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2009 Men's College World Series: Opening Round in the Books

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Australian Josh Spence works in ASU's 5-2 victory over North Carolina. (via <a href="http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/128461/IMG_4874_medium.JPG">via Big 12 Hardball</a>)
Australian Josh Spence works in ASU's 5-2 victory over North Carolina. (via via Big 12 Hardball)

We're two days in, four games down, and things are just getting started from the 2009 Men's College World Series at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Nebraska. 

The results from the first two days of action:

Game 1 - Arkansas 10, Cal State Fullerton 6

Game 2 - LSU 9, Virginia 5

Game 3 - Arizona State 5, North Carolina 3

Game 4 - Texas 7, Southern Miss 6

The series started with a game that I thought would go the opposite way-- I really didn't expect Arkansas to come in and knock off a seemingly red-hot Cal State Fullerton team. But once you get to Omaha, everybody is good and everybody is playing well, so it's really not a huge surprise. 

What I outlined above is the reason why Arkansas could be a dangerous team in this tournament. Looking over their stats like I did a few days ago, there is really nothing that wows you on the offensive or defensive side of the ball. There's really nothing scary about this Razorback team at all... and quote frankly, that's the reason they could do some serious damage. It's how Oregon State got it done in 2006 and 2007, and how Fresno State did it in 2008. The recent Omaha trend has been for average teams to get hot at the right time, and it looks like Arkansas could fit into that mold in 2009. 

I didn't have much personal interest in the LSU/ Virginia game, other than the fact that I know the LSU fans have a hoot at the CWS-- when we were there in '07, you'd see the occasional LSU fan who makes the trip to Omaha every year, based on the fact that LSU has developed a habit of reaching Omaha on a regular basis. On the other hand, I liked to see Virginia make the trip, just because it seemed like the Beavers robbed the Cavs of a trip with the Regional upset two years ago... good for them and Brian O'Connor. But like I said... not much rooting interest... LSU wins 9-5, and we move on. 

North Carolina vs. Arizona State was the game I was most excited for. If you're a Pac-10 fan you're rooting for Arizona State, but if you're a Beaver fan, there's no reason for you to root for UNC, because it seems like they always lose. 

This game was a true pitchers duel. Josh Spence, ASU's version of Jamie Moyer, was on fire in the game, as was Alex White of North Carolina. Once the two teams had played nine innings to a 1-1 tie, White exited the game, and ASU proceeded to drop four runs on UNC reliever Brian Moran. White, who struck out twelve, was still throwing 94mph 131 pitches into the game, according to the guys over at Baseball America

And then there was Texas/ Southern Miss. I'm usually one to take the Longhorns in games not involving Oregon State, don't ask me why. But in about the fifth inning, I really began to admire this Southern Miss team. Texas' style of play seems a lot like Oregon State's--big emphasis on pitching and defense, and take whatever offense you can get--but Southern Miss is just flat out disciplined. You've gotta like their coach, Corky Palmer, who's gotten his team to Omaha in what he has said will be his last year at the helm of the USM program. And it sure stunk to see his team lose a hard-fought game by walking six UT batters in the last two innings alone. Corky after the game:

We had an opportunity to win. We kept coming back; we just didn't throw strikes at the end of the game... Our players played like I thought they would on a big stage. I thought there were no nerves, we just didn't throw strikes at the end, and we just didn't throw strikes all game. That's really why we lost the game. We had every opportunity to win, and we just didn't get it done

An interesting storyline could be the teams that come out of the losers brackets, and the challenges they pose to the teams advancing out the winners bracket. Cal State Fullerton seems like the favorite to knock off Virginia tomorrow, but even if they do, they'll still have to battle either an LSU or an Arkansas-- and they'll have to beat both to advance to the championship series. But it seems like if there is a team to do it, Fullerton, who is in the upper bracket, or North Carolina in the lower bracket could be teams to battle back. That being said, a team like UNC isn't one that has had to face a whole lot of adversity this year (have you seen the teams they schedule?), so that could favor an underdog such as Southern Miss, who has had to do a lot more scratching and clawing to get here. 

Tomorrow's lineup:

Cal State Fullerton vs. Virginia, 11:00 AM PT, ESPN2

Arkansas vs. LSU, 4:00 PM PT, ESPN2

--Jake (jake.buildingthedam@gmail.com)