1. Missouri (40-16)
2. Miami (Fla.) (36-22)
3. Louisville (40-20)
4. Kent State (33-24)
|The Favorite: Missouri
When looking at Missouri from a statistical standpoint, it’s easy to come away unimpressed. But a closer look at the Tigers reveals a team that always finds a way to win games. While sophomore right-hander Aaron Crow leads the charge on the mound, the Tigers are led at the plate by junior outfielder Evan Frey. He’s hitting a team-leading .346 with four home runs and 33 RBIs. Jacob Priday is a power producer for the Tigers, while Brock Bond has shown consistency with his .319 batting average. The Tigers have a tough field with Miami and Louisville. But as they’ve shown, they’re not a team that likes to be doubted.
|Dark horse candidate: Miami, Fla.
If you want to see consistency, look no further than the Miami baseball program. With a bid to the Columbia Regional, the Hurricanes are attending their 35th straight NCAA Regional. Color me impressed. While hometown Missouri is the favorite over the Hurricanes, that won’t get this team down. The Hurricanes have an impressive offense with Yonder Alonso and freshman third baseman Mark Sobolewski leading the charge. Second baseman Jemile Weeks is another versatile player to watch, while Roger Tomas routinely makes opposing pitchers pay for their mistakes. The Canes can win this Regional.
|Best hitter: Miami 1B Yonder Alonso
In his second season with the Hurricanes, Alonso has blossomed into one of the top hitters in college baseball. The sophomore enters the Columbia Regional hitting a team-leading .378 with 18 home runs and 74 RBIs. He’s also slugging .724 and has a .519 on-base percentage. In addition, Alonso has stolen 13 bases and has 12 doubles in 196 at bats.
|Best pitcher: Missouri RHP Aaron Crow
There are several talented pitchers in this Regional, but the guy that stands out to me the most is Missouri right-hander Aaron Crow. After losing Max Scherzer and Nathan Culp last season, many critics thought the Mizzou pitching staff would take a giant step back. That assumption was wrong. Crow enters the weekend with an 8-3 record and a 3.17 ERA in 108 innings. He has also struck out 81 batters.
Missouri has a tough opening round matchup with four-seed Kent State, but if they can hold off the Golden Flashes, it will likely shake off any potential postseason jitters. The Tigers have a good one-two punch in the weekend rotation, while Evan Frey and Jacob Priday lead the way at the plate. As the host team, it’s important for the Tigers to keep the fans involved in the action … Miami might have a better chance of winning this Regional than some might think. The Hurricanes have the most talented team in the field of four and have the postseason experience necessary to make it to the College World Series. For Miami, the key to the weekend is consistency across the board … Louisville is another team that could surprise this weekend. Roger Williams has done a phenomenal job with the Cards pitching staff, while Logan Johnson, Isaiah Howes and Boomer Whiting provide the offensive fireworks … Kent State enters the tournament just 6-13 against teams in the top 100.Rivals.com
We recently had a chance to have a Question and Answer session with Kent State Head Coach Scott Stricklin. He is entering his third season with the Golden Flashes. He has also been an assistant coach with Georgia Tech under former Kent State Head Coach Danny Hall for the 1998 and 1999 season as a volunteer assistant coach before moving to Vanderbilt where he worked as the pitching coach for two seasons. He then went back to Georgia Tech in July of 2001 where he stayed until July of 2004 when moved on to become the Head Coach at Kent State.
1. Andrew Davis had a great year batting .376 in 56 games last season but Kent State lost most of their position players. What players have stepped up to fill these holes?
We lost a lot of offense off of last year’s club. There is no question that losing Emmanuel Burriss, Joe Tucker, Drew Saylor, Kurt Eichorn, and Todd Balduf will raise some serious questions about our offensive capabilities. However, we had several freshman that got significant playing time last year. We expect Brad Winter, Chris Tremblay, Ryan Mitchell and Jason Patton to all step up and be leaders. Greg Rohan sat out last year due to an injury and he should hit in the middle of our order. Junior college transfer Doug Sanders will hit near the top of the order and we expect big things from him as well. Andrew Davis is the back bone of our team and he will hit in the three hole. Will Vazquez is our only other senior position player and he will be our everyday catcher. Freshmen Jared Bartholomew, Brandon White, and Anthony Gallas should contribute as well.
2. Kent State returns most of the pitching staff from last year including starters Alan Morrison and John Pacella. They also return a solid closer in Ryan Davis who had 14 saves in 2006. Are there any players expected to compete for a weekend spot in the rotation?
There is no question that our strength will be our pitching staff. We did lose Chad Wagler who was our number one starter a year ago but we feel like we have a lot more depth in year’s past. Our weekend rotation is still question because we are waiting to see how Chris Carpenter and Evan Smith come back from injury. Carpenter was a 7th round draft choice out of high school and looks like he is returning to that form. Evan Smith has been in and out of our rotation for the last three years. Steven Ross has been impressive early on and will be our number one starter to begin the season and I see no reason why that will change. JJ Pacella has been very consistent for us and he will be in the mix as well. We also have Morrison, Dominique Rodgers, Steven Davis, and freshman Kyle Smith competing for a weekend starting role. Should be interesting to see who steps up the next couple of weeks.
Our bull pen will be very strong as we return all of our key components from last year. Ryan Davis was outstanding for us in the closer’s role and Reid Lamport, Jason Seelman, and Rodgers are all back as set-up guys. When you add freshman Robert Sabo, Jon Pokorny, and Brad Stillings to that mix, we feel very good about what our pitching staff can accomplish this season. Another pleasant surprise has been Ryan Steele. He is a converted catcher who has dominating stuff. he just needs to gain some more experience on the mound.
3. Scott, What do you think is the biggest difference between coaching at Kent State when compared to other schools you have been at like Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt?
The are certainly some differences between Kent State and Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt. The biggest difference is probably on the recruiting side. At Tech and Vandy, we recruited on a national scale while at Kent State, we focus on the talent in the state of Ohio. There is also the weather factor. We practice in our indoor fieldhouse until we can get outside. The ACC and SEC schools are outside when they begin practice in January. Obviously, the ACC and SEC are tougher conferences than the MAC. However, the programs in the Mid-American Conference have all made increased commitments to baseball and I think there is no doubt that we are improving as a whole. We have new stadiums at Central Michigan, Ohio University, Miami of Ohio, and Kent State. Look for the MAC to get two teams in the NCAA tournament very soon. When we get that accomplished, we need to find a way to get to a super regional. That will go a long way toward earning more respect for our conference nation wide.
4. The uniform start date goes into effect next season, How will that affect your team in the future? In 2007, you will not have a home game until March 20th which is over a month into your season.
The start date really will not affect us much. This year we started practice on January 23rd indoors. Next year we will begin February 1st. We move our opening weekend back one week. What many northern schools are looking to do in the future is to play four game series or tournaments on early season weekends. I think you will find the southern schools receptive to this because they will have to add a lot of mid week games to their schedules if they do not. Currently, most southern schools like to spread their games out so they are only playing one mid week game. It really puts a lot of strain on your pitching staff when you consistently are playing five games per week. The big difference is that mid-week games do not happen up north until mid March at the earliest. The southern schools can get some mid week games in right away.
5. What team in the MAC will provide the biggest challenge for your team this season?
The MAC is a toss up this year. There are several teams that will contend for the title. Central Michigan returns the most form last year and is the pre season favorite. Miami (OH) has a couple of very good arms in their starting rotation that are capable of beating anyone. Eastern Michigan has the reigning pitcher of the year in Jeff Fischer pitching for them on Fridays and Western Michigan has freshman All American, Ethan Hollingsworth, returning to the mound for them. Ball State is in the same position as us. We both lost a lot of offense and we need some young guys to step up.
6. What player or coach have you enjoyed working with the most?
That’s a tough one. It’s difficult to single out one individual in particular. However, one player that really stands out is Jonathan Douillard from Vanderbilt. He was catcher that was actually the first commitment I ever received as a recruiting coordinator. He was the type of player who always worked hard and was a tremendous team leader. It was no surprise to see him behind the plate when Vanderbilt broke through and made the regionals a few years ago. The program took huge strides in the four years he was there and he was a big reason for it. He made everyone around him better and he never took a day off. I just really loved coaching the kid and had a lot of respect for him.
The College Baseball Blog would like to thank Steve for taking the time to help out the site by answering some questions. We are trying to set up some more interviews with some more head coaches to talk about the upcoming season. If anyone has any questions or comments about the site feel free to contact me.
The University of Ohio has signed Ross Overstreet for the 2008 season. He will likely enter college as a pitcher. Last year as a Junior in HS, he had a 4-5 record with 2 saves and carried an ERA of 2.31. He will receive a 3/4 of a full ride at Ohio which was one of the deciding factors in the recruiting process. The full article is available here.
Head Coach Scott Stricklin has released his 2007 schedule. They will play in some marquee games this year including participating in the Winthrop University (includes East Tennessee State and Temple) and Louisville University (California and Indiana State) Invitationals and they visit Wake Forest, Florida, and Southern Miss each for a 3 game sets. This is by far the toughest Non-Conference schedule I have seen this season. I have to give Coach Stricklin some credit for going out and scheduling some big names. The full schedule is available here.
Kent State has also released the list of recruits for the 2008 season. They have six players who are joining the team and five of them are from Ohio. This class continues the tradition of strong recruiting under third year head coach Scott Stricklin who had his recruiting class last year ranked 17th by Baseball America.
The Regionals are over and now we can focus on the 16 teams fighting for the 8 spots in Omaha.
Friday through Sunday Super-Regionals
Oral Roberts at Clemson
College of Charleston at Georgia Tech
Missouri at Cal St. Fullerton
North Carolina at Alabama
Saturday through Monday Super-Regionals
Oklahoma at Rice
South Carolina at Georgia
Miami of Florida at Ole Miss
Stanford at Oregon State
A Full preview will be coming for each series in the coming days. So please come back.
The Dead Weight from the CWS is now gone after Quinnipiac lost to Miami (OH) by a score of 35-8. This was the most runs scored in a CWS game and broke a ton of records. The game took only 3 hours and 27 minutes to play. That is pretty quick saying that 43 runs were scored. Miami know moves on to face the Longhorns of Texas who lost to Arkansas by a score of 9-2. We know that Auggie will have the troops ready for the RedHawks offensive attack.
My Harvard Crimson did the old 2 and out for the Ivy League team. They lost on Friday night to defending national champion Cal State Fullerton 19-0. They came back tonight against a very strong Missouri team and scored 6 runs but gave up a whooping 14 runs.
The biggest surprise of this tournament has been the play of Army. They received a great performance by Nick Hill who dominated the Seminoles allowing only two hits in nine innings but walked 5 guys and his defense made three errors behind him. The Seminoles pulled out the victory by winning the game 3-2. Army came back on Saturday and beat South Alabama by a score of 8-5. They will take on Auburn in an elimination game tomorrow at Dick Howser Stadium.
The UVA Cavs who were finialist in the ACC Tournament bailed out of the Tourney today by losing to The Ohio State University by the slimmest of margins in a 2-1 game. The biggest news out of the Corvallis Regional is the performance of St. John’s stud closer Craig Hansen who got his first start in over 2 seasons when he beat the Cavs in the opening game in the regional 5-3. St. John’s is without their best starting pitcher in Anthony Varvaro who throws in the mid 90′s and has a very solid curveball. He is expected to have surgery in the near future for the problem.
Stay tuned for more action from the College Baseball World.