NCAA TOURNAMENT-Oklahoma City
Last five series:
Florida CCSU vs Auburn 3-0 vs LIU-Brooklyn 3-0 vs Bama 2-1 vs Wagner 2-1 vs Ole Miss 0-3 vs Brown 1-1 vs Tennessee 1-2 vs Fairleigh Dickinson 3-0 vs SEC Tourney 2-2 at NEC Tourney 4-1
NCAA Tournament play may benefit the Blue Devils more than the Gators. CCSU plays several double headers each year because of the weather. They are accustomed to playing in tournament type conditions. Then again, maybe not. Last year, the Blue Devils traveled to m where they were smacked by Arizona State 14-2 and eliminated in their second game 22-3 by UNLV.
BLUE DEVIL FACT SHEET
- Most wins in Northeast Conference history
- 41-15-1 overall record; 20-4 in the NEC
- 3rd consecutive trip to NCAA Tournament
- Set school records in runs (455), hits (612), and RBI's (396)
- Victories over Boston College (8-7, 14-7, 8-7) and Maine (9-8)
- Swept by Virginia (17-1, 10-0, and 9-4) and a loss to Maine (8-3)
- CCSU is 32-0 when scoring seven runs or more per game.
- CCSU is 9-3 in one run games
- Won 3rd consecutive NEC Tournament
FLORIDA IN THE SEC TOURNAMENT
Florida beat two NCAA Tournament #1 seeds in 3rd ranked LSU and 11th ranked Georgia. However, they failed to get past Vanderbilt, losing twice. The Gators swept the Commodores during the regular season in Gainesville.
CCSU Offense vs Florida starter Justin Hoyman
Senior Keith Stegbauer is slapping the cover off of the baseball. The former Seminole High School/St. Petersburg Junior College grad has collected an NCAA leading 98 hits in 2004. Named the 2004 Northeast Conference Player of the Year, Stegbauer is ranked among the top 20 hitters in the country. The 6'1 190 shortstop is also tied for second in the nation in runs scored per game at 1.40. Stegbauer will get to test his skills against players from The Sunshine State for the first time since he left the bay area.
"There is a lot of talent in Florida. They have an advantage on us. By the time that we get outside, they've played 15 games. The snow is just too much. Our conference is probably not as strong as the SEC. It reminds me a lot of (St. Petersburg) junior college, but certainly a level above that. It'll be a challenge. We lost by a couple of touchdowns last year, so we're looking to do much better this time. At this level, every team is good. These are the 64 best teams in the country" Stegbauer said.
He was not recruited by Florida or any other SEC schools. Florida State offered him the opportunity to walk-on in Tallahassee. "My junior college coach told me that it would be best for me to go where I'm wanted, and I took his advice. Things have worked out well for me here." Stegbauer said.
Stegbauer graced the "Faces in the Crowd" section of Sports Illustrated magazine last week for his impressive play throughout the season. The leadoff hitter is the all-time average leader in Central Connecticut State University history at .390. The university should forego the wait and name the baseball complex after him, Balf-Savin Field at Stegbauer Stadium.
The Blue Devils have hit for a strong .326 average. The team slugging percentage is .441
The Blue Devils have had solid play from Rob Hosgood. He was named all-conference in each of his four seasons at the school. It is the first time in NEC history that a player has achieved that honor. Hosgood leads CCSU in round trippers with nine. He is also one of their top threats on the base paths.
Clean-up hitter Phil Rothkugel leads the team with 49 RBI's. Center fielder Brad Muldoon leads the team with 24 stolen bases in 27 attempts.
Sidearm specialist Connor Falkenbach had been mentioned as a possible starter against CCSU. But, it appears that Coach Pat McMahon has opted to send All-American Justin Hoyman to the mound. The junior from Cocoa has been Florida's best pitcher in the brief McMahon era. He is 10-1 and has a 2.82 ERA. Opponents are batting a pathetic .216 against him.
He last pitched in the SEC opener against LSU, where he reduced the Tigers offensive juggernaut to three earned runs in 7.1 innings. Hoyman seems to pitch his best in big games. For instance, the 6'3 200 Brevard Community College transfer threw a one-hit shutout against Miami. He struck out seven Hurricanes in 7.1 innings. Against South Carolina, Hoyman held the Gamecocks to two hits and one earned run in six innings, before having to depart the game with a blister on his middle finger.
Stegbauer hasn't fared as well going against righthanders (.394) this season. He is hitting .489 against lefties. The same can be said for Hosgood, who checks in with a .365 average against righties, while hitting .444 against lefthanders. Rothkugel, Memoli, and Tim D'Aquilla have fared significantly better against righthanders.
Should McMahon opt to save Hoyman, junior Connor Falkenbach would get the call. He eliminated the SEC Eastern Division Champion Georgia with a masterful three hit shutout. Falkenbach allowed a single hit to the Bulldogs in the first and third and held them idle until the ninth, when Wyatt hit a meaningless single to right. For his efforts Falkenbach was honored as an SEC All-Tournament Team selection. One of two pitchers to receive that honor.
Florida Offense vs CCSU starter Scott Vitelli
Third baseman Jonathan Tucker was named to the SEC Tournament Team hit .333 with a double, triple and three RBI's. Equally impressive was freshman Brian LeClerc, who also finished with a .333 average. The Clearwater native was 5 of 15 with a key double in the Gators win over Jawja.
C.J. Smith was named as the 1st baseman on the SEC Tournament Team. I found that rather strange, as Smith really only had one strong game and that was his performance against Georgia.
The Gators finished the season and conference tourney batting .306. Florida is led by senior Ben Harrison, who ripped two home runs in the series finale in Knoxville. Harrison had four RBI's, and followed up with a 4 for 14 (.285) performance in Birmingham. The senior took apart the Ole Miss staff the previous weekend going 6 for 13 (.462) and picking up a couple of RBI's.
Prior to the tournament, catcher Matt LaPorta had been swinging the hot bat for the Gators. The freshman from Port Charlotte hit .500 in the Tennessee series, pounding out three home runs and five RBI's.
Junior Scott Vitelli is expected to get the start. The righthander has excellent control. Opponents are batting a slight .239 against him. However, Vitelli hasn't been as sharp in his last two outings.
He was 9-2 before his past two outings. Vitelli completed only 1.1 innings against Wagner in their first round NEC Tournament game. Wagner touched him for six hits and one earned run. The Blue Devils defense was indeed wicked, as they gave up four unearned runs, courtesy of two errors in the first inning.
Vitelli started the season finale against U Mass and fared little even worse. He gave up six earned runs in three innings against the Minutemen, who needed little more than that to put the game away13-5.
A Florida victory would set up a date with the winner of the Oklahoma/UCLA game at 1pm on Saturday. Oklahoma (37-22) was ranked 17th in the nation before losing two out of three in the Big 12 Tournament. UCLA has won its' last three conference series. The Pac-10 does not have a season ending tournament.
The winner of the Oklahoma City regional would face the winner of the Coral Gables regional for a berth in the College World Series in Omaha.