Offense fuels red-hot Florida State
1. Florida State (45-21) -- automatic berth, won ACC tournament
2. Oklahoma State (38-24) -- automatic berth, won Big 12 tournament
3. Central Florida (47-18) -- at-large berth, won Atlantic Sun regular season
4. Bethune-Cookman (27-28) -- automatic berth, won MEAC regular season and tournament
Saturday, June 5
Game 3 -- Oklahoma State 4, Bethune-Cookman 1 (Bethune-Cookman eliminated)
Game 4 -- Florida State 3, Central Florida 2
Game 5 -- Central Florida 12, Oklahoma State 9, 10 inn. (Oklahoma State eliminated)
Sunday, June 6
Game 6 -- Central Florida 7, Florida State 5
Game 7 -- Florida State 19, Central Florida (Central Florida eliminated)
Florida State advances to Super Regionals.
In a regional with a handful of elite hitters, it's going to be pitching that sends a team to super regionals. Central Florida junior righthander Matt Fox is the best pitcher here. He went 13-2, 1.99 with 119 strikeouts and 34 walks in 104 innings and is a semifinalist for the new Roger Clemens award, given to college baseball's best pitcher. Fox throws in the low 90s, shows a strong curveball and developed a nasty mid-80s slider midway through this season. He has the ability to shut down either Oklahoma State or Florida State, depending on which game coach Jay Bergman decides to use him.
Georgia Tech was the nation's hottest team and had won 20 straight games when Florida State dealt it consecutive losses to win the ACC tournament. Now the Seminoles might hold that distinction, having won 11 of their last 12. Draft-eligible sophomore outfielder Eddy Martinez-Esteve led the team in the triple crown categories (.401-19-78) and was the ACC's most dangerous hitter all year. Junior shortstop Stephen Drew, the younger brother of first-round picks J.D. and Tim Drew, could go first overall next week after batting .353-14-52. That duo leads an offense that homered 72 times in 62 games and often needs to -- and does -- outscore the runs its rather pedestrian pitching staff allows. Senior righthander Rhett James (9-2, 3.31) spent some time in the bullpen this year, but eventually emerged as the staff ace.
On The Other Hand
Fox isn't the only stud on the mound for Central Florida. The Golden Knights produced a 3.19 team ERA and 13 shutouts this year, including a school-record five by draft-eligible sophomore righthander Kyle Bono. He was a late addition to the rotation after closing last season and emerged as a standout in his own right. He used excellent command to go 8-1, 1.79 with 101 K's and 25 walks. He and Fox are capable of putting up goose eggs in back-to-back games, leaving UCF sitting pretty on Sunday. Junior outfielders Clay Timpner (.381-5-31 with 42 steals) and Dee Brown (.360-4-63) lead the offense. Brown is the son of the late Miami Hurricanes and Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Jerome Brown.
Oklahoma State gets into the tournament for the first time since 2001 with a somewhat surprising run to meet the even more surprising Missouri club in the Big 12 final. Like Florida State, the Cowboys can swing the pole. They ranked second in the Big 12 with a .315 average, led by premium draft talent who rate the best at their positions among college players. Junior third baseman Josh Fields produced the third best-average in the conference at .370, adding 10 homers and 20 doubles. Fields doubles as the school's quarterback. Junior catcher Jason Jaramillo hit .360-6-50 and manages a solid but not overwhelming staff led by lefthander Spencer Grogan, who led the league in innings, complete games and tied for first with 12 wins. He has won eight of his last 10 starts and pitched seven innings in all of them. Freshman first baseman Thomas Incaviglia, the nephew of OSU legend Pete Incaviglia, moved into the starting lineup nine games ago and is batting .472 since.
Hey, Don't Forget Us
Bethune-Cookman earned the MEAC bid for the sixth straight year after cruising through the conference with a 14-4 record. Coach Mervyl Melendez' team normally gets a trip down to Miami, and gave the Hurricanes all they could handle in a regional opener last year. While heading to Tallahassee might be a little something different, the result will likely be similar. Junior outfielder Sebastien Boucher is one of three Canadians on the roster. He batted .364 and stole 36 bases in 45 tries. Sophomore righty Francisco Gomez led the Wildcats with a 7-1, 2.96 record.
Will Kimmey covers college baseball for Baseball America.
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