College : : Story
Friday, June 08, 2012

Preview: Tucson SR

Kendall Rogers        
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St. John's (40-21) vs. Arizona (41-17)

National rank by PG: St. John's (16), Arizona (5)
When: Friday (1/8), 3 p.m. (ESPNHD) -- Saturday (1/9), 3 p.m. (ESPNHD) -- Sunday (1/10), 4 p.m. (ESPN2HD)
Where: Hi Corbett Field (9,500) in Tucson, Ariz.s
College World Series appearances:St. John's (0), Arizona (15)
The pick: Arizona

TUCSON Super Regional: Who has the edge?
Starting pitching

This series, at least from a starting pitching standpoint, boils down to which starters decide to show up this weekend.

Arizona, and St. John's, to at least some extent, have been shaky at times when it comes to the rotation. The Johnnies, though, have the advantage entering the weekend.

The Johnnies have been in a much better place as a rotation since hard-throwing right-hander Kyle Hansen moved the No. 3 slot. Hansen has a 3.46 ERA in 93 2/3 innings of work. He has struck out 108 and walked 26, while teams are hitting him at a .255 clip.

Meanwhile, Matt Carasiti and Sean Hagan round out the rotation. Carasiti has a big-time arm with a fastball in the 92-94 range. However, he struggled this season until the Johnnies moved him from closer to the starting rotation. Carasiti has a 3.98 ERA in 83 2/3 innings, with teams hitting him at a .274 clip.

Hagan is the most consistent arm in the rotation. The talented left-hander is 8-2 with a 2.72 ERA in 102 2/3 innings. He has struck out 66 and walked 23, while teams are hitting him at a .231 clip. He has struck out 66 and walked 23.

Though the Johnnies have the edge in this department, it's very slight, as the Wildcats got a pair of outstanding performances from Konner Wade and James Farris last weekend in the Tucson Regional. Arizona is in business if those two pitch well again this weekend.

Arizona possesses one of the nation's elite ace pitchers in righty Kurt Heyer. Heyer is 12-2 with a 2.03 ERA in 128 2/3 innings. He has struck out 98 and walked 22, while teams are hitting him at an incredibly low .243 clip.

Wade and Farris obviously have been inconsistent at times this season. Wade has a 4.69 ERA in 109 1/3 innings and teams are hitting him at a .251 clip, while Farris has a 4.18 ERA in 99 innings with teams hitting him at a .274 clip.

Overall, St. John's weekend rotation against Arizona's offensive lineup is the most important matchup this weekend.

The Tucson Super Regional likely will get very offensive if it comes down to the two team's respective bullpens. Though both squads have a couple of talented arms, neither has the luxury of several premier bullpen arms.

Arizona's bullpen is far from elite, but gets the edge between the two.

The Wildcats are led out of the bullpen by freshman Mathew Troupe. Troupe really has had a solid inaugural campaign, making 21 appearances and tallying a 3.98 ERA in 31 2/3 innings. He also has struck out 39 and walked 17, while teams are hitting him at a .278 clip.

Tyler Crawford has entered the game in some key situations lately, while Tyler Hale and Stephen Manthei both are quality arms to watch.

Crawford has appeared in 13 games and has a 3.09 ERA in 35 innings, while limiting teams to a .250 batting average. Meanwhile, Hale has appeared in 12 games and has a 4.05 ERA and Manthei has appeared in 23 games and has a 4.29 ERA in 35 2/3 innings of work.

The Johnnies have just a couple of reliable arms out of the bullpen, including Stephen Rivera, James Lomangino and Kevin Kilpatrick.

Rivera clearly is the leader of the bullpen. He has appeared in 26 games and has a 1.74 ERA in 51 2/3 innings of work. He has struck out 52 and walked 15, while teams are hitting him at a .214 clip. Meanwhile, Lomangino has appeared in 23 games and has a 4.28 ERA in 27 1/3 innings. He is holding teams to a .275 batting average.

Lastly, Kevin Kilpatrick is one of those guys that's either really off or really on. The Johnnies need him to step up this weekend. He has appeared in 26 games and has a 4.69 ERA in 48 innings. He also has struck out 29 and walked 14, while teams are hitting him at a .243 clip.

If there's one area where the Wildcats have a substantial advantage, it's at the plate, where they're hitting .333 as a club as compared to just .287 for the Johnnies.

The Wildcats have some outstanding position players, beginning with talented outfielders Johnny Field, Robert Refsnyder and Joey Rickard. Field leads the team with a .389 average, three homers and 41 RBIs, while Refsnyder is hitting .353 with six homers and 61 RBIs and Rickard is hitting .326 with 30 RBIs.

Also keep an eye on third baseman Seth Mejias-Brean, shortstop Alex Mejia, designated hitter Bobby Brown and first baseman Joseph Maggi.

Mejias-Brean is having a fantastic campaign, hitting .363 with a home run and 56 RBIs, while Mejia has blossomed into an elite player, hitting .367 with three homers and 51 RBIs. Also, Brown is hitting .354 with four homers and 50 RBIs and Maggi is hitting .333 with 17 RBIs.

While the Wildcats have several potent hitters to watch, the Johnnies have some hitters to keep an eye on, but for the most part, don't have quite the depth.

Hard-hitting outfielder Jeremy Baltz, a second-round pick to the Padres, is hitting .345 with 12 doubles, eight homers and 51 RBIs, while shortstop and leading hitter Matt Wessinger is hitting .353 with 13 doubles, six homers and 47 RBIs.

Also keep an eye on third baseman Sean O'Hare and first baseman Frank Schwindel. O'Hare is hitting .346 with 14 doubles, three homers and 42 RBIs, while Schwindel has had some key hits down the stretch and is hitting .326 with four homers and 30 RBIs.

Despite substantially more overall offensive production, it's interesting to note the Johnnies have hit seven more homers (27) as opposed to Arizona (20).

Anyone who has watched the Wildcats the past few weeks knows about the defensive prowess of this club down the stretch.

For instance, Wildcats shortstop Alex Mejia made some highlight reel plays in the field last weekend in the Tucson Regional. On top of that, the Wildcats have one of the nation's more athletic outfields with a stable enough infield, sitting with a .967 fielding percentage.

Mejia, though, is the one that makes that defense go with his unbelievable plays.

For the Red Storm, more consistency definitely is needed. The Johnnies enter the weekend with a .961 fielding percentage. Shortstop Matt Wessinger has the ability to make very good players, but enters the weekend with a .922 fielding percentage and 22 errors. Meanwhile, second baseman Anthony Iacomoni has a .928 fielding percentage, while third baseman Sean O'Hare is a bright spot with just seven errors on the season.

Defensive plays this weekend will be most important for the Johnnies, who must avoid giving the highly potent Wildcats offense second chances.

St. John's played an excellent brand of baseball in the Chapel Hill Regional last weekend, but this weekend will be a different animal.

For starters, the Johnnies likely won't be able to contain the Arizona offense the entire weekend. That was the case with the Tar Heels, which have an OK offensive lineup, but certainly not one to strike fear in opposing teams.

Secondly, the Wildcats should have some fantastic crowds throughout the weekend. On top of that, each game of this series will be played during the heat of the day, where temperatures on the Arizona desert are expected to climb into the 100-degree range.

Arizona might just be playing the best baseball -- both in action and mentally -- of anyone in the country right now.

We'll see if St. John's can calm the Wildcats.

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