The Texas Longhorns and the Arizona State Sun Devils took very different paths to meet in the same place this weekend in Austin for one of eight NCAA Baseball Super Regionals happening across the country.
Texas was forced to come through the loser’s bracket of their regional in Austin last weekend after losing to Regional runner-up Kent State. The Longhorns reeled off wins against the Texas State Bobcats and two against the Golden Flashes to take home the Austin Regional crown.
Arizona State, on the other hand, plowed their way through the Tempe Regional without a loss, dispatching the overmatched New Mexico Lobos, Charlotte 49ers and Arkansas Razorbacks in consecutive games.
Let’s take a look at the pitching staffs for both teams and their key offensive producers to see how the matchup might shakeout:
The Texas Longhorns have one of the nation’s strongest pitching staffs from top to bottom, including two starters drafted in the MLB Draft over the past two days who figure to play a large role in how this weekend’s series shakes out.
Texas No. 1 starter and consensus All-American Taylor Jungmann will take the hill on Friday evening. Jungmann’s only loss of the 2011 season came last weekend against Kent State, and he figures to be ready to prove himself on Friday. The Temple native was recently selected by the Milwaukee Brewers and is probably seeing his last action in Austin this weekend.
Projections follow that Longhorns senior starter Cole Green will follow on Saturday evening and sophomore lefty Sam Stafford would likely get the call if the series goes three games and into Sunday. However, if Stafford gets a relief appearance in either games one or two, Augie Garrido may choose to go another direction on Saturday, perhaps to left-hander Hobie Milner.
The Sun Devils will send No. 1 starter sophomore right hander Brady Rogers to the mound to counter Jungmann on Friday evening. Rogers had a very solid regular season, posting an 8-4 record, a 2.85 ERA and an obscene .98 WHIP, giving up less than one hit or walk per inning on average.
The Saturday night starter for the Sun Devils projects to be junior righty Kramer Champlain who posted a 9-3 record with a 2.93 ERA and a solid 1.20 WHIP. At 6’6″, 200, Champlain is an intimidating presence on the mound who relies on his long delivery to frustrate opposing batters.
Should the series go to a third game on Sunday, the Sun Devils will likely send junior right-hander Mitchell Lambson to the mound. Lambson’s statistics are less impressive than the No.1 and No.2 starters as he posted a 7-3 record with a 4.41 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP primarily in long relief duty during the regular season.
On offense, the Texas Longhorns are led by the trio of Erich Weiss, Brandon Loy and Tant Shepherd. Freshman sensation Weiss has been the most consistent performer for the Longhorns, hitting a scorching .361 on the season with four home runs and 42 runs batted in. Once on base Weiss is dangerous as well with 13 swiped bases on the season.
Brandon Loy’s .344 average and 23 steals on the season make him equally as dangerous once on base. The power in the Longhorns lineup–which isn’t really a premium in Augie Garrido’s small-ball scheme–comes from senior Tant Shepherd whose five homers lead the team.
Arizona State approaches offense with their power forward, depending much more on extra base hits that manufacturing runs the old-fashioned way.
The powerful trio of Joey DiMichele, Zach Wilson and Matt Newman should play a huge role in the Sun Devils’ success or lack thereof at Disch Falk field this weekend.
If the Texas Longhorns can ride the strong arms of their nationally respected pitching staff and generate enough offense to get by, Augie Garrido’s squad could be making yet another trip to the friendly summer confines of Rosenblatt Stadium.
If the Sun Devils can get to the Longhorn starters early and often and seize momentum, they could prove once again that they deserve the moniker as one of college baseball’s most historic and proud programs.
The first pitch will be thrown tomorrow evening at Disch Falk field at 6 PM central time.