I'd like to welcome in Kyle from DawgSports. Kyle and I exchanged interviews yesterday about our thoughts on the upcoming game today between his Georgia Bulldogs and my Oregon State Beavers. For all that it's worth, my interview is available here.
Here are Kyle's answers:
My concerns are twofold . . . one intangible, the other quite tangible.
First of all, it bothers me that the Beavers were beaten so soundly by the Hurricanes. Had Oregon State dropped a heartbreaker, the Beavers might have gone into the elimination game dejected, but, after being dominated in the opening game, I have no doubt that O.S.U. will be determined to prove that it belongs in Omaha. Georgia will get Oregon State's best shot on Monday afternoon.
Secondly, and more concretely, I am concerned about the Beavers' propensity for scoring runs in bunches. In the regional against Kansas, Oregon State put up seven runs in the second inning on the way to an 11-3 victory. The Beavers similarly dominated Hawaii (12-3) to win the regional before clinching the super-regional against Stanford with a pair of four-run outbursts in the first and fourth frames.
This weekend's performance against Miami was atypical, as the Beavers stranded eight baserunners. Had those men been brought around to score, it would have been an entirely different ballgame. Otherwise, over the course of the postseason, O.S.U. has shown a tendency towards "big inning" baseball, so the threat of an offensive explosion remains a serious concern for the Red and Black.
What about the Diamond Dogs should cause the Beavers the greatest concern?
Two things: Bobby Felmy and the fact that Georgia plays its best baseball when the Bulldogs' backs are against the wall.
In addition to playing well in the outfield, Felmy has contributed clutch hits at the plate throughout the postseason. While his batting average (.292) and home run tally (9) are far from overwhelming, his seventh-inning heroics in the deciding game of the super-regional were emblematic of his ability to pick his spots and place his hits where they are apt to prove most key to deciding the outcome of the contest.
The Red and Black are 20-6 all-time in N.C.A.A. elimination games, including a 5-0 record in 2006. After losing 6-4 in regional play, the Diamond Dogs swept the rest of the bracket, so there is little reason to doubt that the "Cardiac Canines" can do it again after an identical outcome against Rice.
What will Georgia have to do well to advance?
First and foremost, the Diamond Dogs must bring baserunners around to score. Georgia's Achilles' heel has been a tendency to strand runners on the basepaths.
In the second inning against the Owls, the Red and Black had the bases loaded with one out but failed to score a run. In the second inning of the first super-regional game against the Gamecocks, the Bulldogs had the bases loaded with one out but failed to score a run. Even in some of their victories, the Classic City Canines have left runners in scoring position and allowed opponents to hang around longer than they should have.
If Georgia is to avoid elimination on Monday afternoon, the Diamond Dogs must capitalize on whatever opportunities are presented to them. At this level of competition, the Red and Black simply cannot expect to be able to make up for early miscues in later innings.
What will Oregon State have to do well in order to advance?
The key for the Beavers is to get to the Red and Black early. If Georgia has a lead late in the game, it's as good as over. This season, Bulldog closer Joshua Fields has tied the school record for saves (15), posted an E.R.A. of 1.88, recorded 53 strikeouts while allowing just 11 walks, and been named all-conference and all-American.
Rip Warren's seventh-inning meltdown against Rice was atypical, as well, so Oregon State's most important objective must be to score some runs in the early innings. If Warren is able to take the mound in the seventh with a lead, the Beavers' chances dwindle; if Fields comes on to pitch the ninth and Georgia is ahead, it's the next best thing to a done deal. Due to the strength of the Bulldogs' bullpen, the Beavers must not allow the Red and Black's relievers to take the field with a lead.
Thanks again to Kyle for the idea of the interview. Good luck to both squads, and may the team that deserves the win get it.