340 down the left and right field lines, 375 in left and right center, and 400 in center.

The Best

Starting Pitcher - Eric Erickson, Miami - Erickson has had a fantastic freshman season, and has been the Hurricanes’ best arm. He has compiled a 10-3 record with a 2.00 ERA in 12 starts.
Runner-up: Zack Pitts and Justin Marks, Louisville
Relief Pitcher - Trystan Magnuson, Louisville - Magnuson has been exceptional as the Cardinals’ closer this season. In 31 appearances, he’s 3-1 with eight saves and 49 Ks in 49 innings. His most impressive stat is his 0.92 ERA.
Runner-up: Kyle Gibson, Missouri and Danny Gil, Miami
Infielder - Logan Johnson, Louisville - Johnson has been a star at the plate (.372, 26 doubles, 13 homers, 55 RBI), and has a .974 fielding percentage as the Cardinals’ starting second baseman.
Runner-up: Yonder Alonso, Miami
Outfielder - Boomer Whiting, Louisville - The Cardinals’ center fielder has made the most of his second chance at a senior season. Whiting is hitting .358 and leads the nation with an astounding 69 steals. In the field, he has committed only two errors this season.
Runner-up: Evan Frey, Missouri and Blake Tekotte, Miami
Homerun Hitter - Yonder Alonso, Miami - The sophomore has been one of the top power hitters in the ACC this season. He’s belted 18 round-trippers and driven in 74 runs while hitting at a .377 clip.
Runner-up: Isaiah Howes and Logan Johnson, Louisville
Pro Prospect - Jemile Weeks, Miami - Weeks, the younger brother of Milwaukee Brewers’ star Rickie Weeks, is projected as one of the top prospects in the 2008 draft. Weeks was drafted in the 8th round by the Brewers out of high school, but opted to go to UM. After a great freshman season, he’s been slowed by injury this year, but the sophomore second baseman is still one of the best in the country at his position.
Coach - Jim Morris, Miami - When it comes to the postseason, there are few coaches with a resume like Morris. In his years at Georgia Tech and Miami, he’s led 23 straight teams to the postseason. He’s led ten Miami squads to Omaha, with national championships in 1999 and 2001. He’s won well over 1,100 games on the Division I level, and coached standout players such as Nomar Garciaparra, Jason Varitek, and Pat Burrell.
Runner-up: Dan McConnell, Louisville

The Forecast

Missouri pulled a stunner last year by advancing to the super regionals as a #4 seed, and they have turned heads with their 40-win season in 2007. This year’s team doesn’t have top pitchers Max Scherzer or Nathan Culp, but is a solid squad in every facet of the game. The Golden Flashes will be upset-minded, but Missouri should be fine. On the other side, there‘s Miami and Louisville. History proves that you can‘t count out any Miami team in the postseason, and this year isn‘t any different. But the pitching is going to have to put together consecutive quality outings, which hasn‘t happened with regularity this season.
They‘ll be going up against a Louisville team with their eyes on continuing a record season. The Cardinals have two quality starters in Pitts, the Big East‘s Pitcher of the Year, and Marks, who won seven games and posted an ERA below 3.00. Louisville is a solid all-around team, much like Missouri, but with more power, and more speed, so they definitely pose a threat. The Hurricanes have won 13 consecutive regionals under Jim Morris, but that streak will certainly be in jeopardy here. They‘re going to have to come ready to play if they want to continue a streak of 10 consecutive regional-opening wins. It‘s hard to pick against them, even though they‘re on the road, but the ‘Canes are going to have to overcome themselves, and a couple of quality foes, if they want to harbor any hopes of returning to Omaha yet again.

The Predictions

Eddie Jimmy Jonathan
Missouri Miami Miami

FAYETTEVILLE REGIONAL
  vs Columbia, MO Regional

The Field

(1) Arkansas (41-19) [#7]
Arkansas was a potentially high national seed before dropping their final three SEC series to back into the SEC West title. But they got a little momentum going when they needed it, winning three in a row in the SEC tournament before dropping the championship game to Vandy, earning the 7th overall seed in the process.
(2) Creighton (44-14)
The Bluejays return to the field after missing out in 2005. They finished one game back of Wichita State in the Missouri Valley at 19-5, but got the conference’s automatic bid by going 4-1 in the MVC tourney, capping off their run with a 10-9, 12-inning victory over the Shockers.
(3) Oklahoma State
The Cowboys make their second straight trip to Fayetteville, where they were the runner-up to Oral Roberts last year. OSU finished third in the Big 12 at 16-11, but enters the regionals having lost their last six games, having been swept by Missouri to end the regular season, then going 0-3 in the Big 12 tournament.
(4) Albany
Albany is making their first NCAA tournament appearance. The Great Danes finished third in the America East at 13-11, qualifying for the conference tournament on the last weekend of the regular season. But they swept through the league tourney, knocking off regular-season champ Binghamton twice to earn the automatic bid.

The Venue

Baum Stadium is known as one of the top venues in college baseball today. The Stadium has been open since 1996, and has experienced numerous renovations since to make it arguably the premier college baseball facility in the country. Its current capacity is 10,737, and it hosted a record 10,587 this year against LSU. Dimensions are 320 down left and right, 375 in left and right center, and 400 in center.

The Best

Starting Pitcher - Nick Schmidt, Arkansas - Schmidt hasn’t quite had the year he was expected to, but he’s still one of the top pitchers in the country. He is 10-5, with a 2.85 ERA, and 107 strikeouts in 117 innings.
Runner-up: Jess Todd, Arkansas
Relief Pitcher - Pat Venditte, Creighton - Venditte has put up impressive numbers (8-1, 1.83 ERA, four saves, 90 strikeouts in 36 appearances), but it’s how he does it that’s just as impressive. The junior is a rarity in baseball, as he pitches both left and right-handed. And he’s certainly effective doing it.
Runner-up: Andy Masten, Creighton
Infielder - Tyler Mach, Oklahoma State - Mach had a huge season as a junior last year after transferring from junior college, and has kept it up this spring. He moved from third base to second to make room for N.C. State transfer Matt Mangini, and has played well in the field all year.
Runner-up: Rebel Ridling, Oklahoma State and Logan Forsythe, Arkansas
Outfielder - Corey Brown, Oklahoma State - Brown’s bat has been excellent this season (.345/19/65) and in his entire career (.360 as a freshman, .359 as a sophomore). The junior’s speed is certainly an asset at the plate (21 steals) and in the field, where he’s a three-year starter in right.
Runner-up: Casey Coon, Arkansas
Homerun Hitter - Danny Hamblin, Arkansas - Hamblin hit 17 homers and drove in 68 runs a year ago. He got off to a slow start this year, but caught fire in SEC play and enters the regionals with an SEC-leading 22 homers.
Runner-up: Tyler Mach, Oklahoma State
Pro Prospect - Matt Mangini, Oklahoma State - Mangini won the prestigious Cape Cod League’s batting title last summer, and was rated as one of the league’s top five prospects. After transferring from N.C. State this past summer, the junior third baseman has picked right up where he left off in Raleigh, and is projected as a potential first-round pick in the draft.
Runner-up: Nick Schmidt, Arkansas
Coach - Dave Van Horn, Arkansas - Van Horn has had success at every level, from junior college, to Division II, and as a Division I head coach for 13 seasons at Northwestern State, Nebraska, and now Arkansas. He’s won several conference and division titles on the D-I level, and has led three teams to the College World Series. He also won a national championship in Division II at Central Missouri State.
Runner-up: Frank Anderson, Oklahoma State

The Forecast

Arkansas rescued their host hopes at the last minute by getting to the SEC tournament championship game. In three wins, Razorback pitchers allowed only one earned run and two total. Is the team back on track, or will the squad that dropped its final three SEC series show up this weekend? The pitching’s going to need to be at its best again this weekend, and it might not be a bad idea to save Schmidt and Todd for the second and third games, against stronger opposition. Creighton isn’t a flashy team, and has been overshadowed by Wichita State all season, but they have the MVC’s Player of the Year, Darin Ruf (.377/8/56), and enough bats to support a solid rotation and excellent relief pitching. That could be bad news for OSU, whose potent offense has had its struggles against quality pitching. And the same can be said for Arkansas, who hasn’t exactly been an offensive juggernaut lately.
All three of the front-runners are capable of putting runs on the board, but getting ’enough’ will be a factor here. Pitching is Oklahoma State’s weakness, so they’re going to have to step it up on the mound if they want to have a chance to take things one step further in Fayetteville this year. Arkansas does have something to prove after getting knocked out early last year, and after their late slide this year. But given everything, they’re the favorite, though do look out for the Bluejays. One thing is for sure: Baum’s going to be rocking this weekend.

The Predictions

Eddie Jimmy Jonathan
Arkansas Arkansas Arkansas
U.S.A.
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