The CWS is almost here. State returns to Omaha with what can only be described, as a literal hungry wolfpack. Scrappy, fearless and ready to just win games however possible, against whomever they play that day.
We aren’t going to cover “worst case scenarios” much, because that’s not ideal nor fun to talk about. SO LET’S F*CKING GO!
The Cardinals come into the matchup with a near identical season, record-wise. They ended up 3rd in the PAC-12 (samsies) and a 38-15 record (State was 35-18). Unlike State, Stanford has struggled on the road (14-9) and were inconsistent down the stretch. In their last four series, they were 8-5, with three wins in extra innings. They tend to play up or down to opponents; beating big guys, while slipping up against basement dwellers.
With no PAC-12 tournament, they went straight into Regional action, where they beat North Dakota State, before winning two of three from UC Irvine. The biggest “WOW” moment was their absolute dismantling of #9 Texas Tech, in Lubbock, 15-3 and 9-0.
They are solid in the hitting department, as everyone with regular playing time is hitting over .250. Similar numbers across the board as State (see below). Johnston is going to have to be much sharper than the last outing in Arkansas. Hit his spots, get those ground outs and pop-ups he lives off of and we’ll be fine. From Stanford, the Wolfpack will be facing Brendan Beck who has had an absolutely stellar year. The Senior and PAC-12 Pitcher of the Year is 9-1 with a 5-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. He will give up hits, but goes deep in games more often than not.
Batting Average: .289
Runs Per Game: 7.04
Field Percentage: .983
Pitching ERA: 5.12
Road/Neutral Record: 22-6
Batting Average: .281
Runs Per Game: 6.74
Field Percentage: .980
Pitching ERA: 4.57
Road/Neutral Record: 14-9
Simply put, State needs runs early versus Beck and Johnston has to come back with a hell of a game. The first team to go to bullpen is the one that will lose. Consistency needs to be had throughout the Wolfpack order and that means being okay with a little small ball. Beck will eat up State if they try going power every at bat.
Both teams impressed coming out of Super Regionals, for different reasons. State grinded out two of the biggest wins in program history, going to Fayetteville against the #1 team in the country. Stanford played a much easier Texas Tech team, but absolutely destroyed them. Both are beyond confident.
Dream Scenario: State finds a way to crack Beck early. Jump out to a 3-0 lead and then use perfect fielding and late run support to win a 5-3 game.
Bad News Bears: Offense is non-existent, as was the case with Game 1 at Arkansas. The 3,426 miles they’ve already travelled this postseason finally catch up to them. 7-2 Stanford.
Looking Ahead, Which We Definitely Shouldn’t Do
On the other side of the bracket, Arizona faces favorite Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt’s lead by stud pitchers, Rocker and Leiter, both of whom could go top-five in the Draft. Arizona is a hitting machine though, with a TEAM BATTING AVERAGE of .329. If there is a team that could steal a game from the Commodores, it’d be Arizona.
Dream Scenario: So let’s say Arizona finds a way to beat Vandy. State, because we are positive vibes only website, also wins. Now Highfill tries to slow down and State doesn’t have to face either Vandy pitcher until a late Bracket One game. Survive and advance with help from opponent’s strengths.