June 26, 2006

CWS: Move over '61 Cross Country title, there's a new trophy on the mantle at Oregon State

Again, congrats to Pat Casey and the Oregon State Beavers. The Pacific Northwest wins a national title. Rainbelters unite!

CWS: Can't we have co-national champions?

Neither team really deserved to lose this one. This was great, and bad at the same time. I HATED the way that game was decided. I can't believe that.

Glad for the Beavers. Sad for the Heels.

They should've called the game at 2-2.

But congrats Beavs anyway.

CWS: Bryan Steed of North Carolina, meet Freddie Brown of Georgetown

Man, I feel sick right now. That was a terrible, terrible fate.

And I don't mean to make fun of the guy, but this is the first thing I thought of when UNC committed their fateful error, giving the Beavers the 3-2 lead in the 9th.

Three outs left for Beaver nation. We'll see.

CWS: Bard is out, but still incredible

Hats off to Daniel Bard. That guy was a total stud tonight. He was still throwing upper-90s heat even in the 8th inning. 42 straight fastballs to end his stint. As an old football coach of mine used to say, Good gravy! (A saying I always hated.) The BoSox got a wicked pissah of a pitchah joining them in a few months!

So now Andrew Miller comes on to help jet out of this two-on, two-out jam. In the words of Flounder from Animal House, "Oh boy, this is gonna be great!"

CWS: Buck, what?!

Well this is weird.

Dallas Buck has just come in to ... relieve Eddie Kunz. What is going on? I wonder if I could run down in the dugout and have a chat with Coach Casey and to make sure that Kevin Gunderson is, you know, around.

This is really weird. I'm kinda in shock. But hey, at least the Beavers have an out now.

CWS: Carolina keeps hitting, radio announcers keep muckraking

Eddie Kunz couldn't get anybody out in the 8th, so the Beavers now go to Dallas Buck with two men on and no outs.

But the entertaining part of it all is the North Carolina radio guys saying that bringing Buck in after pitching on Saturday, "is indefensable." They're saying that Pat Casey is "not watching out for the safety of the kid."

CWS: The UNC radio announcers just bagged on Pat Casey for keeping Nickerson in the game

... and I'll admit it, I'm the 560th person to say that I'm surprised that Jonah Nickerson, with 300+ pitches in the CWS, is still out on the mound for the 7th inning. But the North Carolina announcing team is being pretty harsh.

First batter walks. Is it time to go get him now?
Second batter strikes out. Now?

Oh and by the way, memo to Nike: Quit giving us those Carolina blue "sweat rings" under the arms of the Tar Heel jerseys. That's almost as bad as those opposite-colored undersleeves that football players wear. (Especially heinous are those orange and maroon-colored jobbies Virginia Tech has.)

CWS: I like UNC's response

One of the things I wondered about was whether or not the Heels were going to let that 2-0 deficit get in their heads. Obviously not.

Seth Williams had a hell of a yack to the gap for an RBI double and Mike Cavasinni had a clutch RBI single to left on an 0-2 pitch. Was a little surprised that Nickerson, with an 0-2 count to his advantage, didn't bury a hook into the dirt or try to get Cavasinni to chase a pitch out of the zone.

This game just keeps getting better and better.

CWS: OSU plans on playing on the nerves of UNC

The Beavers go up 2-0 after four. But the thing that was painfully obvious was their mission statement of applying pressure to the shaky defense of the younger Heels. Bunt, steal, bunt, lather, rinse, repeat. Of course, as I write this, Darwin Barney commits a throwing error of his own to put a Tar Heel runner on first with no outs in the fifth.

This could be one of those games where it comes down to the team that makes the last bone-head play, loses.

CWS: Yikes! Beavs up 2-0

My my, this is one exciting game.

Oregon State just got on the board on a double error by UNC and then scored again off an RBI single from McFeely.

Coach Casey jumped the highest in the dugout when Tyler Graham reached out to touch and ran out to wrap his centerfielder in a hug.

Graham is having one hell of a postseason and I know it's got to be that much sweeter for him. Last year the redshirt junior turned down a pro contract from the Chicago Cubs to come back for a chance at a championship. And now look where he is. (He loves to make everything dramatic too, diving and having his hat fall off every time he goes for a catch.)

Earlier today OSU closer Kevin Gunderson (remember him? He's a closer but came in during the fourth last night to try to salvage the season ... hey, it worked) told ESPN's Harold Reynolds, "This is really neat, this is the 16th game of the World Series and we have played eight of them, so we've played in half the World Series."

That is neat and I have to wonder: aren't they tired yet?

CWS: That had to hurt

A kid sitting on the third baseline right behind the OSU dugout just got nailed with a foul ball. No word on if he's okay, but the first aid people are down there checking on him now.

I'm betting that the Detroit Tigers, who drafted Nickerson in the seventh round of the draft this year, are sitting at home drooling -- Nickerson is going today on three days rest; he went against Rice on just two days rest. And man, he looks good. He struck out the side in the top of the second and didn't flinch while doing so.

OSU got one runner on in the bottom of the inning but couldn't score him. We're still tied at 0-0.

Oh, and Eric is right -- I hope OSU athletic director Bob De Carolis plans to up Casey's pay and make it worth his while to stay in Corvallis. The good news is this: I was talking with De Carolis the other day and he said he wouldn't be surprised if after the postseason the Beavers are having, Goss Stadium gets the expansion it needs.

CWS: Not a bad first inning for OSU

Okay, so there was no scoring, but if this were a boxing match, round one would go to OSU.

Jonah Nickerson gets a three-up, three-down and the Beaver batters entice a seven-pitch at-bat from three different guys against Daniel Bard. Bard eventually throws 26 pitches in the lidlifter frame.

I also find it strange that Mike Fox chose to make so many infield changes from previous games in Omaha. I know UNC has used a lot of different lineups this year AND there were a lot of brain skips in last night's defense, but don't you usually go with what got you there?

If you're a Beaver batter, you have to gulp over the fact that Bard comes out throwing a 98mph fast ball on the first pitch. Gulp!

CWS: More teams in NCAA tournament?

I just read an article in the Omaha World Herald about how there is a grass roots push by coaches to increase the NCAA basketball tournament to 128 teams, nearly double the amount of the current 65 teams. One of the main reasons that was given was because of the increased parity in college basketball and the success of George Mason and its run to the Final Four. (Not to mention the success of other "mid-major" teams like Gonzaga, Bradley and Wichita State who made it to the round of 16).

So do you think college baseball coaches will follow suit and want an increase in the number of teams for June Madness?

Well to tell you the truth, I don't think an increase in teams is necessary. Instead, they should just take Dick Vitale's advice and limit the number of big conference teams, giving more spots to high-quality, yet underappreciated teams that have their RPI's ruined by their conference's "anchor effect."

Dickie V. has gone on record as saying he thinks no conference should get more than five (5) NCAA bids. I wouldn't be that drastic, but I think six in basketball is about right. I also think that number is appropriate for baseball too. Yes, six.

That way, we'd get more teams like Oral Roberts, College of Charleston, Evansville, Manhattan, Pepperdine and Wichita State in the big dance. Secondly, it would possibly cut back on the number of teams in all these horrendous eight-team, double-elimination conference tournaments that wear out a pitching staff right before the NCAA tournament. Can I get an amen?!

CWS: Pat Casey... wanted man

This is just a random thought here. And I'm sure this has already crossed a lot of people's minds too.

Oregon State coach Pat Casey is, according to ESPN, the lowest paid coach in the Pac 10. He has been at OSU for the past 12 years, building an unlikely off-the-beaten-path school into a national power. He has now led the Beavers to their second straight College World Series. He has them playing for their first national championship ever. He's still young and obviously enthusiastic about coaching.

Don't you figure just about everybody with an opening will be after this guy? (Well, except for USC, who jumped the gun with a 'suprising' pick).

Now that I think of it, is Skip Bertman still up in Omaha? Hmmm.

June 25, 2006

CWS: Best comment of the post-game press conference

North Carolina Coach Mike Fox when asked about the Monday pitching matchup, "Tomorrow's game is going to be about execution. The box score showed we had no errors tonight, but that's a little misconceiving. We opened the door for them by not making a couple of plays."

How many times did we see UNC's defense make the wrong decision at the wrong time today? Again, no errors sure, but it seemed like there were four or five plays that, had they been executed, could've meant Carolina is celebrating right now.

Still have to like what UNC has left to throw as opposed to Oregon State. First round draft pick Daniel Bard will get his second start of the series and has Jonathan Hovis and Andrew Carignan as horses in the pen that can be ready and relatively fresh. The Beavers will go with Jonah Nickerson, who will be making his third start of the week, so his durability will be snubbed a bit. Eddie Kunz is a good arm that should be ready to step in. Johnny Wholestaff will take over from there.

CWS: What is this, 1998?

Just as I was writing about the quality of pitching and defense in my "best of Omaha" column, this game turns into USC-Arizona State. Tim Federowicz just obliterated an offering by Kevin Gunderson to make this an 18-run game. Man! Can Carolina hit or what? This game is still far from over, since there are NO six easy outs in that lineup.

And by the way, so much for my earlier post about how tough North Carolina's bullpen is. NEITHER bullpen is showing an ability to turn the screws on these offenses. Will there by ANY pitching left for tomorrow?

Oh and Carolina's defense has been like something out of the Washington Generals archives. That was something I didn't expect would be much of a factor this weekend.

CWS: Is this really happening?

Okay, who on earth saw this coming? No, I'm being serious. Oregon State was down, 5-0, it was bringing in its closer in the FOURTH INNING and then the Beaver go on a massive tear to go up 7-5.

But oh, those Beavers must have a flair for the dramatic because they've scored two more runs and are now up 9-5.

Make it 10-5. Kunda just hit a sacrifice fly.

We in the press box are in so much shock it's not even funny. At the beginning of the bottom of the fourth one guy behind me was trying to change his plane ticket to fly out tomorrow morning. Then he threw his hands up in the air and said he gave up because it looked like Oregon State wasn't planning on going home anytime soon.

I know after the Super Regional rout of Stanford I said that these Beavers would do some damage in Omaha but my goodness, they are exceeding my expectations. And probably yours too. I am just speechless (and that does not happen very often).

Oh, make it 11-5. IS THIS REALLY HAPPENING?!

CWS: Good night nurse!

I can't believe how quickly OSU came back in this game! Bill Rowe hit that ball like he was Ang-guh-ree!

Once again, this Beaver team is one never to count out. I think the most cogent comment that ESPN commentators Mike Patrick and Harold Reynolds made was how OSU has beaten first-round pitchers like Ian Kennedy, Greg Reynolds and Tim Lincecum this year. They're a rubber band team for sure.

But as much as I'm glossing about OSU, don't forget that this Carolina team is from the ACC. They're used to playing against the best as well. They won't wilt away in this game. And you have to love how they've been able to come up clutch with two outs time after time. My!

The pitching decisions become even more interesting now as this game has turned into a high-scoring affair and there's no tomorrow for State. Let's see how long Kevin Gunderson for OSU and Luke Putkonen stick around on the bump in this game.

CWS: Tar Heels up 4-0

It seems that UNC is a fan of the two-out rally. The Heels scored their first run in the top of the second after leading off with two groundouts. Then in the third, OSU's Stutes struck out two before UNC went on a bit of a tear, scoring three more runs. The Beavers are down 4-0 right now and they've brought in Turpen to pitch.

I don't know ... I don't want to doubt Oregon State, but UNC just scored ANOTHER run and I think morale is dropping fast.

Wow. In the time I've been typing this blog, OSU has pulled Turpen and put in Kevin Gunderson who is a CLOSER. In the fourth inning. Things do not look good for the Beavers.

CWS: Tough day for the youngin'

Oregon State Frosh John Wallace has already been a victim of a few bugaboos. First, the base-running gaffe that saw him end the second inning for the Beavers at third base, after misreading the tag-up at second. Then, he had the head-turning experience to fight off the twisting wind on Tim Federowicz's drive to the wall that ended up scoring two for the Heels in the 3rd.

UNC's bullpen has been beyond stout and this deficit will be a big hill to overcome for the Beavers today. As Mike Patrick just pointed out, Carolina's reserve arms have given up no runs in the 12.2 innings they've thrown in Omaha.

CWS: Heels up early

Maybe it's Matt Spencer's day. Yesterday all the UNC talk was about Chad Flack but maybe today it will be Spencer; he hit an RBI single in the top of the second to put the Tar Heels up 1-0.

OSU got off to an okay start in the bottom of the inning, getting John Wallace on base, but UNC made another double play (Seth Williams caught McFeely's pop up, then threw it in to catch Wallace stealing third). Both teams have three htis apiece. Stutes just struck out the first UNC batter of the third.

CWS: Woodard, Stutes to start

Oregon State will start right-hander Mike Stutes (2.76 ERA) and UNC will start junior righty Robert Woodard (3.18 ERA). In the lineup, the Beavers have traded in DH Mike Lissman (who went 0-2 last night) for Scott Santschi, who has played pretty well in the CWS.

Stutes just walked the first Carolina batter.

On a sidenote, Erin Andrews of ESPN is wearing purple today. I thought, after wearing Carolina blue yesterday, she would go with orange today. What a diappointment ... so much for objectiveity.

By the way, Tyler Graham's uncle thinks the Beavers will pull out a win today and force a game three ...

June 24, 2006

CWS: Carignan, Flack impressive.

UNC throws the first haymaker and lands it with just enough room to spare, beating Oregon State 4-3 in a great back-and-forth game one. That was fun to watch.

Have to love the hustle and dominance that Chad Flack and Andrew Carignan showed at the end of this game. Carignan was throwing absolute fire off the mound to register his 15th save of the season.

Nice job Heels. Just 27 outs to go and the ACC dry spell gets put out to pasture.

CWS: UNC wins 4-3

They weren't lying about that rested bullpen -- UNC went through four pitchers but it paid off, as the Tar Heels won the first game of the CWS championship series 4-3. North Carolina is just one win away from being crowned the national champion.

CWS: Why I like the college game better these days

Did you see that slide by Chad Flack? That was a great, fundamental head-first slide that put UNC up with three outs to go. What a play! I love baseball like that.

It was almost as good as the run-and-hustle triple he hit right before that. Nice work.

OSU has the rally caps on now... well, except for Dallas Buck, who looks like he's still hacked off at his performance.

CWS: Barry is a Beaver Believer

Everyone really is jumping on the OSU bandwagon; actor Barry Williams was just shown on ESPN with an Oregon State baseball t-shirt on. ESPN also showed Barry high-fiving all the players earlier in the game. In case you didn't know, Barry's claim to fame is that lovable oldest Brady brother, Greg.

We just had a game-changer, ladies and gentlemen: Chad Flack, who is 4-for-4 on the night, just smacked a triple to the rightfield wall. A passed ball during Jay Cox's at-bat allowed Flack to score. UNC is now up 4-3. Eddie Kunz is in to pitch for the Beavers.

CWS: 7th inning stretch

Let's reflect on a few things during the 7th inning stretch:

--I'm convinced an OSU coach went and worked with the UNC defense on double plays. Who's the traitor?! The Tar Heels look great in the field -- they've turned two (and were close to turning a third), picked off a runner at third and caught a runner stealing second. But they're also on their third pitcher -- right-hander Jonathan Hovis came in midway through the seventh to replace Matt Danford.
--Roy Williams is cruising through the crowd and looks remarkably tan. Rumor has it that Mr. Basketball himself, Michael Jordan, will be here tomorrow ...
--Erin Andrews and the other ESPN sideline reporter are BOTH dressed in light blue ... let's hear it for objectivity!
--During the rain delay I saw quite a few UNC fans hiding under the shelter. Psh. The true Oregonians know a little rain never hurt anyone and were out in the stands the whole time. Nice work, Northwesterners!

Buck just got pulled. He had a MUCH better showing than the other night against Miami, even if he did give up three runs. It's all tied up at 3 apiece. Joe Patterson is in to pitch for the Beavers; UNC has one runner on second and there's just one out.

CWS: (weather delay talk) East Coast vs. West Coast

Just saw a handwritten sign in the Oregon State dugout that reads, "East vs. West. Who's the best? Why not the Beavers?"

That really didn't seem to register with me much until I thought about the fact that the last four national titles have been from teams west of the Mississippi River.

Three more things:
Harold Reynolds said something really interesting before the lightning delay- Now Andrew Miller's going to have to think about that last pitch to Gillespie for a longer time. Will be interesting to see how he comes back.

Have you guys noticed that UNC's Nike bats are Oregon State colors? Hmm.

Looking at the replay of last year's Texas-Florida game ESPN is reshowing during the delay reminds me, how in the world did Florida have a .500 season after returning 8 of their 9 batter's in the lineup?

CWS: Quick rain delay thoughts

Just as soon as Cole Gillespie struck his lighting-quick bat for a 2-run lead for OSU, the mother nature version struck as well and stopped play. OSU up 3-2 with no outs in the top of the 6th.

couple of notes:
- 7 of 9 OSU players have a hit off of Andrew Miller.
- Only 4 of 9 UNC batters have a hit off of Dallas Buck.
- My two "key" hitters in OSU's lineup, Darwin Barney and Cole Gillespie, are 2-for-4 with 3 RBI.
- My two "key" hitters in UNC's lineup, Mike Cavasinni and Josh Horton, are 0-for-5 with a walk.
- I like UNC's defense so far. They've turned a pair of double-plays in the first two innings to escape jams and nearly got a third DP in the 5th.
- Of UNC's five hits, only Reid Fronk's sharp liner in the 5th inning was a hard hit ball.
- The "Who Cares" Department gets tapped again as Roy Williams is once again interviewed on TV in the stands.

CWS: Hello, home run

Cole Gillespie just ripped a shot over the centerfield wall for his 13th home run of the season. Also, he did it when John Wallace was on base; Oregon State is now up 3-2 over the Tar Heels.

Lightning and rain delay now. And just like last time, the grounds crew is working in fast fashion. I'm telling you, there are tryouts for the CWS ground crew ... if the Beavers don't make it back for the 2007 series, do you think I could try out for it? Where do I get information on something like this?

I feel for ESPN on these delays, you know ... it totally messes up the whole TV schedule. And then people don't get to watch SportsCenter at the right time and that just makes them angry. Really, the weather just ticks everyone off. Who do we talk to about this?

CWS: Oregon State on the board

I'm with Eric on that shock-induced fence idea. Where's Myles Brand? I'm telling you, the NCAA really needs to put out a suggestion box in the press room ... we're all just full of good ideas.

OSU shortstop Darwin Barney, who led off the game with a single up the middle, hit a sacrifice fly in the top of the third to score Kunda and bring the Beavers within one run, 2-1.

Rumor is that they threw the kid who reached over the fence to rob Kunda of that home run out of the park. I wonder if OSU coach Pat Casey requested that ... more importantly, does he have that power?

Buck has two quick outs in the bottom of three and doesn't look anything like he did in his last start ...

CWS: Again, there should be a shock-inducing outfield fence for fans that reach into the field of play

This time it may have been Chris Kunda that got rooked out of a home run.

CWS: Interesting 1st inning for both game one starters

Both Andrew Miller and Dallas Buck, the two mound starters for North Carolina and Oregon State today, had some men on in the first inning. But Buck allowing two runs after getting the first two men out is huge. Carolina has not only a big early advantage on the scoreboard in this game, but also on the psyche of the two teams.

Also, both starters were sporting cheesy Adam Morrison-like mustaches earlier this year. Thankfully, both have shaved since then.

CWS: UNC up early

Well that was quick.

North Carolina is already up 2-0 after two RBI singles in the bottom of the first inning. The Tar Heels' bats look hot early, and Oregon State is going to have to get going offensively. The Beaver cannot afford to dig themselves in an early hole, especially because the last time they did that and kept Buck on the mound it turned ugly, fast.

Despite the hits -- let's be honest, UNC just looked ready from the get-go -- Buck doesn't look too rattled. The second inning will really be the test. I think if UNC scores more right away Oregon State MUST pull him.

Think Jonah Nickerson could go if needed? I am, of course, only kidding.

Kinda.

CWS: Fans lined up for hours

Has it occured to anyone else that everything in Omaha is built on a hill? When you're walking up the hill you think to yourself "It's okay, this is going to pay off later when I have to walk back and get to go downhill."

Somehow, it doesn't seem to work out that way.

Anyway, fans are just being let into the ballpark after standing outside baking on that hill so they could get the good gernal admission seats. UNC arrived a little awhile ago and is on the field right now and OSU just walked into the dugout.

It's going to be a good one folks -- I know UNC's bullpen is very rested, but I don't think the Beavers are going to just roll over and give the Tar Heels a championship ring. It'll be a battle and oh boy, a fun one to watch.

For all of you NOT in Omaha, there's a billboard on I-80 advertising the CWS that reads: "The Greatest Show on Dirt." That, you have to admit, is very catchy and very clever.

CWS: I almost forgot... say goodbye to- Rice

I didn't pay homage to the Owls after they were eliminated by Oregon State. My bad. So here goes.

You have to be impressed with coach Wayne Graham's season. The Owls stayed at or near the top all season long, playing at an extrememly high level and finish with an incredibly impressive record of 57-13. Who woulnd't take that? Okay, so their bats went south at the wrong time, scoring just one run in the final 28 innings of their season. I was pretty shocked by that. Not just 'coz they faced some great pitching, but because players like Josh Rodriguez, Joe Savery, Brian Friday and Aaron Luna were some of the better hitters I'd seen all season long.

But let's face it people, this is Rice. They're not going away anytime soon. Sure they may lose some wicked arms off this team, like Eddie Degerman and Bryce Cox, but they were so deep on the mound, the Owls won't miss a beat next year.

And get this, 10 of the top 12 position players will be back next year as well. My prediction (which doesn't exactly make a titanic wave by any stretch) is that Rice will be the pre-season No. 1 team next year.

Even Wayne Graham himself said in the post-game interview room, "We'll be back again." Yep.

CWS: Cochise is right, I got caught up in the moment

After last night's stunning shutout of Rice, I did what a lot of people probably couldn't help but do - I became a Beaver believer. Okay, I actually became one after I went up to Corvallis last year to see them win the Pac 10 title vs. USC, but last night took it to another level.

I admit it, Cochise (the dude who commented on last night's blog) was correct, North Carolina was just as much a feel-good/impressive/hot team story too. But I pulled the Lee Corso, put on my beaver headress and made my pick for the championship series on live TV and everything. So I'm not going to go back on it now.

I got caught up in a team from the Pacific Northwest having a chance to win a national title in a sport it has no real measure of success in before two years ago. This is a team that had just shut out the nation's No. 1 ranked team for the second straight night for chrissakes! That top-ranked team had come to Omaha hitting .321 and had the clamps put on them like an S&M mistress. Jonah Nickerson had just thrown down his second impressive showing of the week. Hell, a no-name with one start to his ledger had just beaten the Owls the night before. That name being Daniel Turpen.

Another thing I fell for was the fact that this was a team the whole state has a part in. Of the 30 players on the roster, 20 were Oregonians, including all four starting pitchers. Overall, only four of OSU's players aren't from the Northwest. This is a team for the region. As Cy R. Lansky said in Bad News Bears In Breaking Training, "That's a good story, Morey! That's a good story!"

But let's come down to Earth for just a minute here. Amid all this summer of love feeling, Cochise reminded me that we can't forget North Carolina. Andrew Miller. Robert Woodard. Daniel Bard. Jonathan Hovis. Those four names right there might be enough to put an over-sized ring on their fingers. Plus, they have a few star-filled mound moments this week too, ya' know? Beating No. 1 seeded Clemson and No. 5 seeded Cal State Fullerton, two of the best hitting teams in the country, is no small feat.

If Miller gets a good start on Saturday, like throwing up zeroes in the first four or five innings, we may have to mail this one in to Carolina. Especially given the performances of the other two starters in Omaha. Woodard's 3-hitter of Clemson was remarkable.

Another key: Keep an eye on leadoff hitter Mike Cavasinni. His speed really surprised me. It is, dare I say, Clemsonesque. It seems like he and Josh Horton have been the lead-by-example guys for the sky blue offense this whole post-season.

So, don't put too fine a point on my Oregon State pick. I'm sticking with it, sure. But with having to face those first-round arms, reality can set in really quickly in this one if OSU's not careful. No matter how neat it would be for the national title to go to someone in the "rainbelt" this year.

Go Beavs. Go Heels. Go get after it boys.

And go back to scalping your tickets, Cochise. Your work here is done.

June 23, 2006

CWS: I Left My Heart in Omaha. Again.

I'm leaving town today, headed back home to be a husband and a father to a family I love very much. But I have a confession to make. I have a mistress that I also love. I see her only one week a year but she brings me immeasurable joy. Her name is Omaha.

Continue reading "CWS: I Left My Heart in Omaha. Again." »

CWS: Okay, I picked OSU. So sue me.

I'm sorry people, I couldn't resist a feel-good story. When the Gametracker Live show came on CSTV tonight, Adam Zucker and Greg Amsinger came on and asked me "So Eric, who is your pick to win it all?"

I hesitated for a split second, then another split second, then out came the words... "Oregon State."

My reasoning had more to do with a team that was hot than a team that was favored to win. I compared it to the 2004 Cal State Fullerton Titans. That team came into the NCAA tournament as a No. 2 seed and wasn't even close to the most talented team in the field of 64. But like OSU this year, the Titans of '04 got on a hot streak - an incredible hot streak.

So get this, the Beavers are THAT team now. They're hitting well enough. They're playing defense well enough. And good God! They are definitely pitching well enough. And just like Fullerton in '04, they're underappreciated.

So, this is no slight to the Tar Heels, I dig that team. They're bursting at the seams with talent and ability. But I just decided to go with the hot hand. That's the team from the rainy northwest. After what I've seen the last few days, I'm not willing to bet against these Beavers. It's manifest destiny, college baseball style.

I may not be right in the end. But as of this moment, I'm convinced.

June 22, 2006

CWS: Who do I pick?

I'm just about to do a live "phoner" on CSTV's Gametracker Live. A little while ago the guys at the show asked me to make a prediction on the championship series and I wrote back "North Carolina."

But to be honest with you, how can you go against this Oregon State team now? Not only are they a good story, but they've got that charmed-team kind of feel to them. I s'pose I'll just make my prediction off the cuff, 'coz it's now 10 minutes to showtime and I have NO IDEA who I really think will win.

This should be freakin' great. Can't wait 'til Satdee evening.

CWS: Quick comment here

OSU wins 2-0.

Pretty freakin' incredible!

That is all.

CWS: Gundy in to close

As the guy sitting next to me just said, "Nickerson had a hell of a ballgame." I agree. And now the Beavers are going to give the ball to Kevin Gunderson to finish things off.

Okay, honestly, did anyone expect this? It's not just that the Beavers are thisclose to playing for a title -- it's the fact that they're doing it after being just hammered in the opening game. Nickerson threw 109 pitches, had 2 hits, no runs and threw 9 strikeouts. Yes, I think that can be defined as "one hell of a ballgame."

OSU is up 2-0 and Rice can't seem to get anything going offensively. It's looking like we're going to have two first-time finalists duking it out in Omaha to bring home a national championship.

One word, my friends: WOW.

CWS: Quick note about bats

You know how after the season is over you always see those ads in Collegiate Baseball, Baseball America and other similar publications about how "our bat just dominated again" because (fill in the blank) team used our bat? Well the always heated competition of bat manufacturers reaches it's highest point here in Omaha.

In case you guys are wondering, here's the breakdown of the eight teams and their bats:

Clemson - Easton
G-Tech - Rawlings/Worth
CS Full - TPX
UNC - Nike
Rice - TPX
UGA - Nike
Miami - Nike
OSU - Wilson/DeMarini

Which bats are best? Well, just between you and me, Easton always seems to be ahead of the curve in the technology department (remember those Gorilla-ball teams at LSU?). Easton also has the coolest television ads too, but that's just my humble, but correct, opinion.

Never-the-less, the last three manufacturers/teams left are Nike (UNC), TPX (Rice) and DeMarini (OSU).

Nike seems to be throwing its considerable monies around as it is trying to supply not only individual teams, but by signing on complete athletic departments. For example, North Carolina is now completely a Nike school, in every sport. Oregon State just recently switched from Easton to Portland-based DeMarini (which is owned by Wilson).

I will say, one of the most interesting Emails I received this season was from a Little Leaguer mother who asked me after the Regionals, "Which bat is it that was hitting all those home runs in Athens?"

Lady, the team was South Carolina and their bat contract is through Easton.

CWS: In defense of Dallas Buck

Okay, I know I'm suppposed to be objective and all, but I need to defend Dallas Buck a little.

First off, while I realize he can sometimes come across as having a bit of an attitude, the kid is a competitor. He wants to win. Period.

It's true he's lost some velocity and a lot of people are now saying they think Nickerson is the best pitcher, but in Buck's defense, he's having some injury problems. Evidently, Buck has known for a lot of the season that he's going to have to get Tommy John surgery. For the non-baseball nut, that basically means he's going to get some ligament reconstruction on his arm. Which, as I'm sure you can all imagine, does not sound like any fun.

I'm not sure if Buck is expected to throw any or at all the rest of the series, but I hope everyone realizes he might not have much choice.

By the way, the Beavers are up 1-0 after catcher Mitch Canham hit a sacrifice fly that scored first baseman Bill Rowe.

CWS: Huskers for Beavers

The Beavers are really turning into the darlings of the 2006 CWS -- there are a bunch of spectators wearing "Huskers for Beavers" t-shirts. According to quite a few fans I talked to today -- some from the Northwest, some not -- everyone is rooting for Oregon State because it's a new team.

OSU went three up/three down in the top of one and Nickerson is now on the mound. According to OSU coach Pat Casey, Nickerson was ready to go yesterday and wanted to throw. I can just picture Casey talking to him: "Jonah, CALM DOWN, we need you to be rested. Don't worry, you're going to throw again."

Isn't that what you want in an athlete? Someone that always wants to play and is ready to go. Nickerson looks good too -- he just struck out Rice's first batter Tyler Henley.

CWS: Oregon State goes with Nickerson. I got to meet Tanner

Pat Casey and the OSU staff decide to go with Jonah Nickerson, the Monday winning pitcher vs. Georgia, to start today's game with Rice. Nickerson pitched 7.0 innings, giving up just four hits and walking none in getting his 12th win of the season.

The thinking here is that the Beavers will probably start the roller-coaster that is Dallas Buck in game one of the title series, if they win this one.

On another note, big props to the venerable CSTV blogger Glenn Tanner, who I finally got to meet out at his tailgate before the game. His wife was totally cool too, but didn't seem to cotton to my bragging I did about him, explaining that his head was already big enough. Nonetheless, the best part had to be the free beers I was able to coax from him. Thanks big daddy... even if it wasn't Falstaff.

CWS: OSU goes with Nickerson, I meet Tanner, Lambert rules and the media girls rule.

Pat Casey and the OSU staff decide to go with Jonah Nickerson, the Monday winning pitcher vs. Georgia, to start today's game with Rice. Nickerson pitched 7.0 innings, giving up just four hits and walking none in getting his 12th win of the season.

The thinking here is that the Beavers will probably start the roller-coaster that is Dallas Buck in game one of the title series, if they win this one.

On another note, big props to the venerable CSTV blogger Glenn Tanner, who I finally got to meet out at his tailgate before the game. His wife was totally cool too, but didn't seem to cotton to my bragging I did about him, explaining that his head was already big enough. Nonetheless, the best part had to be the free beers I was able to coax from him. Thanks big daddy... even if it wasn't Falstaff.

Also, in the food line up in the press box, I got to chat briefly with my Rosenblatt hero, Lambert Bartak, the stadium organist. I asked the venerable ivory tickler how many years he's had this gig going and he told me 50 years. Wow! Keep up the good work Mr. Lambert. (He is insufferably nice too. Perhaps one of the nicest people I ever met. AND he actually remembered me from last year.)

Lastly, I also talked briefly with a few of the press conference girls who work the room by shuffling the microphones to each of the reporters who have questions. You probably don't know this but they have been quite entertaining in their own rite, since they always seem to be laughing at whatever it is they say to each other on their headsets. So yes, while teams like Clemson and Georgia have sat in their post-game press conference nearly in tears, they have, sheepishly had to bite thier lips from chuckling out loud.

CWS: Around the O

Here are some thoughts after a full seven days and counting in Omaha ...

Continue reading "CWS: Around the O" »

CWS: Just in case you wanted to see what those ESPN talking heads wear underneath the desk

ESPNset.jpg

Eric Karros and Linda Cohn on the ESPN set after last night's game. Amid the chants of "Husker Power" from the crowd behind them. Hey, at least they didn't start chanting "Left field sucks!"

CWS: Yes! More baseball

Oregon State and Rice will strap it up again tonight, which is a good thing.

Two days with no baseball make Jack a dull boy.
Two days with no baseball make Jack a dull boy.
Two days with no baseball make Jack a dull boy.
Two days with no baseball make Jack a dull boy.
Two days with no baseball make Jack a dull boy.

Okay, I'll stop. I'm just grateful for one more day of college baseball.

I'm not going to go all into breaking down the matchup. We all know what these two teams are about after seeing them all week. Both are great defensive teams and have more-than-capable hitting. Should be great.

Caoch Pat Casey said in last night's press conference that he didn't know who his starter would be tonight. I'm kind of hoping it will be Dallas Buck. 'Coz it would be interesting to see if Dallas Buck could right the ship as he faces off with fellow wicked-arm hurler Eddie Degerman. The more disciplined bats will win this one. And the team that keeps its cool too (you listnenin' Mr. Henley?).

CWS: Beavers up 4-0

Shea McFeely hit another home run -- his second in as many games -- to increase Oregon State's lead to 4-0.

Joe Patterson has come in to pitch for the Beavers; it was up in the air if he or Turpen would start until just before game time, but now they're both going to get time on the mound.

It took Patterson just two batters to make his presence felt; after walking pinch hitter Kenny Ford, Patterson ran down centerfielder Tyler Henley. Or maybe I should say Henley ran down Patterson. Point is, Patterson got the third out and Henley got tossed from the game. Henley also uttered a nice little four-letter word on his way back to the dugout. I think these guys forget they're on national TV sometimes.

Gillespie hit a triple to start off the inning and now just scored on a sacrifice. Beavers are up 5-0 and Rice has just brought in right-hander Will McDaniel to pitch.

An all-time attendance record was set today: 30,335 ... not too shabby.

June 21, 2006

CWS: The Titan Hous and StadiumView Sports Cards

Early on during this second game I made my way over to the Titan House across the street from the stadium and took in a little bit of the feel and attitude of the Cal State Fullerton players and fans after tonight's loss to North Carolina. Turns out most of them were bummed at the loss, of course, but to be honest I also got the "eh... we'll be back" kind of feel from the fans who didn't have kids on the team.

There were a lot hugs and a few tears here and there as well. Especially when you realize players like Justin Turner, Danny Dorn and Blake Davis, vets who have been the backbone of this team, took their unis off for the last time.

I also made my annual pilgrimige to the StadiumView Sports Card shop a few houses up on 13th and treated myself to another old College World Series program as I do each time I'm up here in the O. This time I bought the 1986 program, noted for LSU's first CWS appearance, a northeastern team's last appearance (Maine) and Loyola Marymount - the school closest to my house - making its only appearance.

The owner of the StadiumView joint also was nice enough to offer me a free beer. I noticed on his T-shirts in the shop he proudly points out "over 15,000 beers given away since 1992." Thanks for the Bud, bud.

CWS: I'm finished picking against the Heels

I'm done. No more picks against North Carolina. If they play the Chicago White Sox next week, I'm picking the Heels. All year long, people have doubted them. Skeptics pointed out the program's lack of quality postseason wins. People railed on their schedule, their coaching, their defense, and their focus.

This team has shown none of that matters. They've gotten clutch hits, made key defensive plays, and gotten the outs they needed. They've had different players emerge as heroes. They've beaten quality teams like Alabama (on the road), Clemson, and Cal State Fullerton.

And who said nice guys finish last. Coach Mike Fox is as nice as it gets in the coaching profession. And he is playing for a championship Saturday. He is a guy people pull for, even if they really don't have a rooting interest in the outcome.

They may still lose, but I am not picking against this team that keeps proving people wrong.

CWS: Beavers up early

That was the longest third inning in the history of baseball. I'm sure of it. We're waiting for the official word.

Oregon State is up 3-0 after first baseman Bill Rowe hit an RBI single that scored Cole Gillespie for the first score of the game. Rice lost a bit of control on the mound, walking in a run, putting OSU up 2-0. The Beavers scored once more on a fielder's choice.

Rice now has the bases loaded after a double and two walks by OSU starter Daniel Turpen.

CWS: Owls pull double duty

Oregon State loaded the bases in the bottom of the first inning but could not capitalize on the opportunity. OSU outfielder Tyler Graham got ahold of a pitch but the Rice third baseman scooped it up and tossed it home for the second out of the inning. The catcher then threw it to first base to turn a nice double play to get the Owls out of the inning unscathed.

And Oregon State just turned its own double play to end the top of the second. No score so far.

CWS: Say goodbye to- Cal State Fullerton

Kind of like that old Saturday Night Live skit, "The Thing That Wouldn't Leave" this was the team that wouldn't go away. If you're anything like me, you fully expected the Titans to make this game today a nail-biter down to the last out. And, I s'pose they did. If the wind wasn't blowing in, SuperFrosh David Cooper's drive to the wall in the 9th finds its way into the crowd and ties the game.

But for all their magic, the Titans seemed to be snakebit against the Tar Heels. They did things they normally just don't do in their two losses. Baserunning gaffes, an untimely error here or there and a bunt that doesn't quite get laid down right. The game of inches, just didn't come out their way, when usually it does. That's how this team makes its living.

One thing I was sure to ask Coach Horton in the post-game news conference was about his feelings on staying near the top in the college baseball world after he loses so many fielders off this year's team. He was quick to point out, "We always come back with another good team. That's how this program is, year after year. It doesn't matter who we lose. I remember in 1994, we lost to Georgia Tech here in Omaha and lost a lot of good players, like Dante Powell and Jeff Ferguson, and all we did the next year was win the national championship."

As if playing off that thought, Coach Horton gave the most notable parting shot when Fullerton's turn at the microphone was over as he leaned into the microphone one last time and said, "You guys are awesome (the media members) and we'll be back next year."

Kevin Gunderson, are you channelling through Coach Horton?

CWS: Carolina keeps its cool, outlasts the Titans

UNC 6 - Cal State Fullerton 5. The Tar Heels advance to Saturday's championship game.

Carolina wasn't going to fall for that whole "Titan hex" stuff. Jay Cox almost put that superstition out to pasture all by himself, blasting a pair of home runs, gathering four RBI and making a trio of wicked defensive plays, most notably the smash-into-the-wall catch of David Cooper in the 9th inning.

The biggest part of the win may have been the arm of starter Daniel Bard, who pitched 6.0 innings, and though he gave up 12 hits, he didn't give up a walk-fest and didn't play mind games with himself against a team that likes to play mindgames on opposing pitchers.

Key play of the game:
Wes Roemer's 3rd inning fielding error off the bat of Mike Cavasinni. If he makes that play, Carolina doesn't get that extra out and Cox would not have been given the chance for a crushing three-run homer.

Key play of the game II:
Reliever Andrew Carnigan cleanly fielding Blake Davis' safety squeeze bunt to get John Curtis out at home in the 8th inning. Carnigan had just come into the game and that's when Fullerton likes to pull a quick surprise on new pitchers. Tonight, for once, it didn't work.

CWS: Heat.

of different types.

Daniel Bard is throwing his fast ball in the 96-97 mph range.

Lou Spry announced the game time temperature as 89 degrees.

The thermometer in the photogs section down the right field line reads 110 degrees.

Wes Roemer is spotting his fastball at a top speed of 89 mph.

The press box is kept at a comfortable 72 degrees.

And finally, the heat is on the Titans to come-from-behind once again.

CWS: Fullerton fight song

Don't know if you guys can hear it on TV, but every time a team scores a run here at the College World Series, the p.a. will play that teams' fight song. Except for Cal State Fullerton.

The Titans haven't had a football team since 1992, so there is no official fight song, per se. Hell, I'm thinking they didn't even have a fight song back then either. There is no band for the basketball games, not even the small pep band variety.

So that's why you won't hear any Fullerton clapping in unison with a fight song when they score again.

In fact, now that I think of it, I hope we see more and more non-BCS schools here in Omaha. That's always a good thing.

CWS: Best line in CWS Blog-land

Just in case you guys missed it. Here's the line from Glenn Tanner's post that had me spewing pop out of my nostrils:

If their next game against Georgia Tech was a game of Horse, the Titans had H-O-R-S and needed a blind-folded, backwards, granny-style heave from half-court to avoid E. And they got it, in the form of Vanderhook's redeeming 100-foot bizarre-hop miracle two-run infield single.

(I am now officially first in line in the Glenn Tanner fan club)

CWS: I'm with Tanner, one of these loser bracket teams really needs to win today.

I know. I know. I'm not s'posed to cheer for anybody and I don't. But I would really like to see some baseball tomorrow, so if Fullerton or Oregon State obliges me in that capacity, fine.

In the dumb move of the day, and in an attempt to not wear the same clothes over and over again, I decided to wear jeans today. Come to find that my tickets are for seats in Section N, which stands for "No chance for shade. Temps right now are in the 88-89 range and the humidity feels stronger today than any other day this week. What was I thinking?

It's Daniel Bard (8-3, 3.59) vs. Wes Roemer (13-1, 2.16) in game one today. Carolina must hope for a better effort from Bard than he gave in the second game of the Super Regionals at Alabama, where he went just 2.0 innings, walked two and gave up three hits. Roemer must shake off a short amount of rest since he just threw 8.1 innings on Friday and threw to a couple of batters in yesterday's win over Clemson.

Another thing to think about- I wonder if the three days rest for UNC will turn out to be three days rust. And likewise, will the Titans' three games in five days keep them in a groove or show they are tired? Should be fun.

CWS: Anyone else expect Roemer to dominate today?

There is something about that kid - as cocky as he is - that makes me think he comes out and carves up UNC today. Fullerton probably doesn't have enough pitching to come back and win Thursday against Andrew Miller, but unless Daniel Bard matches Roemer, Fullerton wins today.

Oh, and Rice beats Oregon State.

One other thing: as I was walking out of Rosenblatt last night at 2 A.M., a rabbit crossed my path headed straight into the stadium. Maybe it is the fact that my daughter has watched Alice in Wonderland a hundred dozen times but I couldn't help but think some folks might take that as a Wonderland sign and follow the cottontail inside.

I didn't, because hey, it was after 2 A.M and I'm an old man feeling ancient after five days of doubleheaders. But I did reflect on this place, how hard it is for teams to get here, and all the fans who make the pilgrimage year after year. You see children of all ages here. It is a place where a father can take his grown son and relive those days long gone. I know a lot of people might not "get it", but this old stadium in America's heartland is more than just a place kids play ball. It is a symbol of something bigger. Something hard to put into words but at the same time perfectly unstated. Words aren't necessary -- just a nod of understanding among those who "get it".

Me, I am just honored to be a part of it, Wonderland or not.

CWS: Anticipation Day

Today's my favorite day of CWS week. Today's the day that even if you haven't had a real rooting interest, you have at least one huge rooting interest today.

Continue reading "CWS: Anticipation Day" »

CWS: Say goodbye to- Miami

First off, don't be shocked when the Hurricanes make another visit to the College World Series in the next year or two. These guys are young. Did you see Jemile Weeks at the Super Regionals? Did you see Dennis Raben in the regionals? Did you see Yonder Alonso living up to his name all season long in leading the Canes in home runs and RBI? Did you see Blake Tekotte leading the batting order earlier in the year?

Jim Morris' guys aren't going anywhere anytime soon, I'm tellin' ya'.

After the way they've played down the stretch, I AM a little surprised the Canes went out with such a whimper today. But the pitching depth came into play, just as I feared it would for the U. Carlos Gutierrez came back after a month of being off with an injury, but only lasted 2.0 innings and got knocked around pretty good by the Beavers today.

That set the tone for a rousing 8-1 rout, getting retribution for their 11-1 woodshed job they put on OSU on Saturday.

The Miami Hurricanes end the season 42-22 and a LOT further along than I thought they'd make it in the post-season. They entered the College World Series as easily the hottest team in the country. Raise your hand if you thought the Canes would escape Lincoln, Nebraska? Raise both hands if you thought the Canes would recover from the game one loss at Ole Miss? Raise both hands, both feet and your doppleganger's arms if you thought they'd come back from behind to beat the Rebels two games to one in the Supers?

This team, in full rebuilding mode, over-acheived all the way around. That's fully attributed to Jim Morris' absolute knowledge of how to win in the post-season. You gotta love that guy in the month of June.

Good season Canes. I know it doesn't sound like a great reward right now, but this team had an awesome 2006.

CWS: Orange you glad you weren't in the ACC today?

In a showdown of four orange-clad teams, West mates Cal State Fullerton and Oregon State voted Atlantic Coasters Clemson and Miami off the island. The only great light blue hope for the ACC-ites is unbeaten North Carolina, who will face off with these same Titans tomorrow. Otherwise, the ACC is just 4-6 on the week.

Plus, I have to make an admission here, I went on CSTV's "Gametracker Live" show tonight and predicted a Fullerton win over the Tar Heels tomorrow. However, I didn't say they'd sweep two in a row from the Heels, so don't quote me as such. But I like the momentum Fullerton has going right now.

As I stated in a previous blog, don't be so jaw-dropping shocked over OSU's 8-1 pounding of Miami tonight. The Beavers are legit and apparently harboring a chip on their shoulder over it. But they'll be hard-pressed for two wins over the lethal arms of Rice, I must admit.

CWS: Gundy in to close for OSU

Oregon State has just brought in closer Kevin Gunderson in the bottom of the eighth to finish the game off for the Beavers. Gunderson, a left-hander, picked up his 18th save of the season last night against Georgia.

Miami has one runner on second after rightfielder Tommy Giles hit a double that bounced off the wall in leftfield. The Hurricanes got on the board earlier with DH Dennis Raben's smash over the wall for a solo home run. The Beavers are still up 7-1 and look to be in total contol.

They're already talking in the press box about who OSU will throw tomorrow ... word is that Daniel Turpen might start, but it's hard to know at this point. The Beavers will match up against Rice providing they take care of business, so we'll have to wait and see to find out.

By the way, OSU leftfielder Cole Gillespie, the 2006 Pac-10 Player of the Year, should make SportsCenter's Top 10 after a beautiful diving catch to rob Miami's Jon Jay of a hit -- everyone keep an eye on it.

CWS: So, is anyone surprised by Oregon State?

Okay, that title line is kind of baiting you, sure. Of course most would be surprised by their CWS rebound, especially after how the Beavers played on Saturday against Miami. THAT was ugly.

But look people, I've said all along, this team was legit. I admit that the west was down a little bit this year, but Fullerton and OSU were the two best teams west of the Rockies, and now they're proving why. The thing that stopped the Beavers was the cold pitching of Dallas Buck. Talking to CSTV blogger Lindsay Schnell, she told me that even in their 4-3 game one win over Stanford in the Super Regionals, Buck wasn't sharp and was hit pretty hard.

But back to the matter at hand. Look, if there was EVER a reason go take the RPI out behind the barn and humanely shoot it in the head, Oregon State is the perfect example as to why. They're RPI going into the NCAA tournament was somewhere in the 35-40 range. Right now, as we type, the Beavers have a rating of No. 22. What a glistening pile of dung! This team is proving its worth.

Just for kicks, here's a list of some of the teams that are rated in front of them:
Pepperdine
Troy
Arkansas
College of Charleston
Winthrop
Nebraska
Texas
Florida State

CWS: Nodding off in the press box

Remember in the Stanford Super Regional when everyone was falling asleep because the Beavers were just dominating the Cardinal?

I'm thinking OSU must have watched that game tape last night for some inspiration because the same thing is taking place right now. The Beavers look great. Everyone is swinging the bat well -- including catcher Mitch Canham, who has been due for a hit and Darwin Barney who has now hit two games in a row after a mini-slump -- and Mike Stutes is throwing the game of his life.

I'm beginning to think -- as I'm sure many others are -- that the opener against Miami was nothing more than a fluke. Yes, Scott Maine had a lot to do with that but Oregon State didn't swing the bat like it had been and was not agressive. OSU coach Pat Casey had a little chat with his guys about that and it seems to be paying off.

I know it would be a tough road to come through and win it all, but man, the Beavers look like they could do it right now.

Fullerton's Ryan Paul, Unsung Hero

Everybody is going to call Wes Roemer and David Cooper the heroes, but neither were more courageous than Ryan Paul.

What makes sports great is seeing people do great things, and even though he only faced one batter, Ryan Paul's performance was up there.


Continue reading "Fullerton's Ryan Paul, Unsung Hero" »

June 20, 2006

CWS: Roemer... the bullpen edition. Nails!

Making his first relief appearance of the season, Titan bulldog Wes Roemer came into the 9th inning with one out and one in scoring position for Clemson and promptly threw the Tigers out of the College World Series with a 7-6 win.

Not even hero-of-the-ACC-tournament, Ben Hall, could faze the Fullerton Friday starter. He smoked the pinch hit wonder to seal the win for the Titans and send the Tigers home.

4 hours, 9 minutes. The third longest 9-inning game in College World Series history.

CWS: Say goodbye to- Clemson

I have to admit, I'm bummed Clemson has to go. I got to see them first hand for the first time out at the ACC tournament and I dig these guys. They hit and hit and hit and run and run and run. It's an entertaining brand of ball that Jack Leggett has goin' on down in Carolina.

The Tigers finish the season at 53-16 and have the knowledge of knowing they scared the crap out of everyone they played. They have so much speed that just about any guy up and down the order who got on base made a pitcher shiver. Fullerton's George Horton said, "They're a great ball club. They just didn't stop. They never quit."

I'll miss seeing the track meet that was players like Herman Demmink, Brad Chalk, Tyler Colvin and Taylor Harbin. I'll never forget the heroics of super-sub Ben Hall, who had the game-winning hit in their ACC tournament win over Georgia Tech. And you can't say enough about P.J. Zocchi, who pitched so well in relief vs. Oral Roberts and tonight against Fullerton too (6.0inns, 7 hits, 2 runs, 5Ks).

Coach Leggett had a great parting shot, saying that Omaha was a great host and this is the best NCAA post-season venue in all of college sports. Nice touch coach.

CWS: What jumps out at me

Clemson has been able to use their speed with multiple first-batters reaching base. They've kept pressure on big time, helping them stake out their early lead.

Fullerton has been typical Fullerton, being patient, waiting to figure out Clemson's wonderful reliever P.J. Zocchi. When they finally did, they capitalized well.

Should be a great finish... albeit a long, long game.

CWS: Hold on to your scorecard

This one is going to get bloody -- at least for the pitchers, that is. Fullerton smacked around Clemson's Jason Berken chasing him after a third of an inning. However, the Tiger bats responded with on onslaught of their own. We've seen more hard hit balls in one inning today than in Monday's entire Clemson/UNC game.

Don't go anywhere. This one will have plenty of action.

CWS: Okay, lemme do the math here

The first six outs of the game took about 42 minutes. Now, if I'm doing my "state-school" math correctly, that meeeeeans... (42, double the number of pitches for each half-inning... factor in the throws over to first base... multiply that by the coefficient of wind to center field... and dropped beach balls on the field of play... carry the two) it'll be about a 13 hour, 25 minute game.

Then of course, what if there are extra innings? Oh dear lord!

I've decided that if this keeps up I'm going to have Mark Etheridge and Kendall Rogers start warming up.

CWS: Gutierrez Miami's Savior

Through two-third's of the season Miami's righthanded sophomore Carlos Gutierrez was the ace of the staff. Up until the March 31st meeting with Clemson, Gutierrez had a 1.65 ERA and was 7-1 on the season. Things got ugly after that, after giving up 7 runs to Clemson and picking up his second loss of the year. After being hit in his pitching belbow with a ball, doctors felt that it had put too much stress on an already tired arm which had not been used to throwing as many innings as he had. Gutierrez had always been a basketball player and in his freshman season, he had only tossed 10 innings. It was widely speculated that he would be out not only the rest of the 2006 season, but the whole 2007 season as he would need to go under the knife for Tommy John surgery. That's what Gutierrez's mom had told me after the Georgia Tech series the final weekend of the year, when he gave it one last try and didn't have anything on his pitches. He lasted just 1.2 innings givng up 3 hits and 5 runs while walking 2 and hitting a batter as well. That day was May 19th, and it was the last time he pitched. Doctors have changed their minds since then, and have decided that there will only need to be minor surgery done after the season in which bone chips will have to be removed. Since his 7-1 start, Gutierrez is just 2-5 and has seen his ERA balloon to 4.08. In those seven starts, his ERA has been 6.81. He will be asked to save Miami's season, at least another day, and revert back to what we saw out of him his first 9 starts of the year, when he was being put on watch lists all over the place. Lefty sophomore Manny Miguelez will be ready and on call just in case Gutierrez continues his struggles.

CWS: "It's like... Africa hot."

Well, the coaches are meeting at home plate, the field is getting the last of its water and the fans are staying away from the stadium in droves. After Clemson coach Jack Leggett gets that ultra-cool "bull in the ring" ritual done with his players, we'll be set to start today's first game. Lauren Gagnier vs. Jason Berken. He who has the bigger bats today, wins.

I'm ready for post-midnight baseball. Are you? Let's get it on.

CWS: Hot.

Just walked up the hill to get to the stadium. With my backpack on my back and wearing long pants (why?), I have to tell you... this is one hot mutha-stickah!

Oh and the flags are blowing straight out at a pretty stiff pace too. So look out for the power bats in each lineup to benefit, big time.

Did I mention it's hot?

Random Thoughts While Watching the Corn Grow

Today's games don't start till 4 pm, so instead of doing the usual and hanging out in the Rosenblatt parking lot, I'm sitting in my host's house while he works a half day. Bored. So bored that I almost watched some World Cup. Almost. So here are some random comments on the week...

Continue reading "Random Thoughts While Watching the Corn Grow" »

CWS: it's going to be a scor-chah!... and other notes

Today's high temperature is forecast to reach 97 degrees. According to weather.com's hourly forecast, game time conditions for the Clemson-Fullerton 4pm game are going to be 94 degrees, 35% humidity and winds from the south-southwest at 16mph. So the wind will play a part as it will be a moderate wind blowing straight out to center field.

Continue reading "CWS: it's going to be a scor-chah!... and other notes" »

June 19, 2006

CWS: Miami still impresses, but Rice is too strong

The Hurricanes fought, scratched, scraped and lost their coach, but just couldn't punch through against the strong Owl staff. Rice wins. Rice goes on to Wednesday and has some time to rest. Rice gets the upper hand.

So the two toughest pitching staffs get through the first two games unscathed and it's no real big surprise.

But the key to tonight's win was the clutch arms coming up big when it mattered. Cole St. Clair got a huge strikeout of Yonder Alonso with a man on 2nd in the 2nd, got a bases-loaded double play to end the 3rd, got a strikeout with a man on 2nd in the 4th and a pop-up with a man on 3rd in the 5th. Then Bryce Cox got out of a 2nd and 3rd jam in the 7th and got the biggest out of all, striking down Valencia with the dangerous Jemile Weeks at 3rd to end the game.

Clutch, clutch pitching people. That's why Rice is 2-0. That's why North Carolina is 2-0. That's what the game is all about when it comes to playing in Omaha in June.

Clemson and Fullerton butt heads in game one tomorrow to see who gets their shot at the Heels. Then Oregon State and Miami will go at it in the night-nightcap. Tomorrow's games start at 4pm and 8pm because of World Cup soccer coverage on ESPN.

CWS: More pet peeves

While Rice increases its lead to 3-1 in the 4th, here are more things that would imporve the CWS experience...

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CWS: Tough postseason for SEC

For a league that boasts to be the nations's toughest conference, their postseason success came up a tad short this season. They won just three Regionals, despite hosting five. Of those three, all hosted Super Regionals. Only Georgia made it to Omaha and they left abruptly.

Their conference took a hit this year, especially with little brother ACC kicking tail in Omaha.

The SEC is the most balanced conference. The difference between their top teams and bottom teams is minimal. However, the top SEC teams are not measuring up when it counts the most, on the game's biggest stage.

CWS: My "worst dressed list" starts here.

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It's a 90+ degree day. Probably shouldn't wear your heavy industrial pants, Beefy-T shirt and Johnny Paycheck black cowboy hat with the velvet interior.

CWS: Say goodbye to- Georgia

Have to admit, Dave Perno was right. In the post-game press conference he said that it was "a tough draw" by having to face Eddie Degerman and Jonah Nickerson in the two games the Dogs played here in Omaha. Because of that, Nickerson and fellow fireballer Kevin Gunderson held UGa to seven hits and three runs in elimnating the silver britches by a 5-3 score.

In losing, Georgia ends its season at 47-23. The Dogs seemed to become so used to making the big inning in this post-season, you almost had the feeling a big push was coming at any time no matter who was on the mound. But the biggest stat of all today was probably the Beavers eager infield turning three double plays, including the game-ending outs. "The three double-plays ripped our hearts out." Coach Perno said. "Give them credit, they made the plays when they had to."

Jonah Nickerson improved to 12-4 with 7.0 innings and walked none. He wasn't overpowering, striking out only three on the day. But Georgia hitters took note. "Ground balls. That was the biggest thing." Bobby Felmy said. "He only struck out three or four but he got us out on ground balls and weak flyouts."

Georgia also adds to the SEC's dubious mark of having five of the last seven two-and-outs here in the College World Series. OSU, coming off its first win ever in Omaha, moves on to play the loser of tonight's Miami-Rice game.

CWS: Beavers, Nickerson cruising, 4-1

BUT, as we've seen so many times in this College World Series, a great start by a pitcher has a tendency to go south quickly. Jonah Nickerson has given up just one home run bomb by leadoff hitter Jonathan Wyatt, but no hiccups anywhere else. The Dawgs have come up snakeyes everywhere else.

As baseball guru Mark Etheridge just told me, this may be a different scenario because of the Kevin Gunderson factor. OSU has gotten its cuts in against Mickey Westphal so far. Tyler Graham alone has gone 2-for-2 with an RBI.

'Bout to go brave the 90-degree heat in the grandstand. Wish me luck.

CWS: Graham impresses

Oregon State centerfielder Tyler Graham is off to a great start. He had a squeeze bunt for an RBI single, climbed the wall in center to rob Joey Side of extra bases, and made a leaping snatch in short right-center to rob another hit.

The Beavers are up 4-1 in the top of the 4th.

CWS: Finally, Oregon State looks like it should

Yesterday at practice, the Beavers looked relaxed and confident despite the whooping that Miami had handed them the day before. Looks like OSU was confident for a reason -- the Beavers have already scored two runs against Georgia and are up 2-1.

Jonathan Wyatt, Georgia's leftfielder, hit a towering shot over the rightfield wall a few minutes ago to put the Bulldogs on the board. But then centerfielder Tyler Graham made a diving catch to snag the third out in the third inning.

Maybe Oregon State is back on track and will look more like the team that shutout Stanford in the Super Regional.

CWS: Taking stock going into Monday

Should be an interesting day. Ten hours from now, another team will get the heave-ho and another team will get that overused "driver's seat" moniker stuck to it.

It's Oregon State vs. Georgia in the first game. Tonight's second contest sees Miami vs. Rice in the winner's bracket game.

- Oregon State better win because:
After last year's solid - yet winless - showing, the Beavers don't want to leave Omaha in two games again while looking bad doing it this time.

- Georgia better win because:
SEC pride has taken enough hits lately in the CWS. Four of the last six two-and-outs have been SEC teams here in Omaha. Mickey Westphal must have a good outing.

- Miami better win because:
Although they are hotter than the center of the freakin' sun, they are still a tad thin in pitching. Like Westphal above, a career effort from Manny Miguelez (or Danny Gil, if they start him instead), will help.

- Rice better win because:
They are now officially the Duke of college baseball and they are expected to win this thing. And with their barely tapped pitching staff, it's easy to see why.

June 18, 2006

CWS: No fear

If there is a more intense player than Robert Woodard, I'm not sure I want to meet him. When Woodard is pitching, no one talks to him. Not pitching coach Scott Forbes or even head coach Mike Fox.

Woodard showed that intensity tonight as he mowed down Tiger after Tiger. He doesn't throw that hard, but gets late sink and has impeccable control. And he competes his tail off.

That sets up North Carolina to face the winner of the Clemson/Fullerton Tuesday game. The Tar Heels have a rested Daniel Bard waiting while Fullerton would be bringing back Wes Roemer. Clemson would have either Jason Berken or Josh Cribb - whoever doesn't start the Tuesday game. Either way, North Carolina is in great shape in this bracket.

CWS: Wow! Woodard is wicked

Complete game three-hitter against a team as tough as Clemson. 2-0 Heels win. Roy Williams is all smiles.

First time in 11 years of College World Series games where both teams had a complete-game effort on the mound.

2:15 total game time. After the last two nights' marathons, that's suh-weet!

CWS: Poor Roy Williams

Ever since they showed North Carolina basketball on TV earlier, people won't leave him alone. Inbetween each half-inning, he's signing autographs on everything from hats, to shirts, to baseballs, to girls skin.

Meanwhile, in the stuff that really matters, Robert Woodard is throwing a huge gem, giving up just three hits to a dangerous Clemson team. Impressive. It's still 2-0, Tar Heels, going into the 9th.

Carolina also has to love that their pitching staff is being saved from the over-use it suffered vs. Cal State Fullerton.

CWS: Fullerton goin' freakin' nuts after Vanderhook's 2-run single in the 9th inning

FullertonCelebration.jpg

CWS: The other side of the coin

You can't help but feel really, really bad for Georgia Tech. Take away two horrible innings and the Jackets are 2-0 and sitting around until Wednesday. As it is, this is two blown leads late in the game that are hard to take.

Danny Hall, "That's two of the toughest losses I've been a part of. The ball just didn't quite bounce the Yellow Jackets way. This is a special group of guys, that's what makes this kind of ending so hard to take."

Mike Trapani, the Tech 2Bman on the Vanderhook hit that squirted away from Shortstop Michael Fisher's glove, "I thought he had it all the way. I was yelling 'Fish! Fish!' and I thought he was going to get it and make the play. That's the worst hop I've ever seen."

Danny Hall on the same play, "I've never seen a hop that bad. It was gonna be a tough play anyway, but to get two runs out of it?..."

One more note:
Any Tech fans out there know where Georgia Tech super-fan "Afroman" was this weekend? I saw him at the ACC tournament sitting in the front row of the stands right next to the Jacket dugout. And I thought for sure he wouldn't miss this chance to see Tech play in the Mecca of college baseball. Just wondering.

CWS: Fullerton finally gets its breaks when it needs it

It's hard to believe we're sitting here blogging about a Cal State Fullerton win today. Nothing seemed to go right for the Titans. Every borderline call, every strange bounce and especially every umping decision went against the Titans for 8.2 innings. Then, on the weakest two-run infield single in the history of mankind, they found redemption.

Cory Vanderhook, the goat from Friday night, turned unlikely hero with his "powershot" that scooted under Michael Fisher's glove with two out and bases loaded in the 9th. And boy, did Vanderhook get some ribbing in the press conference. George Horton even said, "that's the best 90-foot hit I've ever seen."

Teammates Danny Dorn and Dustin Miller couldn't hold in their laughs.

Coach Horton started the Fullerton side of the press conference by saying, "Not that I though the game was over, but with two outs and nobody on, I was thinking of things to say to the team afterward. But this typifies this group of young men. That's a definition of how we play. Hard-working teams make their own luck."

One other note:
Going back a couple of innings, you should've heard the Fullerton fans I was sitting near getting phone call after phone call about how the fan in left field stole the Wieters home run away from Danny Dorn. Oh the humanity!... had the game ended 5-4. But in this game, sometimes you get the breaks and sometimes you don't. That was never more evident than tonight.

CWS: Climb on my back guys

Climb on my back guys.

That's what Georgia Tech sophomore catcher Matt Wieters is saying with his play. Not only is he doing a good job behind the plate, he just hit a home run to left giving his team the lead. After a quick celebration with his teammates, he headed down the Tech bullpen where he warmed up as a pitcher. He is not on the mound yet, but if current pitcher Brad Rulon runs into any signs of trouble, he'll take off the tools of ignorance and move to the bump.

As for his home run, as you saw on TV, the ball appeared to be catchable for Fullerton leftfielder Danny Dorn but a fan reached over and bundled the ball into his body. So often we are told this is a game of inches. This was a great example.

CWS: Miami's Maine and a Catch 22

Miami's ace Scott Maine pitched one of his best ballgame's of his collegiate carrer last night. If not for a rain delay, it was looking like he could have easily gone the whole way. Before last week's MLB draft, he told scouts and teams that if he was drafted after the 5th round that he wouldn't sign with them. He ended up being drafted in the 23rd round by the Colorado Rockies. Maine hasn't said what his offer has been, or what his future at Miami will be, being that he has 2 years of eligibility left. Maine has said that the Rockies are waiting to see what he does in the Cape Cod League this summer and will offer him then. As much as Miami wants to see Maine do well in the CWS, one would tend to think that the better he does, the more likely the Rockies will offer more money than a 23rd round pick would normally get. At the same time, the better he pitches, the better Miami does here at the CWS. It's quite the Catch 22, eh?

You also have to take into account that the players taken ahead of Maine by the Rockies may decide not to sign, freeing up more money for the team to spend on their 23rd round pick. A lot will be decided by not only how he does here, but this summer in Cape Cod.

CWS: Half-way through. Fullerton showing signs of life

To quote that horrible 70s band Head East, the Titans seemed flat as a pancake in innings 1-through-3. They seemed to find some energy in the 4th with a nice hit and run that put runners at the corners with no outs. But a double play ball kept it from becoming a big inning, though it ended the shutout.

In the 5th, another baserunning foible appeared to squelch their chances, as Brandon Tripp was caught between 2nd and 3rd for the second out of the inning. But an RBI single by Justin Turner has the Titans back in this game, at least mentally, at 4-2.

Tech's Blake Wood hasn't done a bad job on the hill, though CSF has touched him up a bit this inning.

Thankfully, the clouds have moved in, hopefully taking an edge off the 90+ heat. Maybe I'll finally give the grandstand a try for the rest of the game.

CWS: Miami Shows they are for real

It was good times and good spirits after Miami showed some that they do indeed belong here in Omaha with the big boys. I know i said i would blog when i got back to the hotel but the combination of no internet and wanting to celebrate the big win with the team kept me from doing so!

What can i say that i haven't said over the last 3 weeks because it has been the same story. Every night someone else is stepping up big for this team. Last night it was Dennis Raben driving in 4 runs. Last weekend it was Danny Valencia driving in 7 runs to lead Miami to Omaha. This team could hit anyone in the country right now, and i think they prooved that last night after Miami lit up a pretty good pitcher in Dallas Buck.

The combination of all of the bats staying hot from last week, to Scott Maine showing why he can be this team's ace out on the hill, has put Miami in a position to face perhaps the best team here in Omaha: Rice. Miami matched up real well with Oregon State. A team like the Beavers doesn't scare the Hurricanes right now, because it's pitching that Miami is lacking. When a team has only hit 32 homeruns all year, they aren't the team that has given Miami fits this season. It's teams like Rice, Clemson, North Carolina, Georgia Tech that have. The teams with the real big bats have gone out and hurt Miami this year, and Rice is going to have not only that, but the pitching to go along with it.

You can't hit as well as Miami has over the last 3 weeks. They have averaged now exactly 10 runs per game in the post-season. For me, we really find out if this Miami team is in for a long run here tomorrow.

CWS: Tech looks ready to play

Many of us wondered how Georgia Tech would rebound after their eighth inning eight run collapse Friday in the loss to Clemson. They came out with three in the first and had the bags drunk in the third but scored just one.

The question now becomes, can they hold the lead? Fullerton will make a run. Will Tech crack like they did Friday or hang on. Can Matt Wieters catch in this heat for eight innings and have anything left when he takes the mound?

This one should get interesting.

CWS: Couple of quick notes (GT up 3-0, 3rd inn)

- Tech looks like they already have Miller figured out.
- Fullerton looks flat.
- Miller's been squeezed big time by the home plate ump, getting a couple of borderline bad calls.
- Tech had a lot of energy in pre-game warm ups and through the early innings.
- I spelled Lindsay Schnell's name incorrectly in my blog last night. Sorry.
- Mark Etheridge won't write it, but he was down near the Miami dugout early on last night and saw that the Canes were figuring out when Dallas Buck was throwing his curve ball.
- According to LSU web-o-phytes, Skip Bertman is coming back to coach LSU.
- According to Mark Etheridge, Bertman is here in Omaha and will be interviewing Alabama's Jim Wells on Monday.
- Josh Davis, a freelance writer/bud of mine from California, decided on Wednesday to come up here and do some writing for Fullerton. He couldn't find a hotel room anywhere in a two-hour radius, so he slept in his car in a hotel parking lot last night. He also showered at a 24-hour fitness this morning.

CWS: Things I'm lookin' forward to in game five

- Seeing which starter steps up today, Blake Wood or Dustin Miller.
- The guns of outfielders Jeff Kindel and Wally Crancer vs. the doubles-speed of Fullerton.
- Seeing if Matt Wieters moves from behind the dish to on the mound at some point.
- Who Fullerton goes to first if Miller tires, considering their staff was so depleted after one game.
- The patient bats of the Titans against the 41 walks given out by Blake Wood.
- Seeing if Miller can keep the big swinging Tech bats off-kilter enough to stem the tide.
- Wondering if the large amount of open seats gets filled by mid-game.
- Lambert Bartak's 7th inning stretch.
- Seeing how long I actually last out in the 90-degree sunshine today.
- What's the over/under on Holly Rowe finally doing away with the jacket she's wearing today?

CWS: Georgia Tech-Fullerton 'bout to start. Advantage: Tech

Looking out of the press box before the start of game 5, the first thing I notice is the flags out in center field are blowing out, though not quite at the gale force it was on Friday. Nonetheless, any amount of wind has to help the power bats of the Jackets in this game.

Also, as good as Dustin Miller has been this year, the Jackets come in with the most intimidating lineup in the CWS. I've seen them hit righties, lefties, junkies and fireballers. Doesn't matter, they'll get their hits. This is where a hot pitcher like Lauren Gagnier may have helped, but he threw four innings of the 13-inning marathon vs. North Carolina on Friday night.

But again, the experienced bats of Cal State Fullerton will also give the .292 opposing batting average of Blake Wood a big test.

The Fullerton house on 13th street was abuzz before the game. My feeling was that most of the people were thinking to themselves, "Is this place joing to be dormant after just two games?"

Should be a great contrast of styles in today's first game. Can't wait.

CWS: The CSTV blogging crew- Mark Etheridge, Lindsey Schnell and Eric Sorenson, during a rain delay

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June 17, 2006

CWS: Ok, I'm going to say it

Did you know the ACC has four teams in Omaha?

I'm guessing you already knew that, considering every other question this week has been about those four teams arrival in Omaha. But regardless of the newbies asking the same questions over and over, the first round has belonged to the ACC.

North Carolina knocked off Fullerton. Miami pounded Oregon State. The only game they lost was an interconference game between Clemson and Georgia Tech.

This showing is just what they needed. After years of being told they choke in the postseason, this league is exorcising those demons this week. If their second round is anything like their first, the quartet from tobacco road (and points south) will finally have their moment in the sun.

CWS: Grounds Crew Combine

So the guy next to me in the press box agrees that the field crew must undergo some sort of tryout before they're made part of the grounds crew -- some sort of ground crew combine, you know? We figure this because they can all run REALLY fast and have to have this coordination thing down like nobody's business. They're probably timed on their 40-yard dash time. It's pretty entertaining.

The break clearly didn't do Oregon State any good; Miami has already scored four more runs and now the Beavers are down 11-0. Pretty much, Oregon State is experiencing what Stanford did last weekend in Corvallis. And it's not any prettier. Basically, the recap of the game could go like this: the Hurricanes have hit the ball really, really well and really, really hard and really really far. Oregon State is trying out its fourth pitcher of the night (Joe Patterson) and hoping something miraculous can happen.

To make it worse, there are about six Beaver fans left in the stadium after the hour and 35 minute rain delay.

CWS: Rain Delay good or bad?

The grounds crew is finishing up work on the field, and now comes the question, who will finish off this ballgame for the hurricanes. With a 7-0 lead it probably will not be closer Chris Perez. What a performance though by Scott Maine. More to come on that later, but he inspires this team and when he pitches well, this lineup does wonders at the plate. The team has continued right where it left off last weekend in Oxford. Will recap Miami's side of things after this game is over and i get back to the hotel.
P.S. Rain delay's stink on the radio! Thank god for a 2 man booth this weekend, it would be tough talking to myself for over an hour.

CWS: It's a gullywasher!

The rain is currently coming down sideways. That should tell you enough.

My guess is that this bad boy won't be finished tonight. I may be wrong, but if we're saying "Good morning from Omaha" tomorrow, don't be surprised.

Now the big question... How do I get to my car without getting myself, or my computer, completely drenched. Yikes.

CWS: Big question is... is this game over?

And I don't mean as in, is the weather delay end tonight's games? I mean, is Miami dominating so thoroughly that there's no reason to think the outcome is in doubt.

This has been a solid squelching of the Beavers. I expected Miami would get its hits in on OSU, but I didn't expect Scott Maine to put the serious clamps on them. Four hits through seven innings is so impressive, I can't even think of something clever to compare it to.

Oregon State came in hitting .305 and coming off a 15-run outing against a stout Stanford pitching staff.

So even if this game gets started again, I'm not expecting anything short of a Hurricane win. Then again, in one of my earlier blogs I wrote about USC's 7-run deficit it overcame vs. Minnesota.

CWS: Worst part of the "rain delay"

... the p.a. played an REO Speedwagon song. (Riding the Storm Out)

CWS: Pet peeves about CWS

No. 1: Why the hell do they have to refer to it as "Men's" College World Series? For 50 years it was simply known as "The College World Series." Please change it back.

Now, some more blood boilers, in no particular order:
- The two four-team brackets (hate seeing teams play each other three times. Go back to the old, pre-88 brackets)
- slow-walking people
- blue jean shorts
- capri pants (oh God, don't get me started on the ones dudes wear)
- the coaches interviews that halts play between innings
- the over-bearing sound system that is a tad too loud
- 90+ degree days (my scandanavian blood can't take it)
- piped in music (give me Lambert Bartak)
- Lack of beer at Rosenblatt
- The tiny letters and numbers on the new scoreboard
- The dropped third-strike rule (just dumb)
- Beach balls

More later

CWS: Why you have to love Miami's hitters

Dennis Raben is typical of Miami's offense this year. He's young and he's lethal.

Raben just smacked a resounding double to the wall off of Oregon State ace Dallas Buck, scoring two runs to put the Canes up early 2-0. Raben is one of four freshmen in tonight's starting lineup for Miami.

The Hurricane freshmen:
Jemile Weeks, .354-6-40, leadoff batter
Dennis Raben, .286-6-27, five-hole hitter
Yonder Alonso, .296-10-69, leads the team in home runs and RBI
Blake Tekotte, .286-4-30, was leadoff hitter when I saw the Canes at UCLA

CWS: Why you have to love Dallas Buck

Norm Maves, the writer from The Oregonian who follows the Beavers throughout the year, told me one of the greatest side notes about the OSU starter. Norm says that not only is Buck a two-year veteran of the Beaver football team, he used to play free safety in high school and would purposely let opposing receivers catch footballs across the middle, for the sole reason of being able to kill them with a haymaker hit.

Since his rising stock in baseball, Buck has quit playing football in Corvallis. But it's not a decision he's happy with. Killer Kowalski would dig this guy.

CWS: They just had a nice tribute to Rod Dedeaux before tonight's game

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CWS: Buck rattled early

Even after giving up five runs, Dallas Buck is still on the mound for Oregon State.

Buck didn't pitch that well against Stanford in the Super Regional either, but calmed down after a few innings. But the Beavers might been in too big of a hole to dig out of, already being down 5-0. Tyler Graham continued his hot hitting streak, knocking a pitch just inside the third baseline and reaching second base. But the Beavers couldn't score him.

Graham then made a great catch for the first out of the top of the third inning. Miami hit a deep pop fly that Graham snatched before colliding with outfielder Cole Gillespie. Oregon State got through the rest of the inning unscathed but the Beavers will need to get the bats going if they want to dig themselves out of this.

CWS: My annual shopping trip

For those unfamiliar with Omaha, the scene outside the stadium almost rivals the one inside. Up and down 13th street, there are wall-to-wall vendors neighboring the sidewalk. There's everything from what you'd expect: souvenirs, beer gardens, pizza by the slice, and burgers - to the bat and glove vendors - to things you not expect like private parties and charity fund-raisers.

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CWS: Don't worry 'bout these Dogs, right?

It was brought up in the post-game press conference that this is the fourth time that Georgia will be facing elimination in this post-season. Each of the three times before, the Dogs hunkered down and won. So if there's one team that can come back from an opening round loss, it would seem to be UGa.

Here's how they've done with their backs to the wall in the post-season.

SEC tournament:
First loss: Lost to Vanderbilt 9-4 in the opening round.
Result: Went on to win the next three games, scoring 37 runs, to make the SEC championship game.

Regionals:
First loss: Lost to Florida State in game two 6-4.
Result: Went on to go unbeaten the rest of the way, including a pair of wins over FSU, 7-1 and 3-2.

Super Regionals:
First loss: Lost to South Carolina in game one, 15-6 (including the famous five straight home runs)
Result: Swept the next two games from the 'Cocks by a combined 22-11.

College World Series:
First loss: Lost to Rice 6-4.
Result: ?

CWS: The last thing Georgia needed

If you are Georgia and you're sitting on a 4-2 lead over Rice in the 7th inning and have Rip Warren on the mound, you've got to feel pretty good about your chances. Warren came into the CWS with an 8-2 mark and a 2.78 ERA. But I should've listened to my good friend and SEC baseball guru Mark Etheridge. Before the game he told me that Warren was one of those pitchers that, when he's on, he's on. When he's not, he's been known to give up some big hits.

Sure enough, Rice stormed back with four runs on five hits and one hit batsmen in the bottom half of 7th and went on to win 6-4.

Coming into this week, I thought that Georgia was the one team that could ill-afford to lose its first game more than any other. And after six and a half innings, things were looking really good for them. But Rice's patient bats eventually prevailed. With game two coming against either Miami or Oregon State, two high-powered offensive teams, second starter Mickey Westphal will have to pitch his best game of the season for the Dawgs to move on. What is that they say about backing a junkyard dog into a corner?

CWS: One of my favorite pitchers is now in the game

Georgia's Josh Fields is one of the best relievers in the country, coming in with 15 saves. Kind of like Washington's Tim Lincecum, he's a relatively small dude, but with an absolute cannon arm. I saw him pitch early this season out at USC, and he was hitting mid-90 on the gun.

He's in a tough spot here though as Georgia trails 6-4 in the bottom of the 8th.

CWS: Good stuff

Those of us who enjoy a good pitchers' duel and soaking it in today. Through 5 1/2, there were just three hits in the game - all by Rice. There were also nine walks - six by Rice.

Eddie Degerman has been very tough to read, with his over the top delivery. Georgia has taken a lot of pitches to get a better look at him. They've gotten six walks but stranded four and had two strikem-out throwem-out DPs.

As I type this, RIce has loaded the bags on Georgbia starter Brooks Brown with two singles and a hit batsmen. There's no outs, and Dave Perno elects to stay with his starter in lieu of top setup man Rip Warren.

Rice leads 2-0 after a sac fly.

BTW, we have some un-June-like temperatures in Omaha today. The high is in the 70s and it has a fall-like feel to it. A great day for baseball.

CWS: Yeah, I know there's a no-hitter going on, but here's Erin Andrews

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CWS: Dave Winfield sighting

As most of you probably saw on TV, the legendary Dave Winfield is in the house today. He provided me with one of my most memorable moments in my personal College World Series history. Actually, it was probably my first memory.

In 1973, Winfield pitched for Minnesota in a semi-final game against powerful USC (which featured players like Roy Smalley and Fred Lynn). Winfield struck out 15 SC batters through eight innings. The Gophers led SC 7-0 at the time. After those eight innings, my father and I decided to head home for the night, sure that Minnesota - the team we decided to pull for that week - had things well in hand.

As you might know, SC came back to score eight runs in the ninth to pull out an improbable win and advance to the championship game.

But, back in those days, night games started at 8pm, so by the time we got home, the evening news was over and I didn't find out that Minnesota had lost 'til the next morning's radio news.

Turns out that Winfield, walked the first batter in the 9th, then had the second batter reach on an error. After that, he was pulled from the game, watching helplessly as the Gopher bullpen imploded.

Another side note, as a wee youngin', this was the first game I ever kept a scorecard on. My father kept that program for me all these years.

CWS: Quality starting pitchers

Today's two starters are about as high in quality as it gets here in the CWS. Rice's Eddie Degerman, he of the hurky-jerky over-the-top motion, comes in with 13-1, 1.81 numbers. You can't argue that. Brooks Brown is probably a little better than his stats show. He was the 34th overall pick in last week's Major League Draft, but his numbers are just 8-4, 4.10. Then again, with the bats he faced in the SEC, that's a little expected.

Now, as I write this, Degerman has walked the first two batters of the second inning, and loaded them up with another walk, putting himself behind the 8-ball right away.

Home plate umpire Darrel Mason really seems to be squeezing the zone so far.

Another thing to keep in mind; the wind is blowing out once again today. So while I'm regaling these pitchers, the hitters will have that as an advantage... until the weather changes again.

CWS: Keep an eye on Jonathan Wyatt today

The Georgia leadoff hitter, who just walked to start the game, was catching fly balls during warm-ups and took a nasty spill into the outfield wall. Afterward, he was down on a knee for a while. Then, still groggy, the training crew came out to check on him and he appeared to be "testing" his right knee/leg.

Two other notes: Wyatt just got caught stealing. And two, he's built like a bag of rocks. Like SEBaseball's Mark Etheridge says, he looks like he could play running back for the silver britches too.

CWS: A wild game

The second longest in CWS history.

Fullerton had five baserunners in the 11th without scoring.

After scoring five runs in the first three innings, Fullerton did not score again.

Fullerton used their #2 starter Lauren Gagnier - who had the no-hitter until late against Missouri last weekend - in relief. Dustin Miller will start their Sunday game against Georgia Tech.

Titan coach George Horton said his hitters took good approaches against the all-American pitcher Andrew Miller but "got greedy" against the three righty relievers hitting too many flyballs into the wind.

North Carolina started the runners in the thirteenth and got a bad hop single from Reid Fronk to put men on the corners. Josh Horton followed with the game winner.

June 16, 2006

CWS: Best quote of the night

I gotta give it to Mark Etheridge of CSTV blog fame and SEBaseball.com. He told me a quick story tonight about how when he went to work the SEC tournament, his wife Hannah went on a road trip with their daughter to visit family in Kentucky. On the way home, Hannah decides, on a whim, to stop by a puppy farm and get a new family dog.

Turns out it wasn't just a puppy, it was a great dane puppy. So Mark, quite surprised to hear he's the father of a new soon-to-be-huge horse-sized dog, quipped to me, "Well, the good news is that I won't have to spend money on gas, I'll ride the dog to work."

CWS: Okay, that was the most bizarre inning I've seen all year.

But it helped when things got extremely weird.

A very, very questionable called ball four on leadoff hitter Cory Vanderhook, a highly-improbable "stolen base" with the help of a horrible throw by UNC Catcher Tim Federowicz (it was, in fact, laugh-inducing), then a bizarre dropped third strike and throwing error on said catcher. A butcher boy fielder's choice by Blake Davis and a pickoff of third by Vanderhook led to three-hole hitter Brett Pill.

Pill struck out, BUT Federowicz couldn't wrangle the ball in, allowing Pill to reach first safely. The Heels then intentionally walked Danny Dorn, loading the bases.

If you're still following here, Frosh David Cooper mercifully put things to an end with a pop-up to short right that saw Seth Williams have to make a diving catch for.

You know what? I'm still not sure I got all that right. We go to the 12th.

CWS: How important is winning your first game in Omaha?

Saturday starter Lauren Gagnier, who would figure to start the Titans' second game this weekend, is now in the game in relief in the 11th.

Yep, this is a biggie.

CWS: As if my day hasn't been long enough - extra innings!

Not that I'm complaining loudly here, 'coz this is a wicked-good game. But I woke up at 5am east coast time to make it to The O, so my resolve isn't the greatest right now. Nonetheless, I press on, as does this game.

I also have the honor of currently sitting next to THE Kendall Rogers of the Rosenblatt Report.

CWS: Weather getting nasty

T-storms are popping up all over the place and the wind has completely shifted direction, as now it is blowing in from centerfield, as it had been blowing out to left all day long. A lot of fans have headed for cover or left as dark clouds have come overhead. Hopefully someone can squeak out a run before the heaven's open up.

CWS: Wind now blowing straight in. Welcome to Omaha

5-5 in the 8th.

Rosenblatt can be as fickle as a wet hen when it comes to the effects of the weather. As opposed to a couple of innings ago, the wind is now blowing directly toward home plate at a good pace. No more home runs this game.

Also, as I made my way from the stands to the press box, I noticed some dark, ominous clouds that had a few flashes in the distance. With these 18-22 year olds holding metal bats, I'm not sure how much longer this game will go on.

CWS: Ball up + strong wind = HR

I was never too good at algebra but I think I have this formula figured out.

UNC's Andrew Miller, he of the seven extra bases hits (1 HR) allowed all season has given up three home runs tonight.

Fullerton's Wes Roemer has also given up a pair of home runs.

The pitchers are settling in - or should I say keeping the ball down. But these offenses are nowhere near done scoring. On a less-windy night, this might be 3-2. Not tonight, these teams are going to mash.

CWS: Lou Spry and Bill Jensen

LouSpry.jpg

Continue reading "CWS: Lou Spry and Bill Jensen" »

CWS: Fullerton says "Uh-oh"

Following the Titans all season long, I've always said that if you want to get to Roemer, do it early. Well, that's just what UNC has done, plating two runs, one on a first-pitch dong by Reid Fronk in the first.

But just like when Fresno jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the Regionals and when Missouri ran out to a 1-0 lead in the Supers, George Horton made a first inning visit to the mound and Roemer calmed down from there. He went on to settle in a get big wins in both games.

There is one difference here though, Andrew Miller and the fact that he's a lefty. Fullerton has had some struggles against left-handed pitching this year, so this game gets interesting early.

Should be fun.

CWS: Atmosphere incredible

Well I finally got to Omaha after years of wanting to get to eastern nebraska in the middle of June. Walking around the outside of Rosenblatt was amazing. As a college baseball fan, you don't see the tailgating an other partier-goers in parking lots of stadiums across the country. To see hats and flags of teams that were ousted out of the tournament a couple of weeks ago, shows you the true diversity of those who are here to watch college baseball on its grandest of stages. I saw everything from Nebraska to Oklahoma State to even a West Virginia Mountaineers flag blowing in the stiff breeze.

The crowd will continue to file in, and hopefully the huge thunderstorms off to the west stay away for a little while. Enjoy the game, i know i will.

CWS: D'Alessio at the press conference... just in case you wanted to see him

AndyDAlessio.jpg

CWS: D'Alessio takes "best speaker" lead, Gagnier power bat

In game one's post-game press conference, Andy D'Alessio was easily the best speaker and takes the lead in this week's "best post-game speaker" award among the student athletes. I don't have a lot of highlights of his quotes or anything, he just spoke really well and at length about each question. I did like the way he described a non-descript win over Gardner-Webb, where Clemson came from a five or six-run deficit, as one of the key games that turned around their season and led them to believe in their comeback ability.

Also, during the warm-ups for tonight's Fullerton-North Carolina game, I saw Titan Saturday Starter Lauren Gagnier hitting outfield flies near home plate and actually put three of his shots into the left field bleachers. Easy on the power Gagnier. Save it for the game.

Game two is about to start.

CWS: New rule- if a fan drops a home run ball onto the field, that fan DOES NOT deserve that ball

You see it happen all the time, a fan at the wall drops a home run ball into the field of play and the player goes over there and flips the ball back to Mr. Butterfingers. It happened again today with Andy D'Alessio's home run, when Tech CF Steven Blackwood did the deed to the undeserving fan.

As usual, we still see a handful of LSU fans. One old dude that was throwing beeds into the crowd is a regular. Of course, my friend had to jibe the guy by yelling out "Go get a coach!"

The new scoreboard is pretty impressive. Only thing is, the numbers up there are so tiny, I can hear my father complaining about it from here.

Okay, Tech's Luke Murton has just thrown shoulder-block No. 9 on the day, this time leading to a shoving match. C'mon Murton, it's okay to get frustrated over this thorough arse-kicking, but try not to show your lack of anger management skills.

I'm still waiting for that 80% chance of rain to show it's ugly face today.

CWS: It's hot. So is Clemson

Just got back from the depressed Georgia Tech section. Andy D'Allessio just made the game 6-4 in favor of the Tigers. That Clemson speed and spot-power has come to ruin Tech's lead. Lee Hyde was throwing a wicked game up to that point too, giving up just 3 hits.

And yes, the 92-degree temps outside are pretty brutal. BUT, I've experienced worse here in past years in Omaha. I guess the fact that the 25-30mph winds help keep a decent breeze to say the least.

D'Allessio's shot was evidence that this summer wind Omaha is famous for is brutal.

CWS: The comeback Cats

Should we really be surprised?

After two comeback wins over Oral Roberts last week, Clemson has poured on eight runs in the inning for a 8-4 lead in the bottom of the eighth. Andy D'Alessio slammed a three-run shot to give the Tigers the lead.

Georgia Tech is now on their fifth pitcher of the inning.

I don't think it showed it on TV, but as the players rallied around home plate to greet D'Alessio, the ESPN cameraman tried to get a tight celebration shot. As he crept closer to the mob, a player bumped his camera sending him sprawling to the ground. The jubilant Tiger players were very helpful in lifting he and his camera upright.

CWS: Clark would like to have one back

Other than a first inning three run home run to Jeff Kindel - Clemson's Sean Clark has escaped damage. He can't take that one pitch back, thus trails Georgia Tech 3-0 in the bottom of the 5th. Tech's Lee Hyde has shut down the Tiger offense holding them to one hit through 4 1/3. Clemson may need another late inning comeback to get this win. Can they replicate the magic?

CWS: Almost the first pitch of the game picture

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CWS: The Press Box at Rosenblatt

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CWS: Tickets in the Tech section

As I've said 605 times before, I hate press boxes. I'd much rather sit in the crowd and get a real feel of the game than sit in an enclosed press box that makes you feel like the contestant in a sound proof box off-stage. Not to mention that somehow, for the third year in a row, the nice folks at the NCAA have failed to give me an assigned seat up here... must be my rebellious hair cut.

The entourage I'm with on this trip has become very savvy at getting tickets for the Series. This year, we've got ducs in the Georgia Tech section, the North Carolina section, the Fullerton section and the Oregon State section. So it will be cool to go down and sit with some of those fans and see what they're feelings on the games are.

After two or three innings, I'm going down to sit with my peeps. We'll see how the heat affects me too. Yick!

more soon.

CWS: Forgot about my picks... here they are

Just to prove I can take a shot to my credibility, here are my predictions for the College World Series:

Bracket 1-
1- Cal State Fullerton
2- North Carolina
3- Clemson
4- Georgia Tech
Titan pitching and CWS experience outweigh awesome opposition. Clemson's speed and Georgia Tech bats could pull them through (especially if Tech gets warm weather and south-blowing winds as the weather is forcasted to be). Carolina's pitching is great, but the batting has been incredible. If they jump on Wes Roemer early - say first inning or three - this pick could change in a hurry.

Bracket 2-
1- Rice
2- Oregon State
3- Miami
4- Georgia
Pitching. Pitching. Pitching. That says enough about this pick. BUT - two things to keep in mind: 1- Oklahoma put a serious hurtin' on the Owl pitchers in the Super Regionals and if that trend continues, then Rice won't. And 2- OSU is the best-kept secret in college baseball with stout pitching of its own. They also have that high-value College World Series experience.

Championship round:

Rice in three over Cal State Fullerton- just like in March.

CWS: Best improvement for this year's Rosenblatt surroundings

Just flew into The O and made my way up 13th Street to Rosenblatt Stadium. On the way to the Fullerton house we found a nice house/set-up from DJs Dugout, where they featured Four dollar beers and ice cold air conditioning. Yes! This is a new addition to the CWS atmosphere. And I personally give it two thumbs up.

It also didn't hurt that there were free peanuts on all the tables. Which was nice considering airline food this morning was pretty dreadful. Of course, I missed out on last night's trip to The Drover, a famous Omaha steakhouse, where my friends and wifey were chowing down while I sat in a New York hotel. Blah!

more soon.

Back Home in Omaha

Remember ESPN's sappy CWS theme song? Well, it is sappy. But its theme hits dead solid perfect to me. Back home in Omaha. I've been coming to the CWS since 1993, and even though I'm 100% Texan, every year when I come here I feel like I'm coming back home.

Continue reading "Back Home in Omaha" »

June 15, 2006

Rice: From the Ashes, Reborn

Rice’s 2005 season ended one victory short of a trip to Omaha, and with most of the key players returning for the 2006 campaign the team’s goal was clear. The Owls survived injuries to pre-season All-Americans Joe Savery and Josh Rodriguez, racing to their eleventh straight conference championship and earning the right play at home during the NCAA Tournament. They escaped an opening game scare against Prairie View in the regional and a game two loss to Oklahoma in the super regional to advance to their fifth College World Series in the last ten years and their first since winning the national championship in 2003.

Continue reading "Rice: From the Ashes, Reborn" »

CWS: Tough act to follow

Last year's College World Series was a fun one. With the "Big Red Army" of Nebraska fans scarfing up every ticket (and parking place) in Omaha, to tradition-rich Texas taking the crown, to Tulane's heartbreaking loss against Baylor, to quite possibly the best college baseball game of the season as Arizona State slugged their way past Nebraska - there was no shortage of storylines.

Continue reading "CWS: Tough act to follow" »

Miami: Sometimes you just can't predict

Although there aren't too many people who predict the field of 8 at the CWS before the season begins, looking at the pre-season rankings and polls, nobody thought the Hurricanes had a chance to go as far as they have. With so many new faces and losing two first round picks off last year's team, Ryan Braun and Cesar Carrillo, this was declared unofficially as a rebuilding year.

Continue reading "Miami: Sometimes you just can't predict" »

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