The College World Series starts up tomorrow, and we've given you wall-to-wall coverage of the LSU vs. Virginia matchup, but what about the other teams in our bracket? Whatever happens on Saturday, we will be playing one of these teams on Monday.
Arkansas is very familiar to us. We took 2 of 3 against them in early May, as Ranaudo struggled uncharacteristically to a loss in the series opener and Louis Coleman beat them into submission in a 2-hit shutout. Austin Ross and a good 3-inning bullpen effort guided us to a 4-3 win in the rubber game. Here are some of the things I said about Arkansas back in May:
Offensively, Arkansas is about the worst-hitting team in the conference. They are quite literally last in the conference in batting average at .277, and their slugging percentage is in the back half of the conference. Their offensive numbers are truly horrible, as they are last in the league in runs scored, and that's the way all offenses should be ultimately judged.
And yet, they're one of the best teams in the conference. Their pitching looks outstanding, and their defense is such that we don't want to try to run on their catcher, who throws out almost half the runners who attempt to steal. Yet another reason not to put Mitchell in the lineup. He can't hit lefties and even if he gets on we won't want to run him.
Their best hitter is Chase Leavitt, an infielder who hits .343, but does not get a lot of home runs, with only 1 on the season so far. His relatively low number of at-bats suggests he may be a platoon hitter or he may have spent some time hurt. Their best hitter for power is infielder Andy Wilkins, who hits .320 and has belted 13 home runs. He has a slugging percentage of over .650, which is pretty darn good.
This is a dangerous team. They don't score a lot of runs, but their collection of left-handed pitchers is pretty scary. They could easily throw 9 innings of quality left-handed pitching at us tonight, and it wouldn't surprise me if they could throw 15-18 innings of left-handed pitchers at us over the course of the weekend. We will have to scratch and claw for wins here.
Strangely enough, they are still among the worst-hitting teams in the conference. They are last in the conference in batting average, 11th in slugging, and last in on-base percentage. They're 8th in runs scored. And yet, they made it to Omaha. Their left-handed pitching, though, is still very good. Dallas Keuchel leads the way with a 4.04 ERA, which seems very pedestrian compared to some of the guys we've been facing lately, but I think you have to consider that the SEC competition seems to score more runs in general. One wonders if they will save him for a possible matchup against us.
Arkansas, of course, completely collapsed down the stretch of the season, and barely made the SEC tournament, losing 8 consecutive conference games. They managed to get it together though, and they've made it this far.
As for Fullerton, they seem to be just a good all-around team, albeit with inexperienced pitching. They'll probably use their ace pitcher Daniel Renken tomorrow, and we'll see either freshman Noe Ramirez or freshman Tyler Pill. Both are righties and neither are big strikeout pitchers. They lack solid left-handed pitching, so you have to like any matchup we would have against them. Only closer Nick Ramirez looks like a scary lefthander. He is also frequently used as a first baseman and is one of their best power hitters.
Offensively, Fullerton's lineup is peppered with good contact hitters. Josh Fellhauer is hitting near .400 at the moment, and has decent power. Joey Siddons is hitting .362, yet his slugging percentage is below .400. Jeff Newman similarly is a decent hitter with no power. Their best hitters for power are Fellhauer, Jared Clark, Khris Davis, and Nick Ramirez (also their closer). They're mostly righties, with a few lefties thrown in, so there's really no matching up with them. They've hit 59 home runs on the year, with a combined slugging percentage of .486. In comparison, LSU's slugging percentage is .512, a significant but not overwhelming difference. Our 94 home runs is something of a big difference.
As long as Arkansas uses Keuchel in their first game, we match up pretty well against either of these teams in our second round matchup. Neither will have a good lefty starter to throw at us. Neither hits home runs at a prodigious rate (our pitchers, great though they are, give up a few home runs). I think we can beat either with Coleman on the mound.