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On deck this weekend, baseball Super Regionals
By Phil Neuffer, Associate College Baseball Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - One weekend is in the books in the 2012 NCAA Baseball Tournament, and now only 16 teams have a shot at raising the national championship trophy on the field at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha.
There was a whole lot of chalk coming out of Regionals, as seven of the top eight seeds in the tournament advanced with a combined record of 22-1 in action last weekend -- the lone loss belonging to Baylor, which fell on day one but then rattled off four straight victories to capture the Waco Regional.
However, not every team that advanced was expected to do so. Most did not predict the ascension of Stony Brook, which became only the second No. 4 seed ever to advance to Super Regionals, or No. 3 seeds Kent State and St. John's to be playing beyond the first weekend.
But every team from the powerhouses to the surprise stories can not just sit back and admire their achievements, as Super Regional action promises to be even more challenging. The Super Regional round is made up of eight best-of- three series that begin on either Friday or Saturday.
The weekend opens with what looks like a lopsided matchup on paper between the seventh-ranked LSU Tigers hosting the Stony Brook Seawolves. Fortunately, the games are played on dirt and grass, so anything is possible.
Although Stony Brook may seem like the overmatched team here, that's what was said last week just before the Seawolves ousted Miami-Florida in game one of the Coral Gables Regional en route to becoming the first team from the America East Conference to advance to the Super Regionals. The Seawolves will need to continue the offensive up-tick they showed in the Regionals (51 runs in four games) as they were powered by third basemen William Carmona (11-for-21, 2 HRs, 8 Runs, 10 RBI), among four others who were named to the All-Regional Team.
The for the Tigers, they eased through the first two games of the Baton Rouge Regional before needing 10 innings to down Oregon State to advance. A good offensive squad with a great deal of pitching depth, the Tigers have the benefit of having the nation's best hitter at the top of their order in outfielder Raph Rhymes (.469).
Another club from the state of New York, St. John's, will also play early on Friday when the Red Storm blow into Tucson to take on Arizona.
The Wildcats are one of four Pac-12 Conference teams to make it to Super Regionals, making it the league with the most teams still alive. The SEC (eight) and ACC (seven) each had more teams in the initial field.
Arizona was one of the most impressive teams in the first weekend, batting at a .472 clip and slugging .683, which led all squads in the Regional Round. If the offensive surge for the Wildcats continues, it will be tough for St. John's to win since its ace, Sean Hagan (8-2, 2.72 ERA), can't pitch every game.
The first No. 1 seed versus No. 1 seed Super Regional matchup pits Florida State versus Stanford. The Cardinal have been a team that has not gotten much buzz in this tournament despite a 3-0 weekend at Regionals. The Cardinal will put its best foot forward to open this series by sending Golden Spikes Award finalist Mark Appel (10-1, 2.27 ERA) to the mound in the opening game. Appel will have the unenviable task of trying to tame the duo of Jayce Boyd (.390 BA, 57 RBI) and James Ramsey (.385, 13 HRs, 55 RBI, 72 Rs).
It's back to the west coast for the final series opener on Friday with the No. 2 overall seed UCLA Bruins taking on the No. 2 seed out of the College Station Regional, the TCU Horned Frogs.
The Frogs are a young team but they have tournament chops with three Super Regionals appearances in the last four years. TCU has used the long ball to maximum effectiveness in the tourney, clubbing 10 home runs in the Regionals after hitting 26 total this season. The power surge has been led by Kevin Cron, who blasted three last weekend. However it will TCU's pitching that needs to be sharp against UCLA which outscored its opponents 23-6 in the Regionals, led by Jeff Gelalich (.372 BA, 11 HRs) who hit a pair of home runs during the weekend.
A battle of Golden Spikes Award finalists awaits in what is possibly the most intriguing Super Regionals series between Florida and NC State.
Florida already dealt with an ACC club, dispatching conference champion Georgia Tech en route to a 3-0 Regionals record, and with star Mike Zunino (.316 BA, 18 HRs, 60 RBI) batting in the middle of the lineup, it's tough to see the Gators bending in this series. However NC State can match up with the Gators' talent as the Wolfpack have a standout performer of their own in starting pitcher Carlos Rodon (9-0, 1.61 ERA). Any at-bat when Zunino steps into the box against Rodon will certainly be one of the more exciting showdowns of the Super Regionals.
Pitching will be plentiful in the series between Baylor and Arkansas. The Razorbacks (2.86) and Bears (3.14) each finished the season in the top 20 in team ERA this season. Arkansas has picked a very good time to elevate it's already impressive pitching with a tournament low 0.33 ERA during Regionals, which included a gutsy performance from starter Ryne Stanek who tossed seven shutout innings in a 1-0 victory against Rice. Baylor's familiarity with playing must-win games after the Regionals weekend also adds an interesting element to this series.
Another SEC/Big 12 matchup also begins on the second day of Super Regionals with two-time defending College World Series champion South Carolina hosting Oklahoma.
The Sooners hope to ride the scorching bat of Matt Oberste, who went 6-for-8 with four RBI and four runs scored in Monday's double-header to stave off a pesky Appalachian State squad to win the Charlottesville Regional. Keeping Oberste off base is something South Carolina is going to need to do, a task the Gamecocks should be able to accomplish if their rotation, which had a pair (RHP Matt Price and LHP Mike Roth) taken in this week's MLB Draft, stay true to form.
Kent State will have a tough time keeping its Cinderella run going in the final Super Regional series to open on Saturday, as the it takes on No. 5 overall seed Oregon.
The Golden Flashes are playing in their first Super Regional series ever this weekend, and they have been rolling of late with 20 straight victories after winning the Gary Regional with a 3-0 record. Runs will be at a premium for KSU in this series though with Oregon owning the 11th-best team ERA (3.02) in the nation, anchored by Alex Keudell (11-4, 2.38 ERA).
Games begin on Friday and every team knows; Win two and move on to Omaha for the right to play for the national championship.
06/06 14:12:36 ET
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