Beware angry teams with good pitching

College of Charleston catcher Ryan Welke has confidence in all three of the Cougars' starting pitchers. (Paul Zoeller/

One of the worst baseball decisions the frequently bumbling NCAA Tournament Selection Committee has ever made? Sure.

But it really doesn't matter which pitcher gets the baseball Friday night for the College of Charleston against heavily-favored Florida in the Gainesville Regional. Taylor Clarke, Bailey Ober and Tyler Thornton are all coming off command performances in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament reflective of their terrific seasons.

"You put any of those guys on the mound, and I have full confidence in their ability to execute pitches and neutralize the other team's offense," senior catcher Ryan Welke said Monday. "Everybody on the team feels the same way. If we make plays behind them and get some timely hitting, we're going to be able to go deep into this NCAA tournament."

It's not just the Cougars. Clemson at the Nashville Regional and Maryland at the Columbia Regional are capable of using strong arms to surprise their way to super regionals.

All three teams might be mad enough to play better, too.

The College of Charleston has every right to ask for a recount. The Cougars are a lowly No. 4 seed despite a respectable No. 53 spot in the NCAA's Ratings Percentage Index. No less than 17 teams in the 64-team NCAA tournament field have a lesser RPI.

When asked Monday why Miami - Florida's opposite No. 1 seed in a potential super regional matchup - got Bethune-Cookman (No. 207 RPI as a No. 4 seed) while Florida got the Cougars, committee chairman Dennis Farrell had a doozy of an explanation equation.

" . we look at the combined RPIs of the three teams that are seeded 1, 2 and 3, and in this case the Coral Gables bracket has a combined RPI of 67, while the Gainesville one has a combined RPI of 72," said Farrell, commissioner of the Big West Conference.

The fuzzy math adds up to an unfair draw for the Cougars, and the Gators.

Maligned Clemson squeezed into the tournament with a crowbar and tradition.

But, as former Clemson outfielder Thomas Brittle (Berkeley High School) tweeted Monday, "Got our foot in the door, now it's time to shock the world #Omaha"

Maryland, taking its "Fear The Turtle" brand to the Big Ten next season, has been hearing jeers from ACC fans all year. Wouldn't it be something if the Terrapins - so long an ACC doormat - became the league's first College World Series champ since Wake Forest outlasted runner-up Western Michigan in 1955?

It always starts with a focused pitcher throwing strike one.

"I think we're ready," Ober said. "We're just really excited to go down to Florida and take on the Gators."

Cougars head coach Monte Lee and pitching coach Matt Heath have to be tempted to bump Ober, a 6-8 freshman right-hander with a 9-2 record and 1.37 earned run average, from his Saturday starting spot into the fray against Florida.

Maryland head coach John Szefc should take the risk: Sit ace Jake Stinnett against No. 3 seed Old Dominion on Friday hoping for a Saturday night clash with the Gamecocks. Stinnett is 7-6 with a 2.60 ERA and has 123 strikeouts and only 26 walks in 104 innings pitches.

The 6-4 senior right-hander from Vista, Calif., is fresh from an ACC tournament victory over Virginia, the No. 3 national seed.

It's a tightrope. Even with Justin Verlander long gone, Old Dominion (No. 36 RPI) is formidable.

But it's enough to make South Carolina head coach Chad Holbrook think about holding Gamecocks No. 1 Jordan Montgomery for Saturday.

Clemson head coach Jack Leggett knows the Tigers are in tremendous pitching shape for a No. 3 seed - if lefty Matthew Crownover (8-5, 2.26 ERA) can get by Oregon on Friday.

If Clemson gets something better than its often shoddy defense and downs the Ducks, host Vanderbilt will have to face first-team All-ACC pitcher Daniel Gossett (7-1, 1.78 ERA).

Of course, the Tigers must hit; Clemson held Virginia to five runs in three games, and lost the series.

The best teams have good arms, too. But dicey pitching matchups are a great equalizer in this era of metal bats designed to perform like wood bats. Only three of the eight national seeds reached the College World Series last year.

None made the championship series in which UCLA defeated Mississippi State.

The Cougars probably will fall short of Omaha.

But they can pitch well enough to make the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee look sillier than usual, and that's hard to do.

Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff