Tempe Super Regional Preview

Andrew Gruman examines the ASU-Arkansas baseball super regional.

#1 Arizona State Sun Devils (Top National Seed)

Record: 50-8, 20-7 Pacific-10 (Champions)

Probable Starting Lineup:

1. Drew Maggi LF .343 4 HR 37 RBI 34 SB

2. Zack MacPhee 2B .394 9 HR 63 RBI 19 SB

3. Kole Calhoun RF .325 16 HR 58 RBI 7 SB

4. Riccio Torrez 1B .404 9 HR 51 RBI 20 SB

5. Zach Wilson DH .348 6 HR 43 RBI 4 SB

6. Johnny Ruettiger CF .362 4 HR 35 RBI 9 SB

7. Deven Marrero SS .397 6 HR 37 RBI 10 SB

8. Raoul Torrez 3B .283 3 HR 44 RBI 9 SB

9. Austin Barnes C .260 1 22 RBI 5 SB

Probable Starting Pitchers:

Seth Blair 12-0 3.06 ERA

Merrill Kelly 10-2 3.52 ERA

Jake Borup 11-1 4.08 ERA

Top Relievers:

Mitchell Lambson 7-2 2.26 ERA 3 Saves

Jordan Swagerty 1-0 2.05 ERA 14 Saves

Brady Rodgers 4-3 1.96 ERA 3 Saves

#1 Arkansas Razorbacks

Record: 43-19, 18-12 Southeastern Conference (2nd Place, Western Division)

Probable Starting Lineup:

1. Collin Kuhn LF .348 16 HR 52 RBI 17 SB

2. Zack Cox 3B .427 9 HR 48 RBI 11 SB

3. Brett Eibner CF .337 21 HR 69 RBI 3 SB

4. Andy Wilkins 1B .276 15 HR 68 RBI 3 SB

5. Monk Kreder DH .292 4 HR 45 RBI 1 SB

6. Bo Bigham 2B .306 3 HR 25 RBI 14 SB

7. James McCann C .283 9 HR 32 RBI 3 SB

8. Matt Vinson RF .209 2 HR 12 RBI 2 SB

9. Tim Carver SS .275 4 HR 35 RBI 9 SB

Probable Starting Pitchers:

Drew Smyly 9-1 2.56 ERA

Mike Bolsinger 6-5 4.77 ERA

TJ Forrest 8-0 3.10 ERA

Top Relievers:

DJ Baxendale 0-2 4.00 ERA 7 Saves

Razorbacks and Sun Devils at a Glance:

Pitching:

What a pitching matchup the opening game of the super regional showcases. ASU will likely send Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year Seth Blair to the mound, while Arkansas will likely counter with ace Drew Smyly. Smyly had an outstanding sophomore campaign and is postseason experienced, having pitched in the College World Series last year as a freshman.

The lefty can run his fastball up to the mid-90's with sink. He also features a good slider and a changeup. Lately he has been bothered by a blister on a finger of his pitching hand, so his effectiveness may be in question.

While ASU is almost certain to go with Merrill Kelly in the second game, the Razorbacks don't have a set rotation after Smyly. Senior Mike Bolsinger is one of the most experienced pitchers on the staff and has the second most starts on the team. Another senior with College World Series experience is TJ Forrest. The righty has only made five starts, but could get the ball during the series, especially due to an injury to Brett Eibner.

The wild card on the mound for Arkansas is Eibner, who also is the starting center fielder. He has been slowed by a shoulder injury and may not be available to pitch. If he can, it is an extra weapon for the Razorbacks. His fastball is in the lower 90's with late movement, but throws a very good slider as his out pitch. We'll see if coach Dave Van Horn has Eibner available to him on the mound.

Freshman DJ Baxendale is the closer for Arkansas and has fared well in his first campaign. The Razorbacks bullpen has decent options in Geoffrey Davenport, Jordan Pratt and Jeremy Heatley.

While the Razorbacks bullpen is solid, ASU's has been outstanding. Sophomore Mitchell Lambson has been one of the best relievers in college baseball, while sophomore Jordan Swagerty set the ASU single season saves record this year. While the two sophomores are experienced and ready to go, the series could come down to a pair of freshman. Jake Barrett and mainly Brady Rodgers could have a major impact and could determine ASU's success. Especially if the series goes to the decisive game, Rodgers and starter Jake Borup will be counted on.

ADVANTAGE: ASU

Hitting:

Power is the name of the game for the Razorbacks, as they have blasted 90 home runs on the season and have three players with double digit home runs and two more with nine.

The Sun Devils aren't like that one bit. This isn't a prototypical ASU team that hits the ball out of the yard to score runs. This team can beat you in every which way. If power is Arkansas' strength, speed is ASU's. The Sun Devils legged out 37 triples and stole a whopping 130 bases in 2010.

Two of the best hitters in college baseball will be on display this weekend and they happen to share the same first name. Zack Cox of Arkansas and ASU's Zack MacPhee had very similar seasons. Cox is a complete hitter that has a short, compact swing with quick hands that gets his bat through the zone quick.

Eibner is a weapon on the mound, but is dangerous at the plate, blasting 21 home runs this season. Both Eibner and Cox have been hampered by injuries, but knowing the stakes of the series, both should play. While they may play, their health may have an impact on performance.

The top part of the Arkansas lineup is dangerous and powerful, but the lower half is inconsistent. The Sun Devils may have the most complete lineup in the NCAA.

That leaves ASU coach Tim Esmay with options. It will be hard to keep freshman Deven Marrero off the field, but he could play short or be the DH. If he plays short, that would shift Drew Maggi to left field and allow Zach Wilson to be the DH. If he DH's, Matt Newman could get a start in left.

That shows you how deep this ASU team is, a player that has had postseason success in the past in Newman and a player that has had plenty of success this year in Wilson, may not play.

The Razorbacks can knock the ball out of the yard, especially at a hitters' park like Packard Stadium, but ASU has better overall numbers and is much deeper.

ADVANTAGE: ASU

Defense:

An awfully overlooked aspect of ASU's success this year has been its defense. The Sun Devils are the Pac-10's best defensive team and only committed 55 errors all season. That is pretty astounding considering how many different players have been in the lineup, some at different positions.

ASU assistant coach Mike Benjamin has done a great job with the infield defense, especially with Drew Maggi. Maggi only committed nine errors on the season, which is down a lot from his freshman campaign. No ASU player has double digit errors.

While ASU has had a good year defensively, Arkansas has had its struggles. The Razorbacks have committed 82 errors on the season and have four players that have committed double digit errors, including their starting third baseman, shortstop and second baseman.

ADVANTAGE: ASU

Overall Outlook:

This is no doubt an intriguing matchup. When the Razorbacks have been healthy, they have played a lot of good baseball, but when injuries began to bite, they have struggled at times.

Is Arkansas healthy? That question is a big one coming into the super regional. Cox, Eibner and Smyly are key players that have been bothered by nagging injuries lately.

Game one is very important to the Razorbacks. A healthy Smyly can no doubt battle Blair in what could be an outstanding game. If Arkansas falls in game one, they may not have the pitching qArkansaslity or depth to win two in a row against ASU.

Arkansas's offense could love playing at Packard. It is a power hitter's park and Arkansas is a power hitting team. If ASU's pitching can keep the Razorbacks in the yard, it will be successful.

While playing at home is an advantage for ASU, it isn't a huge one. The Razorbacks are a good road team and they have played in hostile SEC environments all season long.

The Razorbacks are a talented group that is battle tested and experienced, but it is hard to bet against ASU. The Sun Devils have lost only one series all season long and it is deep, focused and together. If Arkansas is healthy, this will be an outstanding series that will come down to the wire, if not, it could be over quickly.

Prediction: ASU Wins Series 2-1

Tempe Super Regional Schedule:

Game 1: Saturday, 6 P.M. ESPNU

Game 2: Sunday, 7 P.M. ESPN2

Game 3: Monday, 4 P.M. ESPN2 (If Necessary)


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