ESPN College World Series analysts Kyle Peterson and Aaron Boone participated in a media conference call earlier this week to discuss the upcoming CWS in Omaha. Both analysts are high on Virginia as a total package, though as we all know, when it comes to tournament time, it truly can be any team, any night.
Here's an excerpt from the transcript pertaining specifically to Virginia:
Q. Of the teams, does anyone stand out as a favorite?
Boone: I like Virginia.
Peterson: I would agree with Aaron. I think Virginia is the most complete. But I think few that are really interesting: Like the style of the ballpark plays pretty well for Texas, just because in the past, not all the time I guess ‑‑ I mean, UCLA was that way last year, but the year before Arizona was a pretty offensive team and South Carolina was a fairly offensive team. But I think at the end of the day, you have to be good about five or six deep on a pitching staff. You don't need the depth that you need for a regional, because it's so much more spread out in Omaha than it is when you get in a regional. Especially for the first few games, you're not playing back‑to‑back days, so your bullpen can respond a little bit. But I guess overall package, I agree with Aaron. I think that Virginia is really good.
Q. To expand on that, about UVA, John Szefc, the coach of Maryland last night, was incredibly laudatory of UVA after the game. I don't know if you heard that, but he specifically compared them to the 2001 Stanford team, which had a bunch of talent, and he said this is the best team he's seen since then. Do either of you guys know enough about UVA or seen them enough to confirm that, or just what is your overall opinion of the overall power that they might bring into the World Series?
Peterson: I think it's tough to compare, but I would say this. I think that when you're preseason No. 1 in a lot of polls, and you then go all the way through the season with a target on your back and end up in Omaha; and do it in a way where you lose the opener to a Maryland club that went down and did what nobody had done since the 70s, and that's win a regional in Columbia, that's pretty good in and of itself.
I think the other thing is they are so balanced. That's what makes it tough. I mean, from the left side, from the right side, power from different guys. Guys that have been around a while and a guy like [Daniel] Pinero who hasn't, but yet you don't see a lot of 6‑5 shortstops that can play the game, and he really can play the game.
Arms‑wise, you just kind of assume that [Head Coach] Brian [O'Connor] is going to have arms all the time, but I think what separates this team is that offensively there's some thump, and they can run around a little bit and they are very, very athletic. And it was funny, that's what everybody was talking about at the beginning of the year is how great Virginia's offense was going to be. But then you look up at the end of the year, and it's one of the best pitching staffs in the country. Offense is still there. But the pitching staff has just been that good and obviously you get a guy like [Nathan] Kirby to come in that quick and do what he did, it's a huge reason why.
Boone: Virginia's talent to me stands out, and obviously, that doesn't necessarily always mean that's the team that wins or that's the team that's going to get rolling and do this thing. But when I look at the teams, the little I've seen of each team, Virginia physically jumps out to me more than any other team.
Q. Are there any sleeper teams that any of you have your eye on, kind of the mold of Mississippi State last year? And is there a team that you guys feel that the ballpark is tailored to with it being so big more than the others?
Peterson: The tough thing this year is ‑‑ I mean, I think that Virginia has to be looked at as probably, if you want to name a favorite, maybe Virginia just because of the consistency and what they have done front to back. I think it's tough to look at it and say, who is really a sleeper given what everybody has gone through.
Maybe you've got to look at an Irvine, just because the committee came out after the selection show and said that Irvine was one of the last five teams in the tournament. We were not even talking about Irvine two weeks ago, let alone now. So I think that's one you probably look at.
And as to who fits the ballpark, they and Texas, from a style standpoint, definitely fit the ballpark.
I think it's interesting, and it was really cool to hear what Aaron had to say about Mike Gillespie, because I was on the other side of Mike Gillespie. I had to look across the field at Mike when I was at Stanford, and he was such a guy that was a competitor; it was always a blast to play SC. But you have got Gillespie and Augie going at it day one and I think a game to where the styles are real similar; and because those styles are really similar, I think both of them really fit the ballpark.
Boone: Irvine certainly seems like that sleeper team to me, because, like Kyle said, they were one of the last teams to get into a Regional, and in a way, were not playing their best baseball as they were heading into the Regional. And then you go to Oregon State, one of the premiere programs right now, come out of that and then go to Oklahoma State and really handle them; you know, they would be as a sleeper, but like to Kyle's point, the road they have gone through now this last couple of weeks, they are playing a high‑caliber game. So it's tough to say on that.
As for the park, I don't know. I am looking forward to our first game of Texas and U.C. Irvine, and seeing Augie and Gillespie. You know from a personal standpoint, 20 years after I was there, we were playing Fullerton and Augie. So I know these guys and I know who they are. It will be fun to see them match up in Game 1.
For the full transcript, click here.
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