Thursday, June 14, 2007

The College World Series - N. Carolina & Mississippi State Previews

Today I begin a preview of the College Baseball World Series which begins on Friday at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha.....the first round games are as follows: Rice (54-12) vs. Louisville (46-22); North Carolina (53-13) vs. Mississippi State (38-20); U.C. Irvine (45-15-1) vs. Arizona State (46-13); Oregon State (44-18) vs. Cal State Fullerton (38-23).....Oregon State is the defending champions....

Ken Tysiac of The Charlotte Observer gives us his thoughts about the North Carolina Tar Heels.....also today, Kyle Veazey of the Jackson (Miss) Clarion-Ledger gives us the lowdown on the Mississippi State Bulldogs....I want to thank both reporters for their time.....let’s start off with Ken and his thoughts about the Tar Heels.....

Q1. This is the second straight year that the Tar Heels made the College World Series. What is the difference between last year's team and this year's team?
Last year's team had dominating starting pitching with Andrew Miller and Daniel Bard. Robert Woodard, who befuddled Clemson in last year's College World Series, still is a strong No. 1 starter for the Tar Heels, but Alex White and Luke Putkonen aren't as reliable. This year's team has a better bullpen, though, with Andrew Carignan as a hard-throwing closer and Rob Wooten emerging as a set-up man whose breaking stuff is baffling.

Q2. What is the strength of this team?
In the NCAA tournament, North Carolina's comeback ability has been its strength. The Tar Heels have come from behind in their last four wins, including rallies from six-run and three-run deficits against South Carolina in the super regional. The aforementioned bullpen is one reason for that. Opponents who get leads can't extend them against the likes of Wooten and Carignan.

Q3. Who are some of the key players for the Tar Heels who we need to keep an eye on? Who has major-league baseball potential?
Shortstop Josh Horton is a second-round pick of the Oakland A's. He probably will play a different position as a pro because he's not a wizard defensively, but should be an excellent third baseman or outfielder in the pros. Carignan has been clocked at 97 miles per hour on the radar gun and is a fifth-round choice of the A's. First baseman Dustin Ackley was probably the best freshman in college baseball this season and is a fantastic hitter, though he's been cold at the plate in the NCAA tournament.

Q4. What type of coach is Mike Fox? Does he manage "by the book" or is he a "gut-type" of manager?
It's difficult to place Fox in one of those categories. I would describe him as low-key coach whose greatest asset is demonstrating confidence in his players. They believe they can win no matter how far they get behind now, and that will make them dangerous in Omaha.

Q5. What is your prediction for Omaha? Who will win it all?
North Carolina is the only team I've seen in person, so it's difficult for me to judge. Rice is probably the team to beat, but Oregon State has an edge in experience as defending champion. Just like Florida in the men's basketball tournament, it's tough to pick against Oregon State.

Now Kyle Veazey about Mississippi State....

Q1. This is the first time in nine years that the Bulldogs are going to Omaha. Why is this team so different compared to past Mississippi State teams?
This program had really fallen into a rut of being good enough to get to a regional and that's it, and it had started to show in things like attendance, lack of confidence in (head coach) Ron Polk, etc. But you kind of felt from the get-go that this team didn't care anything about that, and that they're a loose, joking, fun-loving group of guys. I can't even begin to count how many players I've interviewed that have said there are no cliques, no animosity, no arrogance in the locker room. I'm usually not the kind who buys into emotion over execution, but it's hard to deny it with this club.

Q2. What is the strength of this team?
It's a hitting team, no question about it. The pitching is adequate, but as I just got finished writing for a story for tomorrow, there is no ace, and they don't make any bones about it. The team lives and dies on hitting, and it died for a few weeks there in May when it wasn't doing that too well. Once the confidence returned to hitting in Tallahassee -- and Brandon Turner returned, too -- this was the club we saw back in March and April.

Q3. Who are some of the key players for the Bulldogs who we need to keep an eye on? Who has major-league baseball potential?
As for the guys who just got drafted, Ed Easley is going to be wildly successful at the next level. He's a prototypical catcher, and that's a commodity. Don't count out Jeffrey Rea, a hitting machine who is small but has always overcome the odds. As for the young guys on this team, you take one look at how Brandon Turner approaches hitting and swings the bat in BP, and you get the impression he'll be a rich, rich man one day. He's just a freshman right now.

Q4. Over 12,000 fans attended the game on Saturday night against Clemson. What does it mean for the Starkville area and the Miss. State campus for the team to make it to Omaha?
It means everything. Mississippi State has had football success but has never been a sustained power, and the economic disparity in the SEC still has the odds stacked against it. There has been recent success in basketball, but still not at the postseason level. Baseball, ever since the 1980s, has been the sport at which this fan base has been able to poke its chest out. MSU baseball is one of the nation's top programs. And to get back to that level of postseason success that was once so commonplace here, well, it's such a great feeling for MSU fans. The fan support this weekend wasn't a surprise, really. People have been waiting to go nuts over this team for a long time.

Q5. What is your prediction for Omaha? Who will win it all?
I don't let predictions interfere with good, unbiased journalism, so allow me to diplomatically duck this question. I do think Arizona State is a team to watch out for in the other bracket. And unfortunately for the team I cover, my gut says a North Carolina team that's back from the national title series last year is going to be a team to watch out for in the top bracket. But why not Mississippi State? If it plays as hot as it has these past two weeks, it's as good as any of the other seven clubs.

I want to thank both reporters for their is much appreciated...tomorrow we will hear from M.K. Bower of the Houston Chronicle about the Rice Owls and Jeff Metcalfe of the Arizona Republic about the Arizona State Sun are a few links to check out...

For the best coverage of the College World Series, go to the Omaha World-Herald at the link below...

  • Omaha World-Herald

  • The U.S. Open opens today at Oakmont, which is near Pittsburgh....the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has every eagle, birdie, and bogey covered...
  • Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

  • The Cavs do need a miracle to win even just 1 game, and they may have a start with the nuns who cheer on the team...The Plain Dealer's Laura Johnston has it covered...
  • Laura Johnston

  • The Washington Post's Michael Wilbon writes how King James needs some more soldiers if he wants a bigger kingdom...
  • Michael Wilbon


    Mini Me said...

    I cant believe my Longhorns arent in it this year.

    Mini Me said...

    I cant believe my Longhorns arent in it this year.