After South Carolina fought from the loser’s bracket once again to win three games in 36 hours, they joined Arizona as the other team to be in the final series of the College World Series. This is South Carolina’s third straight appearance in the final series. Arizona hasn’t even been in the College World Series since 2004. And yet, these teams are very evenly matched and the series could go either way.

Pitching will be easier for Arizona to handle than it will be for South Carolina which is a downside of coming out of the loser’s bracket. Pitching Roth and Montgomery on Thursday and then having to pitch Holmes on Friday means that Ray Tanner, head coach of the Gamecocks, will have to start a pitcher that isn’t one of his top three. Roth is expected to pitch the second game and Montgomery the third, if necessary.

Arizona has more flexibility when it comes to pitching because they have had plenty of rest. Heyer did  pitch against Florida State on Thursday, but could easily pitch on Sunday and if not, could pitch game 2 against Roth which would be a great duel. Being rested will be a huge advantage for Arizona compared to South Carolina.

This series is going to be a great series and I think it will come down to whichever team has the better offense. Judging by how the season has gone so far, Arizona would win out over South Carolina in a offensive battle, but anything can happen and South Carolina is known for making outstanding comebacks and being able to always find ways to win games.

This series will go three games and I’m going to predict that Arizona wins despite personally being a fan of the Gamecocks.

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After Kent State was eliminated earlier today, only four teams remained. South Carolina, the defending champions, hoping to win another College World Series. Arkansas, the team that ended the streak, looking to shock some people. Arizona, the offensive power house, looking to continue their dominance. Finally, Florida State, the team with plenty of up and downs this season, is trying to keep their team playing the best baseball to give them a chance to go to the final series.

Arkansas and Arizona could both finalize the final series tonight/today if they both win. Right now Arizona is playing Florida State. If Arizona wins, they are headed to the final series. Later today, Arkansas will play South Carolina and if they win, they are also headed to the final series. If Florida State or South Carolina win, they will face off against the same team again in order to go to the final series.

Let’s take a look at all four teams and how each one of them can win the College World Series.

Arizona: They have a great offense and when their pitching is doing well, they are almost unstoppable. That’s how they’ve won both of the games they’ve played so far in this College World Series. With Heyer on the mound again today, I think they have a good chance at beating Florida State. If their pitching can be consistent and their hitting does as well as it’s done all season, they have a really good chance to win this College World Series.

Arkansas: Right now they’re playing good baseball, but there’s a reason that none of the experts picked them to win the College World Series. If their best pitcher is on the mound, they have a good chance to win, but otherwise it’s a little shaky. They have a lot of swagger and believe that they can win. Facing a team that they really want to beat, South Carolina, is a large reason why they can head to the final series if they really want to. The offense hasn’t been great, but if they can score a couple runs and their pitching takes care of the rest, they can win games. Beating the defending champs will be tougher than it seems though.

Florida State: Right now Florida State is hitting the ball well. That’s what has kept them alive in this College World Series. If they can’t hit the ball, they aren’t going to win and they’ve showed throughout the regular season that sometimes they just can’t hit the ball. If they somehow get into a lull and don’t score some runs of Heyer today, they might be leaving the College World Series today. They can beat Heyer and can beat Arizona again after that if their offense delivers and scores a lot of runs. The chances of that happening might be slim, but they can still do it. Freshman pitchers have to step up and help the team win games.

South Carolina: There was a team two years ago that came out of the loser’s bracket to win the College World Series. They did it with a pitcher named Roth and a lot of heart. That team was the South Carolina Gamecocks and they’re ready to do it again. After pitching one of the best games this College World Series, the Gamecocks advanced to face Arkansas again. The thing that the Gamecocks have to do against Arkansas is hit the ball. This is a team that always finds a win to win when they have to and with Grayson Greiner back behind the plate, I think they can do that. Fighting their way through is the only way for them to win this College World Series. Beating Arkansas twice will be a tough task, though.

R.A. Dickey has been doing some great things for the New York Mets this year. As a knuckleballer, he is on the top of his game and is fooling hitters so well that he leads the Major Leagues in Wins, ERA, Ks, and WHIP. I would venture to say that he’s the best pitcher in Major League Baseball right now.

In his last 6 starts he is 6-0 with a .018 ERA. He’s allowed just 2 runs and 21 hits in 48 2/3 innings pitched and has 63 Ks/5 BBs in that time frame. He’s been absolutely lights out recently. His last two starts have both been one-hitters.

But what is the reason behind the great pitching this season and especially in the past few weeks? The answer is that he has a wicked knuckleball. The knuckleball is such a unique pitch, because it can move in almost any direction and it moves at the last second. This makes hitters guess and recently they’ve all been guessing wrong.

Dickey’s knuckleball is slightly unique in that it is almost a slider and a knuckleball combined. It also goes over 80 MPH more recently than it was earlier in the season causing it to be an even more unreadable pitch. Hitters are struggling with this pitch right now, but it isn’t all that Dickey has in his arsenal. The trick of a knuckleball is that you always have the hitter on their toes and a simple fastball could have them fooled because of the fear of the knuckleball.

If Dickey can keep his knuckleball unreadable and over 80 MPH, he can continue to be the best pitcher in Major League Baseball. At least until Verlander gets his act together.

South Carolina has been one of the best College Baseball teams in the past couple years. They’ve won 2 College World Series in a row and are trying to get the three-peat this year. Up until last night they had won 22 NCAA tournament games in a row. That’s something that was never done before and will probably never be done again. That means for the past two years they hadn’t lost a regional or super regional game and swept in the College World Series until last night. No team will have the heart of South Carolina or the talent they had during that streak ever again.

Winning that many important games in a row isn’t just about how much talent is on the team or having the best prospects. It’s not about having the best pitchers and the best offense there is. A lot of it is the passion and desire to win baseball games. Before South Carolina was great like they are now, they were Cinderellas and had to fight to win the College World Series. The heart is the one thing that’s always been there for the Gamecocks and something that will hopefully never leave.

Watching a team like South Carolina play makes you realize why you love the game of baseball. Even when losing last night, the Gamecocks sprinted to first on a routine grounder faster than I’ve ever seen most of those players run. They have a lot of want in them. Because any team can win any game and the heart and desire to win has more to do with winning a baseball game than it does winning any other sports game. It’s something that’s not found often, but when it is found it is often associated with greatness. The Gamecocks that started and ended that streak were and are certainly great.

South Carolina is not out of the College World Series yet and you can bet that they’ll be fighting to get back and go to that championship series. They’ll have to beat Arkansas twice to do that, but I don’t think they’ll have a problem doing that since that’s probably the one team that they want to face so that they can set the record straight.

The three-peat is still possible. It’s all about want.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Stony Brook Seawolves were writing a fairy-tale and hoped that it would end with “living happily ever after”. This was not true for the Seawolves this year, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t do something incredible. Stony Brook battled and fought hard to get to Omaha. Their success is not based on what they did in Omaha.

Let’s look at the things they have accomplished. Not many thought at the beginning of the season that they would even make the NCAA Tournament and they did that. They won their regional despite being a 4 seed. They won their super regional against a good team.

I think the biggest problem for Stony Brook is that they had to overcome so much just to get to Omaha. Once they got there, it was just too much to handle. The teams were the best in the country and they couldn’t match up. They’re a good team, but the pressure, excitement, anticipation, and being tired from working so hard to get there added up and was too much to handle against such good teams.

Despite not playing well in Omaha, that’s not what they should or will be remembered for. Nobody is going to look back at the 2012 Stony Brook Seawolves and immediately say that they got lucky and did terrible in Omaha. Plenty of teams lose the first two games (Florida, the number one) so it’s no uncommon. What people will remember is how hard this team fought to get there and the way they played before the College World Series.

This year’s College World Series is bound to be one of the best in the past few years. All of these teams are good and playing a good brand of baseball otherwise they wouldn’t be here. There’s the Cinderella stories, the postseason winning streak, the favorites, the offensive powerhouse, and everything in between in this College World Series. I think this year is going to be one of the best because any one of these teams has a great shot at winning it all. I’ll take a look at each team.

The first team is the Arizona Wildcats. Right now they’re playing great baseball. They have a high power offense that can keep outhit probably every team in Omaha. That’s probably the biggest thing they have going for them. The only problem is if the Arizona pitchers don’t pitch well and the offense goes into a lull in Omaha. Just like every other team here, that can lose just as easily as they can lose. I like their chances because they can hit so well and score so many runs, but if they go up against a good pitcher and their pitcher doesn’t keep up with the other pitcher. They’re facing Florida State first which will be a good offensive game. The fate of the Arizona Wildcats depends on whether their offense will show up or whether they will get into a lull and cause the Wildcats to be eliminated.

The UCLA Bruins are a very good team and they’re playing a good brand of baseball right now. They have a really good pitching staff that has helped them throughout the regular season and in the postseason. I think the biggest reason why they are in Omaha is because their offense has stepped it up to back up the the great pitching staff during the postseason. If the offense can continue to have that type of production, the Bruins have a good shot at winning the championship. Their pitching is so good that if it has that awesome offense to back it up, they can beat any team here.

Florida is the favorite going into this College World Series and there’s a good reason for it. The Gators have one of the best pitching staffs that there is and have an amazing offense that scores a ton of runs. Turgeon, Pigott, and Zunino are all hitting over .300 and are the leaders of the Gators offensive attack. Pitchers Brian Johnson and Jonathon Crawford are two of the best pitchers in this College World Series and they’re both on the same team. With those two pitchers plus the rest of their staff that is world class in addition to the Gators’ powerful offense is why the Gators are the favorites to win the College World Series. They have the pitching and offense to beat any team out there. If the offense is in a lull, the pitching can bail them out and visa-versa. That’s what makes them so great, but they aren’t unbeatable. Despite being so good, I don’t think they’ll win this championship.

Florida State is a good baseball team that’s playing really well right now. (Otherwise they wouldn’t be in the College World Series) Their offense has played really well right now and were very impressive against Stanford who has some of the best pitchers out there. The problem is that their offense has gone through long lulls during the regular season. Whether the Seminoles can win or lose depends on their offense and how they play in Omaha. If the Seminoles of late show up, they can beat a lot of teams. They have some good pitchers, but two of their best pitchers are true freshman. That’s a good thing for the team going into the future, but it could mean that those pitchers will make some mistakes that will lead to bad things for Florida State. This is a good team, but ultimately I don’t think they win the College World Series.

Stony Brook is probably the best story of this College World Series. (Not meaning to take away from Kent State) They are only the second #4 seed in the NCAA Tournament to make it to the College World Series. The other was Fresno State in 2008 and they ended up winning. The Sea Wolves have been really good lately and are very determined to “Shock the World”. They have good offense and good pitching, but I think the biggest reason why they are winning games right now is that they know how to execute. They have a goal in mind (winning the College World Series) and they will do anything to win every game they play. There’s heart on all the other teams in Omaha, but none like this team. That is their greatest advantage.

South Carolina is the two-time defending champions and it shows in the way they carry themselves. The Gamecocks are, well, cocky. They have the confidence it takes to win the College World Series because they’ve been there before. My favorite quote is from Michael Roth saying, “When we got here the first time, we were told it would be a once in a lifetime chance. Ever since that moment, I’ve been trying to change that.” Roth will pitch his heart out because this will be his last year as a Gamecock. Price is a good closer that won the College World Series last year and has done really well this season. Walker is the best hitter in the lineup, but everyone else is capable of getting clutch hits to win games.

Kent State is another great story in this College World Series. They did, after all, win a 21-inning game during the Gary Regional over a good Kentucky team. They can put up runs and pitch well, but they aren’t spectacular in either category. The thing that goes well for them is that, like Stony Brook, they have the heart and desire to prove people wrong and win the College World Series. They have some players that are really good at the plate that can deliver clutch hits to help win the game. I’m not a Kent State believer, but they can prove some people wrong, no doubt. I don’t think that they’ll be able to match up with all of these teams and that’s why I don’t think they’ll win the College World Series. It would be a great story if they proved me wrong, though.

Arkansas is a good baseball team and they’re playing pretty good right now. Their offense hasn’t been spectacular and yet the Razorbacks are still winning a lot of games. If they can get their offense to get hot, they can win a lot of games. They have excellent pitching that is easily good enough to carry them through the College World Series if they get a little offensive help. The Razorbacks aren’t anywhere close to being favorites, and they aren’t Cinderellas. They are right in between those two. I think they can surprise some people because nobody expects them, but I don’t think they’ll win it all.

This year is going to be a great College World Series, so don’t miss it. The games start on Friday and continue until Monday or Tuesday the 25th and 26th. Don’t miss any of the action as all of the games are on ESPN or ESPN2.

The St. Louis Cardinals have won 2 World Series trophies in the last six years. Both of those years the Cardinals have not been even close to being the expected winners, and they had to work hard to make the playoffs and to get to the World Series. Above all of that, in both World Series they won recently, they had to work really hard and give the games everything they had to win that World Series. But after both of those World Series Champion seasons, they have been disappointing in the season after.

In the year after both of the Championships, the Cardinals didn’t even make the playoffs. Also in both of those years (2007 and 2012) the Cardinals were either below .500 (78-84 in 2007) or close to being below (32-31 this year) .500. Not exactly impressive for the defending World Series Champions. But what is the explanation for the Cardinals’ failures the year after winning the World Series?

In both years, the lineup didn’t change that much that would affect the way that the team played. Yes, before this season the Cardinals lost one of the best hitters in Major League Baseball in Albert Pujols. They also gained Carlos Beltran who is doing great on the Cardinals. Yes, in 2007 compared to 2006 the Cardinals’ pitching staff wasn’t as good, but in 2012 compared to 2011 you could argue that the rotation and staff is actually better. So, losing good players isn’t really the problem.

So let’s take a look at those stats that determine if the team has had good or bad luck. First, look at pitching. In 2012 and 2007, the team BABIP has been higher than in 2011 and 2006. This means that the pitchers are only a tiny bit unluckier than the pitchers in the championship years. But even though the BABIP was higher, it was only higher by a tiny amount and in all four years their BABIP has been right around league average.

Hitting, on the other hand, is a different story. In 2012 and 2007 the team BABIP was higher than in 2011 and 2006 which means the hitters are actually getting luckier on their balls put in play.

The funny thing about these stats is that the Cardinals are probably better at pitching this year than they are at hitting. Lynn and Lohse are a lot better than most people expected. Wainwright is back and he may not be as good as before yet, but he’s still ace type material. This pitching staff is actually really good.

So none of this has answered the question of why the Cardinals become worse after they win something. So, let me shed some personal opinion on the topic. I think it’s because the Cardinals teams that have won the World Series aren’t that good. I’m not saying they were bad teams, but the thing that got them to and through the playoffs is that they are a team that just works hard and wins the games when they matter.

Getting hot at the right time is really important to success in Major League Baseball. The Cardinals were the masters of that in 2006 and 2011.

The Cardinals also worked really hard to win the World Series Championships that they won. I’m not saying that the other teams that win don’t work hard, but I think the Cardinals have to work harder because when they win the odds are always against them. And after working hard like that, maybe it’s hard for them to put that much effort into the regular season. The guys are tired and worn out and they might feel like they’ve done “enough” by winning the World Series.

I don’t know if this is the real reason, but maybe it is. We’ll continue to watch the Cardinals play and see if they can improve and make the playoffs unlike in 2007.