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College | Story | 6/8/2011

Nashville SR: Who has the edge?

Kendall Rogers     

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After the many miles traveled by some teams last week, the Road to Omaha either continues or comes to an abrupt halt for 16 teams this weekend.

With the NCAA Super Regionals around the corner, we take an in-depth look at how each team stacks up against the other.

In our last NCAA Super Regional preview, we took an inside look at the Chapel Hill Super Regional. Now it's time to take an in-depth look at the Nashville Super Regional, which features Oregon State (41-17) and Vanderbilt (50-10).

For Oregon State, the weekend boils down to one thing: offense. The Beavers have a good, but not great, weekend rotation and a solid trio of relievers. However, they haven't hit the ball with consistency the entire season and that must change this weekend to advance to the College World Series.

For Vanderbilt, the biggest key is making sure the bullpen takes care of business. The Commodores have been very solid out of the bullpen for much of the season, but if there's one area that can be vulnerable, this is it. The 'Dores also need to play their style of game. In other words, don't get caught up in the moment of playing for a trip to Omaha at home. Accomplish that and a CWS trip should be on the docket next week.

WHO HAS THE EDGE? Austin | Chapel Hill | Charlottesville | Columbia | Gainesville | Santa Clara | Tallahassee

Nashville Super Regional: Who has the edge?
Starting pitching

You're not going to be disappointed in this series if you're a fan of good starting pitching. Both teams' starters usually pitch at an extremely high level, with Vanderbilt now having a significant edge with Oregon State starting pitcher Josh Osich likely out for the weekend because of an inflammation in his shoulder. Ace Sam Gaviglio, though, is sitting at 12-2 with a 1.87 ERA in 115 1/3 innings. He also has struck out 113 and walked 27 and teams are hitting him at a. 200 clip. Osich had a 3.64 ERA in 76 2/3 innings. He has struck out 79 and walked 34 and teams are hitting him at a .221 clip. James Nygren, another Beavers starter, has a 3.47 ERA in 72 2/3 innings and teams are hitting .266 against him, while Ben Wetzler has a 4.66 ERA in 63 2/3 innings ... The Commodores have one of the nation's elite weekend rotations. First-round pick Sonny Gray leads the way with a 2.01 ERA in 107 2/3 innings. He has struck out 115 and walked 39 and teams are hitting just .192 against him. Grayson Garvin's stock skyrocketed this season and he's 13-1 with a 2.37 ERA in 102 1/3 innings. He has struck out 89 and walked 21 and teams are hitting .228 against him. Lastly, veteran Taylor Hill rounds out the rotation. He has a 2.84 ERA in 92 innings. He has struck out 88 and walked 22 and teams are hitting just .244 against him. Both teams' starting pitchers should put together solid performances this weekend.

This is another category where the two teams aren't far off. Oregon State enters the weekend with a solid 2.93 ERA, while Vanderbilt enters the weekend with a 2.41 ERA. More importantly, the Beavers have a talented crop of relievers, including Matt Boyd, Tony Bryant and Scott Schultz. Boyd has a 1.45 ERA in 43 1/3 innings, Bryant has a 1.52 ERA in 47 1/3 innings with 12 saves and Schultz has a 3.00 ERA in 51 innings. Other than that talented trio, the Beavers don't have many other pitchers with extensive experience out of the bullpen. That may not be an issue in a three-game series, but Vanderbilt's offense could make it an issue. Still, this OSU team is in fantastic shape if it can turn things over to Boyd, Bryant or Schultz late in the game ... Vanderbilt gets a slight edge in the bullpen category for one reason only, it has more depth. The Commodores have six serviceable arms it can rely on out of the bullpen. Closer Navery Moore is the ringleader. He has recorded 11 saves in 28 appearances and has a 1.21 ERA in 29 2/3 innings. Others to watch this weekend include Kevin Ziomek, Mark Lamm, Jack Armstrong, Will Clinard and Corey Williams. Ziomek is a talented freshman with a 1.61 ERA in 44 2/3 innings, Lamm is a veteran with a 2.03 ERA in 26 2/3 innings, Armstrong has a 2.65 ERA in 17 innings, Clinard has a 3.19 ERA in 31 appearances and teams are hitting Williams at just a .237 clip.

There's absolutely no doubt which teams enters the weekend with the better offense, and that team is Vanderbilt. The Commodores enter the weekend with a solid offensive lineup that is hitting .319. The Beavers, meanwhile, got some key hits in the Corvallis Regional last weekend, but only are hitting .270 entering the weekend. The Commodores are led at the plate by third baseman Jason Esposito, first baseman Aaron Westlake, shortstop Anthony Gomez and outfielder Tony Kemp. Esposito is hitting .362 with 22 doubles, eight home runs and 55 RBIs, Westlake has outstanding raw power and is hitting .349 with 17 doubles, 14 home runs and 48 RBIs, Gomez is hitting .342 with 43 RBIs and Kemp, one of the nation's premier freshmen, is hitting .323 with 31 RBIs and a solid .425 OBP. Also keep an eye on Riley Reynolds (.349), Conrad Gregor (.344), Mike Yastrzemski (.301) and catcher Curt Casali, who has smacked six home runs and knocked in 50 runs ... The Beavers don't quite have the key offensive cogs the Commodores possess. Freshman Kavin Keyes leads the way, hitting .316 with a home run and 30 RBIs and catcher Andrew Susac is hitting .313 with nine doubles, five home runs and 32 RBIs. Second baseman Jake Rodriguez is hitting .304 with six RBIs. However, the Beavers, other than Susac, Keyes, and Rodriguez don't have a hitter with an average over .300, and they have just 30 home runs as a team. Other bats with potential include Carter Bell (.299), Ryan Dunn (.286), Jared Norris (.286) and Brian Stamps (.270). OSU's offense must rise to the occasion this weekend if it wants to advance to Omaha.

It's almost spooky how similar these two clubs are from a defensive standpoint. The Beavers and Commodores both have impressive team fielding percentages of .972 and .974, respectively, with the 'Dores getting the slightest of edges in the category. The Commodores have a better overall defensive unit. In the infield, catcher Curt Casali has been stable, first baseman Aaron Westlake has a .989 fielding percentage and certainly has been more than serviceable. Second baseman Riley Reynolds has a fantastic .994 fielding percentage. However, as with Oregon State, the fielding percentages plummet on the left side of the infield. However, Anthony Gomez and Jason Esposito still are solid defenders. Gomez has a .937 fielding percentage while Esposito is at .912, but has an above-average glove despite the iffy percentage. The Vandy outfield also is solid with Conor Harrell, Mike Yastrzemski and speedy Tony Kemp leading the charge ... Oregon State only is a tick behind the Commodores. The Commodores have a slightly better outfield, while OSU has a decent outfield with Garrett Nash, Brian Stamps and Ryan Barnes leading the way. In the infield, the Beavers have one of the nation's best in catcher Andrew Susac, who has been extremely stable behind the plate. First baseman Parker Berberet has a .991 fielding percentage, second baseman Jake Rodriguez, who missed quite some time with an injury, has a .987 fielding percentage, shortstop Ryan Dunn has a .928 percentage and Carter Bell has a .931 percentage on the far left side of the infield.

Vanderbilt has been one of the most consistent teams in college baseball the entire season. It has a phenomenal 50-10 overall record and enter this weekend's series against the Beavers with a near flawless 29-4 home record. But when it comes to the intangibles, go ahead and give the Beavers the edge. Vandy coach Tim Corbin certainly has had a wealth of success, but when it comes to the postseason, there are few coaches with the ability to get their team ready like Oregon State skipper Pat Casey. Casey took a team that barely made the NCAA postseason to a national title a couple of seasons ago. In all, Casey has guided the program to a pair of national titles and three College World Series appearances. In other words, he knows exactly the way to Omaha and how it's accomplished. For that and more, the Beavers have the edge in the intangibles category.

Kendall Rogers is the college baseball editor for Perfect Game USA and has covered the sport for over 10 seasons. He can be reached at kendall@perfectgame.org

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