Brady Singer’s job tonight in Florida’s winner’s bracket game at the College World Series in Omaha can be summed up like this: keep Louisville’s rabbits off the base paths.
That means Singer has to be consistent in the strike zone against a Cardinal team that has a team batting average of .290 to go with 297 walks. Additionally, Louisville (53-10) has stolen 97 bases this year. The Louisville philosophy is fairly simple – get men on base, create pressure and distractions with the running game and force pitchers to make the kind of mistakes that allow big boppers like Drew Ellis (.366, 20 homers, 66 RBI), Brendan McKay (.340, 17 homers, 56 RBI) and Colby Fitch (.260, 11 homers 47 RBI) to drive the ball.
Louisville’s speedy outfielders might be the best defensive trio in the country but they also make life hell for pitchers who have problems keeping them off the basepaths. Left fielder Josh Stowers (.311, 6 homers, 33 RBI) has walked 31 times and has stolen 22 bases in 28 attempts. Center fielder Logan Taylor (.275, 0 homers, 41 RBI) has 34 walks and 22 steals in 25 attempts while right fielder Colin Lyman (1 homer, 31 RBI) has 15 walks and has 14 steals in 20 attempts.
When Singer (7-5, 3.29 ERA) is throwing strikes with his low 90s fast ball and sharp breaking curve, he’s very tough to beat. In six innings against Wake Forest in NCAA Super Regional Play, he gave up only three hits, struck out 11 and walked only one batter. This season Singer has 108 strikeouts in 112 innings while walking only 29 batters. He needs to be pinpoint tonight (7 p.m., ESPN).
Singer has a better than average move to first, but just as important, he gets the ball to the catcher in a hurry. Florida has given up only 24 stolen bases in 46 attempts and one reason is the Gator pitchers don’t waste a lot of motion with their deliveries. In the Gators’ 3-0 win over TCU Sunday night, Mike Rivera picked off a runner at first on a strikeout-throw out double play and he threw out a runner trying to steal second. Also, starting pitcher Alex Faedo picked a TCU runner off first.
Louisville will counter with big (6-7, 235) righty Kade McClure (8-3, 3.43 ERA) who has 102 strikeouts in 97 innings while issuing only 35 walks in 17 starts. He rarely gets past the sixth inning, turning the ball over to Louisville’s outstanding bullpen of righties Lincoln Henzman (3-0, 1.72 ERA, 16 saves) and Sam Border (2-0, 0.43 ERA) and lefties Adam Elliott (6-0, 2.37 ERA) and Adam Wolf (2-0, 1.93 ERA).
CWS Notes: Florida’s All-American closer Michael Byrne (4-5, 1.78 ERA) picked up his 17th save Sunday night to tie TCU’s Durbin Feltman for the NCAA lead.
Right fielder Nelson Maldonado, who had two hits and an RBI Sunday night, twisted his ankle at third base late in the game against TCU. Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan says Maldonado should be fine tonight. “He’ll be fine … he’ll be fine,” O’Sullivan said Sunday night. “He tweaked it a little bit, but I expect him to be fine on Tuesday.
Sunday was a tale of two pitchers at the CWS. There was Louisville’s Brendan McKay, who was selected national player of the year and was picked fourth overall in last week’s Major League Baseball Draft by the Tampa Bay Bucs and there was Florida’s Alex Faedo, drafted 18th in the first round by the Detroit Tigers. McKay gave up eight hits and four runs in five innings as Louisville beat Texas A&M, 8-4. He was lifted with nobody out in the sixth after giving up two runs. Now maybe McKay was nervous or just not on his game, but he didn’t look the part of a pitcher drafted that high. Faedo, on the other hand, went seven innings, giving up no runs and only two hits while walking two and striking out 11. He threw consistently in the low to mid-90s and threw a wicked slider. Of the two pitchers, Faedo looked like the guy who will pitch in the big leagues sooner and not later.
Louisville coach Dan McDonnell is no stranger to the SEC. He spent six years as the top assistant and recruiting coordinator for Mike Bianco at Ole Miss. In his ten years as the head coach at Louisville, he’s taken the Cardinals to the CWS four times and has won 50 or more games four times in the last six seasons. Prior to his arrival at Louisville, the Cardinals had never won more than 39 games in a single season.
Kevin O’Sullivan (444-207 career record) has won 40 or more games in eight of his ten seasons at UF and he’s two wins away from his fourth season with 50.
IN NEED OF SOME RIVALRIES
This past weekend as I watched the US Open, I couldn’t help but feel the PGA Tour is in desperate need of some rivalries. Think about it for a moment. Is there a single compelling rivalry on the tour today?
It was the Arnold Palmer vs. Jack Nicklaus rivalry that made TV golf must see in the 1960s and when Arnie lost his touch, Lee Trevino and Tom Watson were there to challenge Jack. Recently, we’ve had Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Even though Tiger won far more tournaments and majors, Phil was always competitive enough to make it interesting.
Now that Tiger is gone and Phil is just three years away from eligibility on the Seniors tour, golf doesn’t have an attention grabbing rivalry and in this era of high definition TV where the visual image is so incredibly sharp, the game needs a couple of guys who can square off every event they enter. At some point, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIroy, Jason Day and Jordan Spieth have played well but there hasn’t been the consistency for a rivalry to form that can capture the imagination of viewers. At the Open, Johnson, McIroy and Day didn’t even make the cut. Spieth was only a missed putt away from the cut line on Friday and he was fortunate to finish in a tie for 35th.
Golf isn’t the only sport lacking some good rivalries. Men’s tennis desperately needs a Jimmy Connors or John McEnroe or Alex Agassi or Pete Sampras to win majors again. I can’t name a single American star on the horizon, can you? I long for the days when Connors and McEnroe battled Bjorn Borg or when Sampras and Agassi were either winning majors or challenging for them. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal had a nice rivalry going but since neither one was American, it really wasn’t enough to capture the attention of the US viewing public.
The women’s tennis game is also in desperate shape. When Serena Williams is good, nobody can touch her. Serena and older sister Venus are ancient as tennis years go and when they quit is there an American star behind them? Is there a rivalry on the horizon like Chris Evert-Martina Navratilova or Martina-Stefi Graff?
The LPGA Tour has some great golfers, but the lack of rivalries and consistently great Americans keeps the purses as low as TV viewership. The entire purse for last weekend’s LPGA tournament was less than the $2,160,000 Brooke Koepka made for winning the US Open.
The Golden State Warriors just beat the Cleveland Cavaliers for the NBA championship. It was the third straight year they’ve played in the finals but does that really grab your attention?
When I was growing up, the Yankees and Dodgers were an incredible rivalry, but I can’t remember the last time they met in a World Series. Have the Dodgers won a World Series since Kirk Gibson’s homer kayoed the Oakland A’s? I would have to go to the almanac to look that up.
Does anybody remember when the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins played on Thanksgiving Day and it was must see TV? The Cowboys and Giants were a great rivalry in the days when Emmitt Smith was running the ball for Dallas and Bill Parcells was coaching the Giants. I can’t think of a single NFL rivalry that rivets me to my seat in front of the TV.
I guess that’s why I love college sports so much. The SEC has always been billed as a conference built on hate. I wouldn’t say everybody hates everyone in the SEC but there is plenty of hatred to go around. I would be tempted to pull for Al Qaeda against Georgia. Florida-FSU was, is and always will be seriously intense even if the Seminoles took the easy way out and joined the ACC instead of the SEC when they had the chance. I can’t think of a single Auburn friend who has anything decent to say about his Alabama brethren. How many times can LSU and Ole Miss people tell each other to go to hell?
There is no better college basketball rivalry in the world like Duke-North Carolina. And I can’t help but smile anytime Duke loses. It used to be only Duke basketball that made me smile, but that has carried over into all the other sports. If Duke loses, I’m happy.
Maybe I’m just getting old, but I need rivalries in something other than college sports and I’m not seeing much out there that makes me willing to give up an entire afternoon or evening to watch.
John G. Avildsen died Monday. He was the director of “Rocky,” the first and easily the best of the series of films starring Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa. In one fell swoop, Stallone went from someone nobody knew into a cult hero and bankable movie star. Carl Weathers played the part of Apollo Creed and he looked like a heavyweight boxer. Stallone, who is barely 5-8, certainly looked and sounded the part of the underdog and that’s why the movie was such a hit. The boxing was far more realistic in “Raging Bull” but the story of Rocky wasn’t about all about a guy from Nowheresville getting his chance to fight for and win the heavyweight championship. Did you really care if there wasn’t a heavyweight fighter on the planet capable of throwing that many punches in 15 rounds?
Ten years later, Stallone had made three other Rocky movies plus he had introduced the character John Rambo to us. I was teaching in Korea when Rambo II came out. I was convinced to go see this by my girlfriend, so on a very cold Saturday night in Seoul we were part of a crowd of 3,000 that filled the theater to capacity. About two thirds of the way through the movie, Rambo pulled out his bowl and aimed an arrow armed with an explosive charge (dynamite? I don’t remember). The theater was tense and quiet and just as Stallone drew back the arrow, someone in the audience shouted, “Adriannnnnnnnnn!” I Iaughed until tears streamed down my face.
Tiger Woods says he is “currently receiving professional help to manage my medications and the ways that I deal with back pain and a sleep disorder.”
ESPN is reporting that in addition to trying to find a way to trade for Indiana’s Paul George, the Cleveland Cavaliers are Kevin Love as trade bait for Chicago’s Jimmy Butler. The Cavaliers, meanwhile, better find someone to negotiate these deals. They have parted ways with their general manager, David Griffin.
Paul George says he wants to play for the Los Angeles Lakers. Would the Pacers trade him to the Lakers in exchange for a player and the second pick in next week’s NBA Draft?
Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred is said to be looking for ways to speed up play such as a 20-second clock in between pitches. The college game could use a pitch clock as well.
Nearly every college basketball recruiter or scout tends to agree that Marvin Bagley III (6-11, 220, Phoenix, AZ Sierra Canyon) is the best player for the recruiting class of 2018. Unless the NBA eliminates the one-and-done rule so he can go straight from high school to the pros, you can almost bet the farm that he will sign with either Arizona, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky or UCLA.
Does anybody really care about the Capital One Cup?
QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY
Is the parity we see on the PGA Tour good for the game or does the tour need a true superstar who may not win every time out, but is in contention? Would a rivalry that involved an American player cause you to watch tennis on TV? Is there a pro football or baseball rivalry that is must see for you?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
While looking for some music on Youtube I came across this audio of a jam session that involved Eric Clapton and Duane Allman from 1970, recorded at Criteria Studios in Miami. This is more than one hour of jamming with two of the great guitar players of all time. I really wish there was video of this session.