Breaking Down the CWS: Bracket One

Bracket one of the College World Series begins play on Saturday afternoon, with Cal State Fullerton facing Arkansas and Virginia going against LSU. Burnt Orange Beat baseball writer Jason Cole breaks down the field.

Cal State Fullerton Titans (47-14)


College World Series appearances: 15.

National Championships: 4.

Last College World Series appearance: 2007.

Conference record: 17-7 (2nd - Big West).

Record versus top-50 RPI opponents: 17-6.

Drafted Players

7. Josh Fellhauer, OF (Reds)
7. Khris Davis, OF (Brewers)
12. Jared Clark, 1B (Rockies)
19. Dustin Garneau, C (Rockies)
29. Michael Morrison, RHP (Tigers)
41. Kyle Witten, RHP (Mariners)
42. Joe Scott, 2B (Rockies)

How They Got Here

Five of the eight teams swept their way to the College World Series without a loss in the postseason. But nobody had more of a breeze than the Titans.

Fullerton disposed of its regional competition by a combined 41-9 score in three games. In their regional championship game, the club defeated Utah, 16-3.

They moved on to the Super Regional against Big East champion Louisville, and the Cards didn't provide much competition either. Fullerton swept the two games, outscoring Louisville by a 23-2 margin.

Pitching and Defense

Team ERA: 3.36 (4th in NCAA)
Team Fielding: .976 (T-9th)

The Titans are supposedly ‘saving' ace Daniel Renken for game two, but freshman Noe Ramirez is no slouch. The righty is 9-1 with a 2.86 ERA over 107.0 innings. He's allowed only 85 hits while walking 21 and striking out 96.

Renken, a sophomore right-hander, is 11-2 with a 2.36 earned-run average. He leads the staff in innings pitched [118], strikeouts [98] and opponents batting average [.202].

Freshman starter Tyler Pill is 11-3 with a 3.95 ERA as Fullerton's ‘Sunday' guy this season. Pill is the brother of former Titans first baseman Brett, who helped knock the Longhorns out of the 2004 CWS with a huge hit in game two.

Because Fullerton's starting pitching has been so solid all season [all three starters have pitched at least 98 innings on the year], they haven't really needed a long man. But the bullpen is fairly deep, with four reliable and experienced arms.

Kyle Mertins (1-0, 2.30), Nick Ramirez (3-1, 2.63), Michael Morrison (1-2, 3.10), and Ryan Ackland (2-1, 3.41) all won't pitch much more than an inning per appearance, but they have all been very effective this season.

Offense

Team Batting: .330 (T-22nd)
Team Scoring: 7.9 (T-47th)

Fullerton's lineup is impressive in nearly every way.

The club hits .330 as a team, and six starters bat at least .336. They've crushed 59 home runs, laid down 76 sacrifice bunts, and stolen 121 bases. The Titans offense practically does it all.

Outfielder Josh Fellhauer leads the team with a .399 batting average, and he's second on the club with 18 stolen bases.

Cleanup man Jared Clark hits .363 with 12 home runs, and he has drive in 81 runs on the season.

But the team's biggest power bat is right fielder Khris Davis, who was selected in the seventh round by the Milwaukee Brewers. Davis' .336 average ranks just sixth on the club, but he has 25 doubles and 16 home runs, leading to a team-best .664 slugging percentage. He's also swiped 16 bases in 18 tries this year.

In fact, Fullerton has six players with at least 11 stolen bases.

Outlook

Obviously, the College World Series is stacked with the nation's best collegiate baseball teams, and the 2009 CWS appears to be one of the most competitive and talented in recent memory. With that said, Cal State Fullerton may be the most balanced team in the field, and they could be the favorites heading into it. The offense rarely gets shut down because of its ability to score in a number of ways, they get consistent starting pitching, and the Titans' bullpen is relatively deep.

Arkansas Razorbacks (39-22)


College World Series appearances: 5.

National Championships: 0.

Last College World Series appearance: 2004.

Conference record: 14-15 (7th - SEC).

Record versus top-50 RPI opponents: 26-16.

Drafted Players

7. Dallas Keuchel, LHP (Astros)
8. Stephen Richards, LHP (Marlins)
15. Scott Lyons, SS (Royals)
17. Ben Tschepikow, 2B (Royals)
33. Michael Bolsinger, RHP (Athletics)
34. Ryan Cisterna, RHP (Angels)

How They Got Here

Arkansas is one of three teams in this year's College World Series to reach Omaha despite doing all of its postseason work on the road.

The Razorbacks went into the Norman Regional to face Washington State and top-eight seed Oklahoma. The club swept through the regional in dominant fashion, outscoring opponents by a combined 38-9 mark. After posting 17 runs on the Sooners in game two, Arkansas freshman Drew Smyly took a no-hitter into the ninth inning against OU in the next contest.

Arkansas' offense remained on fire when they traveled to Tallahassee, Florida, for their Super Regional. The team swept Florida State out of the postseason, defeating them 7-2 and 9-8, respectively.

Pitching and Defense

Team ERA: 4.56 (40th in NCAA)
Team Fielding: .969 (T-55th)

Southpaw ace Dallas Keuchel isn't overpowering, but his upper-80s sinker and plus changeup help him keep hitters off-balance. The Astros' seventh-round pick has gone 7-3 with a 4.04 earned-run average this season.

Second starter Brett Eibner, a sophomore from The Woodlands, is 5-4 with a 4.61 ERA. In 70.1 innings, he has allowed just 60 hits while walking 33 and striking out 66.

If the Razorbacks play a third game in Omaha, they will turn to either T.J. Forrest (2-6, 5.49 ERA in 15 G) or Drew Smyly (3-1, 4.72 ERA in 15 G).

The club has a fairly strong bullpen, starting with closer Stephen Richards. The lefty from Plano is 6-1 with nine saves and a 1.82 ERA. He's allowed just 24 hits in 34.2 innings, striking out 50.

Yet another Texan—right-hander Mike Bolsinger of McKinney—has been huge as a long-inning bridge man out of the bullpen. Bolsinger's job has been particularly important because Arkansas' starting pitchers haven't consistently worked deep into games this season. He has logged 60.1 innings over 20 appearances, going 6-4 with a 2.83 earned-run average.

Offense

Team Batting: .273 (T-263rd)
Team Scoring: 6.4 (T-180th)

Arkansas hits just .273 as a team and they average only 6.4 runs per game, but those numbers could be thrown out at this point. The Razorbacks showed during the Norman Regional that they have the ability to go off and score runs in bunches, to say the least.

Sophomore first baseman Andy Wilkins leads the offensive charge, as he is hitting .326 with 17 doubles and 18 home runs on the year.

Ben Tschepikow (.310), Chase Leavitt (.302) and Scott Lyons (.302)—likely the top three hitters in Arkansas' batting order—are the only other players batting above .300.

Third baseman Zack Cox has also provided power, hitting 14 doubles and 12 round-trippers in just 181 at-bats.

Outlook

Arkansas is perhaps the most up-and-down team in the country, and it's hard to tell what you're going to get from them week-to-week.

The Razorbacks opened the season on fire before dropping their last eight regular season SEC games. Then, of course, they went undefeated in the Regional and Super Regional rounds.

If the good Arkansas club shows up in Omaha this week, they could hang around for awhile. If not, they will be bracket one's ‘two-and-cue' club.

Either way, Arkansas probably doesn't have the pitching required to take home a championship.

LSU Tigers (51-16)


College World Series appearances: 14.

National Championships: 5.

Last College World Series appearance: 2008.

Conference record: 20-10 (T-1st - SEC).

Record versus top-50 RPI opponents: 26-8.

Drafted Players

1. Jared Mitchell, OF (White Sox)
2. D. J. LeMahieu, 2B (Cubs)
5. Louis Coleman, RHP (Royals)
5. Ryan Schimpf, 2B (Blue Jays)
10. Blake Dean, OF (Twins)
11. Sean Ochinko, C (Blue Jays)

How They Got Here

Without losing a game.

As a national seed, LSU played all of its Regional and Super Regional games at the sparkling new Alex Box Stadium. The Tigers got a challenge from Baylor in game two of the Baton Rouge Regional, but LSU prevailed, 3-2, in extra innings.

LSU advanced to Omaha after sweeping a pair of games from the Rice Owls, beating them 12-9 and 5-3. The victories were particularly impressive because Rice's top two pitchers—Ryan Berry and Mike Ojala—rank among the nation's best when healthy.

Pitching and Defense

Team ERA: 3.99 (9th in NCAA)
Team Fielding: .973 (T-19th)

LSU still gets a reputation as being a team that relies on its offense, and the long ball in particular. But those days are long gone with head coach Paul Maineri. The Tigers actually relied on their pitching more than anything else this season.

Hard-throwing sophomore ace Anthony Ranaudo stands 6-foot-7, and he should be one of the top picks in the MLB Draft next season. The New Jersey native has had command issues at times this season, but he is 10-3 with a 2.95 ERA, limiting hitters to a .198 average and striking out 147 batters in 109.2 frames.

Louis Coleman gives the Tigers a phenomenal one-two punch in the starting rotation. He has been even better than Ranaudo statistically, going 13-2 with a 2.76 earned-run average. Coleman has walked just 19 hitters [while fanning 124] in 114 innings.

The Bayou Bengals have a shutdown closer in Matty Ott. The freshman has racked up 16 saves while posting a 2.17 ERA in 34 appearances. He has pitched 45.2 innings, walking four batters and striking out 63.

But after Ott, LSU's bullpen is rather thin. Relievers Daniel Bradshaw (4-0, 3.38 ERA) and Paul Bertuccini (2-0, 3.52) have been successful, but coach Maineri will look for his starting pitchers to carry the bulk of the load in Omaha.

Offense

Team Batting: .315 (T-78th)
Team Scoring: 7.8 (T-53rd)

While LSU may not rely on their offense as much as they have in the past, the team still batted .315 as a team and crushed 94 home runs.

D.J. LeMahieu, a second round pick of the Chicago Cubs, led the team in hitting, at a .340 clip.

But the power comes from sluggers Ryan Schimpf (.335, 19 HR) and Blake Dean (.333, 15 HR).

Speedster Jared Mitchell—also a football player—was a first round pick of the White Sox, and for good reason. The outfielder batted .325 with nine home runs this season, but he also showed outstanding discipline by drawing 52 walks. Oh, and Mitchell swiped 35 bases in 44 attempts.

Outlook

LSU is a well-rounded club with experience and talent all around the diamond. They are facing an extremely difficult Virginia team in game one, and LSU likely can't afford to drop a game, particularly early in the week. The Tigers don't have a ton of pitching depth. If they start 2-0, with Ranaudo and Coleman, they will likely advance to the championship round. If they lose one of those two games, LSU will be forced to rely on its offense, which isn't always the best plan during the postseason.

Virginia Cavaliers (48-13-1)


College World Series appearances: 0.

National Championships: 0.

Last College World Series appearance: N/A.

Conference record: 16-11-1 (6th - ACC).

Record versus top-50 RPI opponents: 14-10-1.

Drafted Players

12. Andrew Carraway, RHP (Mariners) 20. Jeff Lorick, LHP (Braves)
29. Robert Poutier, RHP (Padres)
32. Matt Packer, LHP (Indians)
41. Tyler Cannon, SS (Pirates)

How They Got Here

The Cavaliers had perhaps the most difficult road of all the teams that advanced to the 2009 College World Series.

Virginia began its NCAA postseason by being sent to the toughest regional in the nation, which included UC Irvine, San Diego State, and Fresno State. The Cavaliers swept through the Irvine regional. Along the way, they became the first club to defeat Stephen Strasburg this season before beating Irvine twice on their home field. UVA surrendered a total of two runs in their three regional games.

UVA was sent to Oxford, Mississippi, to face the Ole Miss Rebels for the Super Regional. After dropping game one—4-3—Virginia got another pair of stellar pitching performances, and defeated Ole Miss 4-3 and 5-1, respectively, to advance to their first College World Series.

Pitching and Defense

Team ERA: 3.14 (3rd in NCAA)
Team Fielding: .972 (T-22nd)

No team in the College World Series has a hotter pitching staff than Virginia right now.

After surrendering two total runs during the Irvine regional, the Cavaliers went into the hitter-friendly Swazye Field against an excellent Ole Miss lineup and held the Rebels to eight runs in three games, taking two-of-three and advancing to Omaha.

Virginia's pitching staff is led by freshman left-hander Danny Hultzen, who is 9-1 with a 2.09 ERA on the season. In 86 innings, he's surrendered just 76 hits and struck out a team-high 95 batters.

The rest of the pitching staff is deep and fairly versatile. Veteran righty Andrew Carraway (8-1, 4.13 ERA) has been a starter most of the season, but he came out of the bullpen during the Super Regional, earning a victory while pitching 3.1 scoreless innings.

Carraway's game was started by sophomore righty Robert Morey. The Virginia Beach native is a perfect 3-0 with a 3.11 ERA in 63.2 innings this season. He's surrendered only 47 hits in 63.2 frames, fanning 83.

In fact, Virginia's staff as a whole strikes out more than one batter per inning pitched [567 K's in 554.0 IP].

The club can also turn to 6-foot-4 senior Robert Poutier [3-0, 2.21 ERA in 36.2 innings] if they need him to start a game.

In addition to the potential starting pitcher, Virginia brings three big-time arms out of the bullpen.

Tyler Wilson (9-3, 2.73 ERA) and Matt Packer (3-4, 3.95 ERA) often work long-relief roles, where they have been huge this season. Wilson and Packer have combined for well over 100 innings pitched this season, despite making just six starts between them.

Closer Kevin Arico has 11 saves and a 2.06 ERA on the season. He is used more like a traditional closer—pitching 35 innings in 29 games—and he is limiting opposing hitters to a .183 batting average while walking just six and fanning 45.

Offense

Team Batting: .327 (T-33rd)
Team Scoring: 7.9 (T-47th)

Virginia has one of the best offenses in Omaha from top-to-bottom.

They have a solid mixture of power and speed. While the team doesn't drop down a whole lot of bunts [28 sacrifices in 62 games], they do run a lot, with 116 steals in 140 attempts.

The lineup is led by left-handed hitting sophomore outfielder Jarrett Parker. Though he strikes out quite a bit, Parker is batting .364 with 19 doubles, seven triples, 16 home runs, and 65 runs batted in. He also has 19 stolen bases in 24 tries.

Though Parker is the team's best power hitter, he will most likely bat in the leadoff spot throughout the College World Series.

In addition to Parker, Dan Grovatt (14/16 SB), Tyler Cannon (17/19), Steven Proscia (12/14) and Phil Gosselin (24/27) are all threats on the basepaths.

Outlook

Virginia isn't one of the favorites heading into the College World Series, but if they continue playing at the level they have over the past three weeks, they have just as good a chance as anyone to take home the National Championship. Any team that features a solid lineup, clean defense, and an outstanding pitching staff has a chance to win. Not to mention the fact that no team has been more battle-tested over the postseason than the Cavaliers.


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