Super Regionals Preview Part II

Games of June 10-12
All times Eastern

Mississippi St. (37-23) at No. 2 Florida (48-16)
12 p.m. (ESPN2), 12 p.m. (ESPN2), 1 p.m. (ESPN)

Mississippi State catcher Wes Thigpen
AP

The Southeastern Conference will be guaranteed at least one College World Series participant as these two league foes collide in Gainesville with a trip to Omaha on the line.  The Bulldogs swept through the Atlanta Regional as the No. 3 seed to earn their first Super Regional appearance since 2007.  It is MSU’s fourth time advancing to the Super Regional round, but the only time the Bulldogs claimed a trip to Omaha in the tournament format was in 2007.  The No. 2 nationally-seeded Gators capped off a relatively smooth regional with an 11-4 victory against Miami to notch their third consecutive Super Regional berth, and fifth in the last eight years.  Florida will be looking for a repeat trip to Omaha. 

Series History: Florida leads the all-time series 53-40, including a series victory in Starkville this season, and a 7-5 defeat of the Bulldogs in the opening game of the SEC Tournament. More Info

On the Mound: The Gators boast a solid group of starters beginning with freshman right-hander Karsten Whitson (8-0, 2.42 ERA), who was a first-round pick in last year’s MLB Draft.  Sophomores RHP Hudson Randall (9.3, 2.38) and LHP Brian Johnson (8-3, 3.66 ERA), and junior left-hander Alex Panteliodis (6-3, 3.76 ERA) round out the staff.  Panteliodis took a shutout into the seventh inning against Miami in the regional final.  As a staff, Florida has compiled a 2.97 ERA this season, while Mississippi State has posted a 4.24 ERA.  The Bulldogs got quality starts from their rotation in the Atlanta Regional, capped off by a complete-game by Neil Routt – the team’s first this season.  MSU’s Caleb Reed is assigned closing duties, and leads the squad with a 1.40 ERA and 12 saves, along with 64 strikeouts in 57.2 innings.

Batter Up: The Gators had their bats out during regional play, batting .409 in three games to boost their team batting average to .311 on the season.  SEC Player of the Year Mike Zunino leads the Gators with a .371 batting average, 21 doubles, 16 home runs along with 62 RBI, while Gainesville Regional MOP Preston Tucker is batting .319 with 13 homers and a team-leading 65 RBI.  Tucker hit .500 with 11 RBI, six runs, three homers and three doubles in three regional contests earning the second Regional MOP of his career (he also claimed the honor in 2009).  The Bulldogs are batting .282 as a team, but did notch double-digit hits in two of three regional contests.  Jarrod Parks is the squad’s leading hitter by over 50 points with a .365 average, and also shares the team-lead with 36 RBI. 

It’s a Fact: Florida sophomore Mike Zunino is one of three finalists for the 2011 Johnny Bench Award, and is the only finalist still playing in the postseason.  He is the first Gator to become a finalist for the award that is given annually by the Greater Wichita Sports Commission.  James Madison’s Jake Lowery and Wichita State’s Chris O’Brien join Zunino as finalists.

Arizona St. (42-16) at No. 7 Texas (47-16)
7 p.m. (ESPN), 7 p.m. (ESPN), 7 p.m. (ESPN2)

Texas' Jonathan Walsh
AP

It will be a meeting of traditional college baseball powerhouses in Austin with a combined 55 CWS appearances between the two squads.  ASU cruised through the Tempe Regional, outscoring foes 33-7, while Texas had to scratch and claw for a Super Regional berth after losing its second regional contest to Kent State.  The Sun Devils advanced to the Super Regionals for the seventh time, and fifth consecutive year, while the Longhorns are making their ninth appearance in the Super Regional round.  ASU is seeking its third consecutive trip to Omaha, while Texas is looking to return to the CWS for the first time since 2009.

Series History: Texas leads the all-time 27-18. The last time the two teams met was in the 2009 College World Series. The Longhorns won both meetings that year and have won the last five in the series. More Info

On the Mound: Pitching has always been a strong point for Texas, and this season is no different as the Longhorns rank second in the nation with a 2.35 ERA.  RHP Taylor Jungmann (13-1, 1.40 ERA), a first-round draft pick by the Milwaukee Brewers, is the staff ace and has collected 119 strikeouts and five complete games.  The Longhorns used six pitchers to combine for a 5-0 win against Kent State in the regional championship.  It was the team’s 13th shutout of the season – the most by a Texas team since 1975.  Corey Knebel is the Longhorns’ top reliever with 17 saves and a 1.25 ERA in 33 appearances.  ASU fields a solid pitching staff with starters Brady Rogers (8-4, 2.25 ERA, 83K) and Kramer Champlin (9-3, 2.93, 91K) leading the way.  Champlin struck out nine batters in seven innings in the Sun Devils’ 16-1 win against Charlotte in the Tempe Regional.

Batter Up: A contrast of offensive styles will definitely be on display in Austin as Texas “small ball” meets an ASU club that is solid at the plate and aggressive on the bases.  Texas leads the nation with 100 sacrifice bunts, and is batting just .272, but has posted double-digit hits in their last three games.  Erich Weiss paces Texas with a .356 batting average and 41 RBI.  Arizona State boasts a .306 batting average, and is one of the top double-hitting teams in the nation with 134.  Sophomore infielder Joey DiMichele leads ASU with a .368 batting average and nine homers.  The Sun Devils also like to swipe bases, and have stolen 98 on 143 attempts on the season. 

It’s a Fact: Junior pitcher Mitchell Lambson made the 100th appearance of his ASU career in the Sun Devils’ 13-4 win against Arkansas on June 4.  It was only his second start of the season and third of his career.  He went 6.1 innings, giving up four runs on seven hits and striking out nine batters in the outing.  He is only the third pitcher in ASU history to make at least 100 appearances.

Stanford (35-20) at No. 3 North Carolina (48-14)
3 p.m. (ESPN2), 3 p.m. (ESPN), 4 p.m. (ESPN)

North Carolina's Chaz Frank
AP

After cruising through the Fullerton Regional, outscoring foes 25-5, the Cardinal earned their first Super Regional berth since 2008 and a cross-country trip to Chapel Hill.  It is Stanford’s eighth Super Regional bid since the new format was installed in 1999, and the Cardinal has advanced to the CWS in all but one (2006) of those previous seven appearances. North Carolina returns to the Super Regionals for the first time since 2009, posting shutouts in its first two contests and then defeating James Madison, 9-3, in the regional championship.  It is the sixth Super Regional berth for the Tar Heels.  UNC advanced to the CWS four consecutive seasons (2006-09) as it seeks the programs fifth trip to Omaha in the last six years. 

Series History: Stanford and UNC have met just once in the 1999 Stanford Regional with the Cardinal winning 7-4. More Info

On the Mound: The Stanford pitching staff had an outstanding regional weekend with all three starters going at least seven innings, including a complete-game by Mark Appel (6-6, 3.02 ERA) against Kansas State, and 7.2 scoreless innings by Jordan Pries (6-5, 3.24 ERA) in a 1-0 win against top-seeded Cal State Fullerton.  The Cardinal, which allowed just five runs in three games, enters the weekend with a 3.40 ERA.  UNC lowered its team ERA to 3.25 after allowing just three total runs (all earned) in the Chapel Hill Regional.  Patrick Johnson (12-1, 2.36 ERA) sets the pace for the Tar Heels’ staff with 113 strikeouts in 99.1 innings, while Kent Emanuel throws a solid follow-up punch with a 7-1 mark and 2.62 ERA.  The Tar Heels are one of the top strikeout staffs in the nation with 9.12 per nine innings, and are backed up by a great defense that boasts a .979 fielding percentage.

Batter Up: The Tar Heels head into Super Regional play with a .286 batting average, and have drawn 331 walks on the year, which ranks in the nation’s top five.  Colin Moran, the ACC Rookie of the Year, sparks the Tar Heels offensively with a .335 batting average, 19 doubles, nine homers and a league-leading 69 RBI.  Stanford raised its season average four points to .302 after batting .351 in regional play.  Stanford senior Stephen Piscotty paces the Cardinal, and the Pac-10, at the plate with a .370 batting average, 80 hits and 40 RBI, while Tyler Gaffney (.323) enters the weekend on a 20-game hitting streak. 

It’s a Fact: After posting a 3-0 mark in regional play, North Carolina improved its postseason win total to a nation-leading 35 victories since 2006.

Oregon St. (41-17) at No. 6 Vanderbilt (50-10)
8 p.m. (ESPNU), 9 p.m. (ESPN2), 4/7/10 p.m. (ESPN/ESPN2/ESPN2)

Oregon State's Parker Berberet
AP

After finishing the regular season with five consecutive losses, OSU earned its first Super Regional berth since 2007.  The Beavers made three consecutive appearances (2005-07) that led to three consecutive CWS trips and a pair of NCAA titles in 2006 and 2007.  Vanderbilt advanced to the Super Regionals for the third time, and second consecutive year after sweeping through the Nashville Regional by a combined score of 26-3.  The Commodores, one of the nation’s top pitching and hitting teams, are seeking their first trip to the College World Series. 

Series History:  Vanderbilt and Oregon State have met once on the diamond and it was to open the 2008 season. The Commodores won the contest 8-1. More Info

On the Mound:  The Beavers lowered their ERA to a stellar 2.93 this past weekend, which was highlighted by Regional MOP Sam Gaviglio’s 11 strikeouts in a 5-1 win against Creighton on June 5.  Gaviglio (12-2) ranks second in the Pac-10 with a 1.87 ERA, while reliever Tony Bryant (1.52 ERA) leads the league with 12 saves in 28 appearances.Vanderbilt enters the weekend with a SEC-leading 2.41 ERA.  Right-hander Sonny Gray, a first-round MLB Draft pick by Oakland, is the staff ace with an 11-3 record and 2.01 ERA, while senior right-hander Taylor Hill is coming off a 13-strikeout, eight-inning performance that led the Commodores to a 6-1 win over Belmont in the regional championship.  Junior lefty Grayson Garvin (13-1, 2.37 ERA) rounds out Vandy’s starting rotation.

Batter Up:  OSU is batting .270 as a team with freshman Kevin Keyes leading the charge with a .316 batting average.  Catcher Andrew Susac, picked in the second round by San Francisco in the MLB Draft, has collected 32 RBI in just 38 games played this season, and ranks second on the squad with a .313 batting average.  Vanderbilt’s offense is sparked by shortstop Jason Esposito, who tops the Commodores with a .362 batting average, 22 doubles, eight homers and 55 RBI.  VU is among the nation’s top 10 with a .319 team batting average with three players – Anthony Gomez (89), Esposito (88) and Aaron Westlake (80) – with 80 or more hits on the year.  Westlake ranks second in the SEC with 14 homers, and third in the league with a .661 slugging percentage.

It’s a Fact: Vanderbilt will host an NCAA Super Regional for the first time in program history.  Last year, Coastal Carolina, UCLA and Virginia hosted their first Super Regionals. UCLA was the only one of the three to advance to the CWS, eventually falling in the championship series to South Carolina.  California will also be a first-time Super Regional host, as well as a first-time participant.  The Golden Bears will host the Super Regional against Dallas Baptist at Stephen Schott Stadium on the campus of Santa Clara.