Round 1 of the College World Series is complete and I think it's fair to say the states of California and Texas represented themselves quite nicely. Stanford and Fullerton both posted easy victories over a pair of SEC teams while Rice knocked off Southwest Missouri State 4-2 on Saturday afternoon before Texas smoked Miami by a 13-2 score in the nightcap. Watching the Texas-Miami was game was painful at times. The Hurricanes committed five errors and quite honestly, never had a prayer to win. Third baseman Gaby Sanchez had two errors in the first two innings that led to seven unearned runs and an early Texas lead. Ouch!
Rice's win was impressive from a pitching perspective as ace starter Jeff Niemann improved to 17-0 with the victory. Through eight innings, the 6'9" righthander had allowed just one hit (a bunt single) and flat-out dominated. Rice's offense was essentially shutdown by SMS as they rapped out only five hits, which could be the Owls' downfall in the CWS. Still, with their starting rotation, they don't need to score a lot of runs to win.
A look at the next batch of games at the CWS :
South Carolina vs. LSU, Sunday (12pm, PST) – An elimination game between the SEC rivals. The Tigers have to be the favorites as they finished ahead of South Carolina in the SEC and are the higher ranked team. This game could feature quite a bit of offense, although neither club swung the bats particularly well in their respective first round games. Still, LSU has a potent offense, South Carolina has been hot with the bats lately (not including Sunday), and neither team will be throwing their #1 starter.
Stanford vs. Cal State Fullerton, Sunday (4pm, PST) – This is shaping up to be a quite a game. Fullerton swept Stanford back in early February, but the Cardinal is hot with 19 wins in their last 20 games. As opposed to LSU-South Carolina, this game probably won't be high scoring as Stanford will start undefeated Mark Romanczuk and Fullerton's pitching staff has an impressive team ERA of 2.74.
Miami vs. Southwest Missouri State, Monday (11am, PST) – SMS looked a bit nervous in their opening round game against Rice as they spotted the Owls two runs in the first inning (primarily on free passes) and then were shutdown by Niemann. The young Hurricanes also looked nervous though, committing a whopping five errors in their 13-2 loss to Texas. A big question in this game will be who is able to settle in? The team that does should win the ballgame.
Texas vs. Rice, Monday (4pm, PST) – Like Stanford-Fullerton, this game should be very exciting. Rice will probably throw their All-American fireballer Wade Townsend (who like Niemann, has an ERA below 2). Texas' starting pitching drops off after their #1 guy, J.P. Howell (he started against Miami), but the Longhorn bats are hot. This game also features two outstanding closers in Rice's David Aardsma (a first-round draft pick) and Texas' Huston Street (the 2002 CWS Most Outstanding Player). If Townsend continues to dominate, Texas could be in trouble unless their starting pitcher turns their game up a notch.
Stanford-Fullerton Notes :
* Freshman southpaw Mark Romanczuk (12-0, 3.39) will get the call against the Titans. Romanczuk pitched a terrific ballgame last Saturday against Long Beach yielding two runs on ten hits (and no walks) in 8 1/3 innings. He has pitched against Fullerton this year, when he fired 2 1/3 scoreless innings of relief work back in February. Of course, he was coming into a game that had been decided. It's obviously a much bigger stage in Omaha and a determining factor in this game could whether Romanczuk is able to control his nerves and pitch to his ability.
* According to Head Coach George Horton, the Titans will likely send out redshirt freshman Dustin Miller (9-2, 3.03) to the mound. Miller has been dominating of late, allowing just one run on three hits in 7 2/3 innings in game three of the Super Regionals last weekend against ASU. Miller allowed one run on four hits in six innings against Stanford in his collegiate debut back in February. But like Romanczuk, Miller will be appearing in his first game at Rosenblatt Stadium, so we'll see if nerves play a part in his performance.
* As if Chad Cordero hasn't been good enough in his career, check out what's he done in the last half of this season. Starting with his relief appearance on March 19th at Loyola Marymount, Cordero has allowed just one run in 33 1/3 innings. In that span of games (24 appearances), he's walked only three and struck out 43. Bottom line, if Stanford is trailing after seven innings, they're in deep trouble.
* Dustin Miller and Mark Romanczuk were both on Collegiate Baseball's Freshman All-America list. Romanczuk was named one of four Freshman National Players of the Year.
* Shane Costa, Cal State Fullerton's top hitter, is the Big West Player of the Year this season. He was drafted in the second round by Kansas City, and is a second team All-American. Costa bats third and starts in right field.
* With Fullerton likely starting a right handed pitcher, Stanford will counter with their right handed batting lineup. That means Jonny Ash moves up to the #2 spot, Danny Putnam will hit fifth, Chris Carter sixth, and Brian Hall eighth. This probably benefits the Cardinal as Ash has been swinging the bat better than Hall and you need hot bats at the top of the order this time of the year.
* The majority of Stanford's hitters have been red-hot in postseason play this season. Ryan Garko leads the way with a .500 batting average (11-for-22). Going down the list, Carlos Quentin is hitting .478, Ash .423, Donny Lucy .417, Putnam .375, Carter .364, Sam Fuld .360, and Jed Lowrie .304. Only Tobin Swope (.192) and Brian Hall (.167) are hitting below .300 in postseason play. As a team, Stanford is hitting .350 while averaging 9.7 runs per game in six postseason contests.
* Both Ryan Garko and Danny Putnam have hit three homers and driven in 13 runs in the postseason this year (six total games).
* Cal State Fullerton will be the home team in this game.
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