The Texas Longhorns and Arizona State Sun Devils face off in Austin, Texas this weekend to decide which squad will advance to the 2011 College World Series. Both teams are coming off home regional victories with Texas going 4-1 with the loss coming to Kent State while Arizona State rolled through the Tempe Regional with three straight victories over New Mexico, Charlotte, and Arkansas.
Texas (47-16) Big 12 Regular Season Co-Champions
Best Pitcher: RHP Taylor Jungmann, Jr., (13-1, 1.39, 120 K)
Best Hitter: 3B Erich Weiss, Fr., (.361, 7 3B, 42 RBI)
Strength: Pitching. The Longhorn staff had trouble finding a third starter all year until junior Sam Stafford stepped into the role late in the season to dominate. The 2nd round pick joins Golden Spikes finalist Taylor Jungmann, and former Big 12 Pitcher of the Year Cole Green to give Augie Garrido a solid 1-2-3 punch on the front end. On the back end, the Texas staff is flanked by 1st Team All-American Corey Knebel, a freshman would leads the Longhorns with 17 saves.
Weakness: Hitting. Outside of freshman Erich Weiss and junior Brandon Loy, there hasn’t been much to talk about on this Texas offense. Weiss, the Big 12’s top freshman bat has been solid at the plate since his first game. Loy, a defensive specialist at shortstop was only known for his bunting, but has become a formidable force with his bat this year, improving his season average to .344, and leads the team with 21 doubles.
Texas will win if…the pitching staff can keep the Sun Devils under three runs a game. The Longhorns don’t have strong bats, but sluggers like Tant Shepherd and Kevin Lusson were at the top of their game last weekend, and can help provide enough runs to win.
Texas will lose if…Taylor Jungmann struggles. Texas is 15-1 with Jungmann on the mound, and his perfect home record was ruined last Saturday by Kent State. If Texas cannot win the Friday game, they will be in a tough spot to win the next two to advance to Omaha.
Arizona State (42-16)
Best Pitcher: RHP Kramer Champlin (9-3, 2.93, 100 K’s)
Best Hitter: DH Joey DiMichele (.368, 9 HR, 48 RBI)
Weakness: Streaky hitting – Their consistency can fall flat sometimes and it showed itself down the stretch as the Sun Devils were shut out twice in the final two weeks of the season.
ASU will win if…..The bats get going early and often like they were in the Regionals. The Sun Devils scored 33 runs in 3 games in the opening weekend of the 2011 NCAA Tournament, and should if they can get Jungmann out of sync early with Ruettiger and MacPhee drawing walks and moving over, it could be a quick weekend of work for ASU.
ASU will lose if….They choke under the pressure of being in the atmosphere of Disch-Falk Field. They’ve fallen victim to Taylor Jungmann in the past, and after faltering mightily against Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer two weeks ago, The Sun devils again face an elite rotation. The top pitchers in the Pac-10 this year did well against the Sun Devils, and this weekend could be more of the same.
Prediction: Arizona State 2-1