WHO: Oregon State vs LSU
SEEDS: LSU is the NCAA tournament No. 4 national seed. Oregon State is the NCAA tournament No. 1 national seed.
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Oregon State: Jr. RHP Jake Thompson
Stats: 14-0, 1.84 ERA, 122 IP, 114 K, 39 BB
So. RHP Drew Rasmussen
Stats: 3-0, 0.79 ERA, 22.2 IP, 24 K, 5 BB
On Jake Thompson: The number that grabs the eye is his record — Thompson’s 14 wins are two more than anyone else in the country. He’s a big, strong right-hander who can run the ball up in the mid 90s, though his strikeout numbers don’t necessarily correlate with his power stuff. And while his overall numbers are outstanding, he’s been knocked around a little bit lately. He started the Beavers’ College World Series opener against Cal State Fullerton and did not make it out of the fourth inning, allowing five runs on three hits and three walks. In his past four starts (during which he is 2-0), he has allowed 14 earned runs in 24 innings — a 5.25 ERA. He had only allowed 11 earned runs in his previous 15 appearances.
On Drew Rasmussen: Rasmussen didn’t pitch until late April this season after recovering from Tommy John surgery, but he has been lights out since his return. He also pitched in Oregon State’s CWS opener, striking out a pair in a perfect ninth inning that made LSU coach Paul Mainieri make a comparison that LSU fans probably don’t want to hear. “He pitched an inning like Zack Hess, so to speak. That’s basically who he is; he’s Zack Hess.” The one drawback to using Rasmussen might be his stamina coming off his injury. He has only logged three games with 70 or more pitches this season, and has not thrown more than 84. His longest outing this season was six innings against Abilene Christian in the NCAA regional. That doesn’t change the fact that he will be a tough obstacle for LSU if Oregon State decides to use him.
LSU: Jr. RHP Alex Lange
Stats: 9-5, 3.08 ERA, 117 IP, 142 K, 44 BB
Analysis: The key to Lange’s outing Friday, as it always is, is how well he commands his pitches, particularly early in counts. Lange’s curveball is arguably the best put-away pitch in college baseball, but it’s not as effective if he is not getting ahead early in counts. Put Lange in a 1-2 count, and he will bury his curveball in the dirt near home plate, a pitch hitters routinely flail at for strike three. But, put Lange in a 2-1 count, and that tool is no longer as effective. When Lange struggles (by his definition of struggling), he is forced to throw his fastball in the hittable zone, and Oregon State is certainly a lineup that can make him pay for that. Lange had difficulty locating against Florida State, and was pulled after six innings. LSU needs a longer, cleaner outing from him Friday.
What they said: “When you get ahead of hitters, you have the opportunity to change their game plan. They want to get a starter out of the game as early as possible, see as many pitches as they can. When you’re locating the heater early, then it really helps to change their game plan up and make them more aggressive early in the counts.” — Lange.
SCOUTING REPORT, OREGON STATE
The key to holding down the Oregon State offense, in LSU coach Paul Mainieri’s estimation, is to limit the effectiveness of its top two hitters. “Their two guys at the top of the order, you can see that’s who makes them go,” Mainieri said. “If you can stop them, then I think you’ve got a chance to hold them down, but stopping them is definitely difficult.” Leadoff man Steven Kwan (.342) and PAC 12 Player of the Year Nick Madrigal (.388) gave LSU fits in the first matchup with their speed on the bases and ability at the plate. The pair went 5-for-10 with a pair of walks and four runs scored, setting the table for the middle of the Oregon State lineup to do some hefty damage.