Super regionals: Coaches give their insight
Opposing head coaches know more about the 16 super regional teams than anyone.
We unveiled the 16 super regional breakdowns earlier this week, but it’s time to go even deeper into each team competing for the eight spots in the College World Series.
In an attempt to do that, we asked coaches around the country about each team still left in the postseason.
Some coaches had nothing but positive things to say about some teams. Others outlined potential weaknesses that could cause some teams to falter.
The coaches’ names in this feature are withheld, but their opinions are not.
Baton Rouge Super Regional: Rice vs. LSU
What they’re saying about Rice: “As always with a Wayne Graham-coached team, the Owls are very fundamentally sound. They have an excellent set of weekend starters with Ryan Berry and Mike Ojala as the headliners. However, the bullpen can be exploited and the key to beating the Owls is to get into that bullpen. Offensively, the Owls are much better than anyone would’ve thought before the season. Diego Seastrunk hasn’t had a particularly great year at the plate but Brock Holt and Anthony Rendon have taken up the slack. Speaking of Rendon, he’s one of the best freshmen I’ve ever seen at this level. He is an excellent hitter and an even better defensive player. Don’t make mistakes and get into the bullpen and you have a chance to beat Rice.”
What they’re saying about LSU: “They’re definitely the best team I’ve seen in the postseason. They have great balance throughout their lineup and are very good up the middle with Austin Nola and DJ LeMahieu. I also really like freshman Mikie Mahtook. They have a pair of front-line guys in the weekend rotation that make very few mistake pitches. You can, however, exploit their bullpen to some extent. However, they will then turn around and throw reliever Matty Ott out there, who reminds me a lot of former Texas reliever Huston Street. Overall, the key to beating the Tigers is to slow them down offensively more than anything else. Good left-handed arms can slow them down and that’s essentially how you beat them. Still, I told my team after we played them that LSU would win the national title.”
Austin Super Regional: TCU vs. Texas
What they’re saying about TCU: “The one thing I noticed about TCU is that it is a veteran-filled program ready to take the next step on the national stage. They were confident. Carpenter and Vern are key offensive guys in their lineup and very good hitters. The Horned Frogs will force some action offensively. The pitching staff has really come together with the young arms maturing as the season has progressed. TCU has some good players but the offense is going to have to produce at a higher level against a very good Texas pitching staff. That could be a tough chore.”
What they’re saying about Texas: “They have fantastic arms littering the pitching staff. They are capable of putting the whole pitching package together especially with Wood able to do what’s needed to be done. He’s the man right now. UT also has shore up its defense in a way and the offense is a little more consistent than it has been the past few weeks. At times you’re able to run on the Longhorns. Once they get their pitchers down to where their delivery time to home plate is quick, that seems to stop, though. They’ve got an offensive lineup that if you pitch well and smart, it can be held in check. They’re not extremely fast on the base paths, but they’re OK. Certainly not as fast as previous Texas teams, but this year’s team has much more pitching. This is definitely a team that I could see winning the national title.”
Chapel Hill Super Regional: East Carolina vs. North Carolina
What they’re saying about East Carolina: “We didn’t play a team all-season long with the physical nature and ability to drive the ball like the Pirates. They are just extremely strong physically. It’s a matter of if you don’t pitch them well, they’re going to get you in a big way. If not, they’ll probably get you some other way. Kyle Roller has a neck about as big as some of our players’ thighs. They’re just really strong and good defensively. It comes down to how well they pitch, and ECU actually has some pretty decent arms. They’re definitely a threat. The only pause I have about ECU is the way its offense can just shutdown out of nowhere. The bullpen has been spotty at times but still, they have some very good arms out there. There’s plenty of talent, but the bullpen definitely isn’t always great. ECU is as good of a team we’ve played this season.”
What they’re saying about North Carolina: “I think the Tar Heels have three outstanding weekend starters. I think Alex White has fantastic stuff and he’s an even better big-game pitcher than most. I think as long as he’s healthy he can beat anyone in the country. Not only do I love his stuff, but his competitiveness is off the charts. Warren is the ultimate great college pitcher. He’ll give you six or seven solid innings then turn things over to the bullpen. Harvey has kind of settled in to the rotation and he’s definitely got the stuff to be great. As long as he’s throwing strikes with more than one pitch, he’s good to go. In terms of the bullpen, I really like Brian Moran and Colin Bates. What also stands out to me is that UNC can match up to both sides of the plate with its relievers. At the plate, Dustin Ackley is by far the best player in the country, at least from what I’ve seen. Seager also is an excellent hitter and he can really turn a game by making great plays in the field. Shortstop Ryan Graepel is just OK, second baseman Levi Michael is a fantastic defender, and it’s unbelievable what he’s done at the plate when he should still be in high school. Outfield is good defensively but no real power threats at the plate. UNC is a very good team. It’s not as talented as it has been in the past, but has all the pieces.”
Fullerton Super Regional: Louisville vs. Cal State Fullerton
What they’re saying about Louisville: “I think the Cardinals have a great front-line pitcher in Justin Marks that can beat just about anyone in the country. They’re pretty potent in the middle of the offensive lineup. I really like Phil Wunderlich, Chris Dominguez and Andrew Clark in that lineup. Outside of those guys, though, I don’t think they’re very strong offensively. I don’t think the leadoff guy is very special, two-hole hitter is just OK. Pitching staff is solid after Marks but certainly not great. Tony Zych is a good one and a guy to watch in this series. He has a solid breaking pitch and has a chance to be special. I would call UL’s pitching staff solid but not unbeatable. The rest of their staff is filled with pretty common pitchers. To beat the Cardinals, you have to keep the ball in the ballpark. You can’t let Wunderlich and Dominguez beat you. I do, however, believe the Cardinals can be pitched to.”
What they’re saying about Cal State Fullerton: “There’s really not much not to like about the Titans at this point in the season. The offense really has been special throughout the season and though his average may not be as high as a guy like Josh Fellhauer, Khris Davis is one of the scariest hitters on the West Coast. The Titans are also very good in the field with Christian Colon and Joe Scott up the middle. Also, this team has a wealth of confidence and it shows every time they step on the field. Pitching-wise, the Titans have really progressed as the season has moved on. At the start of the season I really thought the bullpen was a point of exploitation. However, guys like Mertins and Ramirez have really solidified that bullpen as something pretty good. Also, weekend starters Daniel Renken and Noe Ramirez are pretty solid. Pill is just OK. Fullerton will not make many mistakes. So, mistake-free baseball is a must against these guys.”
Gainesville Super Regional: Southern Mississippi vs. Florida
What they’re saying about Southern Miss: “The Eagles just have athletes. The question really is just the depth of the pitching staff. Evidently they came up with enough pitching in Atlanta to win that regional, but pitching depth definitely is a question mark. Todd McInnis and JR Ballinger have great stuff but McInnis has a history of not throwing more than six innings in a start. So, the Eagles are going to have to get a big weekend from the bullpen. Good hitting lineup. Not what you’d call tremendous, but they have a good offense. I really think Bo Davis and Joey Archer are great hitters. I know he was hurt a few weeks ago, but the prognosis had Brian Dozier coming back from an injury this weekend. If they can get him back, it really helps them. Overall, USM has great athletes. They certainly aren’t as powerful as ECU, but certainly as athletic.”
What they’re saying about Florida: “They are a pretty balanced offensive team with no special players outside of perhaps freshman Preston Tucker. Tucker is as good of a young hitter as I’ve ever seen at this level. He will absolutely blow up a pitcher if you throw mistake pitches. Matt Den Dekker is a good player and offensively he causes issues because he’s very versatile. I also really like leadoff hitter Avery Barnes. It’s tough to keep him off the bases. Pitching-wise, just think the Gators know how to pitch and this is the area where coach Kevin O’Sullivan shines. He puts some young kids out there and shows confidence in them. Those guys have pitched well. Anthony DeSclafani, Nick Maronde and Alex Panteliodis are throwing well and the Gators have a nice role for Billy Bullock in the bullpen. Defensively, the Gators don’t hurt themselves very often. The key, though, to beating UF is not letting them get momentum. Florida is very much a momentum team and you have to kill that. Also, getting into its bullpen is a plus.”
Tallahassee Super Regional: Arkansas vs. Florida State
What they’re saying about Arkansas: “I actually like Arkansas’s pitching staff with ace pitcher Dallas Keuchel one of the more impressive pitchers I’ve seen this season. He’s just a very good left-handed arm. Mike Bolsinger out of the bullpen is very solid, too. The pitching staff as a whole is solid, but they have several common arms out there. Not many special arms. Offense is very balanced across the board. You can’t let them get in a running game and get confidence on the base paths. Andy Wilkins was hot last week and definitely is a big-time power producer to contain. But I’ll say this, I think a pitcher with good velocity beats them. When we played them, they really couldn’t get the bats going when we challenged them with fastballs. If a marginal velocity guy pitches against them, it could be a recipe for trouble. They make a lot of contact and force the issue on the bases.”
What they’re saying about Florida State: “The Seminoles have played way above their ability this season. For me, their coaching staff should be commended for getting as much out of their talent this season as any coaching staff in the country. Starting pitcher Sean Gilmartin is very legit and he has done a fantastic job in series openers. After Gilmartin, though, I think the starting pitching is just OK, as in the fact I don’t think the No. 2 and No. 3 pitchers are going to consistently get good hitters out. Closer Jimmy Marshall is good but not great. Reliever Geoff Parker is a good strikeout guy and has a very good slider, but other than him I don’t think FSU has a deep bullpen. Offensively, I think FSU’s first five hitters are excellent. Tyler Holt sets the table for everyone, Stephen Cardullo and Mike McGee have had great campaigns and Jason Stidham has always been a very good player. Achilles heel for the ‘Noles would be if a team has a very good left-handed pitcher to throw at them. I think a lefty makes them a lineup of five hitters. Defensively, FSU is pretty average and definitely behind the plate.”
Tempe Super Regional: Clemson vs. Arizona State
What they’re saying about Clemson: “The Tigers have a very solid pitching staff and I really like the young pitcher, Chris Dwyer. He’s 90-92 with a power breaking ball. The question is, though, is he mature enough to handle the pressure of a super regional. Casey Harman is just a fantastic college baseball left-handed pitcher and he can mix three pitches at any point in the game. That’s really what makes him so good. Trey Delk reminds me of UNC pitcher Adam Warren. He’ll give them six or seven strong innings. Bullpen is solid with a lot of combinations to throw at you. Ryan Hinson is a veteran arm with great stuff and Tomas Cruz and Matt Vaughn also are good. I thought Vaughn was a little better though. I’d also keep an eye on reliever Clinton McKinney, as he can really be big trouble for right-handed hitters. Defensively, the middle of the infield is pretty good. Catcher John Nester does a nice job of handling the pitching staff. Kyle Parker obviously has a lot of power at the plate, as does first baseman Ben Paulsen. Paulsen, though, is a guy that I think has a few holes in his swing. Most of Clemson’s good hitters are left-handed, so good left-handed pitching can give them some trouble.”
What they’re saying about Arizona State: “Unlike most years, Arizona State’s team starts with starting pitching more so than its offense. Mike Leake and Josh Spence simply are as good as it gets on this level and Seth Blair also had a nice year. The same goes for reliever Mitchell Lambson. I’m a strong believer that Jason Kipnis and Carlos Ramirez are the main offensive guys to watch. You can’t let those two beat you. Kipnis is just a special player and he’s most definitely Arizona State’s go-to guy at the plate. The only weakness I see with this team is that youth throughout the lineup could be an issue in a super regional like this. Still, Arizona State has a very good team.”
Oxford Super Regional: Virginia vs. Mississippi
What they’re saying about Virginia: “The Cavaliers are a hot team right now and you can’t ever underestimate that. The Cavaliers have an excellent pitching staff with a good mix of righties and lefties. They do a really nice job of using all of their pitches to match up well with other teams. It’s really difficult to get big innings on them, hard to continuously get a lot of hits. They also seem to do a nice job of aligning things from a defensive standpoint. Those are their strengths. Jarrett Parker is a big-time threat at the top of the order because he has speed and power. He’s just an incredibly tough out and to beat them, you’re going to have to do a good job of containing him. The one thing, though, is that many of Virginia’s good hitters are left-handed, so a good left-handed pitcher might have a good shot of slowing them down. Steven Proscia is another guy to watch. He can be very scary at the plate. But also, he has some holes in his swing. Tyler Cannon and Phil Gosselin also are very solid players. On the mound, Danny Hultzen really reminds me a lot of former Cavalier pitcher Sean Doolittle. I’d actually say that Hultzen has better stuff than Doolittle at this point in his career.”
What they’re saying about Mississippi: “The one thing that stands out about the Rebels is that they’re a balanced squad. Jordan Henry is a very good leadoff hitter and a very tough hitter to record an out against. Henry just really helps that offense go. Catcher Kyle Henson has really stepped up and has had a great year. He also has been a producer at the plate for the offense. Matt Smith has been in that program for three years and provides great leadership and experience. Kevin Mort and Evan Button are just OK players at this level. On the mound, I really like starting pitchers Drew Pomeranz and Phillip Irwin. Those two have really emerged as great pitchers. I also really like reliever Jake Morgan. He has done a nice job. I like the Rebels as much as anyone in this part of the country outside of LSU. Overall, this is just a very balanced team.”