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College World Series: UA ace braces for potent Florida State

'Don't leave anything down the middle' in Friday night's opener
2012-06-12T00:00:00Z 2012-06-12T17:13:15Z College World Series: UA ace braces for potent Florida StateRyan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
June 12, 2012 12:00 am  • 

The Arizona Wildcats will open College World Series play Friday under the lights at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb.

Arizona will face a high-octane Florida State squad at 6 p.m., Tucson time, following UCLA's opener against Stony Brook. Both games will be broadcast live on ESPN2.

Arizona (43-17) advanced to its first College World Series since 2004 with a super regional sweep of St. John's over the weekend.

Florida State (48-15) exploded against Stanford, winning 17-1 and 18-7, to move on to the school's 21st College World Series. The UA will play either UCLA or Stony Brook on Sunday, depending on how it fares against the Seminoles.

Kurt Heyer will start on the mound Friday for Arizona, which is making its 16th CWS appearance.

The ace said the Seminoles are dangerous offensively - they're ranked seventh nationally in on-base percentage (.406) - especially when facing less-sharp pitching.

"Don't leave anything down the middle, because they'll hit it," Heyer said Monday. "If we stick to our game plan, they'll make a lot of ground-ball outs."

Heyer and coach Andy Lopez both watched FSU's clincher Sunday afternoon, but won't delve in the specific scouting reports until today or Wednesday. There won't be any easy games, or opponents, they said.

"This is eight good teams trying to win the national championship," Heyer said. "Hopefully, we're that team."

Charter-pooling?

The Wildcats will leave for Omaha today - and they'll have odd plane-fellows.

UCLA's team will charter a flight in Burbank, Calif., early this afternoon; the plane will stop in Tucson around 3 p.m. and pick up the Wildcats. The two teams are expected to land in Omaha shortly after dinner.

Shared charters are fairly common, especially during the postseason. Arizona and Cal State Fullerton shared a plane in 2004, when both went to Omaha.

Today's flight should be relatively civil: Many of the Wildcats and Bruins grew up together, and Lopez - a UCLA graduate - said he "gets along great" with coach John Savage and athletic director Dan Guerrero.

Rooting interest

The Arizona-Florida State game will have some extra meaning in the Triple-A Tucson Padres' clubhouse. Padres manager Terry Kennedy is a former FSU star catcher, and set-up man Cory Burns is a proud ex-Wildcat.

Kennedy said Sunday night that he and Burns will "both be doing a little bragging, I'm sure. We'll have to place a little side bet on the game."

Burns cheered on UA as he watched Saturday's game from the Padres' clubhouse. Kennedy said he tracks Florida State games and enjoys seeing the Seminoles do well. He talks to FSU coach Mike Martin every once in a while via text.

Inside pitch

• One look at the dimensions, and the Wildcats may feel at home at TD Ameritrade Park. The second-year home of the College World Series has a vast outfield and is tight down the lines, just like Hi Corbett Field.

At 408 feet to center field and 375 feet to the power alleys, the park may play similarly. Add in humidity, which forces down on batted balls, and the Wildcats could be looking at pitcher's duels.

• Lopez said he received 146 text messages following Saturday's win, including notes of congratulations from ex-Wildcats Nick Hundley, Trevor Crowe and Mark Melancon and a pair of big-leaguers - David Eckstein and Mark Ellis - who played for him at Florida.

The coach spent most of Sunday texting them back. He also went to church for the first time in six months.

"Usually, I have to work Sundays," he said.

• Now that they've qualified for the College World Series, the Wildcats will no longer break all team huddles with the word "Omaha." What instead?

"I can't tell you," Lopez said.

Star reporter Daniel Berk contributed to this report.

SCOUTING THE SEMINOLES

• Record: 48-15

• Road to Omaha: Florida State beat Stanford twice in last weekend's NCAA super regionals in Tallahassee, Fla. Sunday night's 18-7 win put FSU in its 21st College World Series.

• Coach: Mike Martin (33rd season, 1,721-592-4)

• All-time against Arizona: The Wildcats lead the series 6-5, but the teams haven't played since 1991. That year, the UA took two of three from FSU at Kindall/Sancet Stadium. Arizona and FSU have met five times in the College World Series, including the 1986 national title game. Arizona won 10-2.

• Hottest hitter: Outfielder James Ramsey is hitting .382 with a team-best 13 home runs and 57 RBIs.

• Best pitcher: Left-hander Brandon Leibrandt is 8-2, and leads the Seminoles in ERA (2.58), innings pitched (94 1/3) and strikeouts (78). Opponents are hitting just .233 against Leibrandt, the son of former major-league pitcher Charlie Leibrandt, who won a World Series with the Royals in 1985.

• In the pros: Florida State has produced 61 big-leaguers, including Giants catcher Buster Posey, Diamondbacks shortstop Stephen Drew, former Padres catcher and current Tucson Padres manager Terry Kennedy and two-sport star Deion Sanders.

Up next

• What: College World Series

• Who: Arizona vs. Florida State

• Where: Omaha, Neb.

• When: 6 p.m. Friday

• TV: ESPN2

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