Razorbacks roll into Omaha

Originally Published: June 12, 2004
By Will Kimmey | Special to ESPN.com

Editor's note: Baseball America contacted professional area scouts and college assistant coaches familiar with the 16 Super Regional teams for analysis.

Fayetteville Super Regional
Florida State (45-23) vs. Arkansas (45-22)
At Baum Stadium at George Cole Field
Fayetteville, Ark.

Fayetteville Super Regional schedule
Friday, June 11
Game 1 - Arkansas 7, Florida State 5

Saturday, June 12
Game 2 - Arkansas 4, Florida State 2 (Florida State eliminated)
Arkansas advances to College World Series

Florida State Seminoles
Coach: Mike Martin (25th season at Florida State; 12 trips to Omaha).
How FSU Got Here: Won the Tallahassee, Fla., regional in four games, beating Central Florida in the final.
Fab Five: Jr. SS Stephen Drew (.353-17-55 with 12 steals); So. OF Eddy Martinez-Esteve (.391-19-81 with 23 doubles); Fr. 1B Ryne Malone (.330-12-54); Sr. RHP Rhett James (10-2, 3.26 with 91 strikeouts and 31 walks in 105 innings); Sr. 2B Bryan Zech (.347-8-45).
Lowdown on the Seminoles: "Early on if you asked me the weakness I would have said pitching. But they always find a way. Mike Martin is a great coach. What he did this year was they were struggling early, and a lot of the guys starting now came out of the bullpen early on. He just moved Rhett James and (Tyler) Chambliss and (Brian) Schultz into the rotation and now they're winning. James has command of the strike zone and can throw his slider for strikes when he wants to. Now (Mark) Sauls and (Eddie) Cannon are decent in the bullpen after being starters earlier, and either can still make a start if they need it.

"That lineup has developed as the year has gone on. You don't want (Stephen) Drew and (Eddy) Martinez-Esteve to beat you, but (Aaron) Cheesman and (Ryne) Malone are getting some hits behind them now, and don't sleep on the little center fielder Shane Robinson. These guys are coming up after Drew and Martinez-Esteve and cleaning up. They don't always hit the homer or doubles those guys do, but they keep things going with singles and getting on base. You can beat Drew and Martinez-Esteve inside with a fastball, but you can't miss in there. Mostly you just have to pitch them backward.

"The defense is solid up the middle with Drew and (Bryan) Zech and (Shane) Robinson, but you might be able to beat them to first base with the short game because Malone hasn't played there a whole lot."

Seminole notes
FSU has lost in the super regional round in each of the last three seasons and hasn't reached Omaha since 2000 -- its longest CWS drought since not getting there from 1981-85.

  • The Seminoles are just 6-11 vs. teams ranked in Baseball America's Top 10 (Arkansas is No. 8) this season and are 11-12 on the road.

  • Not only does Florida State have the most CWS appearances without a national title, but Clemson has the second most, meaning the ACC has taken its fair share of lumps in Omaha. In fact, the conference has just one national title in baseball: Wake Forest in 1955.

    Arkansas Razorbacks
    Coach: Dave Van Horn (second season at Arkansas; two trips to Omaha, both with Nebraska).
    How Arkansas Got Here: Won the Fayetteville, Ark., regional in five games, beating Wichita State twice on the final day.
    Fab Five: So. RHP Charley Boyce (9-2, 3.18 with 77 strikeouts and 20 walks in 105 innings) Jr. LHP Clint Brannon (4-3, 3.33 with 68 strikeouts and 29 walks in 97 innings); Sr. LHP Jay Sawatski (10-3, 3.51 with five saves. 79 strikeouts and 21 walks in 85 innings); Sr. 1B Haas Pratt (.321-8-52); Fr. DH Danny Hamblin (.311-8-40).
    Lowdown on the Razorbacks: "They're a blue-collar team, not a bunch of high-profile guys. They're scrappy, well coached and can really execute. They grind it out with solid pitching, solid defense and good hitting, but none of it's great. The catcher (Brady Toops) throws very well and the center fielder (Casey Rowlett) covers a ton of ground.

    "Be ready to swing it against their pitchers; they're going to throw it in the zone. They just change speeds and I don't think there's one guy who throws in the 90s, but they've got depth and can match up. (Jay) Sawatski is a good, solid guy who can throw three pitches for strikes. But (Clint) Brannon is the guy I really like. He can just pitch. He knows how to pitch. He throws 88 with a sinking fastball and good breaking pitch. He can move it all around and then catch you looking at it.

    "They're aggressive offensively and do a little bit of everything. They don't steal a lot and don't hit a lot of home runs, but they don't swing at bad pitches or strike out in key situations. They get a big play or a key hit right when they need it. They play like there's nothing to lose. The amazing thing about them is you don't ever know who's going to beat you. All those guys are hitting .300. They can do it with a senior in (Haas) Pratt or a freshman with the left fielder (Jake Dugger). They came back a lot this year and did it against Wichita State twice last weekend."

    Razorback notes
    Arkansas is two wins away from the CWS in Omaha, Nebraska. The Razorbacks' head coach, Dave Van Horn, was previously coach at Nebraska and took the Cornhuskers to the CWS in 2001 and '02. In addition, two Arkansas players -- Jake Dugger and Tim "Bubbs" Merrill -- are Omaha natives.

  • By all practical means, the Hogs should not be hosting a Super Regional as a top eight national seed. UA was picked to finish 11th in the SEC in preseason balloting, and it has since managed to win a share of the SEC title and a NCAA regional, despite not ranking in the top half of the conference in any of the three major statistical categories (9th in batting, 7th in pitching, 11th in fielding).

  • After batting .377 in SEC regular-season games, Scott Hode is just 2-for-38 in the postseason (SEC and NCAA tourneys).

  • Despite late-inning heroics that kept Arkansas from being eliminated last weekend, the Razorbacks are not a good come-from-behind team. UA has not won a game this season (0-17) when trailing at the end of the 7th inning.

  • Charley Boyce is scheduled to start Saturday's game for Arkansas. We'll see how much he has left in his arm after throwing 203 pitches last weekend. Boyce threw 99 pitches in a start against Wichita State last Saturday, then came back to throw 104 more in long relief against the Shockers on Sunday. He got the win in the second outing, which was the championship game of the regional.

    Will Kimmey covers college baseball for Baseball America.

    ESPN researcher Brad Edwards contributed to this report.

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