Super Regional Preview

The field of 64 in the NCAA's Road to Omaha has been pared down to a meager 16 teams with the final goal of Rosenblatt Stadium well within sight. ASU finds itself facing down an SEC opponent with extreme pitching capabilities – the Ole Miss Rebels. The Super Regional round is nothing new to the Rebels as they have made it to the doorstep of Omaha for each of the past three seasons.

This Ole Miss team shows something not seen in droves throughout collegiate baseball – balance. The standard Rebel lineup produces three hitters with averages above .370, three batters with 45 or more RBIs, three batters with 12 or more stolen bases and five batters with over 40 runs scored on the season. It remains to be seen how they will match up against Mike Leake, Josh Satow, Brian Flores and the bullpen of Arizona State but they present a challenge with their balance that may throw an extra speed bump into the road.

Key Players:

-The Henry Bros. Justin (jr.) and Jordan (frosh.) hold the two highest averages on the team, at .385 and .375 respectively, as well as stealing 33 bases between them. While they are not big power threats at the top of the lineup, keeping the Henry's off of the bases in front of the true power bats lower in the order will remain a key point for the pitching corps of Pat Murphy's squad.

-Cody Overbeck and aptly named Logan Power provide much of the run scoring expertise in the Rebel offense and will look to capitalize on the Henry Bros. in front of them getting on base to generate offense. While not hitting for a particularly high average (both currently stand at .298) when they do connect – they connect. Overbeck leads the team with 14 home runs and 58 RBI while Power comes in just behind him in both categories, tallying 11 home runs and 51 RBI on the season. Every team has them and containing the run producers is something that ASU must find a way to do for yet another series.

Being able to score runs is one thing that every team must be able to do at a sustainable clip, but being able to stop the other team from scoring? That is what championship teams build themselves around and is the one major obstacle that Ole Miss presents. Three SEC teams made it past their first test in the regional tournament and out of the entire conference; Mississippi had the lowest team ERA, most shutouts, lowest batting average allowed and fourth most strikeouts. The leading offense in the country will no doubt have its fill of quality pitching this weekend in Packard.

Key Players:

-Lance Lynn (soph.) and Will Kline (jr.) lead the team in starts, innings, strikeouts and just about every other pitching category imaginable and how they figure out a game plan to eliminate the threats in the potent Sun Devil offense will go a long way in how far Ole Miss will stretch the three-game series. In their quest to advance in the regional tournament, the Rebels threw Lynn against Mississippi State and the sophomore produced a complete game, two-hit shutout to advance Ole Miss into the regional championship game. The first game in the short three game series always screams importance and with Lynn or Kline on the mound on Saturday at 6 p.m., patience will be key for the Sun Devil offense.

-If the top two of the starting rotation is the bread then the Ole Miss bullpen is most certainly the butter of the Rebel team. While no dominant relief ace controls the end of games for Ole Miss, from top-to-bottom the Rebel bullpen has the ability to shut down prolonged rallies and keep their team in the game. Four players (Scott Bittle – 7, Cody Satterwhite – 4, Craig Rodriguez and Justin Cryer – 1) all have recorded saves for the Rebels and no member with enough innings to qualify, sport ERAs above 4.55. If Ole Miss shows a propensity for scoring like they did in the regional championship game (21 runs against Sam Houston State,) the Devils will have a difficult task ahead of them to mount a late-inning comeback.

All that being said, the Devils have shown a keen ferocity when it comes to knocking around a good pitching ball club and as long as Leake, Satow and Flores show some sort of ability to hold down the balanced offense of Mississippi, ASU has a real chance to take the series and punch their ticket to Omaha. While grumblings continue to mount about Tim Smith no longer batting leadoff as he did during the regionals, it remains to be seen if Murphy might try to pull another rabbit out of his maroon cap in an effort to get his best bats extra at-bats – Brett Wallace may return to the leadoff spot.

When the Devils take the field for the final home series of the season, the battle will begin – and whoever falls after game one is all said and done will have a monumental task ahead of them while the winner will have one foot in Packard and one foot further down the Road to Omaha.

Sun Devil Source Top Stories