College : : Story
Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Preview: Tallahassee/Palo Alto

Kendall Rogers        
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NOTE: Regional previews are paired up in twos by Super Regional pairing.


1. Florida State (43-15) -- Atlantic Coast Conference
2. Mississippi State (39-22) -- Southeastern Conference
3. Samford (39-21) -- Southern Conference
4. Alabama-Birmingham (32-28) -- Conference USA

The favorite: Florida State
Top pitcher: RHP Chris Stratton, Mississippi State
Top hitter: OF James Ramsey, Florida State
Top prospect, 2012 draft: RHP Chris Stratton, Mississippi State

The Seminoles are 3-7 in their last 10 games, but will be ready to go this weekend against a relatively solid field of four teams in Tallahassee, Fla. The ‘Noles enter the weekend with a good, but not great, offensive lineup. The good thing for FSU is it has two of the nation’s elite hitters in first baseman Jayce Boyd and outfielder James Ramsey, who are hitting .395 and .382, respectively, with Ramsey having 12 homers and 49 RBIs. Also keep an eye on second baseman Devon Travis, who’s hitting .316 with five homers and 34 RBIs, and veteran Sherman Johnson, who only is hitting .263, is expected to step up this weekend … The Seminoles have shifted around their rotation at times this season, and they’ll do the same this weekend with Scott Sitz, who has a 4.14 ERA in 54 1/3 innings of work, starting the opening game against UAB. Meanwhile, freshmen Brandon Leibrandt and Mike Compton have done a tremendous job this season, each having ERAs of 2.91 and 2.88, respectively. Meanwhile, closer Robert Benincasa is having a tremendous year with 13 saves and a 1.36 ERA in 33 innings, while the Seminoles as a whole have a solid enough bullpen. FSU has a fight on its hands, but will play well at home.

What an incredible run the Bulldogs have been on the past few weeks. Just a few weeks ago, they were hoping to just reach the NCAA postseason. Now, they’re one of those teams, the few, that no No. 1 seed wants to see. FSU gets the lucky chore of dealing with State this weekend. The Bulldogs, even throughout this wild run, have left something to be desired from an offensive standpoint despite getting some very key hits. Shortstop Adam Frazier is sizzling hit, hitting .376 with 26 RBIs. Meanwhile, Hunter Renfroe (.257) has done some nice things at the plate, while first baseman Wes Rea is only hitting .244, but has power potential with five homers and 38 RBIs … The most impressive quality about this team by far -- the pitching staff. The Bulldogs have an incredible amount of depth and enter the weekend with a 2.58 ERA. Ace right-handed pitcher Chris Stratton, who pitches 92-94 with his fastball and will be one of the top draft picks next week, leads the staff with a 2.21 ERA in 102 innings of work. He also has struck out 123 and walked 21. Meanwhile, young Brandon Woodruff and his 90-92 fastball has carved up hitters lately, while veteran reliever Caleb Reed (2.56) and freshman closer Jonathan Holder have been tremendous. Holder has yet to allow a run in 27 1/3 innings of work. State wins this NCAA Regional if it hits … at all.

While everyone is talking about Florida State and Mississippi State, Samford is quietly waiting its turn to make a big-time statement this weekend. Don’t be surprised if the Bulldogs take someone to the brink this weekend. They have a very solid club, especially offensively, with a lineup that enters the postseason with a .307 average. First baseman Saxon Butler is a big-time hitter, batting .350 with 14 homers and 60 RBIs, while outfielder Phillip Ervin is hitting .340 with 10 homers and 52 RBIs. Also keep an eye on two-way stud C.K. Irby. He’s hitting .328 with four homers and 45 RBIs, while he has a 1.53 ERA in 27 appearances for the Bulldogs … Pitching-wise, don’t sleep on the Bulldogs. They have a solid one-two punch in Josh Martin and Charles Basford, who have ERAs of 2.96 and 3.95, respectively. Additionally, watch out for left-handed pitcher Lex Rutledge. Rutledge has had a rough year on the mound, but can be dominant at times with a fastball in the 92-95 range. Remember, Samford was squarely in the mix for an at-large berth down the stretch until a tough road series loss to Oklahoma.

Brian Shoop did a terrific job as the head coach at Birmingham Southern for years, so it’s nice to see him finally make an NCAA appearance with the UAB Blazers. Shoop is an excellent coach and will have his team ready this weekend. But can they pull an upset? If so, they’ll have to hit better than they have for much of the season, entering the Tallahassee Regional with just a .267 batting average, and with just one hitter, second baseman Keith DePew, hitting over .300 with a .299 mark and 21 RBIs … Pitching-wise, the Blazers don’t have a lot of high-quality depth, but do possess a couple of premier arms. For instance, ace pitcher Michael Busby has a 3.90 ERA in 90 innings and teams are hitting him at a .272 clip. Meanwhile, reliever/starter Ryan Nance has a 3.66 ERA in 46 2/3 innings of work. Also keep an eye on Chase Mallard, who has appeared in 23 games and has a 3.13 ERA in 63 1/3 innings of work.


1. Stanford (38-16) -- Pac-12 Conference
2. Pepperdine (34-21) -- West Coast Conference
3. Michigan State (37-21) -- Big Ten Conference
4. Fresno State (30-26) -- Western Athletic Conference

The favorite: Stanford
Top pitcher: RHP Mark Appel, Stanford
Top hitter: 2B Joe Sever, Pepperdine
Top prospect, 2012 draft: RHP Mark Appel, Stanford

It’s time for Stanford to get itself off the mat. The Cardinal was in position to perhaps earn a national seed entering last weekend. However, they were beaten in a tough rivalry series against California, and now they’re just a No. 1 seed and an NCAA Regional host. The Cardinal has a lot of potential at the plate, entering the weekend with a .290 batting average. Stephen Piscotty leads the way at the plate, hitting .319 with five homers and 54 RBIs. He also has a .405 on-base percentage. Meanwhile, first baseman Brian Ragira is hitting .318 with four homers and 47 RBIs and outfielder Austin Wilson is hitting .290 with nine homers and 46 RBIs. Also keep an eye on third baseman Alex Blandino, who finished the season red-hot, and is hitting .289 with seven homers … The Cardinal hopes to reach the College World Series via the way of some very talented pitchers. For instance, hard-throwing right-handed pitcher Mark Appel, who’s expected to be one of the top picks in next week’s MLB draft, has a 2.37 ERA in 110 innings of work. Meanwhile, left-handed pitcher Brett Mooneyham must be more consistent and has a 4.05 ERA in 80 innings, while Piscotty has been a solid addition to the rotation, entering the weekend with a 2.57 ERA in 35 innings. Bullpen-wise, AJ Vanegas has a 2.38 ERA, Sahil Bloom a 3.22 ERA, Dean McArdle a 3.32 ERA and David Schmidt a 3.41 ERA.

The Waves had a tough 2011 campaign that included a postseason ban, and quite frankly, just a bad season all the way around. But with much new blood this season, they turned the tide and found their way to another WCC championship. Now the Waves hope to reach the College World Series. They’re hitting .282 with hard-hitting second baseman Joe Sever leading the way. Sever is hitting a team-best .370 with 15 doubles, six homers and 52 RBIs. Meanwhile, shortstop Zach Vincej is second on the team in hitting with a .348 average, two homers and 23 RBIs. The Waves otherwise are just OK from an offensive standpoint … The Waves have some premier arms this spring, especially when it comes to the weekend rotation with Jon Moscot, Scott Frazier and Corey Miller leading the way. Moscot has a 2.97 ERA in 106 innings, Frazier has a 3.87 ERA in 95 1/3 innings and Miller has a 4.56 ERA in 96 innings of work. Bullpen-wise, the Waves have some outstanding arms in Eric Karch and Michael Swanner. Karch has appeared in 24 games and has a 2.83 ERA in 41 1/3 innings, while Swanner has appeared in 21 games, earned eight saves and has a 3.13 ERA in 23 innings.

The Spartans have been an incredibly difficult team to figure out this season. We saw them earlier this season at the Big East/Big Ten tournament challenge and came away impressed. However, this team had some issues establishing consistency in Big Ten play, barely making it into the NCAA postseason field. The Spartans are hitting .298 on the year with outfielders Jordan Keur and Torsten Boss and second baseman Ryan Jones leading the charge. Keur is hitting .359 with 33 RBIs and Boss is hitting .306 with five homers and 43 RBIs. Meanwhile, Jones is hitting .356 with three homers and 38 RBIs. It’s important for the Spartans to get big-time production from Boss this weekend … Pitching-wise, the Spartans setup pretty well for this tournament. Ace pitcher Tony Bucciferro is one of the nation’s best with a deceptive fastball, and has a 2.80 ERA in 106 innings of work. Meanwhile, fellow starters Andrew Waszak (2.81) and David Garner (3.28) also have experienced much success this season. Also keep an eye on talented relievers Tony Wieber, Bryce Jenney and Jeff Kinley, who each have earned run averages 2.70 or better. Michigan State’s weekend boils down to its offense.

It’s those pesky Bulldogs once again. No matter how the regular season transpires, it seems like Fresno State always is in the NCAA postseason mix. This season is no different. The Bulldogs hope to make a statement this weekend. But to do that, they must hit much like they did in last week’s WAC tournament, entering the NCAA Regionals with a .277 team batting average. First baseman Trent Garrison is hitting .333 with two homers and 35 RBIs, while outfielder Kenneth Wise is hitting .323 with four homers and 36 RBIs. Also keep an eye on Aaron Judge, who is way down power production-wise this season, but still is hitting .312 with 25 RBIs … Pitching-wise, the Bulldogs don’t have a lot of high level depth, but do have some solid arms to watch. For instance, starting pitchers Thomas Harlan and Tyler Linehan have been consistent this season with ERAs of 2.73 and 3.58, respectively. Meanwhile, relievers Gene Escat (1.59), Taylor Garrison (2.77) and Justin Haley (2.98) are very solid options out of the bullpen. Does Fresno have another surprise in store?

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