Pitching Is The Name of The Game

Fans like the long ball, but the CWS will be won by the team with the best pitching

June 14, 2007

By Mark Etheridge

Special to CSTV.com from SEbaseball.com


"Nobody likes to hear it, because it's dull, but the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same - pitching." -- Earl Weaver


Don't believe it? Look back to last season's College World Series. Oregon State lost their first game, got some confidence back with a win in the second game, and then gave up one run combined to win three in a row to reach the finals.


Does anyone in this year's field have the pitching to claw back from the losers' bracket? And are there teams with such good pitching they can stay in the winners' bracket?


The answers are yes and...yes.


The pitching numbers for this year's field are very imposing. There are great starters, accomplished closers and a couple of teams with more options than John Daly in confession.


The best pitching staff in Omaha belongs to Wayne Graham's Rice Owls. This team has strong frontline starters, a two-headed closer and enough depth to match up with anyone.


After Rice, the next deepest staff is likely Pat Casey's Beavers. The defending champions have four quality starters and a versatile, dependable bullpen.


If anyone can pitch their way out of the losers' bracket, it is Rice and Oregon State.


Sometimes pitching depth is more important than others. If a team can find two starters and a couple of dependable relievers, the days off in Omaha allow coaches to ride those horses. Several clubs have quality 1-2 punches that could lend itself well to that formula.


UC Irvine's duo of RHP Scott Gorgen (12-2/2.68) and RHP Wes Etheridge (12-4/2.49) have to be considered the top 1-2 punch. Right there with them is Rice with LHP Joe Savery (10-1/2.78) and Ryan Berry (11-2/2.71), Louisville with RHP Zack Pitts (10-3/2.23) and Justin Marks (8-2/2.54), Oregon State with LHP Joe Patterson (10-6/3.77) and RHP Mike Stutes (9-4/4.05), Fullerton with RHP Wes Roemer (11-6/3.24) and RHP Jeff Kaplan (11-3/3.16), and Arizona State with RHP Mike Leach (13-1/3.59) and LHP Josh Satow (13-3/2.41).


Opening game matchups present some gems as Louisville's Pitts kicks off against Philadelphia Phillies' first round pick from Rice, Savery. Pitts was superb last weekend in a win over Oklahoma State. Savery did not throw as he was projected to pitch a third game with Texas A&M that never came.


Friday's nightcap pits a veteran righthander who hurled a three-hitter in Omaha last season in a shutout of Clemson. North Carolina's RHP Robert Woodard (10-2/3.01) likes the big stage. He'll get the task of shutting down the red-hot Mississippi State Bulldog offense. Coach Ron Polk will send RHP Chad Crosswhite (8-4/4.24) to the hill. Crosswhite has been working into the middle innings and turning the game over to an improved Bulldog bullpen.


Saturday has some superb pitching matchups. Gorgen has shutdown Texas and Wichita State the past two weeks and he sets his sights on the toughest offense in the country in Arizona State. ASU coach Pat Murphy would rather show up in heels and lipstick than reveal his starter, but the Sun Devils started a 13 game winner in their Super Regional opener against Ole Miss. If that is the match up, the two starters would have a combined 25 wins. If Murphy goes with the southpaw Satow, bump that total up to 26.


The nightcap has Fullerton and Roemer taking on Oregon State. Roemer opened in Omaha last season with an epic pitching matchup against North Carolina phenom Andrew Miller. This year the task might be a little easier, but not much as OSU's Patterson or Stutes are the likely starters.


The casual fans will point to the ping and yell for the long ball. But the hardcore fans realize in college baseball -- just like the pros - games are won on the mound. That scenario will unfold with a bevy of talented gunslingers in Rosenblatt Stadium the next two weeks. As coach Weaver said, these games will be won or lost with a toe on the rubber.


Projected Starters

Game 1 RHP Zack Pitts (10-3/2.23)
Game 2 LHP Justin Marks (8-2/2.54)
Game 3 RHP Colby Wark (3-3/3.63)


Game 1 LHP Joe Savery (10-1/2.78)
Game 2 RHP Ryan Berry (11-2/2.71)
Game 3 RHP Matt Langwell (8-1/1.70)


North Carolina
Game 1 RHP Robert Woodard (10-2/3.01)
Game 2 RHP Alex White (6-5/4.22)
Game 3 RHP Luke Putkonen (7-1/4.74)


Mississippi State
Game 1 RHP Chad Crosswhite (8-4/4.24)
Game 2 LHP Justin Pigott (7-6/4.40)
Game 3 RHP Josh Johnson (3-3/6.21)


Arizona State
Game 1 RHP Mike Leach (13-1/3.59)
Game 2 LHP Josh Satow (13-3/2.41)
Game 3 LHP Brian Flores (11-1/3.74)


UC Irvine
Game 1 RHP Scott Gorgen (12-2/2.68)
Game 2 RHP Wes Etheridge (12-4/2.49)
Game 3 RHP Dylan Axelrod (5-4/4.13)


Cal State Fullerton
Game 1 RHP Wes Roemer (11-6/3.24)
Game 2 RHP Jeff Kaplan (11-3/3.16)
Game 3 RHP Justin Klipp (2-0/2.15)


Oregon State
Game 1 LHP Joe Patterson (10-6/3.77)
Game 2 RHP Mike Stutes (9-4/4.05)
Game 3 LHP Jorge Reyes (5-3/3.13)

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