College : : Story
Friday, June 08, 2012

Preview: Tallahassee SR

Kendall Rogers        
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Stanford (41-16) vs. Florida State (46-15)

National rank by PG: Stanford (9), Florida State (3)
When: Friday (1/8), 7 p.m. (ESPNHD) -- Saturday (1/9), 6 p.m. (ESPNHD) -- Sunday (1/10), 7 p.m. (ESPN2HD)
Where: Dick Howser Stadium (6,700) in Tallahassee, Fla.
College World Series appearances: Stanford (16), Florida State (20)
The pick: Florida State

TALLAHASSEE Super Regional: Who has the edge?
Starting pitching

You know it's destined to be a fantastic series when the first category is tough to figure out.

Both the Cardinal and Seminoles have some talented arms in their respective weekend rotations, but Stanford gets the nod for having the more dominant arms.

The Cardinal, of course, is led on the mound by ace right-handed pitcher Mark Appel, who was drafted eighth overall earlier this week by the Pirates. Appel is having a fantastic campaign, sitting 10-1 with a 2.27 ERA in 119 innings. He has struck out 127 and walked 26, while teams are hitting him at a .210 clip.

Left-hander Brett Mooneyham and two-way talent Stephen Piscotty round out the weekend rotation. Mooneyham, like Appel, has a big-time fastball. But unlike Appel, he has major command issues at times, evidenced by his 37 walks in 82 innings of work. Mooneyham still is holding teams to a .246 batting average. Meanwhile, Piscotty moved to the rotation as the season progressed and the Cardinal needed a shutdown No. 3 starting pitcher. The righty has a 3.05 ERA in 41 1/3 innings. He has limited teams to a .280 batting average.

While the Cardinal has major star power with Appel and Mooneyham in charge, the Seminoles have a very impressive collection of young arms.

Freshmen Brandon Leibrandt and Mike Compton lead the way. Leibrandt only tops out in the 85-88 range with his fastball, but is having a fantastic year having tallied a 2.65 ERA in 88 1/3 innings of work. He also has struck out 74 and walked 25, while teams are hitting him at a .228 clip. Compton has a 2.78 ERA in 81 innings of work with teams hitting .242 off him.

The No. 3 spot in the weekend rotation, as with Stanford, has been a source of contention throughout the season. Scott Sitz started in last week's Tallahassee Regional and threw well. He has a 3.99 ERA in 45 innings with teams hitting .265 against him.

Both club's weekend rotations have some flaws. It'll be interesting to see which performs at a higher level this weekend.

Neither Stanford or Florida State are teams you'd consider to have incredible bullpens, but in terms of sheer depth and having a stud closer, you have to give the Seminoles the slight edge.

FSU has one of the nation's elite closers in Robert Benincasa, who is having a terrific veteran campaign. Benincasa has appeared in 29 games, recorded 15 saves and has a 1.29 ERA in 35 innings of work. He has struck out 48 and walked five, while teams are hitting .167.

The Seminoles have plenty of other quality arms to watch for this weekend. Gage Smith has appeared in 36 games and has a 2.70 ERA in 46 2/3 innings with teams hitting him at a .253 clip. Meanwhile, Hunter Scantling has a respectable 4.00 ERA in 45 innings, Mack Waugh has a 2.52 ERA in 25 innings and Bryan Holtmann has a 3.47 ERA in 23 1/3 innings of work.

You might also keep track of freshman right-hander Luke Weaver, who has appeared in 14 games and has a 5.73 ERA in 37 2/3 innings. Weaver hasn't been great at times this season, but rightfully so, has been good, too, with a fastball that touches 92.

For the Cardinal, Sahil Bloom has blossomed into a fantastic reliever. He has appeared in 20 games and has a 3.04 ERA in 47 1/3 innings of work. Meanwhile, AJ Vanegas really stepped up last weekend and has a 2.24 ERA with five saves in 60 1/3 innings of work.

Also keep an eye on Dean McArdle and David Schmidt. McArdle has appeared in 23 games and has a 3.11 ERA in 46 1/3 innings. Meanwhile, Schmidt has appeared in 24 games and has a 3.41 ERA in 31 2/3 innings.

We get the feeling that neither bullpen will do too much dominating this weekend.

The Seminoles are better offensively than their numbers would suggest, but the same also can be said for the Cardinal, who always seems to find a way to get clutch hits.

For that reason and more, we're giving the slightest of edges to Stanford here.

The Cardinal enters the weekend hitting .290 as a club with first baseman Brian Ragira, two-way player Stephen Piscotty and rising freshman third baseman Alex Blandino leading the charge.

Ragira is hitting .324 with five homers and 50 RBIs, while Piscotty is hitting .318 with five homers and 55 RBIs. Meanwhile, Blandino has been one of the nation's hottest hitters down the stretch, and is hitting .295 with nine doubles, eight homers and 39 RBIs.

Also keep an eye on Eric Smith, Jake Stewart, Austin Wilson and Kenny Diekroeger. Smith is hitting .330 with two homers and 32 RBIs, while Stewart is hitting .290 with seven homers and 27 RBIs. Wilson and Diekroeger both are guys who have underachieved this season with batting averages of .283 and .269, respectively, but also are capable of breakout weekend.

For the Seminoles, it's truly surprising to see an offensive lineup that lacks balance, something that has been a staple for Mike Martin's clubs for years.

FSU has two of the nation's elite hitters in outfielder James Ramsey and first baseman Jayce Boyd. Ramsey is hitting .385 with 13 homers and 55 RBIs, while Boyd is hitting a team-best .390 with 21 doubles, three homers and 57 RBIs. He also has a fantastic .462 OBP.

Also keep an eye on second baseman Devon Travis, who's hitting .310 with 22 doubles, five homers and 34 RBIs, while shortstop Justin Gonzalez only is hitting .242 on the year, but has power potential with eight homers this season.

It wouldn't be surprising to see both teams have more success than expected offensively.

This is yet an other hotly contested category between the two clubs, and it's one where we're giving the hometown Florida State Seminoles the edge.

FSU might have some holes from an offensive standpoint, but it has one of the nation's best infields. Veteran third baseman Sherman Johnson has been phenomenal this season, entering the weekend with a fabulous .968 fielding percentage. Shortstop Justin Gonzalez has a .911 fielding percentage, but has a special ability to make great plays, while second baseman Devon Travis has played in every game (started all but one) and has a .974 fielding percentage.

In addition to such a stable middle infield, the Seminoles have a good and athletic outfield, Jose Brizuela, James Ramsey and Josh Delph in charge.

For the Cardinal, they have an athletic outfield with Tyler Gaffney and Austin Wilson leading the way. Meanwhile, they have one of the nation's elite shortstops in Kenny Diekroeger, while catcher Eric Smith has been a rock behind the plate.

Don't look for either team to be bad defensively this weekend.

Over the years, plenty of college baseball fans remember Florida State losing NCAA Super Regionals at home. The list goes on from Texas, Arkansas and last season, the Seminoles added to the list with a tough series loss to Texas A&M.

No doubt those disappointments lead some to pick against the Seminoles this weekend, but this is a different club than the one we saw the past few seasons.

For starters, the Seminoles have outstanding leadership with James Ramsey. This also is a much more confident pitching staff with assistant coach Mike Bell now in charge.

On top of that, the Seminoles are an outstanding 31-5 at home this season, not losing a single home series during the regular season.

We'll see if the Seminoles can avoid another episode of the Super Regional Blues.

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