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June 22, 2007

CWS Finals: Heels, Beavers butt heads

When fall workouts commence and teams use the new gear and bats, there's only one goal in mind and that's to reach the College World Series and compete for a national title.

While several teams entered the postseason with hopes of reaching the College World Series finals, only two teams North Carolina and Oregon State are left standing entering the weekend.

North Carolina defeated Rice twice to advance to the series, while Oregon State cruised through its bracket with wins over Cal State Fullerton, Arizona State and UC Irvine.

So, which team has the edge this weekend?

College World Series Finals: Who has the edge?

North Carolina has an outstanding crop of pitchers but with freshman Alex White getting the starting nod in Game One and the Tar Heels not real sure after that, the pitching edge goes to the Beavers. Freshman right-hander Jorge Reyes threw a gem in his first start at the College World Series and is pitching with confidence, while Mike Stutes and Danny Turpen give the Beavers a pair of seasoned and rested arms in the weekend rotation. Turpen would likely only start game three for OSU. Besides the usual suspects, the Beavers also have one of the nation's best relievers junior right-hander Eddie Kunz, along with Joe Paterson. While the Tar Heels have the edge in the bullpen, the Beavers have more rest and have shown dominance throughout the CWS.

Oregon State has hit the baseball with consistency in Omaha, but don't let its latest surge fool you North Carolina still has the better offense. While some doubted UNC's offense against Rice, the Tar Heels got it done at the plate when they needed to. Additionally, freshman first baseman Dustin Ackley who was ice-cold at the plate before Omaha has heated up in the last two games and is on fire for the Tar Heels. If Ackley continues to produce like he has the past two games, the Tar Heels are able to create more options at the plate. Fellow freshman Tim Fedroff is impressive, while Chad Flack, Josh Horton and Tim Federowicz can produce at any given time. While the Beavers have produced at a high level in Omaha, UNC is in much better shape at the plate.

North Carolina has made some strides in the defensive department and has made some nice plays at the College World Series. But when the dust settles, the Beavers have the better fielding team. Veteran shortstop Darwin Barney and second baseman Joey Wong create one of the nation's best middle infields, while Chris Hopkins is a consistent fielder in the outfield. Barney made a leaping catch on a line drive that wowed observers at Rosenblatt Stadium a few nights ago, while Wong helped turn one of the most impressive double plays I've seen this season. While Barney and Wong lead the way up the middle, Oregon State also has one of the top defensive catchers in the land with veteran Mitch Canham leading the charge.

After reaching the College World Series finals last season, North Carolina is a team that has played loose throughout the past week. Even after losing a game to Rice in dismal fashion, the Tar Heels bounced back to beat Louisville once and Rice twice. Not every team in America can do that and UNC is the exception. While we're impressed with North Carolina's attitude and toughness, the intangibles favor Oregon State. Not only are the Beavers well rested, they also know exactly what it takes to win the national title. The Beavers also have the luxury of beating the Tar Heels in the finals last season. Some may view that as a non-factor, but don't think the Tar Heels won't be thinking of 2006 if times get tough late in the game.