On paper, the three-game Super Regional series between the Louisville Cardinals and the Oklahoma State Cowboys appears to be a clash in baseball's most basic form: good hitting vs. good pitching. Realistically, however, this is simply a series between two teams that got hot at the right time and are banking on the perseverance of their hot streak now that the stakes have risen even higher.
I think that in all the excitement of the past week Cardinal fans have either overlooked, or failed to realize completely, just how much of a long shot this U of L team is. If the remaining 16 teams were placed in a "power poll," the Cards would surely rank no higher than 14th. In fact, because of the lack of historical postseason success of teams located on or above the Ohio River, the UL/OSU and Michigan/Oregon State series are going to be the ones college baseball fanatics are going to be paying the closest attention to this weekend. People want to see the either the Cards or the Wolverines advance to Omaha, and are already wondering aloud what might happen if one of the two were to actually win the whole thing.
The fact that the series is being played in the house of the Super Regional virgins is an extremely interesting variable here.
The 'Pokes have arrived (unhappily) in the Derby City with a chip on their shoulder, wondering why they were forced to leave Stillwater when they are the ones who just swept their region and defeated a higher seed than Louisville did, when they are the ones with the more established program and bigger stadium, and when they are the ones who bid the higher amount on the hosting privileges.
There is also a school of thought that believes McDonnell's boys are so unaccustomed to the attention they are now receiving, and are so used to playing in front of smaller crowds, that playing the series at Jim Patterson Stadium may actually make them come out a little tighter than they would be were they wearing their visiting greys. While I think there is certainly some merit in this theory (especially as far as game one is concerned), I think the fact that the hard-hitting OSU offense is being taken away from the hitter-friendly ballpark of which they are most accustomed makes all the downfalls of Louisville's hosting privileges worth while.
Anyhow, we're a mere handful of hours away from the start of one of the most exciting Louisville athletics events in quite some time. Here's the basic need-to-know info on this weekend's battle for Omaha:
Oklahoma State (41-19) at Louisville (44-21)
Jim Patterson Stadium; Louisville, KY
Friday, June 8: 2:00 p.m. (ESPN2)
Saturday, June 9: Noon (ESPNU)
Sunday, June 10 (if necessary): 4:00 p.m. (ESPN)
Oklahoma State beat Louisville 5-2 in the first game of a doubleheader in Stillwater, but the Cards captured the nightcap 10-2.
Frank Anderson (154-88, 4 seasons)
Dan McDonnell (44-21, 1 season)
How They Got Here
#3 Oklahoma State 6, #2 Creighton 4
#3 Oklahoma State 14, #1 Arkansas 3
#3 Oklahoma State 7, #1 Arkansas 6
#3 Louisville 13, # 2 Miami 7
#1 Missouri 7, #3 Louisville 5
#3 Louisville 8, #2 Miami 7
#3 Louisville 4, #1 Missouri 3
#3 Louisivlle 16, #1 Missouri 6
Probable Starting Lineups
- Keanon Simon (CF), .346
- Corey Brown (RF), 339
- Ty Wright (LF), .411
- Tyler Mach (2B), .401
- Matt Mangini (3B), .343
- Rebel Ridling (1B), .333
- Jordy Mercer (SS), 312
- Ryan Flavell (C), .250
- Steve Ptak (DH), .263
- Boomer Whiting (CF), .368
- Logan Johnson (2B), 363
- Daniel Burton (1B), .310
- Isaiah Howes (LF), .392
- Jorge Castillo (DH), .303
- Chris Dominguez (3B), .264
- Pete Rodriguez (RF), .273
- Derrick Alfonso (C), .280
- Chris Cates (SS), .298
OSU will hand the ball to senior right hander Oliver Odle to get the job done in game one. The bespectacled Odle started 15 games this season and compiled a win/loss record of 7-4 to go with a 4.39 ERA. In the first game of the Fayetteville Regional he tossed a complete game, surrendering nine hits and three earned runs in a 6-4 Cowboy win over Creighton.
After Odle, OSU starters are pretty much just asked to get the game into the middle innings where the relievers then do the dirty work. Joe Kent is the most likely choice to take the bump for the 'Boys in game two. The sophomore lefty has started 11 games, posting a 4-2 record and a 3.42 ERA. He threw the first four innings in OSU's 14-3 rout of Arkansas, and gave up a pair of earned runs on three hits and two walks.
This will likely be a "whoever's available" situation, but if the Faytetteville Regional is any indication, expect Jeff Breedlove to get the call. The sophomore righty allowed three runs in three innings and a third in OSU's 7-6 Regional clinching victory over Arkansas. On the season Breedlove is 0-4 with a 4.88 ERA.
Big East Pitcher of the Year Zack Pitts (9-3, 2.37 ERA) will be the guy once again, but it's imperative to the success of his team that he get more than four guys out in the opener this time.
The Al to Pitts' Tim is Big East Freshman of the Year Justin Marks (8-2, 2.61 ERA) who will get the call in game two. Like Pitts, the Cards will need a better effort from Marks than the one he gave against Missouri in the Columbia Regional if they want to entertain any thoughts of advancing.
Colby Wark is technically Louisville's number three guy, but expect him to have already seen some action if the series gets to a decisive game. The game three starter could be any number of relievers, but junior James Belanger (1-4, 4.15 ERA) is the likely choice (don't ask me why, just accept it love).
The most dangerous hitter in one of the top five most dangerous lineups in America is Cowboy second baseman Tyler Mach. A rare power hitting two-bagger, Mach leads OSU in home runs (16) and RBI (81), and is second on the team in average (.401).
The most heralded recruit ever to put on a Louisville baseball uniform, Chris Dominguez finally lived up to the hype with an MVP performance in the Columbia Regional. The Cardinal third baseman is your basic hit or miss (pun totally intended) college baseball big guy. If he gets into one, he's going to look awfully good. If doesn't, it's either going to be nubbed to the second baseman or he's going to miss three straight pitches by five feet. Dominguez is an excitable kid, and I really hope that all this attention won't end up having a negative effect on his psyche. The continuation of his hot streak is crucial, especially with designated hitter Jorge Castillo hitting the ball so well in front of him.
Team Offensive Stats
Slugging %: .529
On Base %: .407
Home Runs: 82
Stolen Bases: 63
Slugging %: .370
On Base %: .383
Home Runs: 65
Stolen Bases: 149
Team Pitching Stats
Opponents Average: .274
Innings Pitched: 528.1
Opponents Average: .220
Innings Pitched: 580.2
Card Chronicle Series Prediction
This is me being objective.
Game One: Oklahoma State 8, Louisville 3
Game Two: Louisville 9, Oklahoma State 7
Game Three: Oklahoma State 14, Louisville 8
Here's to hoping I'm a pessimistic moron. Regardless, it's been a blast.