Ne. – Three days removed from the 2012 National Showcase, with one
day in the office sandwiched in between, I found myself in Omaha for
the College World Series, the pinnacle of college baseball, and a
city that has become synonymous with the event itself.
both events are among the most prominent on a national level for what
they represent, the two couldn't be more different than their purpose
and overall meaning to the sport of baseball.
defines the National Showcase, with the top 300 high school players
that are eligible for the following year's draft in attendance to
help themselves, as well as the scouting and recruiting communities,
understand how they stack up against one another. Showcases in
themselves aren't competitive by definition, although it's impossible
to remove competition from any athlete's inner being.
talent is what led the Florida Gators to the No. 1 overall seed prior
to the beginning of the College World Series, that talent on paper
has not resulted in ultimate success in Omaha. Florida lost each of
their first two games, the first to SEC rival South Carolina (who
defeated Florida in the finals a year ago), and the second to an
upstart Kent State program.
seven former PG/Aflac All-Americans, and 15 National Showcase alumni
on their roster, Florida is loaded with professional talent. 31 of
the 33 players on their roster had previously attended a Perfect Game
event, and had five players selected in the top three rounds of the
draft, including the No. 3 overall pick, catcher Mike Zunino.
sophomore and freshman classes are also loaded, most notably by
sophomores Karsten Whitson and Jonathan Crawford. Whitson has been
an early favorite to be the first player selected in the 2013 draft
ever since he stepped onto Florida's campus, and both are expected to
form the heart of the Gators' weekend rotation next season, when
expectations will continue to be high until the program figures out a
way to bring home the championship trophy.
none of that talent will be on display for the national audience in
the Championship Series this year.
roster of the two-time defending CWS champions, South Carolina, may
not have the same high-impact level talent on their roster, but there
are still plenty of recognizable names.
Gamecocks had four players selected in the top 10 rounds of the 2012
draft, and 32 of the players on their 34-man roster have previously
participated in a Perfect Game event. One of those, Ethan Carter, is
a former PG All-American, while Carter and five others have attended
the National Showcase, including team leader and slugger, Christian
Gamecocks are starting to make this whole College World Series
experience in Omaha look pretty easy. The two-time defending
champions entered Thursday with a pretty daunting task: They first
had to defeat Kent State in an early game, a game postponed from the
day before due to rain, and then had to beat Arkansas later that
night just to be able to play another day.
starters Michael Roth and Jordan Montgomery decided to pick up the
entire South Carolina team and carry them on their backs in those two
games. Roth went the distance against Kent State, allowing only 2
hits and no walks while striking out 8, and Montgomery followed that
with 8 scoreless innings of his own in a 2-0 win over Arkansas.
hero Matt Price pitched the final three innings to secure South
Carolina's second win on the day, and went on to toss the final three
innings of the team's win over Arkansas the following day to advance
to the Championship Series for the third consecutive year.
picked up his fifth win in the CWS, setting the all-time mark in that
category after playing an integral role for the 2010 and 2011 teams
(more on Price's CWS dominance is listed below).
the season on the line, Head Coach Ray Tanner was quick to turn to
his bullpen after Gamecocks starter Colby Holmes gave up a pair of
runs in the first three innings. Left-hander Tyler Webb bridged the
gap between Holmes and Price, working four scoreless frames and
handing a 2-2 ballgame over to Price in the seventh.
pitcher has been turned to as frequently as Webb this season for
South Carolina, who has made 38 appearances out of the bullpen,
posting a 6-1, 1.58 record in 57 innings of work.
bullpens for the Arkansas and South Carolina were incredibly
productive in postseason play. Prior to the go-ahead run that South
Carolina scored in the seventh on Friday, the Arkansas bullpen had
not given up a run in 25- 2/3 innings.)
when South Carolina's more clearly defined leaders weren't providing
game-winning hits, someone else always did for a program in which the
team effort is emphasized. The team plays together as a unit, which
is most evident on defense, a rare collection of disciplined players
from top to bottom that rarely beat themselves.
after current team leaders such as Roth, Price, Walker and Evan
Marzilli move on to begin their professional careers, the program
welcomed a promising crop of freshmen this past year that contributed
as everyday regulars.
English, Grayson Greiner and Joey Pankake should define the team up
the middle for the next two years, while Kyle Martin could slide in
to replace Walker at first. T.J. Costen will continue to serve in an
expanded utility role should he not find a regular defensive home in
the starting lineup.
has clearly made a strong impression this season, while Evan Beal and
Joel Seddon will look to receive increased roles next year.
course, the Gamecocks still have two wins to claim their third
consecutive CWS title, something only one other team has accomplished
(the other USC, Southern California), but the results are still
impressive no matter the outcome.
arms come up big
College World Series has never been known as a scouting event. That
said, while the amount of professional-caliber talent fluctuates from
one year to the next, there are always players that stand out as
prospects to watch at the next level.
most notable of which this year is Arkansas right-handed pitcher Ryne
Stanek, who worked six dominant innings in a win over South Carolina
earlier in the week, snapping the Gamecocks NCAA postseason record of
22 consecutive wins, as well as their 12-game consecutive win streak
at the College World Series. Armed with a 93-96 mph fastball that
regularly peaks at 97/98, and a wicked slider, Stanek joins Whitson
in the conversation for the early favorites for the No. 1 overall
Stanek's Razorbacks were eliminated from Omaha by the Gamecocks on
Friday, he finished the season incredibly strong, and showed great
improvement from his freshman season in 2011.
the SEC should be loaded with draft-eligible pitching talent,
including Whitson and Crawford as detailed above, as well as Ryan
Eades of LSU and Bobby Wade of Ole Miss.
premier power arm eligible for the 2013 draft, Konner Wade, also had
a masterful performance in the CWS, shutting out UCLA, Pac-12
co-champions, 4-0 on Sunday. Wade allowed only five hits in the
complete game effort, striking out four, and he could be turned to
start Game 1 of the Championship Series against South Carolina.
the Wildcats' pitching staff should be incredibly fresh heading into
today's game. Arizona has only played one game since last Sunday, a
10-3 trouncing of Florida State on Thursday in which only two
pitchers were used to pick up the win. Starter Kurt Heyer worked the
first 7.1 innings, while Tyler Crawford worked the final 1.2.
James Farris, Matthew Troupe, Tyler Hale and Stephen Manthei, the
members of the Arizona pitching staff that have received the most
work this season, will all have had at least a week of rest, giving
Head Coach Andy Lopez the opportunity to be as creative as he likes
to get through the best-of-three series.
lineup could be one of the toughest tests the South Carolina pitching
staff has faced all season. Seven of the nine regulars have hit .324
or better, five of those with an on-base percentage greater than
.400, and four with at least 10 stolen bases. Joey Rickard and
Johnny Fields get everything started at the top of the lineup, while
Alex Mejia, Rob Refsnyder, Seth Mejias-Brean and Bobby Brown make it
difficult to go through any part of the lineup unscathed.
team also plays very strong team defense, giving them a very well
rounded team in all three phases of the game.
is a running list of the things and plays that stood out to me during
my two-day, three-game stay in Omaha.
second game on Thursday was in stark contrast of the first game of
the day, when Roth went the distance against Kent State, a game that
was finished in just over two hours.
State got off to an ominous start after falling to the Wildcats in
Game 2 of the CWS nearly a week before. Leadoff hitter Sherman
Johnson led off the game with a single, only to be thrown out at
second base by left fielder Johnny Field as he tried to stretch a
double. In the bottom of the first, Brandon Liebrandt (son of
Charlie) got a chopper tailor-made for turning a double play back to
him off the bat of Field after Rickard led the game off with a
single. Liebrandt fired the throw to second into centerfield,
allowing Rickard to advance to third and Field to reach, the
beginning of a 6-run first inning for Arizona and a very short outing
that double play been made, that game could have evolved in a much
of the 34 members on Florida State's roster had previously attended a
PG event, including right-handed pitcher Luke Weaver, another PG
National alum, who relieved Liebrandt in the first. Weaver showed a
live arm with a promising three-pitch mix, but just when it looked as
though he was finding his groove, he gave up three of the four runs
that Arizona scored in the fourth, leading to their big 10-3 win and
eliminating FSU from the CWS.
Refsnyder and Bobby Brown each hit big home runs in the four-run
fourth. Refsnyder's was a solo shot yanked down the left field line,
while Brown's was a two-run shot pulled to right. Brown was the
overall star of the day, going 2-for-2 with three walks and two runs
Florida State used eight pitchers in that game, a CWS record for a
nine inning game. Alex Mejia, the final batter in the Wildcats'
fourth, was the 30th Arizona batter that came to the plate.
of the loss, Seminoles captain and 2012 first-round pick (St. Louis
Cardinals), James Ramsey, went 0-5 in the contest.
such a commanding lead early in the game, many didn't expect Lopez to
stick with his starter, Kurt Heyer, for long in this game. Facing
off days on both Thursday and Friday, it seemed likely that Lopez
would turn to a fresh bullpen looking for a committee effort to close
the game out while keeping Heyer's arm fresh with a lower pitch
count. That didn't happen, as Heyer tossed 123 pitches in the game,
getting one out in the eighth before being removed.
Mejias-Brean is a rock at third base, making several plays looked
incredibly easy at the hot corner.
Game 2 of the day, the aforementioned contest between South Carolina
and Arkansas, left-handed starter Jordan Montgomery and reliever Matt
Price combined on a three-hit shutout in which they faced only two
batters over the minimum. Montgomery only threw 89 pitches in the
process, as he could be available to pitch in Game 3 of the
Championship Series if needed.
Gamecocks scored both of their runs in the second inning off of
left-handed pitcher Randall Fant. The Razorbacks quickly turned to
their bullpen, with Brandon Moore coming in the second inning and
carrying Arkansas through the seventh. Left-hander Trent Daniel
tossed the final two frames, as the two combined to allow only four
hits, after Fant allowed four in 1- 1/3 innings.
Carolina opened the second inning with back-to-back doubles by
outfielder Erik Payne and Tanner English. After running 6.37 in the
60 at the 2011 World Showcase, English showed off his speed by
stretching two. He later showed his impressive arm strength (97 from
the outfield at the World) by gunning down Bo Bigham at third base
who tried going from first to third on a single by Derrick Bleeker.
While English doesn't project to hit for much power, he's hitting on
the sunny side of .300 during his freshman year, and should enjoy a
productive college career.
made three crucial outs on the basepaths during this game.
team's two catchers, Grayson Greiner (South Carolina) and Jake Wise
(Arkansas) showed incredible arm strength behind the plate. While
Greiner has the stronger of the two arms, Wise has a very quick
release making numerous accurate, online throws.
Reynolds joined Seth Mejias-Brean as one of the more impressive
defensive players during the CWS, making a handful of diving stops
and strong throws to first base. A second round pick of the Mets,
it's easy to envision him beginning his professional career at second
Pankake is one of the better all-around college players that I saw
all season. He doesn't have great range, but makes all of the plays
he can get to, making consistent, strong and accurate throws to first
base. He made consistent hard contact at the plate, with a knack for
driving in a run when most needed.
the team defense exhibited by Arkansas, South Carolina and Arizona
got off to a quick start in their elimination game against South
Carolina on Friday, scoring single runs in the first and third
innings to take a 2-0 lead. As noted above, Tyler Webb and Matt
Price combined to throw the final seven innings after Colby Holmes
worked the first two, allowing only three hits while striking out
this game moved at a fairly slow pace for such a low scoring affair.
Four Razorbacks pitchers combined to walk nine Gamecock batters,
including five by starter D.J. Baxendale. The pace was not helped by
the homeplate umpire's questionable strike zone, which was both small
and inconsistent, especially in the late innings.
Ameritrade is a beautiful facility. While Rosenblatt had more charm,
a lot of that had to do with the illustrious history of the College
World Series (and TD
doesn't exactly roll off the tongue). The stadium is very clean and
well kept, with a wide open, airy feel that makes it very inviting
while watching baseball on a hot summer night. Whether it be for the
CWS, Creighton Baseball or the Omaha Royals, if you enjoy hitting the
road to visit new cities and a variety of ballparks, be sure to put
Omaha and TD Ameritrade Park high on your wish list.
Carolina pitchers Michael Roth and Matt Price have cemented their
status among the best players to ever participate in the College
World Series. Here are some fun, fast facts to help illustrate their
Roth: 4-0, 1.54 ERA, 52.2 IP, 31 H, 9 ER, 37 K, 15 BB
Price: 5-0, 0.35 ERA, 4 SV, 25.2 IP, 18 H, 1 ER, 33K, 7 BB
Price has appeared in 12 of South Carolina's 16 College World Series
games the last three years
He made an appearance in all five of South Carolina's 2011 CWS games
Two of the games that Price didn't make an appearance in were
complete game efforts by Roth
In those 12 appearances he has either won (5) or saved (4) nine of
Of the seven walks that Price has issued, five came in one game
matter how the rest of the series shakes out, Price, and to a lesser
yet still notable degree Roth, have clearly put their names among the
all-time CWS greats.