|COLLEGE WORLD SERIES PREVIEW: BRACKET I
June 10, 2009
Jason, SCS.com Staff Writer
This portion of the 2009 College World Series bracket boasts three National Seeds in Texas, North Carolina, and Arizona State, as well as a Cinderella story in Southern Mississippi and head coach Corky Palmer, who is retiring when the Golden Eagles' season concludes. The winner of this bracket will have to play some serious baseball. Each team has an opportunity to win every game; therefore, a seventh game may in fact be necessary. Action starts on Sunday with ASU/UNC in game one and UT/USM in game two.
Texas Longhorns - #1 National Seed (46-14 overall)
Hitting: The team uses fundamentals to score runs. They get runners on, get them over, and then get them in. Michael Torres generally sets the table even though he had a two homer game against TCU last weekend in the Super Regionals.
Pitching: The team ERA is 2.84 but the team has only allowed 216 runs on the season. Chance Ruffin leads the way with his 10-2 record and 3.02 ERA. Ruffin has three complete games this season. Austin Wood has 15 saves on the season with a 2.19 ERA in 78 inning of work.
Coaching: Augie Garrido has been around the game for a long time. Most of the fans in Austin think that this is the year of the Longhorn. This is Texas' first trip to Omaha since 2005 and they have what it takes to hoist the trophy at the end.
Game-Changers: With Torres getting on base and the Longhorns using small-ball, he should be able to score runs. Wood will come in and shut down games when needed.
Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles - (40-24 overall)
Hitting: The team is hitting .307 on the season even after losing Brian Dozier's .394 average back in April. Dozier will be on the roster for the Eagles and be used in primarily DH or pinch hitting roles. Bo Davis is the table-setter with his .371 average and 10 stolen bases. Davis also leads the team with 14 homeruns.
Pitching: Conference USA Pitcher-of-the-Year Todd McInnis is the ace of the program. McInnis has a 3.61 ERA and 9-4 record. He and JR Ballinger will be looking to shut down opponents to get the game into the hands of the closer, Collin Cargill. Cargill saved both victories last weekend and the last two wins of the Atlanta Regional. He has 13 saves on the season and opponents are only hitting .224 against him.
Coaching: Corky Palmer is in his final season at Southern Mississippi. The team is giving him a heck of a farewell gift by taking him to Omaha finally. The team is a scrappy bunch which he does not mind at all.
Game-Changers: B.A. Vollmuth. Vollmuth took over for Dozier back in April and has performed brilliantly in the post-season. He hit big homeruns in the Atlanta Regional and hit one in his first at bat in the Super Regional. His glove has shone brightly during the past two weekends.
North Carolina Tar Heels - #4 National Seed (47-16 overall)
Hitting: The team is hitting .310 on the season; however, their top hitter is over 100 points higher. Dustin Ackley is hitting .412 with 22 homeruns and 70 RBI. The #2 pick in the MLB Draft is the key to the lineup.
Pitching: The team has a 3.61 team ERA. Alex White and Adam Warren have been a tough 1-2 punch. White had a career high 12 strikeouts in the Super Regional win over East Carolina, while Warren struck out eight in 7 1/3 innings against the Pirates in game 2. If a save is needed, the Tar Heels have two options in Brian Moran, 4 saves, and Colin Bates, 6 saves.
Coaching: Mike Fox should just get used to booking flights to Omaha in mid-June. This is the fourth straight year the Tar Heels have made the trip to the midwest for the College World Series. This might be the year they hoist the trophy after losing it twice to Oregon State.
Game-Changers: Kyle Seager has a .386 average and 13 steals while driving in 59 runs this season. He provides protection for Ackley by batting in the three hole. If Ackley and Ben Bunting get on, look for Seager to bring them around.
Arizona State Sun Devils - #5 National Seed (49-12 overall)
Hitting: With a team average of .305 on the season, Jason Kipnis leads his Sun Devils into Omaha with his .385 average. Carlos Ramirez has 18 homeruns and Kipnis has 16 on the year. Those two will be the crucial for the Sun Devil offense after runners get on base.
Pitching: The Sun Devils have their own 1-2 punch in Mike Leake and Josh Spence. Leake has a 1.36 ERA and 16-1 record while Spence boasts a 9-1 record with 2.33 ERA. The team ERA is 2.78 with only allowing 221 runs (168 earned). Teams are only hitting .233 against the staff. Mitchell Lambson and Jordan Swagerty have 9 saves out of the team's 12.
Coaching: Pat Murphy has a great program for a while now but that trophy has eluded Arizona State in the past. This team is well-rounded and pitch extremely well. This might be the year that they dogpile in Omaha.
Game-Changers: Kipnis is the cog of the offense. When he goes, they go and typically he goes all the time. Leake will shut down opposing offenses which changes momentum in games.
THE FIRST ROUND MATCHUPS
Texas vs Southern Mississippi
Texas comes in not allowing a ton of runs due to their pitching staff. On the flip side, they have not been scoring them in bunches. Southern Mississippi comes in playing with "house money" as they are the Cinderella and have nothing to lose. This might prove to be a difference maker for the Golden Eagles; however, Texas is just too tough.
North Carolina vs Arizona State
Neither team allowed many runs last weekend in the Super Regionals; therefore, they are both playing defense and pitching well. The Tar Heels have a great staff and experience will be a key to their success. The Sun Devils also have a great staff and can score lots of runs. This will be a defensive battle and the team that makes the fewest errors will win, which should be the Tar Heels in this one.
C: Carlos Ramirez, ASU
1B: Dustin Ackley, UNC
2B: James Ewing, USM
SS: B.A. Vollmuth, USM
3B: Michael Torres, Texas
OF: Jason Kipnis, ASU
OF: Kevin Keyes, Texas
OF: Trent Whitehead, UNC
UTIL: Bo Davis, USM
SP: Alex White, UNC
SP: Chance Ruffin, Texas
SP: Mike Leake, ASU
RP: Austin Wood, Texas
RP: Collin Cargill, USM
THREE KEYS TO VICTORY
1. Bunting. The sacrifice bunts have been key to the Longhorn success. They set a NCAA record with seven bunts in game 1 of the Super Regional.
2. Chance Ruffin will have to shut down great hitters in this bracket. Augie should save him for their second game.
3. Pitching and defense has put the Longhorns in contention for the championship. They do not make multiple errors in a game, if they do other teams will need to capitalize.
1. Timely hitting will be a key to the Golden Eagles success in Omaha. When runners get on, they need to get them in.
2. Bo Davis setting the table or blasting a homerun. He has been doing it all season and now they need him even more because of the opponents in this bracket.
3. Defense and Brian Dozier. B.A. Vollmuth as been just superb at shortstop and his glove was key in the Super Regionals. Dozier's availability to hit might just help the Eagles.
1. Experience is golden this time of year. The Heels have been in this situation three times in a row. Will the experience bring home the trophy?
2. Dustin Ackley will look to continue his great season before heading off to the Mariners organization. Ackley would like nothing more than a ring right now.
3. Mike Fox will have decisions to make but team makes it easy on him. Again, experience is extrememly helpful for Fox.
1. Jason Kipnis and Carlos Ramirez will have to continue to drive in runs. They have done it all season with 143 RBI on the season.
2. Pitching will just have to throw strikes as they have been all season because the offense should put up runs for them.
3. Keeping with the running game will be helpful as they have 111 steals on the season. This puts pressure on opposing pitchers to make good pitches, which gives batters pitches to hit.
WRAPPING IT UP
The ACC has not won a baseball title since 1955. North Carolina will be out to change that this season. This bracket will be tough as the National Seeds all are hungry to hoist the title. Runs will be a premium with the pitching staffs on this side of the bracket; therefore, the small ball mentality will be a major factor. This bracket should go seven games with North Carolina coming out on top.