Top seeds separate themselves from pack

Originally Published: June 15, 2007
ESPN.com

FROM THE BOOTH

OMAHA, Neb. -- On Friday, we saw runs. And runs. And more runs.

On Saturday, we were introduced to baseball's West Coast offense. Both Arizona State-UC Irvine and Oregon State-Cal State Fullerton were close, grind-it-out affairs dominated by pitching. The teams that won were the teams that capitalized on pitching mistakes.

Theoretically, the one-run game played right into the Anteaters' strengths, as the team boasts one of the nation's best arms in Scott Gorgen. But Arizona State proved why it's the No. 5 national seed, as it rattled the rookie Gorgen with timely hits. All of the Sun Devils runs were scored via home runs. They don't have to score that way, but they proved that they can -- and that makes them dangerous. The Sun Devils proved they could win close games as comfortably as they can slug them out.

Arizona State has a distinct advantage in this bracket. While every team resides on the West Coast, only three of the teams play like it. Arizona State plays more like an SEC or Big 12 team, which makes it hard for the others to matchup. The only question that remains for the Sun Devils is whether they can pitch enough. Jason Jarvis was spectacular on the back end, throwing two no-hit innings and striking out three. He's a shutdown closer, and those are vital in Omaha. If Arizona State can keep winning, it will be in great shape to make the championship series.

After the opening round of games, each of the national seeds (Rice, North Carolina and ASU) advanced. I'd be surprised if two of the three don't play for the championship. North Carolina has an advantage in its depth; we saw that on Friday, when the Heels seemlessly replaced their No. 1 starter (Robert Woodard) with their middle-of-the-week pitcher (Adam Warren) and were able to shut down Mississippi State's bats. Rice and Arizona State have experience and balance. The Sun Devils' slugging is well documented, but their defense -- especially up the middle -- may have been overlooked. Year in and year out, coach Wayne Graham puts together one of the most balanced teams in the nation. The Owls can pitch, defend and have fundamentally good hitters. These three teams have separated themselves from the rest of the pack.

Kyle Peterson was a three-time All-American at Stanford and is a college baseball analyst for ESPN.

THE SCORER'S TABLE
Saturday's Stats of the Day from ESPN Research
1 Number of times Oregon State has won its first game in the College World Series. Before Saturday's victory over Irvine, the Beavers were 0-for-3 in the first game.

8 UC Irvine is the eighth straight team to lose its CWS debut game. The last team to win its first CWS game was Georgia Tech in 1994.

366 After striking out seven Oregon State batters Saturday night, Wes Roemer became Cal State Fullerton's career strikeouts leader with 366 total.

OREGON STATE ESCAPES FULLERTON

OMAHA, Neb. -- It was a nervous night for Oregon State, and Mike Lissman bounced up and down and he leaned against the dugout rail.

Some wondered if Lissman should have been in Omaha at all.

Lissman hit a first-inning home run that helped the Beavers beat Cal State Fullerton 3-2 on Saturday night at the College World Series, one month after he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor theft for taking nearly $8,000 from an 85-year-old relative.

Lissman was never suspended from the team, and was allowed to travel to Omaha while on probation.

"I'm here to play baseball," Lissman said late Saturday as he walked away from an interview on the field when the questions drifted to his legal issues.

The Beavers are the defending national champions, and Lissman is their top hitter. They squeaked into the postseason around the time he was going to court. Oregon State athletics director Bob De Carolis told The Oregonian that the department initially received information that downplayed the charges, and that the school didn't know Lissman was almost charged with a felony.

"If [OSU coach Pat Casey] had that information, he probably would have carried through with some kind of suspension," De Carolis told the newspaper. "But that's kind of water over the dam. Because usually you try to do [suspensions] at the time."

Read the full article here.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS
UC Irvine kept Arizona State's powerful offense in check on Saturday. Although freshman Scott Gorgen gave up a three-run homer to give the Sun Devils the lead, he finished with an impressive stat line.

Arizona State-UC Irvine pitchers' duel
Pitcher IP H R ER BB SO HR
S. Gorgen, UCI 7 8 5 5 3 9 3
M. Leake, ASU 7 6 4 4 0 3 0



PHOTO OF THE GAME
Cody Cipriano
AP Photo/Eric Francis
UC Irvine's Cody Cipriano catches Arizona State's Eric Sogard stealing second in the third inning.
IN MOTION
Arizona State edges Irvine
ARIZONA STATE'S INSPIRATION

OMAHA, Neb. -- He cracks jokes, sings, and gathers wisdom from Bruce Springsteen songs.

With Pat Murphy in the dugout, how could the Arizona State baseball team not be loose?

Roughly 45 minutes after his Sun Devils held off UC Irvine 5-4 at the College World Series on Saturday, Murphy grabbed a microphone -- which was mercifully off -- and belted out "No Surrender" as the last reporters straggled of the postgame press conference. Murphy is big on the Boss. He has a drawerful of T-shirts with Springsteen songs on them, and wore "It's Hard to be a Saint in the City" Saturday.

Read the full article here.

PHOTO OF THE GAME
Joey Wong
AP Photo/Ted Kirk
Oregon State's Joey Wong throws to first base for a double play after forcing out Cal State Fullerton's Chris Jones (34) in the fourth inning.
WHAT TO WATCH: SUNDAY

Louisville's bats: The Cardinals weren't hurting for offense in their Game 1 loss to Rice. They just need to keep swinging the bats and try to forget about everything that allowed Rice to come back on Friday. Louisville, in its first CWS trip, didn't look tight or nervous. That's a big advantage for the Cards.

North Carolina's Alex White The Tar Heels' freshman ace didn't throw the ball well against South Carolina in the super regionals, and it will be interesting to see how he fares in his first outing in Omaha. It's important that he go deep into the game so that North Carolina can save its arms. While winning Game 1 is important, winning Game 2 can really set a team up in terms of resting its staff; the winner of this game will have two days off before it has to play again.

STOCK UP/stock down
PLAYER TEAM POS STOCK
Matt Spencer Arizona State CF
Spencer went 2-for-3, scoring the bulk of the Sun Devils' runs on a three-shot homer in the second inning.
Scott Gorgen UC Irvine P
The Anteaters rookie ace looked a little shaky in his first start in Omaha. But he found his groove and finished with nine strikeouts. Expect more of the same on Monday.
Scott Santschi Oregon State OF
Santschi, a senior, hit his first home run of the season when the Beavers needed it most. He finished the day 2-for-3 with two RBIs.
Clark Hardman Cal State Fullerton CF
Hardman usually sparks the Titans' offense, but his 1-for-4 performance Saturday was a bit disappointing.