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June 11, 2009

SCS.comThese four teams - Cal State Fullerton, Arkansas, LSU, and Virginia - will kick off the 2009 College World Series on Saturday in Omaha. The Razorbacks and Titans meet in the series opener, before the Tigers and Cavaliers go head-to-head in the opening night finale. There are two National Seeds, two SEC schools, and a first time participant on this side of the bracket. This time of year, all the teams are very good and these four have all the tools to win the championship in the next ten or eleven days.


Cal State Fullerton Titans - #2 National Seed (47-14 overall)
Hitting: The team is hitting a whopping .330 this year with 481 runs on 59 homers. They also like to swipe bases with 121 steals on 168 attempts. Josh Fellhauer, .399 average and .485 on-base-percentage, and Gary Brown combine for 41 steals while Jared Clark leads the team with 81 RBI.
Pitching: The team's three starters have a combined record of 31-6 with a 3.01 ERA, five complete games, and three shutouts. The whole staff has a 3.36 ERA and opponents are only hitting .240 off them. Nick Ramirez has a team high seven saves and has only given up 11 runs in his 37 2/3 innings pitched.
Coaching: Second year coach Dave Serrano leads his team to Omaha. This is not his first rodeo in Nebraska as he led the UC-Irvine Anteaters to the CWS in 2007. He knows what it takes to win in Omaha because he was an assistant on the Titans staff in 2004.
Game-Changers: Freshman All-American Noe Ramirez will get the start in Game 1 for the Titans and has been excellent in his first season. He does not give up lots of free passes (21) while striking out 96 in 107 innings pitched. He should set the tone for the rest of the Titans' days in the CWS.
Arkansas Razorbacks - (39-22 overall)
Hitting: The team is only hitting .273 but the team had enough to get past Florida State last weekend in Tallahassee. Ben Tschepikow sets up the rest of the lineup as he is a pesky hitter with his .310 average. When he gets on base, he usually gives pitchers fits by swiping 16 bases this year. Andy Wilkins has 18 homers and 52 RBI as the power hitter in the lineup.
Pitching: The team ERA is a bit high at 4.56; however, they got stellar pitching outings to make it to Omaha. Dallas Keuchel is the ace of the staff with a 7-3 record and 4.04 ERA in 98 innings. Brett Eibner limited Seminole hitters on Friday and will need another stellar outing to help the Razorbacks advance. Stephen Richards closes out the games with nine saves, a 6-1 record, and a paltry 1.82 ERA in 29 apperances.
Coaching: Dave Van Horn has taken Nebraska and Arkansas to the CWS. He is in familiar territory and Nebraskans should welcome him home by rooting for his Razorbacks. Typically the fans pick a team to cheer for and Van Horn probably would not mind it.
Game-Changers: Brett Eibner and Andrew Darr should provide spark like they did in the Super Regionals. Eibner with his pitching and hitting, while Darr provided the series-clinching, game-winnig hit in Game 2. Eibner has 10 homeruns despite his .229 average at the plate.
LSU Tigers - #3 National Seed (51-16 overall)
Hitting: The Tigers have scored 524 runs on an amazing 712 hits this season. As a result, the team is hitting .315 with 94 homeruns and 484 RBI. They have a lineup that includes eight of the nine starters hitting .300 or better, with only catcher Michah Gibbs hitting .286. Ryan Schimpf has launched 19 balls over the fence while Blake Dean has 15 and driven in a team-high 65 runs. Jared Mitchell has swiped 35 bases; therefore, if he is on base then look for him to be taking off.
Pitching: Starters Louis Coleman and Anthony Ranaudo both have at least 10 wins with ERA's under three. Coleman has two complete games with a shutout. The team ERA is 3.99 but when you can put up runs like the Tigers do, then throwing strikes is the key. Matty Ott leads the team with 16 saves, including the series-clincher in the Super Regionals against Rice.
Coaching: Paul Mainieri leads his Tigers back to Omaha for a second year in-a-row. This will be his third trip after taking Notre Dame to the CWS in 2002. Last year's team was red-hot before cooling off in Omaha. This year's team won the SEC regular season and tournament championships then went 5-0 in the last two weekends. They are definiately on a mission to reclaim the title, which LSU has not won since 2000.
Game-Changers: Blake Dean and Louis Coleman are the game changers for the Tigers. Dean is a streaky hitter but has been solid this year, while Coleman has shut down opponents by only allowing them to hit .217.
Virginia Cavaliers - (48-13 overall)
Hitting: The Cavaliers boast a .327 team batting average. Dan Grovatt leads the team with a .365 average. Jarrett Parker provides some pop in the lineup with his .364 average, 16 homers, and 65 RBI. There is not an easy out in the lineup and the team has scored 492 runs on the season.
Pitching: This is the strength of the team, if you can believe that after reading the hitting piece above. They have a 3.14 team ERA with only giving up 221 runs (193 earned). Opponents are only hitting .234 against the staff. The ace is Danny Hultsen with his 9-1 record and 2.09 ERA in 14 starts. Andrew Carraway has an 8-1 record but his ERA is a bit high at 4.13. Kevin Arico has 11 saves with a 2.06 ERA but only allowed 8 runs in 35 innings.
Coaching: Brian O'Connor returns to Omaha where he grew up and played college baseball at Creighton. It will be a bit emotional for him until the first pitch is thrown in their game Saturday. The coach will get back to work after that in trying to bring home a championship to Virginia and the ACC.
Game-Changers: Steven Proscia had a great game in Game 3 of the Super Regional. He had two steals that helped get the Cavaliers to the CWS for the first time. The stolen base has been a big part of the Cavalier offense and they will need to continue it to put pressure on the opposition.


Cal State Fullerton vs Arkansas
This is tough matchup for the Razorbacks as the Titans pitch extremely well. They will have to manufacture runs to get into the pitcher's heads. The Titans should be able to put up runs to the demise of the Razorbacks.
LSU vs Virginia
Runs will be at a premium because the aces for both staffs will probably matchup in this one. Virginia will use the stolen base to put pressure on the LSU staff to manufacture runs. LSU will need to put runners on and mash the ball to get a lead. If they do get a lead, look for the Tigers to win.


C: Franco Valdes, Virginia
1B: Jared Clark, CSF
2B: D.J. LeMahieu, LSU
SS: Christian Colon, CSF
3B: Steven Proscia, Virginia
OF: Jarrett Parker, Virginia
OF: Blake Dean, LSU
OF: Josh Fellhauer, CSF
UTIL: Andy Wilkins, Arkansas
SP: Daniel Renken, CSF
SP: Louis Coleman, LSU
SP: Danny Hultzen, Virginia
RP: Kevin Arico, Virginia
RP: Manny Ott, LSU


Cal State Fullerton
1. Pitching will be the key to the Titans success. They have a great track record this season and should hold form in Omaha.
2. Stolen bases will put pressure on the opponents pitching, thus giving the hitters advantage at the plate. This has been the team drill all season.
3. Khris Davis could be the wild card in the CWS with his .336 average and 16 homeruns which have been quiet around the national talk this season.
1. The Razorbacks will need to get that timely hit to have success in this bracket. They have gotten it thus far during the post-season and will need that to continue their success.
2. Ben Tschepikow will have to have success in the two hole to set up Scott Lyons and Andy Wilkins.
3. Pitching...this was important during this five game win streak in the post-season. It will be of added importance in Omaha over the next ten days.
1. The Tigers will need to continue mashing the ball. Omaha has been known for long balls and the Tigers can hit them, especially with men on base.
2. Matty Ott will have to come in and lock down tight ball games. He has done this all season but could be asked to pitch more than one inning in multiple games.
3. Starting pitchers going deep into ball games has really helped this Tiger team. They will need to pitch well into the 7th and 8th in order to move on and save their bullpen.
1. Pitching, pitching, pitching. This team has rode the arms of their staff this season. The CWS will need for their arms to keep them in ball games.
2. Manufacturing runs in the running game. Just like the Titans, the Cavaliers thrive on stealing bases and putting runners in scoring position. This really keeps the defense on their heels.
3. They need to continue to play with a chip on their shoulder. They were the #6 seed in the ACC tournament and won it. They were shipped out west as a #2 seed instead of staying near home as a #1 seed and swept through the regional. They were sent to Oxford, Mississippi and took two out of three there to advance to the CWS for the first time.


These teams rely on the pitching staff for the most part. The teams have put up runs which help the pitchers out; however, runs will be important along with the stolen bases. All the teams like to run and then get the hits to drive them in. LSU just seems to hit the ball better than the others in this bracket, which will lead them through this bracket without a game 7.
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