Off The Top Of My Head: Super Regional EditionColumns
The field is set. And despite all the early upsets in the regional round it’s still the heavy faves that ended up making up most of the Sweet 16. A full 12 of the 16 one-seeds made it through the weekend. Only one two-seed advanced in the tournament, which was Auburn. The other three non-number ones were three-seeds in Michigan, Duke and Florida State. And remember, those three teams were three of the “Last Four In” according to selection committee chairman Ray Tanner. So bully for those teams. Well done.
The top two national seeds, UCLA and Vanderbilt, will have the luxury of facing No. 3 seeds in Michigan and Duke, respectively. I’m not sure that’s a total comfort for each of the big bullies, because the Wolverines have already beaten the Bruins this season and the Dukies swept through the Morgantown Regional in three straight games over Texas A&M (twice) and WVU. And of course, FSU would have to be the most dangerous non-No. 1 seed out there.
Let’s take a quick spin around the eight Supers and my quick-hit thoughts on each.
LOS ANGELES SUPER REGIONAL
– Michigan (44-19) at UCLA (51-9)
By The Numbers:
UMich: 44-19, .285 team average, 68 HRs, 94 SBs, 3.55 ERA, 541 Ks, 235 BBs, OBA .
UCLA: 51-9, .292 ave., 65 HRs, 60 SBs, 2.58 ERA, 620 Ks, 201 BBs, OBA .193
The Wolverines were one of the few non-Pac 12 teams that actually beat the Bruins this season, notching a 7-5 win on March 8th at Jackie Robinson Stadium. But they didn’t have to face Ryan Garcia or Jack Ralston, so this will be a different animal. However, if the Wolverines can extend this to a third game, they could have the advantage considering the rotation of Karl Kauffmann, Jeff Criswell and Tommy Henry pitched so well in the regionals, while the Bruins are without third starter Zach Pettway the rest of the postseason.
My Pick: UCLA
LUBBOCK SUPER REGIONAL
– Oklahoma State (38-19) at Texas Tech (42-17)
By The Numbers:
OSU: 38-19, .269 ave., 86 HRs, 42 SBs, 4.02 ERA, 479 Ks, 225 BBs, OBA .248
TTU: 42-17, .301 ave., 60 HRs, 65 SBs, 3.84 ERA, 546 Ks, 239 BBs, OBA .253
As expected, these two Big 12 rivals know each other well. In late April the Techsters swept OSU in three straight, outscoring the Pokes 27-8 in the process. But since then the Cowboys have gone 14-3, including a 3-0 trip to Oregon State and a 4-1 trek through the Big 12 Tournament. But I still like the versatility and punch that the Tech batting order offers, from the speed of Gabe Holt to the power of Josh Jung and Cameron Warren. I’ll also give an edge to the Raiders for the postseason experience they have in spades.
My Pick: Texas Tech
FAYETTEVILLE SUPER REGIONAL
Ole Miss (40-25) at Arkansas (44-17)
By The Numbers:
UM: 40-25, .284 ave., 68 HRs, 92 SBs, 4.33 ERA, 548 Ks, 206 BBs, OBA .255
Ark: 44-17, .299 ave., 81 HRs, 77 SBs, 3.84 ERA, 574 Ks, 222 BBs, OBA .224
Another matchup where the teams know each other very well. Maybe even too well. The Rebels won three of the five matchups they’ve had already this year. They must be brimming with confidence knowing they already took two of three in Fayetteville this season. But I like the way the Razorbacks are playing. Down the stretch of SEC play they went 11-4, while the Rebels went 8-7. Plus, if this one goes to a third game, Patrick Wicklander has eased into his cleats much more comfortably including a shut-down outing in the regional-clinching win over TCU.
My Pick: Arkansas
BATON ROUGE REGIONAL
Florida State (39-21) at LSU (40-24)
By The Numbers:
FSU: 39-21, .274 ave., 50 HRs, 45 SBs, 4.61 ERA, 603 Ks, 259 BBs, OBA .240
LSU: 40-24, .274 ave., 63 HRs, 60 SBs, 4.07 ERA, 582 Ks, 254 BBs, OBA .251
Man, this series is impossible to predict. I mean, do we really have the confidence that Florida State is going to keep kickin’ major butt with the bats like the ‘Noles did last weekend, when they outscored Georgia and their dominating arms in two straight games to the tune of 22-4? Then again, this is LSU playing at Alex Box Stadium. Unless they are facing Stony Brook or Coastal Carolina, are we really going to question their massive home field advantage? To be fair, both pitching staffs can be completely hit-and-miss. So to me it comes down to the bats. And right now, FSU’s are scorching.
My Pick: Florida State
Duke (34-25) at Vanderbilt (52-10)
By The Numbers:
DU: 34-25, .270 ave., 47 HRs, 64 SBs, 4.06 ERA, 569 Ks, 266 BBs, OBA .246
VU: 52-10, .319 ave., 87 HRs, 72 SBs, 3.73 ERA, 660 Ks, 235 BBs, OBA .228
Oh come on. Are you really thinking the Dukies have a chance against the cruel, un-feeling Vanderbilt Commodores? Well, you have to like that the Blue Devils dominated the Morgantown Regional, playing up to their potential and having never trailed the entire weekend. The three starting pitchers – Ben Gross, Bryce Jarvis and Bill Chillari – combined for 19.2 innings of work and relented just two runs and four walks along the way. But this is Vanderbilt. And the Commodores go to the plate like they’re angry at the ball, at the opposing pitcher, at the freakin’ world, man. I can’t pick against Corbin’s crew now. No way.
My Pick: Vanderbilt
LOUISVILLE SUPER REGIONAL
East Carolina (45-16) at Louisville (47-16)
By The Numbers:
ECU: 45-16, .297 ave., 68 HRs, 48 SBs, 3.68 ERA, 567 Ks, 202 BBs, OBA .243
UofL: 47-16, .291 ave., 51 HRs, 106 SBs, 3.65 ERA, 660 Ks, 240 BBs, OBA .214
This is year No. 30 for the Pirates. It’s been 30 trips to the regionals without a single trip to the College World Series. The next closest team to futility like that is South Alabama, which has gone to 27 Big Dance trips without an Omaha ending. This time, they’ll face off with a Louisville squad with which they match up very evenly. The Pirates have more power. The Cardinals have more speed. The team ERAs are nearly equal and both keep opponents from getting many hits. But – and this is a big but – Louisville closer Michael McAvene and his valuable arm at the end of games won’t be available in the first two games thanks to Ken Langford petulantly giving him the heave-ho. Because of that, the Pirates own the late innings.
My Pick: East Carolina
STARKVILLE SUPER REGIONAL
Stanford (45-12) at Mississippi State (49-13)
By The Numbers:
SU: 45-12, .281 ave., 87 HRs, 62 SBs, 3.51 ERA, 488 Ks, 173 BBs, OBA .246
MSU: 49-13, .317 ave., 62 HRs, 59 SBs, 3.54 ERA, 667 Ks, 214 BBs, OBA .226
The last time a Pac-12 team showed up in StarkPatch for a super regional the Arizona Wildcats swept a pair of games from the Dogs on their way to the CWS title round vs. Coastal Carolina. But I’m not sure if the Cardinal can pull off the same stunt here. I mean, the Bullies are sooooo damn good, hitting 36 points better on offense, throwing 179 more strikeouts on the mound and having Jake Magnum in an MSU uniform. And if you ask the 10,000-plus Bulldog fans they’ll tell you, any team that only pulls in 2,000 fans at most CANNOT beat the Maroon & White. Then again, in 2016, the Arizona Wildcats pulled in 2,000 fans for their home games at the most as well. Hmmmmm.
My Pick: Mississippi State
CHAPEL HILL SUPER REGIONAL
Auburn (36-25) at North Carolina (45-17)
By The Numbers:
AU: 36-25, .263 ave., 45 HRs, 61 SBs, 4.45 ERA, 538 Ks, 238 BBs, OBA .259
UNC: 45-17, .273 ave., 75 HRs, 42 SBs, 4.14 ERA, 545 Ks, 242 BBs, OBA .249
Both teams got a little lucky… or maybe a lot lucky, in advancing to the round of 16 with some late-inning home runs to escape certain defeat. But the Tigers have been banged up a bit in the pitching corps, yet got transcendent performances from Richard Fitts and Bailey Horn to take down Georgia Tech. Carolina won’t be so accommodating this week. My hunch here is the magic continues for Aaron Sabato, Michael Busch and co., and runs out for the beleaguered Auburn arms. Then again, this is just a hunch. Don’t sell the Tigers short, they’ve been road warriors of late.
My Pick: North Carolina
SOME SUPER REGIONAL NOTES
– Still best to be the home team.
With 12 of the 16 regionals won by the home team, that means that 228 of the 336 home teams have won in the regionals since the field was expanded to 64 teams in 1999. That means that 67.9% of the teams that win regionals are home teams.
– Home teams in the supers.
In four of the last the last five years, either six or seven home teams have won in the super regional round. The only outlier to that was 2016, when only three home teams won super regionals. There has never been a year in which all eight home teams won the super regional round, and there have only been three years where seven of the eight home teams made it to Omaha. So, look around. Not every one of the “favorites” will win this weekend.
– SEC is hot again.
For the fourth time in super regionals history the SEC has placed six teams in the field of 16, and this is the third straight year of doing so. Last year there were three super regional showdowns between SEC teams, this year there is only one super regional showdown of SEC mates, Ole Miss playing at Arkansas.
– Florida State is the tops
Not only does Mike Martin have his troops in the NCAA tournament for the 40th time in his 40th year at the helm, but the Seminole program itself is still the top program when it comes to all-time regional/super regional wins (166), all-time regional/super regional games played (248), super regional appearances (17 in the 21-year history of the format) and consecutive regional appearances (42 straight).
– Will the non-Top Eight get back to prominence?
The last two years have seen the College World Series being won by a top-eight national seed, Florida in 2017 and Oregon State in 2019. Prior to that, the national title winner from 2012 to 2016 was a non-top eight seed. In both of the last two seasons the super regional winners included four top-eight National Seeds and four non-top eight seeds. Six of the top eight are still alive in 2019. Only 4-seed Georgia and 3-seed Georgia Tech did not survive the regional round.
– Not as pitching heavy.
Only four of this year’s super regional field have team ERAs in the top 25 in the country:
– No. 1 UCLA, 2.58 team ERA
– No. 11 Stanford, 3.51
– No. 18 Mississippi State, 3.54
– No. 19 Michigan, 3.55
– Not as hitting heavy either.
Only three of this year’s super regional field have a team batting average of .300 or better.
– No. 4 Vanderbilt, .319 team average
– No. 5 Mississippi State, .317
– No. 17 Texas Tech, .301
THE INSTAGRAM POST OF THE WEEK:
Found this on Reddit. Apparently their own players are annoyed by the whistles…
THIS WEEK IN COLLEGE BASEBALL HISTORY
Oh man, it was a monumental week for my On This Day in College Baseball twitter entries (I’m at @Stitch_Head, in case you didn’t know). Here are some of the most memorable entries from this past week
The greatest ending to a College World Series ever. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Warren Morris:
The greatest defensive play in College World Series history. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Jim Audley:
The greatest trick play in College World Series history. Ladies and gentlemen, the University of Miami:
The first CWS Finals between two teams from the same state. Ladies and gentlemen, Pepperdine’s 1992 national title win over Cal State Fullerton:
THE REGIONAL FINALS AND THE DRAFT.
As you guys have probably heard me complain before on any radio show I go on, Major League Baseball doesn’t give a rat’s arse about college baseball. If they did they wouldn’t start the MLB draft on the Monday that is the final round of the regionals. For instance, if Oregon State had made it to the seventh game on Monday, Adley Rutschman would’ve been made the No. 1 pick right as he was about to play that final game. That’s unfair.
Here’s a good example of how crazy the first day of the draft and the last day of the regionals can happen simultaneously for some players. In UCLA’s regional-clinching win over LMU, Bruin second baseman Chase Strumpf hit a game-clinching three-run home run in the fourth inning to put UCLA up 6-2. After he got back from his home run trot, as he and his teammates were celebrating his yard call, Strumpf’s father raced down to the dugout and yelled to him that he got drafted by the Cubs.
“I was actually coming into the dugout with all the guys,” said Strumpf in the post-game press conference. “He decided to take upon himself at that moment to shout at me that I got drafted by the Cubs. So shout-out to my dad for kind of ruining the moment with my team, but he was excited.”