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June 14, 2007

SCS.comAbout 95% of the college baseball season is complete and with that, the final eight teams who have made it to Omaha for the College World Series will play for the national championship beginning this weekend. The first side of the bracket will start Friday, with the second side beginning on Saturday. Only one national seed, #5 Arizona State, will be featured on that second portion of the bracket. The Sun Devils will play in the nightcap against cinderella UC Irvine, while consistent power Cal State Fullerton and defending national champion Oregon State will square off earlier in the day.

Arizona State swept through the regionals and super regionals, while UC Irvine beat Texas and Wichita State to earn their trip to Omaha. Cal State Fullerton won the Long Beach State regional and swept a home super regional against UCLA. The 2006 national champion Oregon State Beavers, meanwhile, battled elimination in the Virginia regional and then swept a pair against Michigan at home in the supers to get to Omaha for the 3rd straight year.

The Sun Devils are obviously the favorite on this side of the bracket, but don’t count out any of the other teams. Oregon State has the “swagger” as they won the title last year, and there’s nothing that needs to be said about the Cal State Fullerton program. In addition, UC Irvine has shown toughness on the road and has pitched extremely well in the postseason, so the “West” bracket should be very close with pitching being the key.


Oregon State Beavers
Hitting: With a .282 team batting average, it wouldn’t seem that Oregon State is much of a hitting team. But don’t be fooled. The Beavers are one of the most opportune teams in the country, getting timely hits and taking advantage of opponents’ mistakes game in and game out. In the first game against Michigan in the super regionals, the Beavers got one hit, and won. They were no-hit for 8.2 innings but got a guy on with a walk, sacrificed him to second, and knocked in the winning run on a walk off single. This is what Oregon State does, and they do it very well. The Beavers’ better hitters are Mike Lissman (.323, 8 HR, 56 RBI), Jordan Lennerton (.320, 7 HR, 47 RBI), Mitch Canham (.317, 9 HR, 54 RBI), and Darwin Barney (.292, 48 RBI, 18 2B).
Pitching: The Beavers have one of the best pitching staffs in the nation, and they like to finish things off with a dominant closer. The team ERA of 3.54 shows you that they can pitch extremely well. The Oregon State starting trio of Mike Stutes (10-4, 3.94 ERA), Daniel Turpen (9-1, 3.65 ERA), and Jorge Reyes (5-3, 2.84 ERA) is strong and can carry them to another national title. Joe Paterson (10-6, 3.77 ERA) would be another starter for the Beavers if they advance far enough. Out of the bullpen, Eddie Kunz (3.00 ERA, 11 SV) is the man that Pat Casey sends out to pitch in the 9th as the closer.
Coaching: Pat Casey has now led the Oregon State Beavers to three consecutive appearances in Omaha for the College World Series. His 2006 Beaver squad won the national championship, and this year’s squad has a good chance to repeat. Casey’s team brings experience to Omaha this year, and the Beavers will be a tough team to eliminate in the College World Series again this June.
Game-Changers: The clutch players for the Beavers are shortstop Darwin Barney, catcher Mitch Canham, and closer Eddie Kunz. All three have something in common. Each played a key role in the CWS last year in their national title run, coming up with big plays in each game. Barney is the type who will come up with the needed 2 out hit, while Canham is the man who knocks in the big runs. Kunz slams the door as the lights out closer for Oregon State.
Cal State-Fullerton Titans
Hitting: Like Oregon State, the Titans’ hitting isn’t too flashy. But also like OSU, the hitting is timely. Fullerton’s .280 team batting average gets the job done for the most part by coming through with clutch hits. For George Horton’s squad, the best hitters are Clark Hardman (.391, 5 HR, 47 RBI) and Josh Fellhauer (.320). Nick Mahin (9 HR, 45 RBI) and John Curtis (6 HR, 45 RBI) provide the pop in the Titans' lineup. As stated earlier, the hitting isn’t exceptional, but it does enough because the strength of Cal State Fullerton is the pitching staff.
Pitching: Just as it is every year, the strength of the Fullerton squad is the pitching staff. With a team ERA of 3.76, the Titans are a tough team to beat on a consistent basis. The starting staff is really a two-headed monster, consisting of All-American Wes Roemer (11-6, 3.24 ERA) and Jeff Kaplan (11-3, 3.16 ERA). Sean Urena (3-3, 4.50 ERA) is the other starter and isn’t too bad for the #3 spot. Adam Jorgenson (4-2, 4.40 ERA, 8 SV) has been the closer for the Titans squad this season. The Fullerton pitching staff is solid and consistently keeps the team in the game.
Coaching: The skipper for the Titans is one of the best in the nation. George Horton, year in and year out, boasts an exceptional squad whose goal is to make it Omaha on a regular basis. His team won the 2004 national championship, and as a coach, he has led the Titans to six College World Series appearances if you include this year. Like Pat Casey, Horton is one of the most respected and most successful coaches in the college baseball world.
Game-Changers: The clutch perfomers for the Titans are the All-American starting pitcher and experienced catcher. Wes Roemer and John Curtis, respectively, are the big game players for Horton’s squad, and they are counted on to have success in big situations. Clark Hardman should also be listed as a game-changer, as he has been clutch in the postseason.
Arizona State Sun Devils
Hitting: As it has been said many times this year, Arizona State’s hitting is the best in the nation. The Sun Devils’ team average of .350 is extraordinary, and the team has 7 regulars who hit above or near that average. The hitting for Arizona State is their strength, and that alone could help carry them to a national title. Pac 10 Player of the Year Brett Wallace (.423, 16 HR, 78 RBI) is the best first baseman in the country. Eric Sogard (.394, 11 HR, 58 RBI), Matt Spencer (.378, 8 HR, 48 RBI), and Kiel Rolling (.373, 15 HR, 63 RBI) are other offensive stars for the Sun Devils. The lineup, one through nine, is very tough to pitch to, and that’s why they’re one of the better teams in the nation.
Pitching: One shouldn’t overlook the Arizona State pitching staff, as it has been exceptional in the postseason. The Sun Devils trio of Josh Satow (13-3, 2.41 ERA), Mike Leake (13-1, 3.59 ERA), and Brian Flores (11-1, 3.74 ERA) is one of the better ones in college baseball. The Sun Devils also have a solid closer in freshman Jason Jarvis (3.67 ERA, 11 SV). The hitting is what fans think of when they look at Arizona State, but it could be the pitching that could also help carry them to a national championship.
Coaching: Pat Murphy is one of the well known college coaches in the nation and has had great success as the Sun Devils' skipper. Murphy last led Arizona State to the College World Series in 2005, and this will be his 3rd appearance in Omaha as the Devils' head coach. He is known as a “player’s coach” and because of that, he is an icon in college baseball. Like Casey and Horton, Murphy has fielded strong teams on a consistent basis that have made the Arizona State program one of the best in the nation.
Game-Changers: For Arizona State, the prime-time players are Brett Wallace and Eric Sogard. Wallace has a knack for coming up with big hits, with his last one being a walk off single to beat Mississippi in the first game of the super regional. Sogard has been exceptional in the postseason, hitting a few homeruns and being a regular run producer. But what shouldn’t go unnoticed is Sogard’s glove, which garnered him Pac 10 Defensive Player of the Year honors.
UC Irvine Anteaters
Hitting: The Anteaters are a good offensive team, boasting a team average of .321 on the year. In the postseason, the offense has come up with clutch hits that have been a big reason for their success. Irvine got to Omaha by hitting a walk off double to beat Wichita State in the super regionals. For the Anteaters, the better hitters are Taylor Holiday (.353, 41 RBI, 24 2B), Cody Cipriano (.338, 12 HR, 57 RBI), and Matt Morris (.336, 6 HR, 52 RBI).
Pitching: The strength of the Irvine squad this year has been their pitching. It has been big in the postseason, regularly holding powerful offenses like Texas and Wichita State to very few runs. The two-headed starting monster of Wes Etheridge (12-4, 2.49 ERA) and Scott Gorgen (12-2, 2.68 ERA) has carried the pitching staff this entire year as well as in the postseason. The Anteaters have a lights-out closer in Blair Erickson, who has recorded 13 saves on the year to go with a 2.95 ERA. If UC Irvine wants to go deep into the College World Series, the pitching will need to be as strong as it has been all this postseason.
Coaching: The Anteaters have one of the up-and-coming coaches in the nation in Dave Serrano. In only three years, Serrano has led UC Irvine to its first ever College World Series appearance. His name has already been mentioned in coaching vacancies, such as the current opening at Tennessee and the recently-filled vacancy at Florida. Serrano’s leadership and exceptional coaching ability are the reasons for him turning around the program in only three seasons.
Game-Changers: UC Irvine has a few prime-time players that have been huge in their postseason success. Starters Wes Etheridge and Scott Gorgen have held opposing lineups this year to few runs and will need to come up big in Omaha if they want to go deep into the College World Series. Matt Morris has made defensive gems in the postseason and has also been good at the plate.


Oregon State vs Cal State-Fullerton
The day game on Saturday will feature two of the better programs in college baseball, Oregon State and Cal State Fullerton. Neither of these teams were #1 seeds in the tournament, but they have played extremely well on the road in the regionals and at home in the super regionals. The likely pitching matchup of Mike Stutes (10-4, 3.94 ERA) vs. Wes Roemer (11-6, 3.24 ERA) should be a good one. This game should be very close, with pitching dominating the batters. This contest should be around a 3-2 or 4-3 score, and the winner will be whose lineup comes up with the clutch hit in the late innings.
Arizona State vs UC Irvine
In the nightcap, #5 national seed Arizona State and cinderella UC Irvine will square off. The Sun Devils haven’t lost a postseason came up to this point while Irvine has won on the road at Texas and Wichita State, showing toughness on the road. Pitching for Arizona State will be Josh Satow (13-3, 2.41 ERA), who will be going up against Scott Gorgen (12-2, 2.68 ERA) for UC Irvine. Like the OSU/CSF game, this game should also be a low scoring, with pitching again being the key. And like the earlier game, the winner will be whose lineup comes up with the big hits. Arizona State is obviously the favorite in this game, but UC Irvine is playing exceptional baseball right now.


C: Kiel Rolling, Arizona State
1B: Brett Wallace, Arizona State
2B: Eric Sogard, Arizona State
SS: Darwin Barney, Oregon State
3B: CJ Retherford, Arizona State
OF: Mike Lissman, Oregon State
OF: Clark Hardman, Cal State Fullerton
OF: Matt Spencer, Arizona State
Util: Cody Cipriano, UC Irvine
SP: Wes Roemer, Cal State Fullerton
SP: Josh Satow, Arizona State
SP: Scott Gorgen, UC Irvine
RP: Eddie Kunz, Oregon State
RP: Blair Erickson, UC Irvine


Oregon State
1. Starting Pitching - Mike Stutes, Jorge Reyes, and Daniel Turpen need to go deep into games and then hand the ball off to dominant closer Eddie Kunz. The pitching needs to be solid and hold teams to under 4 runs a game because the offense isn’t that special.
2. Timely Hitting - The Beavers need to continue their knack of coming up with clutch hits in big situations. They will have to do this in the late innings like they did last year to go deep in the College World Series.
3. Run Production - The meat of the lineup will need to produce and knock in runs. Darwin Barney, Mike Lissman, and Mitch Canham will all have to be successful in Omaha if they want to make a run at a repeat.
Cal State-Fullerton
1. Wes Roemer/Jeff Kaplan - The two-headed starting monster of Roemer and Kaplan will need to pitch effectively and be successful in Omaha to keep the Titans in games. Both pitchers are capable of throwing dominant performances in the big games.
2. Score Enough Runs - With a team average of only .280, the Titans will need to hit well in Omaha and manufacture runs to win ballgames. They will need Nick Mahin and John Curtis to knock in the runs and need Clark Hardman to be the "table setter." Scoring only 1 or 2 runs won’t be enough to knock off teams in the College World Series.
3. Someone Else to Step Up - The Titans will need someone other than the three mentioned (Mahin, Curtis, Hardman) to step up and have a good peformance in Omaha. Look for that guy to be Evan McArthur, who has the experience of playing in Omaha. If he can produce, he will be another bat who can help the Titans score enough runs.
Arizona State
1. Starting Pitching Trio - The Sun Devils will need Satow, Leake, and Flores to go deep into ballgames and just give up a few runs. If the Sun Devils pitching only gives up 3-4 runs a game, their chances at a national title will be high.
2. Bullpen - Other than closer Jason Jarvis, there isn’t really another pitcher who has pitched much this year out of the pen because of how the starters have thrown a lot of innings. If the starters were to get knocked out early, the bullpen would need to step up and keep the opposing offense at bay.
3. Maintain the Offense - The Arizona State lineup just needs to keep doing what it has been doing. The need to play like they’re the best offensive club in the nation and score runs like they’re capable of because there’s not a team in this field of the College World Series who can keep up with them.
UC Irvine
1. Scott Gorgen/Wes Etheridge - The Anteaters need this starting duo to keep pitching like they have been in the postseason. They need the two to go deep into ballgames and keep the offense in the games.
2. Timely Hitting - Irvine needs to continue to get clutch hits when they have men in scoring position. Playing their first game against Arizona State, they will need to be able to match their amount of runs.
3. Defense - Serrano’s club needs to continue to play fundamental baseball in the field and not make errors. In the postseason, they have come up with web gem after web gem. A diving ball caught by Matt Morris in the 8th inning that saved two runs last weekend is a prime example of the spectacular defense that the Anteaters have displayed.


The second side of the College World Series bracket should be called the “West” bracket as it features Oregon State, Cal State Fullerton, Arizona State, and UC Irvine. The #5 national seed Sun Devils and Cal State Fullerton are the two teams in this side of the bracket that haven’t lost a game in the postseason yet. Both Oregon State and UC Irvine battled and fought off elimination to get where they are, and that is in Omaha for the College World Series.
This side of the bracket should be dominated by pitching, as each team boasts a strong starting staff. The winner of the "West" bracket will be determined by whose lineup comes up with the big hits in crucial situations. Scoring runs will be key in this bracket, and the games should be very close. The favorite of the "West" bracket is Arizona State, but don’t count out the defending national champion Oregon State Beavers, college baseball power Cal State Fullerton, or cinderealla UC Irvine.
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