ASU Faces Clemson/Alabama Winner At CWS
Arizona State won its second straight 12-inning game over Arkansas to advance to the program’s 22nd College World Series. The Sun Devils won Sunday’s game 7-5 thanks to Drew Maggi’s two run home run in the top of the 12th inning. Arkansas had earlier forced extra innings after Brett Eibner hit a two strike, two out home run in the bottom
of the 9th.
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Arizona St. Super Regional Media Guide
Best two of three series (all times Eastern)
* ASU wins series (2-0)
This Super Regional pits two teams that both advanced to last year’s College World Series. They also played against each other in Fayetteville during the 2009 regular season with Arkansas ranked #1 in one national poll and Arizona State ranked #1 in another poll.
Arizona State: (#1 National Seed) The Sun Devils are the overall #1 national seed in this year’s tournament. Tim Esmay is in his first year as the Sun Devil’s head coach, but he is no stranger to Omaha. He played in the CWS twice at ASU and he was an assistant coach on four of Pat Murphy’s Omaha teams.
Esmay is 50-8 in his first season at the helm, and what’s probably the most impressive is the fact that he’s done it without two pitchers who led last year’s Pac 10 champs to Omaha. Josh Spence (10-1, 2.37 ERA last yr.) returned to ASU after being drafted, but he’s missed the entire season due to injury, while Mike Leake (16-1, 1.71 ERA in ’09) is 5-0 with a 2.22 ERA in 11 starts this year for the Cincinnati Reds. Starters Merrill Kelly, Jake Borup and Seth Blair have combined to go 33-3 this season, while Jordan Swaggerty (2.05 ERA, 14 SVs) slams the door at the end. The 3.10 team ERA ranks third nationally.
Arizona State’s line-up is filled with tough outs. Seven different players who have started at least 33 games are batting .325 or better this year, and three different players lead the team in the triple crown categories. Riccio Torrez is batting .404, Zack McPhee leads the team with 63 RBIs and Kole Calhoun has a team best 16 HR. McPhee also leads the nation with 14 triples. The athletic Sun Devils have also stolen 130 bases this season and the team’s .975 fielding % is 11th.
Arkansas: Dave Van Horn’s Razorbacks limped toward this year’s NCAA Tournament by winning just two of its last five SEC series and then going 0-2 at the conference tournament. The late season slump cost the Hogs any shot they had at being a national seed. However, like last year, Arkansas was 3-0 in Regional play. Only this year they got to host rather than go on the road.
Third baseman Zack Cox (.427, 9 HR, 48 RBIs) is considered one of the best pure hitters in the nation. Brett Eibner (.337, 21 HR, 69 RBIs) is the team’s top run producers. He made 11 starts on the mound this season, but his only outing at last week’s Regional was one inning in relief.
Sophomore Drew Smyly (9-1, 2.56) has both of the pitching staff’s complete games this season. T.J. Forrest (8-0, 3.10 ERA) started two Regional games, and picked-up his 8th win in the title game vs. Washington State.
Tempe Super Regional
|Arizona St.||50-8||Pac 10||.341||8.6||63||.541||.437||130-171||.975||3.10||0||23||511||154||.238|
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The Sun Devils Win If?
The Sun Devils will need to ignore their past transgressions as this is the best program in the country (kind of like Vanderbilt in the SEC) that has not won a national title recently.
If the Devils continue to play as they have all season, under the calm collective influence of Esmay and staff, they have more than a snowballs chance.
Lurking in the shadows of the Sun Devil mindset, however, is the fact that Washington State gave the Sun Devils their only series loss of the season, and Arkansas just defeated the Cougars last weekend from the field of 64.
Other common opponents between the two include California, which the Devils swept, while the Hogs took two-of-three in Berkeley in the early spring.
Arizona State is loaded with talent and depth, and I would really be surprised if they botch this series, but it has happened to the Sun Devils before, losing to Oregon State in Omaha in both 2006 & 2007, and losing in a home super-regional match-up with the Wonderdogs of Fresno State in 2008.
Like Casey said, “the best teams don’t always win the title.”
Should be an entertaining series with both teams having a host of players drafted in the 2010 MLB Draft.
The Razorbacks Win If?
Zach Cox will play a pivotal role in this series, but he limped off the field on the final day of the Fayetteville Regional and his health is in doubt for the game on Saturday.
Drew Smyly will have to perform his magic in Game #1, as this is a must win for the Hogs, and they must get into the bullpen and the psyche of the Sun Devils.
This has been a hard thing to do as the Sun Devil Regional was the 10th weekend sweep for the Sun Devils this year, 11 if you count the Coca-Cola Classic.
ASU is number one for a reason.
Arkansas will need to score runs in bunches to win this series as they don’t have the pitching to match up with one of the deepest bullpens in the country.
Smyly, however, does have the stuff needed to get the Hogs off to a fast start.
The question becomes, should the Hogs hold Smyly back from Game #1 and try to work backwards in their pitching match-ups, or should they come right out and attack ASU head-to-head?
This would be a gutsy move by Arkansas skipper Dave Van Horn, who is no stranger to the College World Series, being one of a small number of coaches that have taken two schools (Nebraska & Arkansas) to the greatest show on dirt.