RHP Daniel Renken is not going to pitch Fullerton’s opener against Arkansas. He’s the staff ace and it shows that Fullerton is approaching this CWS with the idea that LSU is their biggest threat on their half of the bracket. I’m of two minds about this move.
On the one hand, I’m flattered. LSU isn’t juggling their staff to face CSF, but then again, we have two aces (really, what’s the difference between Ranaudo and Coleman?)It shows they are concerned with us, and that feeds my LSU sports ego.
On the other hand, this is the exact kind of move that tends to blow up in a team’s face. This reeks of hubris. You can hold a starter back in the regional due to the quality of the competition, but this just in: everyone in Omaha is good. Real good. I don’t really buy into the whole bulletin board material theory on the grounds that every team is going to be "up" to play in a big game. That said, CSF is disrespecting Arkansas. That’s fine if it’s just a calculated strategy to manage the staff, but it is bad if this speaks to the team’s attitude. Overlook Arkansas at your own peril.
And from LSU’s point of view, I say bring it on. Sure, Renken’s got a 2.32 ERA and has a 98/32 K/BB ratio in 118 IP. Those are good numbers. But the list of righties who have notched a win over LSU this season is really short. I’m not afraid of any right handed pitcher. Hell, I’m more afraid of Danny Hultzen of UVa.
Honestly, I think Fullerton will beat Arkansas simply because they have a better team. But I like Arkansas’ chances a lot better today than I did yesterday. Sometimes teams can outthink themselves in Omaha. The first game is so important, as teams rarely lose on the first day and then come back to even make the title game. In the last ten years, only two teams have managed to rally from an opening day loss to make the finals. It’s not worth the risk. Do whatever it takes to win the game, especially the first game. Worry about tomorrow when it comes. A double elimination tournament is too unpredictable to try and manage your path days ahead. Just treat every game like an elimination game.
I sort of want Fullerton to win because I want to be the team that lights up Renken. I don’t think we should be afraid of anyone. That said, I think I’ll be pulling for Arkansas, not just out of SEC solidarity, but because I don’t like how Fullerton is assuming a win in its first game. That game is more important than they are treating it, and CSF deserves to get a good smiting from the baseball gods.