Previewing the 2012 CWS field
Breaking down the eight squads heading to Omaha
Head Coach: Andy Lopez (398-246-1 in 11 years at Arizona; 1085-664-7 in 30-year career). It is Lopez’s sixth appearance in the CWS as a head coach. Lopez also guided the Wildcats to the CWS in 2004, led Florida to Omaha twice and coached Pepperdine to the national title in 1992.
CWS Appearances: 16 (1954, 1955, 1956, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1963, 1966, 1970, 1976, 1979, 1980, 1985, 1986, 2004, 2012). Arizona's all-time CWS record is 33-27. The Wildcats won NCAA titles in 1976, 1980 and 1986.
Road to Omaha: Arizona shared the Pac-12 Conference title with UCLA – the Wildcats’ first since 1992, earning the right to host their first Regional since the same season. Arizona exploded for 47 runs in three victories against Missouri and Louisville to advance to Super Regional play for the third time in school history. The Wildcats hosted St. John’s in the next round, edging the Red Storm in a 10-inning walk-off win, and followed with 7-4 victory to secure their trip to Omaha.
Batter Up: The Wildcats can swing the bats – they are hitting .333 (4th in the nation), and score 7.5 runs per game, which ranks third in Division I. Seven of Arizona’s regular starters are batting .300 or better led by sophomore outfielder Johnny Field (.383). Field, Seth Mejias-Brean and Pac-12 Player of the Year Alex Mejia have each notched 90 hits on the year. The Wildcats have posted plenty of extra-base hits, and rank second in the nation in triples, but have combined for just 20 home runs. No player has more than six home runs, but team-leader Robert Refsnyder is also the squad’s RBI-leader with 61.
On the Mound: Junior Kurt Heyer (12-2, 2.28 ERA) is definitely the headliner on the staff, and tossed a complete-game victory against Missouri in Regional action, but the Wildcats have two other starters who also threw complete games in the postseason. Konner Wade (9-3, 4.49 ERA) and James Farris (7-3, 4.18 ERA) also completed the feat as Arizona relievers threw just 1.2 innings of relief in five postseason games.
Did You Know? Arizona has met Florida State five times in Omaha, including twice during the Wildcats’ 1986 national championship run, and once in an elimination game en route to claiming the 1980 title.
Head Coach: Dave Van Horn (403-41 in 10 years at Arkansas; 988-461 in 24-year career). This is Van Horn’s third trip to Omaha as the head coach of the Razorbacks, and fifth appearance overall. He also guided Nebraska to the CWS in 2001 and 2002.
CWS Appearances: 7 (1979, 1985, 1987, 1989, 2004, 2009, 2012). The Razorbacks’ highest finish was as runner-up to Cal State Fullerton in 1979.
Road to Omaha: The Razorbacks’ Road to Omaha went through the state of Texas this season. They started at the Houston Regional hosted by Rice, and downed Sam Houston State twice, and the Owls once to survive and advance. After falling 8-1 to Baylor in the Waco Super Regional, Arkansas came back to win a pair of one-run games, including a 10-inning, 1-0 win on Monday to punch its ticket to Omaha for the seventh time in program history.
Batter Up: Arkansas is the lowest-scoring team in the eight-team field (5.3 runs per game), and is batting just .272 as a team, but the Razorbacks have certainly been able to score when they need to with four one-run wins in postseason play. Junior third baseman Matt Reynolds leads the team with a .338 average, seven home runs and 43 RBI. The Razorbacks do not rely on one single offensive threat, however, as 15 players have appeared in the starting lineup this season.
On the Mound: Pitching is undoubtedly the strength of the Arkansas club, and the Razorbacks boast a 2.90 ERA – tied with Florida as the lowest in the eight-team field. Right-handers DJ Baxendale (7-5, 3.18 ERA) and Ryne Stanek (7-4, 2.91 ERA), and lefty Randall Fant (2-2, 3.00 ERA) are a formidable starting rotation, while RHP Barrett Astin has posted 10 saves on the season in relief. The Razorbacks’ pitching staff ranks 19th in the nation in strikeouts per nine innings with 8.1. Arkansas posted a 0.33 ERA in Regional action – the lowest in the tournament.
Did You Know? The Razorbacks’ shutout of Baylor in the final Super Regional contest was their 10th of the season, which is the second-most in school history.
School: Florida Gators (47-18)
Head Coach: Kevin O’Sullivan (223-100 in 5 seasons). O’Sullivan has guided the Gators to three consecutive CWS appearances for the first time in program history.
CWS appearances: 8 (1988, 1991, 1996, 1998, 2005, 2010, 2011, 2012). Florida's all-time CWS record is 11-15. Its highest finish was second in 2005 and 2011.
Road to Omaha: The top-ranked Gators began postseason play with a bang as Jonathan Crawford tossed Florida’s first no-hitter in 21 years in a 4-0 win against Bethune-Cookman. Florida then downed ACC champion Georgia Tech twice to advance to the Super Regional round. The Gators cruised to a 7-1 win against NC State, and then battled the Wolfpack in a 10-inning, 9-8 win to earn a trip to Omaha for the third consecutive season.
Batter Up: The Gators batting a solid .284, and rank third in the nation with 1.15 home runs per game. Catcher Mike Zunino – the third overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft – is batting .322 with 64 RBI and a team-leading 19 home runs. Preston Tucker has belted 16 homers, while five other players have hit at least five round-trippers. The Gators get contributions from the whole lineup, as eight players have notched 20 or more RBI on the year.
On the Mound: Pitching is key for the Gators as they boast a 2.90 ERA, and are giving up just 2.03 walks per nine innings, which ranks second in the nation. Florida also leads Division I with a 3.7 strikeout to walk ratio. Hudson Randall (9-2, 2.61 ERA) is the Gators’ top starter, while Brian Johnson has compiled an 8-4 mark and 3.56 ERA.
Did You Know? Senior Preston Tucker belted his 57th career home run in Sunday’s NC State victory. He has hit a record 11 homers in the postseason.
Head Coach: Mike Martin (1721-592-4 in 33 years). Martin is taking FSU to Omaha for the 15th time in his career.
CWS Appearances: 21 (1957, 1962, 1963, 1965, 1970, 1975, 1980, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1991, 1992, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2008, 2010, 2012). FSU's all-time CWS record is 26-40. The Seminoles have finished as the runner-up three times at the CWS, the last coming in 1999 when FSU lost to Miami (Fla.) 6-5 in the championship game.
Road to Omaha: The regular-season Atlantic Coast Conference champions went 0-3 in their league tournament, but still grabbed a No. 3 national seed on their season-long resume. After surviving a 2-1 game against UAB in the Regional opener, the Seminoles clipped Samford twice to advance to the Super Regional round for the fifth consecutive season. FSU then faced a tough match-up with Stanford and Cardinal first-rounder Mark Appel to open the Super Regional, but the Seminoles ended up with a lopsided 17-1 victory and followed it with an 18-7 win to advance to Omaha for the second time in three seasons. It was only the second time the Seminoles went 5-0 in NCAA play heading into the CWS since the new format was introduced in 1999. The other was in 1999 when they advanced to the title game.
Batter Up: While the Seminoles’ team batting average (.282) may not stand out, FSU’s ability to score runs is stellar. The Seminoles lead the nation in drawing walks, and rank 13th in Division I with 6.9 runs per game. Centerfielder James Ramsey (.382) and first baseman Jayce Boyd (.389) form a nice 1-2 punch in the third-hole and clean-up spot in the lineup, respectively, and have combined for 117 RBI on the year. Ramsey, a first-round draft pick, ranks fifth in the nation with 1.21 runs scored per game. Second baseman Devon Travis tops the team with 22 doubles.
On the Mound: FSU’s pitching staff has compiled a solid 3.52 ERA with 7.5 strikeouts per nine innings under the direction of new pitching coach Mike Bell (former Tennessee and Oklahoma pitching coach). Freshmen Brandon Leibrandt and Mike Compton are the Seminoles' top two starters. Leibrandt carries an 11-2 record and team-leading 2.58 ERA into the CWS, while Compton is 8-2 with a 2.86 ERA on the year. Closer Robert Benincasa has notched 15 saves and a 1.25 ERA in 30 relief appearances. The pitching staff also benefits from a defense that has turned 62 double plays – 11th best in the nation.
Did You Know? FSU has the most CWS appearances (21) without winning an NCAA title.
School: Kent State Golden Flashes (46-18)
Head Coach: Scott Stricklin (313-163 in 8 years). This is Stricklin’s CWS first appearance as a head coach.
CWS Appearances: 1 (2012).
Road to Omaha: It was an interesting road to Omaha for the third-seeded Mid-American Conference champions beginning with a 7-6 win in a 21-inning marathon game against Kentucky in the Gary Regional. The Golden Flashes went on to beat top-seeded Purdue, and then knock off Kentucky by one run to advance to Super Regional play for the first time. After an almost 3,000-mile trip to Eugene, Ore., Kent State tangled with Oregon in three one-run games. Jimmy Rider’s RBI-double in the bottom of the ninth on Monday ended the nail-biting series and sent the Golden Flashes to Omaha for the first time.
Batter Up: The Golden Flashes are another solid group at the plate, batting .302 as a team, which ranks 23rd in the nation. They rank 17th in scoring (6.8) and lead the nation with 162 doubles. George Roberts tops the team with a .368 batting average and 64 RBI. Rider tops the squad with 103 hits and 66 runs scored, and ranks second in the nation with 29 doubles.
On the Mound: With a 3.49 ERA, the Golden Flashes are strong as a staff, and have allowed three runs or less in four of their six postseason games. As a staff, KSU ranks 15th in the nation with 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings. Senior left-hander David Starn (11-3, 2.21 ERA) ranks eighth in the country with 123 strikeouts. Right-handers Ryan Bores (9-3, 3.35 ERA) and Tyler Skulina (11-2, 3.63 ERA) complete the starting rotation. Bores tossed a complete-game win against Purdue in Regional action following the 21-inning affair, spelling the bullpen for the night.
Did You Know? The last MAC team to advance to the College World Series was Eastern Michigan in 1976. The Eagles were the last Northern team to play in the CWS final game, losing to national champion Arizona. Bob Welch – the 1990 Cy Young Award winner – was a member of EMU’s pitching staff.
School: South Carolina Gamecocks (45-17)
Head Coach: Ray Tanner (734-313 in 16 seasons at South Carolina; 1,129-486-3 in 25-year career record). Tanner has led the Gamecocks to the CWS six times since 2002, winning titles in 2010 and 2011.
CWS appearances: 11 (1975, 1977, 1981, 1982, 1985, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2010, 2011, 2012). USC's all-time CWS record is 28-17. The Gamecocks have won the national titles in 2010 and 2011.
Road to Omaha: The two-time defending national champions have gone 5-0 in 2012 postseason action, including two wins against rival Clemson in Regional play. LB Dantzler ripped a walk-off RBI-single in the bottom of the 12th inning against the Tigers to win the second contest of the regional 5-4. The Gamecocks then outscored Oklahoma 10-1 in Super Regional action to advance to the CWS for the third consecutive year. The Gamecocks have won an NCAA-record 21 consecutive NCAA tournament games.
Batter Up: The Gamecocks are batting.271. USC is led by first baseman Christian Walker and left fielder Tanner English, who are hitting .315 and .306, respectively. Walker leads the club with 11 homers and 54 RBI, while center fielder Evan Marzilli paces the squad with 50 runs scored and 70 hits.
On the Mound: South Carolina heads to Omaha with a 3.06 ERA, which ranks 17th in the nation, led by senior left-hander Michael Roth (7-1, 2.50 ERA). The Gamecocks have allowed just 7.3 hits per nine innings, which is third-best in the nation, and rank 13th in Division I with 8.2 strikeouts per nine innings. Reliever Matt Price has posted 11 saves on the year in 24 appearances, while Tyler Webb has compiled a 6-1 mark and 1.91 ERA in 35 relief appearances.
Did You Know? The Gamecocks boast a .979 fielding percentage – tied for the best in the eight-team field with Florida.
School: Stony Brook Seawolves (52-13)
Head Coach: Matt Senk (623-289-3 in 22 years). This is Senk’s first trip to the CWS.
CWS Appearances: 1 (2012).
Road to Omaha: The champions of the America East Conference were sent to the Coral Gables Regional as the No. 4 seed, and got some immediate attention when they knocked off host Miami (Fla.) 10-2 to open the tournament. The Seawolves stumbled in their next game against UCF, falling 9-8, but battled out of the loser’s bracket to become just the third No. 4 seed to advance to a Super Regional since 1999. Stony Brook was matched with LSU and headed to the hostile Alex Box Stadium. After falling 5-4 in a rain-delayed, back-and-forth, 12-inning opening contest, the Seawolves came back to beat the Tigers twice to become the first team from the Northeast since Maine in 1986 to earn a trip to Omaha.
Batter Up: The Seawolves are incredibly potent at the plate, batting .335 as a team, which ranks second in the nation. Junior center fielder Travis Jankowski is hitting .422 with 109 hits, 78 runs scored, a nation-leading 11 triples and 36 stolen bases, while third baseman William Carmona is batting .399 with 12 homers and 72 RBI. Carmona – the Regional MOP – ranks fourth in the nation with a .702 slugging percentage. Maxx Tissenbaum is the second-toughest in the nation to strikeout. All nine players in the regular batting lineup are hitting .296 or better as the Seawolves top the nation with 731 hits on the year and rank fourth in Division I with a 7.2 runs-per-game scoring average.
On the Mound: Stony Brook’s pitching staff is no slouch either. The Seawolves rank 12th in the nation with a 2.99 ERA highlighted by senior right-hander Tyler Johnson (12-1, 1.94 ERA). Sophomore Frankie Vanderka (3-3, 2.37 ERA) tossed a three-hit complete game against LSU to clinch SBU’s trip to Omaha. The duo has tossed eight complete games combined this season.
Did You Know? Stony Brook is the second No. 4 seed to advance to the College World Series since the postseason went to a Super Regional format in 1999. Fresno State was seeded fourth in 2008, and went on to win the national title.
School: UCLA Bruins (47-14)
Head Coach: John Savage (274-205-8 in 8 years at UCLA; 362-289-1 record in 11-year career). Savage is taking the Bruins to the CWS for the second time in three years.
CWS Appearances: 4 (1969, 1997, 2010, 2012). The Bruins' all-time CWS record is 3-7 and their highest finish is second. UCLA lost to South Carolina in the 2010 championship series.
Road to Omaha: After earning a share of the Pac-12 title, the Bruins claimed the No. 2 national seed and a bid to host the Los Angeles Regional. UCLA cruised through Regional action, topping Creighton twice and knocking off New Mexico. TCU then came to town for Super Regional play, and the Bruins did not delay in punching their ticket to Omaha, downing the Horned Frogs in two games. The Bruin pitching staff has given up more than two runs in just one of five postseason games, while UCLA has outscored opponents 33-9 during the stretch. The Bruins have won nine consecutive games, and 16 of their last 17 contests.
Batter Up: UCLA has been known for its pitching during the past few seasons, but Bruins hitters are making opponents take notice this season. This year’s team batting average (.309) is 46 points higher than last year’s club (.263) under the direction of hitting coach Rex Peters, who is in his first year on the staff after serving nine seasons as the UC Davis head coach. Junior right fielder Jeff Gelalich leads the squad with a .365 batting average and 11 home runs, and has contributed 46 RBI and 55 runs scored. He is one of six starters in the lineup batting .300 or better.
On the Mound: The Bruins boast a 3.14 ERA – 22nd best in the nation – with a mix of solid starting pitching and reliable relievers. Sophomore RHP Adam Plutko headlines the group with an 11-3 and 2.56 ERA in 17 starts. He has given up just two runs in 16.0 innings pitched in the postseason, including a complete-game shutout against Creighton in Regional action. Freshman RHP David Berg (5-3, 1.58 ERA) leads the nation with 47 appearances, which ranks second on the NCAA’s all-time single-season appearance list. He has pitched in 21 of UCLA’s last 22 games.
Did You Know? Five UCLA players who saw action in the 2010 College World Series are still contributing on the 2012 club -- Beau Amaral, Cody Regis, Jeff Gelalich, Trevor Brown and Scott Griggs.