Sunday, June 3, 2007

Sunday NCAA Thoughts...

Man, what a big win yesterday. Nothing like 3,630 people crammed into a stadium designed for about 2/3 that. I now know what it's like to watch an entire game while basically leaning against the left field fence. It took the crowd a while to get into the game (which makes sense because it took Mizzou a while to get into the game), especially out in the LF corner, but from the 6th inning on, everybody was engaged and excited.

And speaking of the 6th was, by my count, 56 minutes long. Three pitching changes and the fact that Louisville pitchers all seem to take about 45 seconds between pitches brought about a pretty big drag in the middle of quite a bit of excitement...but anyway...

After giving up three runs in the 2nd and 3rd, Rick Zagone was settling down nicely. He picked off Pete Rodriguez in the 4th and national steals leader Boomer Whiting in the 5th, and he was helping Mizzou regenerate some momentum after they blew a bases-loaded-one-out opportunity in the 4th. Finally, down 3-0 in the 6th, the Mizzou offense took over. They'd gotten quite a few good swings off of Louisville starter Justin Marks, and they finally stopped hitting it right at the defense. Ryan Lollis doubled, then Jacob Priday and Trevor Coleman hit back-to-back bombs, and the game was tied. Two walks, a hit batsman, two pitching changes, and about 30 minutes later, the Tigers had the bases loaded with no outs. They did manage an RBI fielder's choice from Gary Arndt, but that was it. They managed to turn a 4-run inning into a slight disappointment, and Louisville immediately tied the game off of a now-cold Zagone in the bottom of the 6th.

Man, what a luxury it's been having a guy like freshman Kyle Gibson available in relief this year. In 27 appearances (all but two of them from the bullpen), he's averaged 2.5 innings, and that's basically what he gave last night. He's got 75 K's (and only 18 BB's) in 65 innings, and he was tough as nails last night. He came in for Zagone with no out and two on in the 6th (with the score tied at 4-4), and closed the door with 2 K's and a groundout.

After Louisville rarely swung and missed with Zagone on the mound (2 K's in 5 IP), Gibson blew pitches by the Cardinals. In the biggest game of his short collegiate career, Gibson threw 3.1 innings, struck out 5, allowed only 4 baserunners, and most importantly, got the win. He's been thrown into numerous tough situations as a freshman, and he's emerged with 8 wins and 7 saves. Clutch. He did run into a bit of trouble in the 9th, but Scooter Hicks (1.44 ERA, 6 saves) bailed him out, and the Tigers moved on with the win.

Last night's win was huge because now Missouri has to win only one more game to make the Super Regional. With the loss, Louisville now has to win three in a row--one against Miami early this afternoon, then two against Missouri.

Really, things couldn't have shaped up any better so far for Mizzou. They did have to use three pitchers yesterday, but through two games, here is the pitcher usage for the remaining regional teams...

Aaron Crow - 9.0 IP, 2 R
Rick Zagone - 5.0 IP, 4 R
Kyle Gibson - 3.1 IP, 1 R
Scooter Hicks - 0.2 IP, 0 R

Justin Marks - 5.0 IP, 3 R
Kyle Hollander - 4.0 IP, 0 R
Skylar Meade - 3.0 IP, 1 R
Gavin Logsdon - 3.0 IP (2 games), 0 R
Zack Pitts - 1.2 IP, 7 R
Trystan Magnuson - 1.0 IP, 0 R
Chris Dominquez - 0.1 IP, 2 R
Colby Wark - 0.0 IP (3 batters faced), 1 R

Enrique Garcia - 7.1 IP, 6 R
Scott Maine - 4.0 IP, 7 R
David Gutierrez - 2.1 IP, 1 R
Danny Gil - 1.2 IP, 0 R
Alex Koronis - 1.0 IP (2 games), 2 R
Michael Rudman - 1.0 IP, 2 R
Kyle Bellamy - 0.1 IP, 2 R
Teddy Kaufman - 0.1 IP, 0 R

Whoever plays Mizzou at 6:30 tonight will do so having used also their #3 starters and probably at least another reliever or two. As I mentioned yesterday, the only way Mizzou was able to come back and win the Malibu Regional last year was by getting a complete game in Sunday's Game 1 (and then another one in Sunday's Game 2). Both pitching staffs are a mess right now, and hopefully a) today's 12:15 game will be a shootout that requires a bunch of pitchers, and b) Mizzou can jump on whatever semblance of a makeshift staff Miami/Louisville is able to put together.

Personally, I'm rooting for Louisville in this game, simply because of the familiarity involved and the fact that Miami has a more explosive offense. If the 6:30 game turns into a shootout, Miami's got a little more potential for holding on and winning a 13-12 game or something.

So what's happening in the other regionals? I'm listing these in the order they're found on the official bracket...

2-0: #2 Michigan
1-1: #1 Vanderbilt, #4 Austin Peay

2-0: #1 Virginia
1-1: #2 Rutgers, #3 Oregon State


Long Beach
2-0: #2 UCLA
1-1: #1 Long Beach State, #4 UI-Chicago

San Diego
2-0: #2 CS-Fullerton
1-1: #3 Minnesota, #4 Fresno State (#1 San Diego was eliminated!)


2-0: #1 Arizona State
1-1: #2 UC-Riverside, #3 Nebraska

2-0: #1 Ole Miss
1-1: #2 Southern Miss, #4 Sam Houston (my OU buddy is pretty ticked off that Troy got in over OU and laid a giant egg in the regionals)


2-0: #2 Arizona
1-1: #1 Wichita State, #4 New Orleans (who barely lost to Arizona, 9-8, last night)

Round Rock
2-0: #2 UC-Irvine
1-1: #1 Texas, #3 Wake Forest


2-0: #1 Rice
1-1: #2 TCU, #3 Baylor

College Station
2-0: #2 UL-Lafayette
1-1: #1 Texas A&M, #3 Ohio State


Columbia, MO
2-0: #1 Missouri
1-1: #2 Miami-FL, #3 Louisville

2-0: #3 Oklahoma State (back to being on fire, man they've been schizo lately)
1-1: #1 Arkansas, #2 Creighton (beat Albany yesterday, 21-11!)


2-0: #2 Mississippi State
1-1: #1 Florida State, #3 Stetson

Myrtle Beach
(games postponed due to rain yesterday)
1-0: #1 Coastal Carolina, #2 Clemson
0-1: #3 St. John's, #4 VCU


Columbia, SC
(games postponed due to rain yesterday)
1-0: #1 South Carolina, #3 Charlotte
0-1: #2 NC State, #4 Wofford

Chapel Hill
2-0: #1 North Carolina
1-1: #2 East Carolina, #3 Western Carolina

Only 6 of the 14 #1 seeds who have played two games remain undefeated, which shows that Mizzou is in pretty good company at the moment.

Go Tigers!