Devils Digest CWS Preview

Four teams, two conferences, one slot in the championship series. These are the parameters that comprise ASU's bracket in Omaha. UC-Irvine, making their first ever appearance in Johnny Rosenblatt and Cal State Fullerton, making their 15th, each hail from the talented Big West conference. Oregon State joins Arizona State from the Pac-10 as the Beavers look to defend their national championship.

UC-Irvine (45-15-1) took on Cal State Fullerton (38-23) in a three game series in April that saw the Anteaters jump all over the Titans, winning two games in that series. Oregon State (44-18) and Arizona State (48-13) put Pac-10 pride on the line in the College World Series. In their head-to-head meetings, the Beavers and Devils had some interesting outings. In the Coca-Cola Classic in Surprise, Ariz., Oregon State whipped the Devils, 12-4, in a non-conference battle but when the calendar turned towards the conference slate, it was a much different story as the Devils went to Goss Stadium in Corvallis and swept the three-game series against the Beavers, outscoring their opponent 15-4.

So the Big West squares off against the Pac-10 with conference and individual bragging rights at stake, as well as the chance to face North Carolina, Rice, Louisville or Mississippi State in the championship game a week from Saturday.

UC-Irvine (45-15-1) – Big West

The Anteaters are the prime example of getting hot at the right time of the season. They have not yet lost in the post-season, downing such NCAA powerhouses as Texas and Wichita State in the process. Irvine goes about their business close to the same way as Arizona State and it should be an intriguing first-round match up as both meet on Saturday.

Offensively, the Anteaters boast 10 batters with .300+ batting averages, topping out with Ollie Linton who has hit .356 up to this point. The Anteaters may not depend on the long ball as much as ASU (35 total home runs to ASU's 78) but the foot speed of Irvine makes them a pesky offensive team that Sun Devil catchers Petey Paramore and Kiel Roling must control in order to keep the Devils from an early entrance into the losers bracket. 187 times the Anteaters have attempted to steal a base this season, coming up successful 137 times. The extra base running will be a key stat to look out for during the Anteaters run toward a title.

On the pitching mound Irvine also shines, and much further than just the Friday night starter, Scott Gorgan (12-2, 2.68 ERA, 3 shutouts.) Wes Etheridge joins Gorgan in the rotation to form a terrifyingly effective combo.

Cal State Fullerton (38-23) – Big West

The Titans of Cal State Fullerton do not raise any eyebrows when the blue and orange rolls in to Omaha, even though they lost 23 games during the course of the regular season and finished fifth in the tough Big West conference. Their 15th appearance in Omaha sees the Titans playing with a desire to prove many critics wrong – the problem is that nobody really can see how the Titans are still playing. Aside from experience that is, which the Titans have in excess. The pitching staff of the Titans carries the majority of the load, boasting six players with ERA's under 3.30 including their two starters, juniors Jeff Kaplan and Wes Roemer.

On offense, junior Clark Hardman leads the team in batting average, hitting .391 on the season while slugging five home runs and earning a team-high 139 total bases. Joining Hardman on the list of Titans batting above .300? Just one – freshman Josh Fellhauer. The freshman hit .320 on the season while slugging .453, earning just 68 total bases. As a team, the Titans knocked 38 home runs over the fences, or just seven more than Brett Wallace and Kiel Roling combined.

Scoring runs off of the frugal pitching staff may key a victory off of the experience rich Titans as the chances of them coming back after falling behind early seem slim.

Oregon State (44-18) – Pac-10

The defending national champions return to Omaha looking to repeat their remarkable feat from 2006. The Beavers of Oregon State possess a wealth of experience, a dominant pitching staff, a balanced power lineup and a great chance to move through the double elimination beginnings of the College World Series as they look to put the disappointing Pac-10 schedule performance (10-14) behind them.

The Beaver lineup does not pose any huge threat in terms of power and slugging possibility; however, they have several guys that have the ability to put the ball over the fence, each day writing in five players who have hit four or more during the season. Much like the Titans however, the lineup does not carry a large load for the Beaver team. The pitching staff of Oregon State shines all the way from the starting three to the powerful bullpen. All three starters have at least nine wins, highlighted by junior Joe Paterson who earned 10 victories on the season. Joining Paterson in the rotation are Paterson's high school teammate Daniel Turpen (9-1, 3.65 ERA,) and fellow junior Mike Stutes (9-4, 4.05.) Despite the higher ERA, Stutes leads the Beavers in strike outs with 111 in 113 innings.

Just like the Titans of CS-Fullerton, scoring early on the Beaver team will key a victory for their opponents in the College World Series. The bull's eye will be firmly entrenched on the backs of the Beavers as they look to wade their way through the first round in Omaha.

The Pac-10 and Big West showdown begins Saturday in Omaha at Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium as Arizona State takes on UC-Irvine in the early game (11 a.m. Arizona time) while Oregon State and CS-Fullerton take the field at 4 p.m.

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