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Thursday, June 09, 2011

Austin 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 Nashville Super Regional. Now it's time to take an in-depth look at the Austin Super Regional, which features Arizona State (42-16) and Texas (46-16).

For Arizona State, the weekend boils down to its pitching staff and ability to hit in a huge ballpark. The Sun Devils have a solid one-two punch in Brady Rodgers and Kramer Champlin, but there's some uncertainty about the No. 3 spot. Offensively, the Sun Devils need to successfully execute the hit-and-run game the entire weekend to advance to the College World Series.

For Texas, its a safe bet it will get some solid pitching. So, all attention this weekend will be on the offense. The Longhorns tend to be very opportunistic if teams gives them scoring chances. So, offensively, the Longhorns must continue to execute their small ball game in flawless fashion this weekend. Should the 'Horns do that, they have a great chance to advance.

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

Austin Super Regional: Who has the edge?
Starting pitching

It's safe to say the Longhorns have a solid advantage when it comes to starting rotations. The Longhorns have one of the nation's premier starting pitchers in first-round pick and right-hander Taylor Jungmann. Jungmann, who earned his first home loss in his career last weekend against Kent State, is 13-1 with a 1.39 ERA in 129 1/3 innings. He also has struck out 120 and walked 29 and teams are hitting him at a .167 clip. Senior Cole Green, who rose to the occasion in a big way in the Austin Regional last weekend, has a 3.09 ERA in 99 innings. He also has struck out 99 and walked 18 and teams are hitting just .213 against. The biggest surprise for UT might be left-hander Sam Stafford, who really has pitched well the past three weeks. Stafford has a 1.57 ERA in 74 1/3 innings ... Arizona State has a solid one two-punch with Brady Rodgers and Kramer Champlin leading the way. Rodgers has a 2.85 ERA in 91 2/3 innings and teams are hitting him at a .232 clip. He has struck out 83 and walked nine. In other words, Rodgers has near flawless control. Champlin, meanwhile, is 9-3 with a 2.93 ERA in 110 2/3 innings. He has struck out 91 and walked 32 and teams are hitting him at a .246 clip. The No. 3 starter this weekend will be one of Mitchell Lambson (who has started the past few weeks), Alex Blackford or Kyle Ottoson.

Both Arizona State and Texas enter the weekend with plenty of solid bullpen options, but the Longhorns get an extremely slight edge. The Longhorns have one of the nation's best closers in freshman Corey Knebel. Knebel tops out at 96 mph and has recorded 17 saves with a 1.23 ERA in 51 1/3 innings. Hoby Milner has a 2.67 ERA in 77 2/3 innings, Nathan Thornhill has a 1.77 ERA in 20 appearances and 35 2/3 innings, Kendal Carrillo has a 2.52 ERA in 31 appearances and 35 2/3 innings and Josh Urban (2.65) and Andrew McKirahan (3.05) also are solid potential options to watch this weekend ... Like the Longhorns, the Sun Devils seldom worry about their bullpen. Veteran Mitchell Lambson, who could very well start this weekend, has recorded eight saves this spring and has a 4.41 ERA in 49 innings, while Trevor Williams and Alex Blackford have been fantastic. Williams has appeared in 31 games and has a 1.91 ERA in 37 2/3 innings. He also has struck out 35 and walked four and teams are hitting him at a .188 clip. Blackford, meanwhile, has appeared in 23 games and has a 2.69 ERA in 60 1/3 innings. He has struck out 55 and teams are hitting him at just a .230 clip. The Sun Devils are in fantastic shape if their starters can go deep into games this weekend.

Texas has one of the strangest offenses in college baseball. The Longhorns certainly don't have a good offense, but they're very opportunistic with runners in scoring position. The Longhorns certainly will make teams pay for bad defense, so that's some advice for Arizona State to heed. Breaking things down, the Longhorns are hitting .273 as a team with freshman third baseman Erich Weiss leading the way with a .361 average, 11 doubles, seven triples, four home runs and 42 RBIs. Shortstop Brandon Loy is hitting .344 with a home run and 28 RBIs, first baseman Tant Shepherd is hitting .300 with five home runs and 40 RBIs and outfielder Paul Montalbano is hitting .286 with 28 RBIs ... Arizona State doesn't have the offense it has had in previous years, especially from a power standpoint with just 36 home runs. However, it still is very productive. The Sun Devils are hitting .306 with designated hitter Joey DiMichele, who is a clutch hitter, hitting .368 with 15 doubles, six triples, nine home runs and 48 RBIs. Johnny Ruettiger is hitting .330 with 37 RBIs, Xorge Carrillo is hitting .330 with a home run and 24 RBIs, Deven Marrero is hitting .319 with two home runs and 20 RBIs and Matt Newman is hitting .301 with six home runs and 27 RBIs. Also keep an eye on Riccio Torrez, who's hitting .309 with three home runs and 52 RBIs, and catcher Austin Barnes, who's hitting .331 with a home run and 15 RBIs. It'll be interesting to see how the two contrasting offenses compete this weekend.

If you're looking for steady defense this weekend, you'll likely find it in the series between the Sun Devils and Longhorns. The Devils are above average defensively and enter the weekend with a team .971 fielding percentage. Texas, though, is an elite defensive club, and though numbers hardly ever tell the tale defensively, all you have to look at is its .982 fielding percentage. The Longhorns have a steady catcher in Jacob Felts, who made some fantastic throws and was a solid backstop in the Austin Regional last weekend. First baseman Tant Shepherd has been very consistent, while second baseman Jordan Etier and shortstop Brandon Loy have been outstanding up the middle, with Loy arguably the nation's elite defensive shortstop with a .974 fielding percentage. Texas freshman Erich Weiss has been solid at third, while outfielders Paul Montalbano, Cohl Walla and Mark Payton can cover some ground in the outfield ... Though the Longhorns have the edge in this category, they're not a bad defensive team. They have a pair of solid catchers in Austin Barnes and Xorge Carrillo, while first baseman Zach Wilson has been stable and third baseman Riccio Torrez has made 10 errors on the left side of the infield, tending to force throws despite having a solid glove. Up the middle, shortstop Deven Marrero has a plus arm and makes great plays, but can be inconsistent, while second baseman Zack MacPhee has just been serviceable at his position. The Devils, as with Texas, have a stable outfield with Johnny Ruettiger, Andrew Aplin and Matt Newman leading the way.

Two of college baseball's most storied programs take the field this weekend in Austin, Texas, and one will be headed to the College World Series. Both teams have a wealth of experience at this level. The Sun Devils reached the CWS last season and certainly again have the experience to go the distance. UT, meanwhile, is programmed to play at this level, and too, has a wealth of Omaha experience. The intangibles category goes to the Longhorns for the ballpark factor. Though the Sun Devils certainly have an edge at the plate, it could be negated a bit for the simple fact the Devils play in an offensive-friendly ballpark, whereas Disch-Falk Field plays for much in pitchers' favor. That should give UT an advantage this weekend.

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

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