It was a busy Thursday out at Sunken Diamond with all four teams participating in practices and press conferences. Most noteworthy, each head coach officially announced their starting pitcher's for their respective opening round games.
Mark Marquess has decided to go with sophomore right hander Jeff Gilmore (9-2, 4.56) on Friday versus the UNLV Rebels. This is obviously a change from the norm as lefty Mark Romanczuk (11-2, 4.03) has been the #1 guy all year. But the move definitely makes a lot of sense for a number of reasons:
- UNLV has a right-handed dominant starting lineup. Eight of their nine expected starters bat right-handed including sluggers Eric Nielsen (.410-16-86), Brent Johnson (.367-6-72), and Ryan Ruiz (.392-6-49). You would expect Gilmore to have more success, more often than not, against a team like UNLV.
- Looking ahead to a possible matchup with Long Beach State on Saturday, the Dirtbags have much more difficulty against left-handed pitching. Three of their big hitters in John Bowker (.328-6-35), Jason Vargas (.368-5-32), and Mike Hofius (.295-4-45) all bat from the left side. And as a team, Long Beach State is just 6-8 when facing a left-handed starting pitcher. That's compared to a 30-11 mark against a righty.
- Saturday's potential game with the Dirtbags also figures to be a low-scoring affair, so saving your ace for a game like that makes sense.
* Long Beach State has yet to announce a starting pitcher for their first round game against St. John's, but head coach Mike Weathers made it very clear this morning that All-American Jered Weaver would be held out of that opening contest. That means that if Stanford and Long Beach both win on Friday, the Cardinal can expect to face the likely Golden Spikes winner on Saturday with a berth in the Regional Championship Game on the line. Weaver is 14-1 with a 1.68 ERA on the year.
* The short-term question for the Dirtbags is who starts on the hill tomorrow. Weathers mentioned it would either be lefty #2 man Cesar Ramos (10-4, 2.10) or lefty #3 man Jason Vargas (7-6, 4.25). It would be an extreme roll of the dice to go with Vargas, but if that move works, Long Beach would be in a great position the rest of the weekend with their fearsome 1-2 starting punch ready to go starting on Saturday afternoon.
* To no surprise, UNLV announced that they will be going with senior left-handed pitcher Jake Vose. Vose is 10-3 with a 4.95 ERA on the season - the best numbers of any hurler on the Rebels staff. He's an All-Conference pitcher, but was roughed up to the tune of 13 hits and nine runs in 6 1/3 innings in his start last weekend in the Mountain West Tournament.
* It will be interesting to see how Stanford counters with their starting lineup on Friday night. Chris Carter doesn't always start at DH against lefties, but plugging back-up catcher John Hester in his place is very risky. The reason being that Stanford only carries two catchers on their 25-man roster, so if starting catcher Donny Lucy had to leave the game, Hester would need to catch and the Cardinal would lose their DH spot in the lineup (meaning the pitcher would have to hit).
* Finally, St. John's announced they would be going with their ace pitcher, senior right hander Anthony Varvaro (8-3, 3.80) on Friday afternoon. Varvaro tossed eight quality innings yielding only one run on three hits with 10 K's in his last start (last weekend in the Big East Tournament versus Pitt). With a potential matchup with Jered Weaver on Saturday, Cardinal fans will certainly be rooting like crazy for Varvaro the Red Storm to pull off the upset tomorrow afternoon.
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