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SUPER REGIONAL PREVIEW: MISSISSIPPI AT ARIZONA STATE
June 6, 2007

SCS.comMISSISSIPPI AT ARIZONA STATE

THE MATCHUP

Two of the more consistent baseball programs in the nation will play this weekend in Tempe, Arizona in an attempt to make it to Omaha for the College World Series as Mike Bianco’s Rebels will travel to the west to take on Pat Murphy’s Sun Devils. In the past weekend, both teams swept their home regionals. Mississippi beat Sam Houston State Friday, Southern Miss Saturday, and Sam Houston State again on Sunday. It was the fourth straight year that the Rebels hosted a regional in Oxford. The #5 national seed Arizona State beat Monmouth Friday, UC Riverside Saturday, and Nebraska Sunday. It should be a good weekend for baseball in Tempe, as UM tries to make it to the College World Series for their first ever time in more than 35 years, while Arizona State attempts to return for the first time since they last made it in 2005.

THE VENUE

Packard Stadium will be host to the Super Regional in Tempe, Arizona this upcoming weekend. Known as one of the most beautiful collegiate ballparks in the nation, Packard Stadium’s backdrop includes a view of the Arizona desert and mountains. The Sun Devils home diamond has a capacity over 4000, with its field dimensions being 338 to left and right, and 395 to center. This ballpark is known as a true hitters' park, as there is usually a consistent wind that blows out to right field. Packard Stadium has seen two National Championship Sun Devil teams come through, and they have a chance this year to see another. Mississippi fans that make the trip to Tempe along with the Arizona State faithful will be treated to a spectacular weekend at one of the premier ballparks in college baseball.

BREAKING IT DOWN

Starting Pitching
Both Mississippi and Arizona State boast strong starting pitching. Playing in the SEC and Pac 10, both starting staffs have been battle tested. For the Rebels, their best starters are Will Kline (7-2, 3.72 ERA) and Lance Lynn (8-4, 2.55 ERA). Both Kline and Lynn were two of the better starting pitchers in the SEC this year and will pose a very tough challenge to the exceptional bats of Arizona State. The third starter for UM, if necessary, will be either Nathan Baker (5-2, 3.92 ERA) or Brett Bukvich (7-3, 4.10 ERA). For the #5 national seed Arizona State, a trio of starting pitchers help lead the team. The trio of Josh Satow (12-3, 2.56 ERA), Mike Leake (13-1, 3.58 ERA), and Brian Flores (10-1, 3.80 ERA) is one of the better one in the nation. In this Super Regional, there is an abundance of starting pitching. I’d give the nod to the Mississippi staff based on the fact that Kline and Lynn can be absolutely dominant at times.
Advantage: Mississippi
Hitting
Again, both Arizona State and Mississippi are very good hitting teams. For UM, their team average of .309 shows you that they can hit. When the Rebels hit to their top ability, they are very hard to stop. The Henry brothers (Justin at .385, Jordan at .375) - along with Zack Cozart (.304) and Zach Miller (.370) - are the Rebs’ better hitters for average. Cody Overbeck (14 HR’s) and Logan Power (11 HR’s) provide the pop in the Rebel lineup. Pat Murphy’s Arizona State lineup is considered the best hitting team in the nation. Their team average at .351 is much higher than the Rebels’. Pac 10 Player of the Year Brett Wallace (.420, 15 HR’s, 74 RBI’s) is one of the best in the country. The Sun Devils lineup has 6 players batting above the team average of .351, with Petey Paramore, Eric Sogard, Matt Spencer, Kiel Rolling, and Ike Davis being the others along with Wallace. UM has a good lineup, but as mentioned earlier, Arizona State has the top lineup in all of college baseball.
Advantage: Arizona State
Out of the Pen
The Sun Devils and Rebels have good bullpens, but not great ones. For Mike Bianco’s squad, Cody Satterwhite is the top arm. When he’s on, he’s very hard to hit. But if he isn’t, he will walk batters and really struggle. Another arm, Scott Bittle, has 7 saves on the year and has started lately for the Rebels, but after struggling in his last start, he could move back to the bullpen. The Sun Devil bullpen rarely has to appear because their starters usually go for 7 to 8 innings. But in Pat Murphy’s bullpen, closer Jason Jarvis, who has 11 saves on the season, is their best. Scott Mueller is also a decent option out of the pen for Arizona State. Both bullpens are pretty even, but with the potential that Cody Satterwhite has in this Super Regional, I’ll give the vote to the Rebels.
Advantage: Mississippi
Coaching
Both coaches, Pat Murphy for Arizona State and Mike Bianco for Ole Miss, are among the more respected ones in the game. Murphy last led the Sun Devils to the College World Series in 2005, while Bianco has never led the Rebels to Omaha. Mississippi has come up short the last 2 years, losing at home in the Super Regionals each year. The skipper for Arizona State is known as a “player’s coach” and for that reason, is an icon in college baseball. For Bianco’s Rebels, the pressure of playing at home is not the case this year. Because of the fact that Murphy has “been there,” I’ll give him the nod over Bianco.
Advantage: Arizona State
Intangibles
Playing at home in Packard Stadium, Arizona State is a tough team to beat. The fact that they know how to use the field to their advantage, such as how the wind blows out to right, will help the Sun Devils this weekend. Don’t count out the Rebels though, as they have played in many hostile environments in the SEC this year and that has taught them how to handle a situation like this. Home field advantage has not really been important in the NCAA Tournament this year, but with the opportunity to make it to Omaha, the Sun Devil crowd should be an advantage.
Advantage: Arizona State

FINAL THOUGHTS

This Super Regional features the best matchup in the NCAA Tournament to his point. Both teams swept through their home regionals last weekend, and that momentum will be key heading into this showdown. Making the trip to the western US from the east could be a problem for most teams, but with the experience of this Mississippi team, it shouldn’t be. In this Super Regional, there will be an abundance of MLB talent.
As mentioned earlier, UM has the hand in the pitching category, while Arizona State has the advantage in hitting. This should be a very close series, with it likely needing a third game, the deciding game to advance to Omaha. Look for the powerful Arizona State offense to overcome a strong Ole Miss pitching staff and make it to the College World Series for the second time in the last three years.

PREDICTION TIME

Eddie Jimmy Jonathan
Arizona State Arizona State Arizona State
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