College : : Story
Thursday, June 07, 2012

Preview: Baton Rouge SR

Kendall Rogers        
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Stony Brook (50-12) vs. Louisiana State (46-16)

National rank by PG: Stony Brook (20), LSU (2)
When: Friday (1/8), Noon (ESPN2HD) -- Saturday (1/9), Noon (ESPN2HD) -- Sunday (1/10), 1 p.m. (ESPN2HD)
Where: Alex Box Stadium (10,150) in Baton Rouge, La.
College World Series appearances: Stony Brook (none), LSU (15)
The pick: LSU

BATON ROUGE Super Regional: Who has the edge?
Starting pitching

Stony Brook has a very solid ace pitcher in Tyler Johnson, who pitched twice in the Coral Gables Regional last weekend. But after throwing a very heavy workload last week, you almost wonder just how effective Johnson might be this weekend.

Fresh or not, the Tigers certainly have an advantage from a starting rotation standpoint with right-handed pitchers Kevin Gausman, Aaron Nola and Ryan Eades leading the charge.

Gausman is the headliner of this group. A first-round pick to the Orioles, the talented righty is having a sensational sophomore campaign, having a 2.72 ERA in 115 2/3 innings of work. He has struck out 128 and walked 27, while teams are hitting him at just a .231 clip. Gausman has a mid 90s fastball with a legitimate five-pitch mix.

Nola has been up to 93-94 in recent weeks and has been a pleasant surprise for the Tigers. He has a 3.66 ERA in 83 2/3 innings of work. He has struck out 83 and showed impeccable command, walking just seven batters this season with teams hitting .245 against him.

Eades is the wild card of this group. Though he has a fastball that touches 95, he can be very erratic at times. The righty must avoid that trend this weekend against Stony Brook. He has a 3.55 ERA in 91 1/3 innings. He also has struck out 61 and walked 27, while teams are hitting him at a rather high .287 clip.

For the Seawolves, we talked about Johnson, who has a 2.13 ERA in 88 2/3 innings of work. Also keep an eye on Brandon McNitt, who has a 2.69 ERA in 93 2/3 innings of work, and No. 3 starter Evan Stecko-Haley, who has a 3.47 ERA in 80 1/3 innings. SBU doesn't have a starting pitcher with an opponent batting average higher than .255. That could be good news as the Baton Rouge Super Regional nears.

There's not a more hotly contested category between the two teams than this one. Though LSU clearly has the advantage in the starting pitching department, the two teams each possess some very quality arms out of the bullpen.

With big-time success against superior competition, however, LSU gets the nod in the bullpen.

The Tigers have a strong crop of relievers this season, particularly starting with closer Nick Goody. Goody is having a tremendous campaign, recording 11 saves and having a 2.51 ERA in 33 appearances and 32 1/3 innings of work.

LSU also hinges on Chris Cotton, Joey Bourgeois, Kevin Berry, Joe Broussard, Brent Bonvillain, Nick Rumbelow and Kurt McCune on many occasions.

Cotton is the most consistent of the group, having appeared in 34 games and possessing a 1.36 ERA in 39 2/3 innings of work. Teams are hitting him at just a .171 clip. Meanwhile, Bourgeois has appeared in 24 games and has a 2.67 ERA, Berry has made 16 appearances and has a 3.09 ERA, Broussard has made 17 appearances and has a 3.43 ERA, Rumbelow has appeared 29 games and has a 3.65 ERA and McCune has a 4.04 ERA in 42 1/3 innings.

While the Tigers rely on a multitude of arms to get the job done, Stony Brook has just a few relievers it uses on a consistent basis.

Frankie Vanderka is having a very solid campaign for the Seawolves, tallying a 2.28 ERA in 55 1/3 innings of work, with opponents hitting him at just a .176 clip. Meanwhile, SBU relied heavily last weekend on James Campbell (2.92, 52 1/3 IP) and Joshua Mason (3.34, 35 IP), while Jasvir Rakkar, who started and relieved last weekend, has a 3.72 ERA in 46 innings.

LSU certainly has the edge in this category, but the Seawolves also have some very quality arms worth watching.

The Seawolves' critics will say they didn't play tough enough competition throughout the season to truly be considered an explosive offense. However, any coach that played SBU in the Coral Gable Regional last weekend will tell you the opposite.

This is a very potent offensive lineup, and it's one that could cause LSU pitchers some headaches throughout the weekend.

Stony Brook enters the weekend hitting .336 as a club with a .417 on-base percentage. Leading the way is outfielder Travis Jankowski, who was a first-round supplemental pick to the San Diego Padres. Jankowski made a name for himself last summer, but followed that up with a strong spring, entering the series hitting .417 with 17 doubles, 10 triples, five homers and 46 RBIs. He also has a fantastic .484 OBP. Also worth noting about the athletic Jankowski is that he's 36-for-42 in stolen bases this season.

Third baseman William Carmona, an 11th-round pick to the Phillies, is hitting .393 with 23 doubles, seven triples, 12 homers and 70 RBIs, while second baseman Maxx Tissenbaum, an 11th-round pick to the Padres, is hitting .390 with 18 doubles, three homers and 48 RBIs.

Also keep an eye on designated hitter Kevin Krause, who's hitting .339 with three homers and 37 RBIs, shortstop Cole Peragine, who's hitting .328 and has a .409 OBP, and catcher Pat Cantwell, who's hitting .312 with a home run.

As for LSU, it has an offensive unit entering the weekend with a .291 batting average. The Tigers are led at the plate by outstanding outfielder Raph Rhymes, who's one of the nation's elite hitters with a .452 batting average, 11 doubles, four homers and 52 RBIs. Meanwhile, Mason Katz is hitting .323 with 11 homers and 49 RBIs and talented shortstop Austin Nola is hitting .313 with four homers and 42 RBIs.

Also keep an eye on catcher Ty Ross, who should be 100 percent entering the weekend from a health standpoint. Ross has power potential, and is hitting .309 with three homers and 40 RBIs. Others such as Tyler Moore (.266/3/26) and JaCoby Jones (.253/3/28) have played well at times down the stretch.

For the most part, both Stony Brook and LSU are very crisp clubs from a defensive standpoint, sitting pretty with fielding percentages of .979 and .981, respectively.

It's the Tigers, though, that get the edge, much because of their infield.

The Tigers have an excellent catcher in Ty Ross (assuming he's 100 percent), while the middle infield is very stout with one of the nation's elite shortstops in Austin Nola, and second baseman JaCoby Jones leading the charge. Meanwhile, Tyler Hanover is very solid over at third base, entering the weekend with a .936 fielding percentage.

In the outfield, Raph Rhymes, athletic Arby Fields and Alex Edward have been very consistent.

For Stony Brook, outfielder Travis Jankowski commands his area in impressive fashion, while the infield has been shaky at times this season, with Carmona having a .919 fielding percentage along with shortstop Cole Peragine entering the weekend with a .952 percentage.

The Seawolves have a very solid catcher in Pat Cantwell. Cantwell has been very stable behind the plate and makes very few mistakes. He's considered a catcher with very solid catch-and-throw skills. He also displays impressive leadership qualities.

There are two trains of thought when it comes to the intangibles between the two teams.

Stony Brook, to say the least, has absolutely no pressure entering the weekend. In the eyes of most, the Seawolves weren't expected to be in this position, playing for a College World Series appearance. Therefore, this is a club that should enter the weekend confident and loose.

LSU, though, has too many factors in its corner. The Tigers have plenty of postseason experience as a team despite missing the NCAA postseason in 2011. Additionally, coach Paul Mainieri has been through the rigors of the postseason on several occasions, and knows what it takes to win a national title.

On top of those factors, the Tigers are playing at home in front of 10,000-plus rabid fans wearing the purple and gold. Meanwhile, Stony Brook has yet to play a game this season in front of a crowd of more than 2,500 fans.

That could play a big part in this series.

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