The CWS Championship Series opens this evening at 8 PM ET. The pitching matchup has been set, with Forrest Koumas getting the ball for South Carolina and Konner Wade starting for Arizona. After missing much of the season due to injury, Koumas enters the game with only three starts thus far. Overall, his major stats are as follows: 2-2, 4.56 ERA, 25.2 IP, 16 BB, 28 SO. Wade, on the other hand, has played quite a bit and has been Arizona's second-best starting pitcher, coming in at 10-3, 4.17 ERA, 127.1 IP 36 BB, 102 SO.
It's easy to look at this pitching matchup and say that Arizona has the advantage, and it's certainly true that 'Zona is in the position to start one of its best pitchers in this game because it plowed through its side of the bracket, whereas Carolina is going with one of its lower options after playing several games over the past few days. That said, let's not sell Koumas short. After all, he's been here before: He started the first game of last year's Championship Series, allowing just one run on three hits in 5.2 innings with four strikeouts and one walk in a dramatic 2-1 win over Florida. He also pitched well down the stretch this season after returning from injury, notching quality starts against Arkansas and LSU. Therefore, I don't think we're at as much of a disadvantage here as one might think. I also think that, even if Tyler Webb can't go tonight, we have an advantage in the bullpen. We're just much deeper there than Arizona, whose bullpen has struggled much of the season.
Offensively, the Gamecocks come in at a disadvantage. Arizona is one of the nation's best hitting teams. Their lineup boasts several guys who can hit the pants off the ball. Robert Refsnyder and Riley Moore are both hitting over .400 in the post-season. It's going to be key for Carolina to score when it gets the chance, because it likely won't create as many chances as Arizona will. The good news is that Carolina has a history of resourcefulness when it comes to manufacturing runs in the CWS. We've never been the most illustrious hitting team in Omaha, but we've scored the runs that have counted. That's what we'll need to do again this evening.