#3 Oregon St. (50-12, 24-6 in the Pac-12) vs. Louisville (51-13, 20-4 in the Big East) / 2 PM CDT (12 Noon PDT) / TD Ameritrade Park, Omaha, NE / ESPN2 / KEJO 1240 AM & KPOJ 620 AM / SiriusXM Channel 91
Oregon St. and Louisville meet today in the first win or go home game of the 2013 College World Series. It comes as a surprise, as the Beavers, the #3 seed into the post-season, and the Cardinal, who rolled through the Louisville Regional and then swept #2 Vanderbilt in the Commodores' own ball park in the Super Regionals, both were given a good chance to make a good run in Omaha by most.
But Oregon St. lost an early lead to Mississippi St. in the CWS opener, and then saw Danny Hayes' near-walk off wallop to right center field fall just short of the wall, as the Bulldogs pulled out the 5-4 win.
Then Indiana's Joey DeNato threw a 4 hit complete game shutout at Louisville on Saturday evening, earning the Hoosiers the 2-0 victory.
And so the Beavers and Cardinal are both faced with trying to do something that's only happened 3 times in the last 32 years; come through the losers' bracket after losing the first game to win the CWS. Fortunately for Oregon St. fans, the Beavers are one of those teams, having overcome a first game loss to claim the 2006 National Championship.
Louisville's best season ever has led to their second appearance in the CWS. The Cardinal ran off 16 straight wins down the stretch, including a win over Indiana, and easily claimed the Big East Conference regular season championship, only to lose twice in their conference post season tournament.
Louisville bounced back to dominate Regional and Super Regional play, and extract revenge for a lopsided 10-2 regular season loss to Vanderbilt, and arrived in Omaha with what was regarded as potentially the best top to bottom pitching staff in the country, and high expectations for continuing the best year in sports in school history.
The Cardinal won the Sugar Bowl going away against LSU of the SEC, advanced their women's basketball team to the National Championship game, and of course, won the men's NCAA basketball championship. Merely getting to Omaha, no small accomplishment for anyone, would actually pale in comparison!
Oregon St. made their 5th trip to Omaha with plans for the final series as well, a team goal set after losing to LSU last year in the Regional round, and punctuated by senior Matt Boyd turning down the Major Leagues to return to lead the charge.
The winner today will face the loser of this evening's Indiana-Mississippi St. game Wednesday at 2 PM CDT (Noon PDT), in another elimination game.
Oregon St., which is now 11-7 all-time at the CWS, and 11-5 under head coach Pat Casey, will start the long road back through the loser's bracket with All-Pac-12 junior LHP Ben Wetzler (9-1, 2.11) on the mound. Wetzler was the highest Beaver taken in the MLB draft, in the 5th round by the Philadelphia Phillies. Boyd, who was the first starter all season for Oregon St., but closed the Super Regional clinching 4-3 win over Kansas St., and was the first pitcher on in relief for the Beavers on Saturday, could be coming out of the bullpen again today as well.
Louisville will counter with junior RHP Jeff Thompson (11-1, 2.00), the Cardinal's best pitcher. Thompson, an All-American who was the Big East Pitcher of the Year, was selected in the third round by the Detroit Tigers, and has won 5 of his last 6 starts.
"A couple of us have seen him pitch against Vanderbilt," Oregon St.'s Michael Conforto saud. "We watched him, and he's pretty good. With that, I think we embrace good pitching. We've seen a lot of great guys this year and most of the time we beat them. So we're excited to see a big-time arm coming at us in the biggest stage we could possibly play on."
"You know if you're going to get to Omaha, you're going to face tough pitching," Casey added. "We've faced good pitching every time we've been here. Looking forward to the challenge."
The Cardinal's starters are supplemented by one of the better bullpens around, headed by closer Nick Burdi (3-3, 0.78 ERA, 16 saves).
Louisville does have a problem to overcome in the post-season, however, as senior second baseman Nick Ratajczak, who had a string of 125 starts, is out with a shoulder injury sustained in the Super Regionals. Ratajczak was #2 on the Cardinal team in runs scored, and #3 in hits, trailing junior third baseman Ty Young, who hit .333, scored 54 runs, has 77 hits this season, and 57 RBIs, all Louisville team highs.
Containing Young, the Cardinal #3 slot hitter, is a priority today for Oregon St.
There's a chance of thunderstorms later in the afternoon, but good weather, with temperatures in the low 80s, should prevail for the game.
It shapes up as a close matchup offensively. Oregon St. hits .291 as a team, and Louisville .289. The Beavers have 30 home runs, the Cardinal 29, though that's unlikely to be a factor at homerun adverse TD Ameritrade Park. Louisville has a .381 on base percentage vs. Oregon St.'s .379. Those differences are inconsequential in every case.
Whichever team that wins will likely have the upper hand by the end of the 8th inning though, as when UCLA held off LSU for a 2-1 win last evening, ensuring a Pac-12 win and a team from the conference making it past mid-week, it was the 44th time in a row at the CWS, and 28th time at TD Ameritrade Park, when a 9th inning lead has held up. There hasn't been a 9th inning rally for a win in Omaha since LSU came from behind to beat Texas in 2009.
A bad sign for Beaver Nation came out of the UCLA win, though, as all 4 games at the CWS so far have been won by the underdog, after North Carolina St. upset top seed North Carolina 8-1 earlier in the day.
On the flip side, Oregon St., who is the home team again today (via coin flip, not seeding), has won the next day they played after every day in which they have suffered a loss this season, an unprecedented level of resiliency in Beaver history. The Beavs are also 3-0 on Mondays this season.
Louisville is also only 17-7 against leftys, compared to being 34-6 against right handed pitching, so Wetzler is the right guy for that matchup.
Oregon St.'s usual lineup takes the field today, though Casey did move Kavin Keyes up a spot, ahead of Ryan Barnes, hoping to make better use of the hits they get than they were able to on Saturday:
Louisville's lineup for today: