Tuesday, May 29, 2007

NCAA Baseball Preview: Kent State

Here's a link to Kent State's baseball page. In looking at their schedule/results, this is a pretty capable team. They are only 33-24 overall, but a) they're battle-tested, having played 10 non-conference games against tourney teams (0-3 against Wake Forest, 2-1 Florida!, 1-0 versus regional-mate Louisville, 0-3 versus Southern Miss), and b) they've won 16 of 17 overall.

The Flashes are very much led by their pitching, with three decent starting pitchers--junior Evan Smith (4-4, 3.18 ERA...Friday night's likely starter), freshman Kyle Smith (4-2, 3.84) and senior John Pacella (2-4, 4.21)--and a strong closer in senior Ryan Davis (6-3, 1.78 ERA, 8 Saves). They have a staff ERA of only 3.47. In fact, only 4 of their 13 pitchers have an ERA over 4.00. Very impressive. In their 10 games against NCAA tourney teams, they were outscored 51-39, which for college baseball is pretty damn low-scoring.

Mizzou will face an offense that gets on base a lot (team OBP: .357) and hits mostly singles (team SLG: .404). They have two power hitters in freshman LF Anthony Gallas (.322 BA, .424 OBP, 10 HR, 43 RBI) and sophomore DH Greg Rohan (.274 BA, .337 OBP, 11 HR, 42 RBI), and otherwise I guess they just try to single you to death. They averaged less than 1 steal attempt per game, so they don't really play small ball...I guess they just try to get somebody on base for Gallas and Rohan and hope that they win with a 3-run HR.

The most impressive item on the Kent State resume this year has to be their series win against Florida in late-February. After getting swept by a decent Wake Forest team the weekend before (by scores of 8-4, 8-6, and 8-7), the Flashes headed to Gainesville and took the Friday night game, 10-4, led by a 5 IP/0 ER performance by John Pacella and 2 RBI's each from Greg Rohan, 3B Andrew Davis (their other strong hitter, with a season BA of .336 and 7 HR's), and 1B Brad Winter. The teams combined for 9 errors. Saturday, the Gators struck back, nailing KSU starter Dominique Rodgers for 5 runs in 2 innings and coasting to a 7-0 win. Sunday, however, saw Kyle Smith start his first collegiate game and dominate the Gators with 5 scoreless innings. The Golden Flashes got a 6th inning HR from Andrew Davis, Ryan Davis got a 2-inning save and Kent State got a 1-0 win.

I assume Tim Jamieson will go with Aaron Crow on Friday night instead of trying to save him for Miami/Louisville on Saturday or something. I'd prefer it...no need to tempt fate. This is a competitive team, and it is absolutely essential that Mizzou come away with a victory. I think they used a lot of karma by losing the first game in the Malibu Regional last year before ripping off four straight victories...would behoove them not to have to do that again...