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College : : Story
2014 College World Series preview
Kendall Rogers        
Published: Thursday, June 12, 2014


 

CWS PREVIEW: BRACKET ONE
LOUISVILLE CARDINALS

Record: 50-15

Coach: Dan McDonnell (Eighth season)

CWS appearances: Three

Drafted prospects: RHP Nick Burdi (2nd round, Minnesota), OF Jeff Gardner (8th round, Washington), UTI Cole Sturgeon (10th round, Boston), RHP Jared Ruxer (12th round, Angels -- hurt, will not play in CWS), LHP Joe Filomeno (15th round, Texas), 1B Grant Kay (27th round, Tampa Bay), 2B Zach Lucas (29th round, Pittsburgh), LHP Kyle McGrath (36th round, San Diego)


OFFENSE

Grade: B+

Much like a typical Dan McDonnell type of offense, the Cardinals can beat you in a variety of ways. They can hit the long ball at times, live in the gaps, and of course, love to put pressure on opposing defenses. Kyle Gibson, Zach Lucas and Cole Sturgeon are veterans with advanced approaches, while you have to think outstanding outfielder Jeff Gardner will get it going at some point in the postseason. The fact Gardner has been relatively quiet thus far could be bad news for opposing teams. Meanwhile, keep an eye on young Corey Ray, yet another athletic component of this offense, as he's been sizzling hot in the postseason.

STARTING PITCHING

Grade: B

The Cardinals have an All-American arm in righthanded pitcher Kyle Funkhouser leading the charge into the College World Series. Funkhouser is a premium arm with a fastball anywhere from 92-96, along with a good slider and overall stuff. Meanwhile, Anthony Kidston isn't necessarily an overpowering arm, but possesses a quality changeup. Young Josh Rogers could be the X-factor for this rotation in Omaha. Rogers was outstanding in the Louisville Regional, but didn't pitch last weekend with the NCAA Super Regional only being two games. Rogers is fresh and should provide a boost for Dan McDonnell's club if that's needed.

BULLPEN

Grade: A

This is the strength of Louisville's pitching staff. The Cardinals certainly have one of the top arms in the country in hard-throwing righty Nick Burdi, who can touch 98-100 on the radar gun, along with a 90-plus mph slider, but there's a lot more to this bullpen, too. For instance, lefty Kyle McGrath has been terrific this season with a 1.38 ERA in 39 innings, and two-way star Cole Sturgeon is having an All-American type of season with a 1.98 ERA in 36 1/3 innings of work. The Cards haven't had to navigate too deep into the bullpen during the postseason, and pitching coach Roger Williams would like to see it stay that way in Omaha.


PROJECTED LINEUP/ROTATION

* NCAA tournament stats only

C Kyle Gibson (.471 AVG, 3 2B, .500 OBP)

1B Grant Kay  (.313 AVG, 2 stolen bases)

2B Zach Lucas (.438 AVG, 5 2B, .526 OBP)

SS Sutton Whiting (.235 AVG, 1 2B, 2 RBIs, 4-4 SBs)

3B Alex Chittenden (.190 AVG, 2 RBIs)

LF Jeff Gardner (.105 AVG, 1 2B, 2 RBIs, .261 OBP)

CF Cole Sturgeon (.421 AVG, 4 RBIs, .500 OBP)

RF Corey Ray (.471 AVG, 3 2B, 3 RBIs, .500 OBP)

DH Nick Solak (.400 AVG, 2 2B, 1 HR, 7 RBIs)


SP Kyle Funkhouser (1.20 ERA, 15 IP, 17 K, 6 BB, .143 BAA)

SP Anthony Kidston (4.15 ERA, 13 IP, 13 K, 7 BB, .286 BAA)

SP Josh Rogers (1.50 ERA, 6 IP, 5 K, 0 BB, .190 BAA)

CL/RP Nick Burdi (0.00 ERA, 4 appearances, 3.1 IP, 5 K, 2 BB)

TEXAS LONGHORNS

Record: 43-19

Coach: Augie Garrido (18th season)

CWS appearances: 35

Drafted prospects: RHP John Curtiss (6th round, Minnesota), OF Mark Payton (7th round, New York Yankees), LHP Dillon Peters (10th round, Miami), RHP Nathan Thornhill (13th round, Philadelphia), RHP Lukas Schiraldi (15th round, Seattle), RHP Parker French (19th round, Detroit)


OFFENSE

Grade: B

Beating Texas isn't rocket science, but the Longhorns are incredibly difficult to beat if you don't establish an early lead against them. The 'Horns thrive on being ahead early in the game, and they've spent much of the NCAA postseason in that situation. Once UT gets a lead, its execution this postseason has been near impeccable. Mark Payton is a leader and consistent hitter, while leadoff hitter Brooks Marlow is much better than numbers would indicate. Meanwhile, catcher Tres Barrera is one of the top first-year players in the country, and shortstop C.J. Hinojosa is hitting like the player we thought he could be as an incoming freshman last year. The X-factor for this offense could end up being athletic outfielder Ben Johnson. Johnson hasn't been explosive in the postseason thus far, but has a little pop to go a long with speed.


STARTING PITCHING

Grade: B+

We can't say enough about the job the Texas starting rotation is doing in the NCAA postseason. UT lost staff ace and lefthanded pitcher Dillon Peters to start the Road to Omaha, but no Peters, no problem, apparently. Senior righty Nathan Thornhill has been terrific, showing good poise, a fastball up to 92 and a good combination of a cutter and changeup. Meanwhile, vocal righty Parker French has risen to the occasion the past couple of weeks and given UT some terrific performances. The only question mark with UT's starting rotation is if it gets buried in the loser's bracket. UT has a couple of solid options in Chad Hollingsworth and Lukas Schiraldi. Hollingsworth is best known for shutting down Texas A&M to win the Houston Regional a few weeks ago.


BULLPEN

Grade: A

If the Longhorns can establish a lead late into the game, chances are good it's night, night, for opposing teams. Righthanded pitcher John Curtiss has a big-time arm with a fastball up to 94, and has been terrific during the postseason, while the other arms in the bullpen know their roles, and do it well. Morgan Cooper (2.98), Ty Culbreth (1.98) and Travis Duke (0.34) all have been very consistent this season, with Cooper having the best overall stuff with a big-time changeup and fastball, that at times, can get up to 93-94 mph.


PROJECTED LINEUP/ROTATION

* NCAA tournament stats only

C Tres Barrera (.292 AVG, 2 2B, 3 RBIs)

1B Kacy Clemens (.143 AVG, 1 RBI, .143 OBP)

2B Brooks Marlow (.280 AVG, 1 2B, 2 RBIs)

SS C.J Hinojosa (.476 AVG, 2 2B, 6 RBIs, .500 OBP)

3B Zane Gurwitz (.227 AVG, 1 2B, 1 stolen base)

LF Ben Johnson (.200 AVG, 2 2B, 1 RBI)

CF Mark Payton (.400 AVG, 2 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBIs, 4 SBs, .556 OBP)

RF Collin Shaw (.313 AVG, 4 RBIs, .381 OBP)

DH Madison Carter (.273 AVG, 1 2B, 2 RBIs)


SP Nathan Thornhill (1.93 ERA, 14 IP, 10 K, 4 BB, .255 BAA)

SP Parker French (1.42 ERA, 12.2 IP, 6 K, 3 BB, .239 BAA)

SP Lukas Schiraldi (2.70 ERA, 3.1 IP, 4 BB, 2 K, .333 BAA)

CL/RP John Curtiss (0.00 ERA, 3 appearances, 7 IP, 4 K, 1 BB, .087 BAA)

UC IRVINE

Record: 40-23

Coach: Mike Gillespie (seventh season)

CWS appearances: Two

Drafted prospects: 3B Taylor Sparks (2nd round, Cincinnati), RHP Andrew Morales (Compensation round, St. Louis), 1B Connor Spencer (8th round, New York Yankees), SS Chris Rabago (13th round, Colorado), RHP Sam Moore (40th round, Los Angeles Dodgers)


OFFENSE

Grade: B+

Throw away the regular season statistics when talking about the Anteaters. Though Irvine didn't tally amazing offensive numbers during the regular season, this lineup has been one tough challenge during the NCAA postseason. The Anteaters, much like Texas, have done a tremendous job of executing their offense, using bunts to put pressure on the defense, and doing pretty much anything else to try to bring runs across. With that, the 'Eaters have some big-time threats throughout the lineup, including Taylor Sparks and Connor Spencer, while seasoned catcher Jerry McClanahan is having a good postseason at the plate.


STARTING PITCHING

Grade: B+

The Anteaters have been very good throughout the NCAA postseason on the mound with righthanded pitcher Andrew Morales leading the way. Morales tossed a complete game shutout in the Stillwater Super Regional contest against Oklahoma State, can get up to 90-92 with his fastball and his good secondary stuff, while Elliott Surrey is a quality arm and Evan Brock will be fresh after not pitching in last weekend's action because it was a two-game series sweep. But the key to this pitching staff, plain and simple, is getting as many starts and innings out of Morales as possible.


BULLPEN

Grade: B-

The Anteaters don't have an overwhelming bullpen, and it's interesting that righty Sam Moore only has pitched a 1/3 of an inning in the postseason. But plenty of guys have stepped up in the postseason. For instance, Evan Manarino has taken care of business in some big situations, while Jimmy Litchfield, Matt Fielding and Mitch Merten are other experienced arms to watch. UC Irvine doesn't have a Nick Burdi or John Curtiss type who can come out of the bullpen and completely overpower hitters, but it has made due with some quality arms.


PROJECTED LINEUP/ROTATION

* NCAA tournament stats only

C Jerry McClanahan (.333 AVG, 5 RBIs, .545 OBP)

1B Connor Spencer (.455 AVG, 3 2B, 6 RBIs, .519 OBP, 2 SBs)

2B Grant Palmer (.091 AVG, 1 2B, .167 OBP)

SS Chris Rabago (.176 AVG, 4 RBIs, .333 OBP)

3B Taylor Sparks (.458 AVG, 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, .519 OBP)

LF Adam Alcantara (.176 AVG, 3 RBIs, .333 OBP)

CF Justin Castro (.273 AVG, 1 2B, .333 OBP)

RF Kris Paulino (.316 AVG, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 4 RBIs, .632 SLG%)

DH Jonathan Munoz (.130 AVG, 1 2B, 2 RBIs, .167 OBP)


SP Andrew Morales (1.33 ERA, 20.1 IP, 17 K, 6 BB, .176 BAA)

SP Elliot Surrey (1.20 ERA, 15 IP, 13 K, 6 BB, .170 BAA)

SP Evan Brock (4.50 ERA, 8 IP, 4 K, 4 BB, .290 BAA)

CL/RP Sam Moore (0.00 ERA, 0.1 IP, 1 BB, 0 K)

VANDERBILT COMMODORES

Record: 46-19

Coach: Tim Corbin (12th season)

CWS appearances: Two

Drafted prospects: RHP Tyler Beede (1st round, San Francisco), RHP Adam Ravenelle (4th round, Detroit), SS Vince Conde (9th round, New York Yankees). LHP Jared Miller (11th round, Arizona), RHP Brian Miller (15th round, Tampa Bay)


OFFENSE

Grade: B+

I really like what this Vanderbilt offensive lineup is capable of doing in Omaha. The Commodore seem to have all the pieces and balance needed to go the distance. Freshman Bryan Reynolds has been the ultimate spark plug and is hitting well over .500 in the postseason, while Dansby Swanson is an elite overall player who can make things happen at the plate. Zander Wiel has some power potential, while shortstop Vince Conde is a very good overall player, his batting average not completely indicative of his abilities. Vanderbilt won't scary you on the stat sheet, but don't let that fool you.


STARTING PITCHING

Grade: B+

The Commodores have one of the talented, if not the most talented starting rotation in this CWS field. However, inconsistency beyond Carson Fulmer has been an issue at times. First-round pick and righty Tyler Beede has big-time overall stuff with a fastball into the mid-90s and good secondary stuff, but command often is an issue. Walker Buehler is another big-time arm, but again, he's not always the sharpest. Fulmer, though, a converted reliever, has a big-time arm, an aggressive approach and has been a consistent component to this starting rotation. Fulmer has a quirky motion that's hard to figure out, and it wouldn't be too surprising to see him start the opening game in Omaha.


BULLPEN

Grade: B+

Some might grade the Commodores a little lower when it comes to the bullpen, but I'm still high on this unit. Freshman Hayden Stone has been a big-time arm out of the pen, not allowing a run in six relief innings in the other NCAA postseason rounds, while righty Adam Ravenelle has a big-time arm and good stuff despite less than stellar postseason numbers in very limited innings of work Jared Miller, Brian Miller, and of course, power-armed starter turned reliever Tyler Ferguson, are other quality arms to watch. Overall, this is a very talented unit that's more than capable of cruising through the CWS.


PROJECTED LINEUP/ROTATION

* NCAA tournament stats only

C Jason Delay (.250 AVG, 1 RBI, .438 OBP)

1B Zander Wiel (.273, 1 2B, 6 RBIs, 3 SBs)

2B Dansby Swanson (.320 AVG, 3 2B, 2 RBIs)

SS Vince Conde (.273 AVG, 4 RBIs, .448 OBP, 2 SBs)

3B Xavier Turner (.217 AVG, 1 2B, 7 RBIs, 2 SBs)

LF Bryan Reynolds (.520 AVG, 3 2B, 8 RBIs, .552 OBP)

CF John Norwood (.417 AVG, 2 2B, .462 OBP, 2-3 SBs)

RF Rhett Wiseman (.375 AVG, 4 2Bs, 4 RBIs, .444 OBP)

DH Ro Coleman (.222 AVG, 1 RBI)


SP Tyler Beede (4.26 ERA, 12.2 IP, 16 K, 6 BB, .200 BAA)

SP Carson Fulmer (3.77 ERA, 14.1 IP, 14 K, 2 BB, .196 BAA)

SP Walker Buehler (3.00 ERA, 12 IP, 13 K, 1 BB, .283 BAA)

CL/RP Hayden Stone (0.00 ERA, 1 APP, 6 IP, 8 K, 2 BB, .143 BAA)




CWS PREVIEW: BRACKET TWO
MISSISSIPPI

Record: 46-19

Coach: Mike Bianco (14th season)

CWS appearances: Fifth

Drafted prospects: RHP Chris Ellis (3rd round, LAA Angels), OF Auston Bousfield (5th round, San Diego), 3B Austin Anderson (9th round, Baltimore), RHP Josh Laxer (9th round, Detroit), OF Braxton Lee (12th round, Tampa Bay), C Will Allen (13th round, Detroit), RHP Hawtin Buchanan (20th round, Seattle), RHP Aaron Greenwood (28th round, Houston), LHP Christian Trent (29th round, Los Angeles Dodgers), 


OFFENSE

Grade: A

Pound for pound, the Rebels have the best offense in this CWS field. The Rebels are just solid all the way around one thru nine and have plenty of table setters atop the lineup with Austin Bousfield and others leading the way. Sikes Orvis is a big-time power producer, while Austin Anderson and Will Allen are productive, experienced, bats. Preston Overbey had some big hits in last weekend's NCAA Super Regional series against Louisiana-Lafayette, while freshmen J.B. Woodman and Errol Robinson are capable of big showings, with Braxton Lee a very athletic player to watch.


STARTING PITCHING

Grade: B+

I really like this Ole Miss weekend rotation. Yes, righthanded pitcher Chris Ellis had a tough start against ULL last weekend, mainly because of his faulty command, but he's still an elite arm who can sit 91-94 with two good secondary pitchers. Christian Trent is a talented lefty who showed an impressive ability to move down and elevate in the strike zone against the Cajuns last weekend, while veteran righty Sam Smith is just a guy who will battle his tail off and pound the strike zone in the process. Experience is aplenty with this talented trio of arms.


BULLPEN

Grade: B+

Here's arguably the most underrated aspect of this club. The Rebels have some very good options out of the bullpen entering the CWS. Scott Weathersby and Aaron Greenwood pound the zone and have been consistent the entire season, while hard-throwing Josh Laxer was dominant against ULL last weekend. Wyatt Short, Jeremy Massie, and others, also are worth watching in Omaha. Overall, I really like this group.


PROJECTED LINEUP/ROTATION

* NCAA tournament stats only

C Will Allen (.280 AVG, 2 2B, 3 RBIs)

1B Sikes Orvis (.333 AVG, 2 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 7 RBIs, .810 SLG%)

2B Preston Overbey (.412 AVG, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBIs, .524 OBP)

SS Errol Robinson (.174 AVG, 3 RBIs, .208 OBP)

3B Austin Anderson (.348 AVG, 1 HR, 2 RBIs, .464 OBP)

LF Braxton Lee (.273 AVG, 2 2B, 1 3B, 2 RBIs)

CF Auston Bousfield (.346 AVG, 2 2B, 1 HR, 4 RBIs, SB)

RF J.B. Woodman (.158 AVG, 1 2B, 3 RBIs, .261 OBP)

DH Colby Bortles (.385 AVG, 1 2B, 1 HR, 6 RBIs)


SP Chris Ellis (4.76 ERA, 11.1 IP, 10 K, 6 BB, .220 BAA)

SP Christian Trent (0.68 ERA, 13.1 IP, 13 K, 3 BB, .191 BAA)

SP Sam Smith (2.16 ERA, 8.1 IP, 5 K, 1 BB, .353 BAA)

CL/RHP Aaron Greenwood (1.93 ERA, 2 APPS, 4.2 IP, 6 K, 2 BB, .188 BAA)

TEXAS CHRISTIAN

Record: 47-16

Coach: Jim Schlossnagle (11th season)

CWS appearances: Two

Drafted prospects: LHP Brandon Finnegan (1st round, Kansas City), RHP Jordan Kipper (9th round, Angels), 1B Kevin Cron (14th round, Arizona), C Kyle Bacak (25th round, Washington), OF Jerrick Suiter (26th round, Pittsburgh), OF Cody Jones (38th round, Cleveland)

OFFENSE

Grade: B

The Horned Frogs don't have a highly explosive offensive lineup, but certainly have the ability to score some runs. There's some versatility with this lineup, too. Catcher Kyle Bacak caught everyone's attention last weekend against Pepperdine by dropping down a squeeze bunt, while Dylan Fitzgerald and athletic Boomer White are consistent threats, with Fitzgerald having a little pop in his bat. The X-factor in this CWS could be first baseman Kevin Cron. Cron hasn't had a great campaign, but is hitting .296 in the postseason with an OBP over .400. Cron having a big showing in Omaha could be the difference for this offense.


STARTING PITCHING

Grade: A+

What an outstanding collection of arms the Horned Frogs have in this College World Series. Lefthanded pitcher Brandon Finnegan has big-time stuff with a fastball anywhere from 92-95, along with a wipeout slider, while righthanded pitcher Preston Morrison just hammers the strike zone with immaculate command, and freshman lefty Tyler Alexander is a premium arm. Alexander will sit anywhere from 88-92 with his fastball, and has very good command of the zone as a young arm.


BULLPEN

Grade: A

The Frogs haven't had to rely too much on their bullpen this season, but when they do, it usually ends with good results. TCU sophomore righthanded pitcher Riley Ferrell leads the pitching staff. Ferrell has a huge arm with a 95-98 fastball to go with an upper-80s slider, while Trey Teakell and Alex Young have made appearances in the postseason. Also keep an eye on Brian Trieglaff, Travis Evans and Jordan Kipper.


PROJECTED LINEUP/ROTATION

* NCAA tournament stats only

C Kyle Bacak (.333 AVG, 2 RBIs, .500 OBP)

1B Kevin Cron (.296 AVG, 2 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBIs, .406 OBP)

2B Garrett Crain (.308 AVG, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 2 SBs)

SS Keaton Jones (.296 AVG, 2 SBs)

3B Derek Odell (.167 AVG, 2 2B, 3 RBIs)

LF Boomer White (.258 AVG, 1 2B, 5 RBIs)

CF Cody Jones (.200 AVG, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 3 SBs)

RF Dylan Fitzgerald (.276 AVG, 2 2B, 2 RBIs)

DH Jerrick Suiter (.240 AVG, 3 RBIs, SB)


SP Brandon Finnegan (1.98 ERA, 13.2 IP, 19 K, 3 BB, .152 BAA)

SP Preston Morrison (1.93 ERA, 14 IP, 9 K, 5 BB, .174 BAA)

SP Tyler Alexander (3.00 ERA, 12 IP, 6 K, 1 BB, .267 BAA)

CL/RP Riley Ferrell (0.00 ERA, 4 APPS, 7.1 IP, 12 K, 3 BB, .050 BAA)

TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS

Record: 45-19

Coach: Tim Tadlock (2nd season)

CWS appearances: First

Drafted prospects: LHP Chris Sadberry (6th round, Miami), C Hunter Redman (8th round, Los Angeles Dodgers), SS Tim Proudfoot (21st round, Oakland), RHP Dominic Moreno (33rd round, St. Louis)


OFFENSE

Grade: C+

Anyone looking for a constant stream of fireworks from the Red Raiders in the offensive category might be disappointed in Omaha. Then again, perhaps the Red Raiders, after scoring two runs in two games against College of Charleston last weekend, will breakout in Omaha. Either way, despite some unimpressive offensive numbers in the postseason, Tech has some quality bats to watch. Eric Gutierrez and Tim Proudfoot are consistent and key leaders, while Adam Kirsch and Tyler Neslony both are guys with some pop in their bats. I'd also keep a very close eye on second baseman Bryant Burleson. Burleson is a seasoned player with a good skill set, and could be due for a big showing after hitting .043 in the first two rounds of the NCAA postseason.


STARTING PITCHING

Grade: B+

The Red Raiders might not have any household names in the weekend rotation, but that doesn't mean anything. Lefthanded pitcher Chris Sadberry has been terrific in the postseason with two quality starts and even a relief appearance. Sadberry has a fastball anywhere from 89-92 with good overall stuff, while freshman Dylan Dusek has been terrific with no runs allowed in 13 innings. The Red Raiders didn't have to use a third starter last weekend against Charleston, but Cameron Smith and Ryan Moseley are both seasoned and talented arms capable of putting together a good start in Omaha.


BULLPEN

Grade: B

Tech doesn't necessarily possess an overwhelming bullpen, but does have several quality arms to watch throughout the College World Series. For instance, Jonny Drozd has a big-time arm and a 2.00 ERA in 72 innings, while Cameron Smith and Ryan Moseley (if they don't start) can come out of the bullpen and give some quality innings. Corey Taylor, who has a 2.62 ERA in 20 appearances and 48 innings, is another good arm to watch after he stepped up in the Coral Gables Regional a couple of weeks ago. The good thing about Tech's bullpen? It's very fresh after last weekend.


PROJECTED LINEUP/ROTATION

* NCAA tournament stats only

C Hunter Redman (.176 AVG, .176 OBP)

1B Eric Gutierrez (.300 AVG, 3 2B, 2 RBIs, .333 OBP)

2B Bryant Burleson (.043 AVG, 1 2B, .120 OBP)

SS Tim Proudfoot (.353 AVG, 1 RBI, .476 OBP)

3B Ryan Long (.150 AVG, 1 RBI)

LF Tyler Neslony (.238 AVG, 1 3B, 1 RBI, 4 BB/3 K)

CF Devon Conley (.176 AVG, .263 OBP)

RF Stephen Smith (.200 AVG, .304 OBP)

DH Adam Kirsch (.294 AVG,  2 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBIs, .478 OBP)


SP Chris Sadberry (1.80 ERA, 15 IP, 13 K, 4 BB, .204 BAA)

SP Dylan Dusek (0.00 ERA, 13 IP, 5 K, 2 BB, .152 BAA)

SP Ryan Moseley (0.00 ERA, 6 IP, 6 K, 4 BB, .105 BAA)

CL/RP Jonny Drozd (1.00 ERA, 4 APPS, 9 IP, 4 K, 0 BB, .152 BAA)

VIRGINIA CAVALIERS

Record: 49-14

Coach: Brian O'Connor (11th season)

CWS appearances: Three

Drafted prospects: RHP Nick Howard (1st round, Cincinnati), OF Derek Fisher (Compensation A, Houston), OF Mike Papi (Compensation A, Cleveland), OF Brandon Downes (7th round, Kansas City), SS Branden Cogswell (7th round, Oakland), RHP Artie Lewicki (8th round, Detroit), RHP Whit Mayberry (21st round, Detroit), C Nate Irving (34th round, Arizona)


OFFENSE

Grade: B+

Some would say we're giving the Cavaliers a generous grade considering what they've done most of the season, but consider this: Virginia is hitting .316 in the NCAA postseason, meaning it has gotten hot at exactly the right time. The Cavaliers have a talented lineup one through nine with first baseman Mike Papi leading the way with a .480 batting average. The athletic and talented outfielder trio of Derek Fisher, Joe McCarthy and Brandon Downes can make things go, while infielders Kenny Towns, Branden Cogswell and Daniel Pinero are capable of having strong showings in Omaha, with Towns stepping up in a big way against the Terps last weekend.


STARTING PITCHING

Grade: B+

I really like the way the Cavaliers stack up from a starting pitching standpoint entering the weekend. Sophomore lefthanded pitcher Nathan Kirby is a premium arm with a fastball anywhere from 90-94 with good secondary stuff, while lefty Brandon Waddell will touch 90-92, but focuses strongly on his often plus changeup. Meanwhile, righthanded pitcher Josh Sborz caught my attention last weekend with a strong showing against Maryland. Sborz has a huge arm with a fastball up to 94-95, but command is an issue at times. It was not against the Terps last weekend.


BULLPEN

Grade: B+

You're going to get a mixed bag of feelings from me about the Virginia bullpen. For starters, the Cavaliers get a very high grade for simply having a shutdown closer in righthanded pitcher Nick Howard. Howard will touch 97-98 on the radar gun with a wipeout breaking ball, while Whit Mayberry is a quality, experienced, option, and Artie Lewicki can come out of the bullpen. Meanwhile, Austin Young and Connor Jones are other talented arms to watch. Coaches around the country are very open with the fact they feel very confident if you can get deep into the Virginia bullpen. Therefore, the Cavaliers must avoid that in Omaha.


PROJECTED LINEUP/ROTATION

* NCAA tournament stats only

C Robbie Coman (.143 AVG, .400 OBP)

1B Mike Papi (.480 AVG, 1 2B, 1 HR, 7 RBIs, .552 OBP)

2B Branden Cogswell (.269 AVG, 1 2B, 5 RBIs)

SS Daniel Pinero (.280 AVG, 1 2B, 2 RBIs)

3B Kenny Towns (.370 AVG, 1 2B, 1 3B, 7 RBIs, .393 OBP)

LF Derek Fisher (.292 AVG, 9 RBIs)

CF Brandon Downes (.364 AVG, 2 2B, 3 RBIs, .440 OBP)

RF Joe McCarthy (.304, 2 RBIs, .448 OBP)

DH John La Prise (.375, 3 RBIs, .423 OBP)


SP Nathan Kirby (3.55 ERA, 12.2 IP, 11 K, 3 BB, .190 BAA)

SP Brandon Waddell (2.19 ERA, 12.1 IP, 4 K, 2 BB, .286 BAA)

SP Josh Sborz (0.00 ERA, 7 IP, 9 K, 3 BB, .174 BAA)

CL/RP Nick Howard (0.00 ERA, 2 APPS, 2.1 IP, 1 K, 0 BB, .250 BAA)




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