College World Series Live
LSU vs. UCLA
The pitching matchup: UCLA's Adam Plutko (8-3, 2.35 ERA) vs. LSU's Aaron Nola (12-0, 1.68)
A good matchup of two steady Friday aces. Plutko has that bulldog mentality you hear about so often. He shows flashes of dominance and won't have any problem stepping on the main stage of Omaha, considering he threw seven innings of five-hit ball against Stony Brook in a 9-1 win here last year. The Tigers feed off of Nola's dominance and leadership and seem to play with more confidence when he's on the mound. LSU's bullpen has been strong this year, as all 11 relievers have sub-3.75 ERAs, led by ace closer Chris Cotton, who has 16 saves and a .158 opponents' batting average.
UCLA's strength: The West Coast way. The Bruins are typical of a lot of teams in the West: They pitch, they pitch, they pitch and they play a whole lotta defense. That's the Bruins to the bone this year. Dual starters Plutko and Nick Vander Tuig (12-4, 2.37) have combined for 12 career NCAA tournament appearances, going 6-2 in those games. The defense behind them sweeps at a .980 pace, committing just 49 errors, the fewest among the teams in Omaha.
UCLA's weakness: Not to point out the obvious here, but: hitting. Like a sore thumb, the stat that jumps off the page for the Bruins is their bony-armed .251 team batting average. Not a single Bruin hits better than .280. They thrive on small ball -- getting guys in motion, stealing bases, hit and runs. But this also proves why early deficits are a huge hindrance to the Bruins. If opponents hang a few crooked numbers on them early on, it's over.
What coach John Savage says: "The game has changed. In regards to what we do, the changes in the game have been pretty good. We have to pay attention to every detail in the way we play. We hit .250 as a team, so we know the three-run homer is not around the corner like it used to be. For us, we've got to have runners on base to create some havoc."
LSU's strength: Everything. This is Paul Mainieri's most versatile and balanced team of his seven years in Red Stick. The Tigers have the best offense in Omaha (.306), the best defense (tied with UCLA at .980 fielding percentage) and the second-best pitching staff (2.41 team ERA). Alex Bregman (.380, 16-of-17 stolen bases), Mason Katz (.366, 15 home runs) and Raph Rhymes (.343) make up a great mini-Murderer's Row in the college game.
LSU's weakness: Going beyond Nola. The Tigers' ace has been everything he's cracked up to be. But No. 2 starter Ryan Eades, who was a second-round draftee of the Twins last week, has struggled mightily in his past two starts, going a combined 6 1/3 innings and allowing seven hits and three runs while walking five and plunking three. No. 3 starter Cody Glenn has yet to pitch in the NCAA tournament due to a suspension that has since been lifted. In other words, it's a total guessing game beyond the reliable Nola.
What coach Paul Mainieri says: "Nobody pulled the wool over my eyes of why I came to LSU. I'm there to get to Omaha. When we won the championship in '09, I think the first question at the press conference was, 'Can you repeat?' So I'm aware of what the expectations are and how important it is to LSU fans that we make it here."
Rodon dominant against North Carolina
Final score: North Carolina State 8, North Carolina 1
WP: Carlos Rodon, 10-2
LP: Kent Emanuel, 11-4
In a nutshell: It didn't take much. When Rodon is on top of his game, it never does. The Wolfpack ace got the backing of five runs in the first three innings, and from there it was Katy bar the door. Rodon allowed just five hits and two walks, while also piling up eight strikeouts in an efficient 108-pitch outing. In three games against the Tar Heels this year, Rodon is 2-0 with 32 strikeouts, eight walks and just three earned runs in 25 2/3 innings.
Key stat: five appearances -- That's how many Kent Emanuel has made in the NCAA tournament. In those five appearances, he's pitched 15 innings, given up 19 runs and has an ERA of 11.40, while throwing a total of 304 pitches.
What it means: The Tar Heels are a team that seems to be playing uphill. They're a No. 1 seed that is lacking confidence. Having your ace fall on hard times at the wrong point in the season will make any team slump its shoulders and struggle. That's Carolina in a snapshot right now. Both LSU and UCLA have good No. 2 pitchers, but it will be paramount for the Heels to get out of the gates fast on Tuesday. Whether it's Benton Moss or Hobbs Johnson getting the Tuesday start, they must limit the walks -- they 84 between them this year.
NC State getting a complete game from Rodon sets up a full arms corps going to Tuesday's winner's bracket game. Ethan Ogburn is statistically the Wolfpack's best starting pitcher with a 2.78 ERA. He's given up more than five hits in a start just once this season. If the Pack's bats stay hot, it may not matter who they face on the mound. This is a team with momentum.
North Carolina State coach Elliot Avent: "I don't mean to be sappy, but Carlos Rodon is a lot more than people see. He's one of the best teammates on the team. Besides that, he's got a powerful left arm and he knows how to channel that energy. I think he had about 90 pitches going into the ninth inning."
North Carolina coach Mike Fox: "We've been successful against Rodon in the past, and we've been able to match him on the mound and just outlast him. But you see his dominance on the mound today. He's really good ... just too good for us today."
CWS Viewer's Guide
Mississippi State rallies late
Bulldogs win on Day 1 in Omaha
Final score: Mississippi State 5, Oregon State 4
WP: Ross Mitchell, 13-0
LP: Matt Boyd, 10-4
Save: Jonathan Holder, 19
In a nutshell: The Beavers came into today's College World Series opener with a 17-2 mark in games decided by two runs or fewer. That hot run of tight ballgames ended here, as expected starter Matt Boyd was brought in to relieve Andrew Moore in the eighth inning. Boyd gave up an infield single to Hunter Renfroe, followed by a two-run double to Wes Rea, accounting for the winning runs. Jonathan Holder came on to lock down the win, despite two Beavers reaching base in the ninth inning and a rocket shot by Danny Hayes that was caught on the warning track for the final out.
Key stat: 1.2 -- Ace reliever Jonathan Holder came into the game averaging 1.2 innings per outing. Sure enough, with one out in the eighth inning, the MSU mountain man came in and got the final five outs of the game to get his 19th save.
What it means: Given the depth and quality of their pitching staffs, neither of these teams will go into panic mode after Game 1. But it was interesting to see that Matt Boyd was brought in from the 'pen to relieve Andrew Moore and in his eight pitches, gave up the game-deciding double. Boyd obviously wasn't used much and will be available in relief for Game 2, as coach Pat Casey said after the game that Ben Wetzler will get the start on Monday.
The Bulldogs have to be brimming with confidence, having seen the Beavers throw their best at them and still fighting back from behind to win in a nip-and-tuck finish. As long as bullpen arms like Ross Mitchell, Jonathan Holder and Chad Girodo are around, the Bulldogs can pretty much just get four or five innings from their starters, then win it with the relievers. It's a formula that continues to work for the Maroons.
Oregon State coach Pat Casey: "We've been in this situation before. We lost the openers to UCLA, Oregon and Washington State and we came back to win those series. So we know how to come back."
Mississippi State coach John Cohen: "This group never quits and will never give in. The character of this group definitely shows. We can make some dumb mistakes here and there, but we're not going to give up."
Indiana takes down Louisville
Final score: Indiana 2, Louisville 0
WP: Joey DeNato, 10-2
LP: Chad Green, 10-4
In a nutshell: Indiana used 136 great throws from starting pitcher Joey DeNato and one big throw from right fielder Will Nolden to earn its first-ever win in the College World Series. While the Hoosiers' offense pecked out a pair of runs in the first three innings, DeNato crushed any hope of Louisville forming a rally with his four-hit, eight-strikeout shutout. But it was Nolden's laser throw from right field that gunned down Sutton Whiting at the plate for the final out in the third inning, setting the tone for the rest of the night. Louisville would not get another runner past second base.
Key stat: 3-for-13 -- In the last 13 years of CWS play, only three teams have won their debut games as first-time participants, including Indiana Saturday night. The other two: TCU beat Florida State 8-1 in its 2010 opener, and Vanderbilt downed North Carolina 7-3 in its first-ever game.
What it means: Like Oregon State in Game 1 on Saturday, a loss here isn't a death-knell to the Cardinals' hopes, due to their deep pitching staff and offense that can turn it on with the flick of a switch. But the offense better do that soon. This marks three straight games Louisville was held to fewer than seven hits, including the two wins against Vanderbilt in the Nashville Super Regional.
It was much more necessary for Indiana to get off to a good start with a win, and in particular to get a huge complete-game effort. DeNato provided that for IU, even admitting he felt a little stronger as the game went on and had no problem with going the distance. IU's pitching staff is not as prolific as Louisville's, but DeNato going the distance was a huge first step in setting the Hoosiers' arms up perfectly for a big run this week.
Louisville coach Dan McDonnell: "Congratulations to DeNato, he pitched his tail off. The bright spot is that we're never going to have to see him again since we're in the same bracket."
Indiana coach Tracy Smith: "The most satisfying thing about tonight was how all I've heard this week is about Indiana's offense, offense, offense. But I was very pleased to see how we pitched, because pitching and defense is what's going to win you a national championship."