Wolfpack Baseball invades the University of Florida’s McKethan Stadium in Gainesville this weekend for a best of three date with the Gators for the NCAA Super Regionals. The Pack departed Raleigh Wednesday night, but before boarding their redeye charter, Wolfpack baseball players and coaches participated in a ceremony honoring the 68th anniversary of the WWII allied forces’ “D-Day” invasions of France, which included lighting the Belltower red.
On To Gainesville
After their exciting Raleigh Regional victory which saw the Pack win four games, including three straight with their backs against the wall and two out of three against #2 seeded Vanderbilt, Wolfpack Baseball finds itself in the NCAA Tournament’s Super Regionals for the first time since 2008, and one step away from its first College World Series appearance since 1968. To make it through Gainesville and reach Omaha, however, the Wolfpack will need to play its best ball of the season.
The top seeded Florida Gators will likely be motivated to try and make a statement against the Wolfpack this weekend. Despite finishing with the nation’s #1 ranking in multiple polls (all major polls but one, actually), the #1 NCAA RPI, and a 45-18 record against the #1 ranked toughest schedule in the nation, the Gators have little to show for it so far.
They lost in the SEC Tourney, not even reaching the championship game, and finished the regular season tied only for the 3rd best conference record in the SEC at 18-12. A strong finish by South Carolina kept them from even taking the SEC East division pennant. A College World Series appearance would certainly take away some of that sting, and if I’m them I’m wanting to beat some folks, and beat them badly.
Perhaps unfortunately for the Pack, Florida showed signs of heating up during regional play, and if the Gators get in a groove they can beat just about anybody badly.
Game Times – TV Coverage
- GAME ONE – Saturday, June 9th, 2pm – ESPNU
- GAME TWO – Sunday, June 10th, 1pm – ESPNU
- GAME THREE – Monday, June 11th, 1pm – ESPN2 (if necessary)
The Competition – Florida Gators Team Capsule
2012 Season Results: 45-18 (18-12 SEC, t3rd). Finished 2nd SEC East Division, t3rd overall. SEC Tourney – 2-2 (beat Auburn, SCar, lost to Vandy twice). Gainesville Regional – 3-0 (beat Bethune-Cookman, GT twice). 7-3 in their last 10.
OFFENSE: Not surprisingly, Florida is an above average hitting club with a team batting avg. of .281 (5th SEC) and 592 hits on the season (5th SEC). Pack pitching will have to be on top of their game this weekend, however, as the Gators are the best power hitting team in the country and regularly make opposing pitching staffs pay for their mistakes with 71 HR on the season (1st SEC, 1st NCAA) and a slugging pct. of .448 (1st SEC).
All-American Junior C (#3) Mike Zunino bats at a .316 clip and leads his Gators team with 18 HR and a seemingly impossible slugging pct. of .667 in 231 at bats. Senior (#25) Preston Tucker matches Zunino’s .316 avg., while knocking 15 roundtrippers of his own and posting a .579 slugging pct. Junior leadoff man (#4) Nolan Fontana gets on base a lot prior to a lot of those homers being hit (on base pct .414), but he also hits his own share with 9 on the year. Even after Senior (#8) Daniel Pigott (.321, 7 HR, 38 RBI) and Junior (#35) Brian Johnson (.310, 5 HR, 40 RBI), it doesn’t get much easier.
The Gators have drawn 234 walks on the year (4th SEC) and scored 370 runs w/ 339 batted in (both 3rd SEC). Despite their power, Florida hitters rarely strike out with only 332 Ks this season (2nd fewest SEC). Florida baserunners have also stolen 60 bases on 86 attempts.
PITCHING & DEFENSE: Wolfpack hitters will have perhaps their biggest challenge of the season against the Gators and will need to work hard, concentrate and be patient if they expect to continue seeing the ball and hitting it well, as they face a pitching staff which ranks among the nation’s elite. The Gators carry a staff ERA of 2.85 (2nd SEC, 5th NCAA), and hold opposing hitters to a .240 avg. On the season they’ve given up only 201 runs (1st SEC), and issued only 127 walks (1st SEC). Opposing batters have hit only 29 HR against them, while striking out 471 times.
Doing it at the plate and on the mound, Junior LHP (#35) Brian Johnson (8-4, 3.56 ERA, 16 starts) is tied for tops among Gators’ pitchers for both wins (8) and innings pitched (86.0), along with Junior RHP (#11) Hudson Randall (8-2, 2.83, 14 starts). Sophomore RHP (#23) Jonathon Crawford (6-2, 2.92 ERA, 65 Ks, 13 starts) and Sophomore RHP (#22) Karsten Whitson (3-0, 3.31 ERA, 10 starts) have been used as both regular starters and out of the pen. Crawford in particular appears pretty comfortable when used either way, tossing a no hitter in his last outing as the Gators blanked Bethune-Cookman 4-0 in their opening game of the Gainesville Regional.
Among Florida’s set up men, Senior RHP (#37) Greg Larson carries an anorexic season ERA of 1.31 and has six wins of his own (6-0), while Junior LHP (#32) Steven Rodriguez is 3-2 with 4 saves, an ERA of 2.08 and 79 Ks (against only 13 BB). The Gators’ closer, Junior RHP (#10) Austin Maddox, is 3-3 with 12 saves and an ERA of 2.24.
Defensively, the Gators again rank near the top of the heap nationally with a .978 team fielding pct. (3rd SEC, 10th NCAA) and only 53 errors (4th SEC). Opposing baserunners have stolen 52 bases on 74 attempts.
Other Super Regional Action
While the Pack doesn’t open play in Gainesville until Saturday, Super Regional play begins elsewhere on Friday. All times for game threes are “if necessary” and subject to change; all times eastern.
Games Friday thru Sunday:
- (1) Stanford @ (1) Florida State (Tallahassee) – 7pm/6pm/7pm
- (2) TCU @ (1) UCLA (LA) – 9pm/9pm/10pm
- (4) Stony Brook @ (1) LSU (Baton Rouge) – 12pm/12pm/1pm
- (3) St. John’s @ (1) Arizona (Tucson) – 3pm/3pm/4pm
Games Saturday thru Monday:
- (1) NC State @ (1) Florida (Gainesville) – 2pm/1pm/1pm
- (3) Kent St. @ (1) Oregon (Eugene) – 11pm/10pm/7pm
- (2) Arkansas @ (1) Baylor (Waco) – 5pm/4pm/4pm
- (2) Oklahoma @ (1) S. Carolina (Columbia) – 8pm/7pm/7pm
College World Series – The Basics
It’s never too early to look forward to Omaha. In conversing with some folks recently, there seems to be some confusion about how the CWS works, exactly.
There are eight super regional winners which will advance to the CWS in Omaha. In Omaha the teams are divided into two four-team groups. Each four-team group plays SEPARATE seeded four team double elimination brackets. The two teams that emerge from each bracket then play a best of three for the championship.
It’s basically the same as regional to super regional in the earlier rounds.
There is no pool play. There is no sudden death one game championship game.
The CWS gets underway on Friday June 15th. Bracket play runs from 6/15 thru 6/22, with each bracket essentially alternating days of play, thus reducing pitching wear and tear. The two teams left standing after bracket play then face off in their best of three series beginning Sunday, June 24.
GatorSports.com has a brief piece, reflecting what they think of the Pack, with their N.C. State baseball scouting report:
‘Pack at the plate: Other than outfielder Ryan Mathews, who has a team-leading 17 home runs and 62 RBIs, State does not have a lot of power. The rest of the lineup has produced only 25 home runs. The Wolfpack, however, know how to produce runs, and a lot of the offense is generated by hit-and-runs and aggressive baserunning. Trea Turner (.344, 42 RBIs) leads the nation in stolen bases with 56. State’s other top guns at the plate are Chris Diaz (.356, 25 doubles, 55 RBIs) and Danny Canela (.342, 6 HRs, 44 RBIs).
‘Pack on the mound: North Carolina State has a dominant No. 1 starter in true freshman Carlos Rodon, the ACC pitcher and freshman of the year. Rodon is 9-0 with an ERA of 1.61 and 132 strikeouts in 111 innings. Opponents are hitting only .181 against him. The other starters are Ethan Ogburn (5-3, 3.23) and Anthony Tzamtzis (5-5, 3.84). The Wolfpack have a deep and effective bullpen, led by closer Chris Overman, who has six saves and has struck out 42 in 33 innings. Overall, opposing teams are hitting only .231 with 22 home runs against the State staff.
Florida flavor: State’s top four offensive players — Mathews, Turner, Diaz and Canela — are all from the state of Florida. Mathews, who is from Orlando, played at Santa Fe College before signing with the Wolfpack. Overall, State has eight players from Florida on its roster.
Chip Alexander (N&O) shows us that Vandy Coach Tim Corbin chose his words carefully, but says the Pack stacks up well with the Gators as N.C. State baseball turns attention to Florida:
“I think North Carolina State stacks up well,” Corbin said. “They’ve got a very good hitting team. They’ve got a couple of guys who can leave the ballpark and in (Ryan) Mathews have a quality power hitter. They’ve got a very similar ballpark as they play in here (at Doak). The lines are shallow (329 feet down left-field line, 325 in right).
“In saying that, I think Florida is the best team in the country that we’ve played this year. Their pitching is very good. They can hit. They don’t make mistakes. And they’ll be playing at home. Does that factor into it? It does factor into it.”
The Gators swept a three-game series from the Commodores during the regular season but lost twice to Vandy in the SEC tournament. Florida bounced back to sweep through the Gainesville Regional, getting a no-hitter from Jonathan Crawford in a 4-0 win against Bethune-Cookman, then dispatching Georgia Tech 6-2 and 15-3.
Chip also has more about the Pack’s Florida connection – Florida a homecoming for several N.C. State baseball players
And of course, Tarran Senay has been a popular subject so far this week:
NewsObserver.com – Tudor: Pack baseball hero knew he had hit it out
RALEIGH — There might have been doubt among N.C. State baseball fans at Doak Field Monday, but Tarran Senay knew immediately.
“Yeah, it felt like it was out right away,” said the reserve outfielder. “I was lucky enough to hit it exactly the way I was hoping to.”
“It” was a full-count, three-run homer over the right-field fence in the eighth inning against Vanderbilt in the championship game of the NCAA Tournament Raleigh Region.
JournalNow.com (Winston-Salem) – Senay off bench, into history
RALEIGH — Tarran Senay didn’t sleep much Monday night or Tuesday after almost single-handedly carrying N.C. State to the Raleigh Regional title in the NCAA baseball tournament.
In one of the top feats of the college season, and in school history, Senay came off the bench to play left field in the seventh inning of the championship game Monday, and in two at-bats, he drove in five runs, helping his team win 9-7.
And last but by no means least, a truly fantastic piece from Conor O’Neill of TheTimesNews.com (Burlington), Wolfpack banks on high character en route to NCAA super regional…
RALEIGH — North Carolina State baseball coach Elliott Avent said the mood in his team’s locker room after losing to Vanderbilt on Saturday night “didn’t compare” to the mood after the 12th-inning loss to North Carolina in the ACC Tournament.
It was that bad.
But for how awful N.C. State felt Saturday night, the feelings were flipped when the Wolfpack dog-piled in front of the mound on Monday night after Ryan Wilkins shut down Vanderbilt for a 9-7 victory.
In that victory, and Sunday victories against UNC Wilmington and Vanderbilt to set up Monday’s drama, the Wolfpack displayed the same poise that has driven through the season.
UF Vitals and Some Fun Stuff
- Gainesville, Florida
- Est. 1853
- Type: Public
- Enrollment: Approx. 49,600
- Southeast Conference (SEC)
- Mascot: Gators
- Colors: Orange and Blue
Famous UF Alumni include incumbent North Carolina Governor “Bev” Perdue; the Ol’ Ball Coach, Steve Spurrier; the NFL’s Emmitt Smith and Tim Tebow (among many others past and present); and ESPN hottie, Erin Andrews.
And whether you like Tebowmania or not, it’s hard to argue with fans like this…
…plus, they have cheerleaders that look like this…
Hopefully the Pack will have its mind (and its eyes) on business this weekend. Perhaps if they need help, a couple of notorious “Gator Hators” can lend a hand:
We’ll add more as Saturday’s first pitch draws nearer, but for now here’s something to get you started…
- Two of the three finalists for the 2012 Golden Spikes Award will be facing off in Gainesville this weekend…Florida’s Mike Zunino and NC State’s Carlos Rodon (The third, Stanford’s Jr. righthander Mark Appel, will also be in the state of Florida as the Cardinal visits FSU for its Super Regional tilt).
- Between the two teams, there will be four All-Americans competing…For the first team it’s Zunino and Rodon again, of course. For the second team it’s the Gators’ Mr. Everything Brian Johnson, and the Pack’s go to SS, Chris Diaz.
- A combined nine All-Conference (ACC & SEC) performers will take the field in Gainesville this weekend.
UF’s Alfred A. McKethan Stadium at Perry Field notes and numbers:
- Opened 1988 (701-231)
- Capacity: 5,500 (but has held crowds as big as 6,100)
- Surface: Natural
- Left Field: 329 feet
- Left Center: 365 feet
- Center Field: 400 feet
- Right Center: 375 feet
- Right Field: 325 feet
|BEST COLLEGE BASEBALL STADIUMS
Source: January 1998 Baseball America
|1.||Arkansas (Baum Stadium)|
|2.||Hawaii (Rainbow Stadium)|
|3.||Auburn (Plainsman Park)|
|4.||Mississippi State (Dudy Noble Field)|
|5.||San Diego State (Tony Gwynn Stadium)|
|6.||Fresno State (Beiden Field)|
|7.||FLORIDA (McKethan Stadium)|
|8.||Clemson (Tiger Field)|
|9.||Texas A&M (Olsen Field)|
|10.||Arizona State (Packard Stadium)|
|11.||Ohio State (Bill Davis Stadium)|
|12.||Texas (Disch-Falk Field)|
|13.||Georgia (Foley Field)|
|14.||Tennessee (Lindsey Nelson Stadium)|
|15.||Long Beach State (Blair Field)|
Keep it rollin’ thru Gainesville, Gentlemen!
Good Luck and Go Pack!