June 7, 2013 5:19:46 PM
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - It doesn't take long to realize the 2013 NCAA Charlottesville Super Regional become the battle "anything you can do, I can do better" three game series.
Mississippi State University and the University of Virginia both play in a gigantic ballpark, work tirelessly in pitching and defense and are judging by the recruiting results are proud to represent the region of the country they come from.
Virginia and MSU will be meeting for the first time in baseball. The winner of the super regional will advance to the CWS beginning June 15 in Omaha, Neb.
In the top two conferences of the country, both programs that will face each other starting Saturday (Noon, ESPN2) finished in the top four in ERA, strikeouts and opponents batting average. The No. 6 overall seed Cavaliers (50-10) will send freshman left hander Brandon Waddell (6-2, 3.80) to the mound. Waddell, a southpaw from Houston, ranks fifth among all freshmen nationally in strikeouts with 81 and his stuff includes a two-seam fastball in the 87-88 mph range but relies on a slider that shows good bite and depth and his ability to pitch his well through a lineup at much more advanced level than his age would suggest.
Waddell worked seven innings against Army to allow just three hits and one run win the NCAA Regional opener last weekend.
"Brandon Waddell has been our Friday night guy all year long and will make the start for game one," Virginia coach Brian O'Connor said in a matter of fact manner.
O'Connor came to Virginia after spending nine seasons at the University of Notre Dame (1995-2003) under current LSU coach Paul Mainieri. O'Connor was named the 2001 National Assistant Coach of the Year by the American Baseball Coaches Association and Baseball America and was AFLAC National Assistant Coach of the Year in 2003. While at Notre Dame, O'Connor worked with the Fighting Irish pitchers and served as the program's recruiting coordinator. As Notre Dame's recruiting coordinator, he led the effort that landed a nine-member group ranked as the No. 1 recruiting class in the country in 2001, as well as the sixth-ranked recruiting class in 2003 according to Baseball America.
Mississippi State officially announced today Kendall Graveman would get the Game 1 start.
In his media conference Wednesday morning, Cohen said he and his MSU staff are "anticipating Kendall will start game-one" but would not finalize his rotation plans until the weekend begins because in his words "we simply don't have to".
"I think Kendall is just one of those guys that is a competitor and you just want him on the mound because our kids believe in him so much," Cohen said. "
Graveman (6-5, 2.94) said he threw a bullpen session Tuesday which would be congruent with a schedule that would lead up to him making a Saturday start at Virginia.
"As a senior with some experience in Super Regional play, I'd like to think I would be considered for that start," Graveman said.
Graveman got the win Friday night in the 2013 NCAA Starkville Regional opener against the University of Central Arkansas by allowing just four hits and two runs in 6 1/3 innings.
"I'm not saying we have kids our players don't believe in, because I think they believe in everybody on our pitching staff but Kendall is a senior, he's a captain, he wants the baseball," Cohen said. " Certainly I think he got us off to a good start in the Regional. These are all things we consider when we make these choices."
Cohen has marveled at O'Connor's ability to win at Virginia with mostly players from the Mid-Atlantic area, which O'Connor confirmed is the school's policy to have at least 60 percent of the team from the state of Virginia.
"One of the things I always look at is - because I went through this at Kentucky - I look at a roster. And they've done it with northern kids," Cohen said. "People who are really arrogant from the deep South or from the West Coast, they think that all the great players come from the deep South or Florida or Texas or the West Coast. Boy, is that not the case. Brian's done a great job, and his staff, of getting great players from the Northeastern corridor of the United States. They're really good players, and there's no question those kids can play."
MSU has clearly tried to dominate its area of the southeastern part of the country in recruiting and obviously what you have this weekend is not only a ACC vs. SEC battle but a rivalry between two unappreciated area of the country in terms of scouting (Mid-Atlantic vs. Southeast)
"You are talking about two clubs that are recruiting across this country but have built this foundation with kids right in their backyards," O'Connor said. "I've never really thought about it but we take a lot of pride in our players in the surrounding states. That's pretty spot on."
With the dimensions of Davenport Field being very similar to Mississippi State's Dudy Noble Field (332-370-404-370-332), the Bulldogs (46-18) won't have to change its game plan on the mound or at the plate at all based on the new ballpark. The home run doesn't typically play in Charlottesville with the ACC's best offensively lineup having just 41 round trippers and no player on the roster more than nine home runs.
MSU senior left handed pitcher Luis Pollorena, who may get the opportunity to start Game 2 Sunday at 6 p.m., said the park reminds him of the incredibly big Trustmark Park in Pearl that he's had historical success in during his three years with the Bulldogs.
"You see that big outfield and I see a lot of Trustmark Park here," Pollorena said.
The Cavaliers were 35-3 this season at home with the only losses in Charlottesville to Radford, Maryland and Miami.
"When you get to the last 16, there's always a lot of simularities in a lot of the clubs," Cohen said. "All of the clubs are very well coached but being on the road you have to be used to your surroundings in a hurry."
Neither team got a chance to get used to its surroundings today as practices were forced indoors due to rainy conditions in the Charlottesville area.
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