No. 4 seed Alabama hosts North Carolina
Editor's note: No one knows the super regional teams better than their opponents. Will Kimmey talked to college coaches who had faced multiple teams still alive in the NCAA Tournament and offered them anonymity in exchange for their candor.
Tuscaloosa Super Regional
At Sewell-Thomas Stadium (all times Eastern)
Friday, June 9
Game 1 -- North Carolina 11, Alabama 5
Saturday, June 10
Game 2 -- North Carolina 8, Alabama 7 ... Watch
North Carolina (49-13) advances to the College World Series.
North Carolina Tar Heels
How They Got Here: Won the Chapel Hill regional in three games
CWS History: Four trips to Omaha, last in 1989
Coach: Mike Fox (Eighth season)
|North Carolina's Top Hitters|
|Player (Position)||AVG||OBP||SLG||Key Stats|
|Josh Horton (SS)||.409||.467||.562||16 2B, 12 SB, 57 R, 52 RBI|
|Jay Cox (LF)||.386||.481||.655||13 HR, 49 R, 55 RBI|
|North Carolina's Top Pitchers|
|Andrew Miller (LHP)||12-2||2.26||108 K's, 35 BB, 103.2 IP|
|Daniel Bard (RHP)||8-3||3.47||90 K's, 33 BB, 85.2 IP|
|Robert Woodard (RHP)||6-1||3.48||47 K's, 19 BB, 95.2 IP|
Scouting the Tar Heels: "Obviously, they have two first-rounders [Bard and Miller], and Woodard might be their best pitcher.
"I really think that kid competes. He knows how to pitch and mixes speeds and hits spots. We've never beaten him. Miller and Bard have great stuff, and you'll have a hard time beating them when they're on. When Bard gets runners on, he gets wild. He pitches better with a lead. Miller has learned how to pitch more this year. He gets ahead with 88 [mph fastballs] and then throws 93-94 late in the count. His slider is unhittable. [Andrew] Carignan is the best guy in a good bullpen. He's got a really good fastball and is a bulldog. [Jonathan] Hovis is really strong, too.
"With both Bard and Miller, bring them down in the zone, don't chase that cheese up high. Lay off the offspeed -- they have trouble throwing it for strikes -- but that's easier said than done. Miller has a better pickoff move -- roll with him, stay in the game, get his pitch count up and try to win against the bullpen.
"The catalyst to the team is Horton; he's a gamer. He uses whole field, can run, can bunt, and he hits anywhere one to three. He's a tough kid and a leader, but he didn't show much at shortstop; he's an average college shortstop.
"Guys like [Chad] Flack and [Benji] Johnson you can pitch to, but if you make mistakes they hurt you. UNC can the hit long ball and can also play the small game. Keep those small guys off the bases; they're not great hitters but good runners. [Mike] Cavasinni is a weak player and you can pitch to him, but he plays his role well. He's got a weak arm in the outfield. [Kyle] Shelton can hurt you if you make mistakes; [Reid] Fronk's the same way, and you can bunt on him at third. That's something you want to do with Miller and Bard on the mound."
Alabama Crimson Tide
How They Got Here: Won the Tuscaloosa regional in three games
CWS History: Five trips to Omaha, last in 1999
Coach: Jim Wells (12th season)
|Alabama's Top Hitters|
|Player (Position)||AVG||OBP||SLG||Key Stats|
|Emeel Salem (CF)||.364||.430||.487||67 R, 14 2B, 36 SB|
|Kody Valverde (C)||.346||.462||.616||12 HR, 59 RBI, 17 2B|
|Alabama's Top Pitchers|
|Wade LeBlanc (LHP)||11-0||2.62||124 K's, 42 BB, 123.2 IP|
|Tommy Hunter (RHP)||10-3||3.10||77 K's, 21 BB, 110.1 IP|
|David Robertson (RHP)||4-3||2.60||62 K's, 28 BB, 52 IP, 10 saves|
Scouting the Crimson Tide: "It starts on the mound with LeBlanc, [Bernard] Robert and Hunter, who has been outstanding on Sundays.
"Robertson is pretty good out of the pen. LeBlanc and Robert are all about changeups. They don't throw them for strikes, so if you're not disciplined, you will find it a long evening. If you lay off, you get pitch counts up and they have to go to the bullpen. And other than Robertson, it's just OK. Hunter just comes right at you with four-seam fastballs and the breaking ball is good, too. He really competes.
"When you talk offense, none of the position players are prospects -- all the prospects are on the mound. Emeel Salem makes them go. You've got to keep him off base. He's the typical speedy leadoff guy. He's the key. When he's on, it really keys the offense. [Alex] Avila is a nice freshman hitter and Valverde had a good year, but it's not scary when those guys are up.
"They play team offense and they make you play good defense.
"They get bunts down, hit and run. It's not like old Alabama where you make pitches and got them out or they hit a home run. They don't have prospect-type hitters, and they just play more offense. That makes them more difficult to defend. I'd rather play a team that tries to hit it out of the ballpark. They definitely don't play the traditional SEC power ball, and they play in a little tiny ballpark. You would think they would have a lot of home runs. Nobody's going to scare you in that lineup, but they play team offense. Their kids know, 'We don't have to score eight runs, we're good enough to win if we score five.' So they relax, catch the ball and score when they can. With that pitching, it's usually enough."
Will Kimmey covers college baseball for Baseball America.