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Texas vs Arizona State: Super Regional Baseball Preview

The Arizona State Sun Devils come to town to start a best-of-three super regional tonight. The schedule is as follows: tonight at 6 PM on ESPN, tomorrow at 6 PM on ESPN, and Sunday (if necessary) on ESPN2. This is your preview, and we'll have a separate open thread for the game.

To compare the two universities, we thought a couple of videos would be instructive:



(Please note that this video is not an invitation to political conversation in the comments. We just thought the ripping on ASU parts were funny.)

OK, the silliness is over. Real stuff after the jump.

One thing is clear: the NCAA will be pulling for Texas to win this series. It would be quite an embarrassment if a team that was supposed to be banned from this postseason altogether made it to Omaha; ASU has appealed its suspension and as such will likely serve it next season instead. However, this is one case where the NCAA can't just get what it wants by decree, so we'd better actually preview the baseball.

ASU will have the advantage of coming in fresher than Texas, as they swept through the Tempe regional last weekend. Taylor Jungmann will throw tonight on what is technically only three days' rest, though the number of pitches he threw Monday made that outing, in all likelihood, no more stressful than a bullpen session. Expect Taylor to look as rested as he normally would when he takes the hill tonight. He'll need to be, as Arizona State can really hit the baseball.

This is a classic Gorillaball versus Augieball matchup. ASU has a higher slugging percentage, more runs, hits, more doubles, more triples, and more homeruns by Texas--and most of those numbers aren't close. Texas has a lower ERA and batting average against, fewer runs allowed and hits allowed, and more strikeouts--and most of those numbers aren't close either. It will be strength against strength this weekend.

By now you all know about Texas' strengths and weaknesses. The strengths will be on the mound (and bunting!), with Cole Green lined up to pitch Saturday and Sam Stafford Sunday. Green looked like the guy we thought he could be last weekend, and if he really is peaking at the right time the Longhorns have a chance to win this thing in two behind him and Jungmann.

But of course, it won't be easy. Sophomore Sun Devil Joey DeMichele leads the team with a .368 average and nine dingers; he also has an incredible total bases (15 doubles and six triples to go along with those homeruns) for a .665 slugging percentage. And DeMichele is only one of the nine ASU hitters batting over .300, each of whom has a significant number of at-bats. The Devils showed how explosive they can be last weekend; after a somewhat shaky 4-2 win over New Mexico to start the regional, they destroyed Charlotte 16-1 and then sent Arkansas packing 13-4. It will be imperative for Texas' pitchers to keep the ball down and start guys off with strikes; getting behind in the count against Arizona State could spell disaster.

On the mound, ASU does bring some good news; if Texas can win one of the first two, the Longhorns should have a decided advantage in terms of pitching depth in Game Three. The Devils' top two starters are Brady Rodgers and Kramer Champlin, both with decent ERAs under 3. Their third starter, though, is Jake Barrett and his 4.14 average. Third starter Jake Barrett is out with an injury, so he won't even be in Austin. (Good catch by Forty.) ASU will go with either Mitchell Lambson or Kyle Ottoson if the series goes to three games. Lambson was the closest thing the Devils had to a closer this year, notching eight saves in 29 appearances--only two of which were starts. If coach Tim Esmay wants to keep Lambson as an option out of the 'pen, it'll be Ottoson on Sunday. If not, then the Devils' main go-to in relief will be Freshman All-American Trevor Williams, who sports a 1.91 ERA. Ottoson had eight starts on the season, mostly in mid-week games. He brings a 3.40 ERA and a 46:20 K:BB ratio.

Williams is the only ASU pitcher against whom opponents hit under .200, and he has the fewest innings among guys who actually get playing time. There's no reason Texas can't manufacture some runs against this group, so if Jungmann and Green are at their best the burnt orange could punsh their ticket to Omaha tomorrow. If not, it'll be the Sun Devils celebrating on our field turf.

Prediction? Texas in three. Hook 'em!