Arizona Wildcats manager Andy Lopez is sending out sophomore James Farris to pitch in a crucial Game 2 of the 2012 College World Series against the defending champs, South Carolina. Arizona's hopes of a championship lie almost entirely on the right arm of an underclassman.
While Arizona took Game 1 of the CWS in a 5-1 victory thanks to a gem thrown by Konner Wade, the Wildcats can't let up in Game 2. The Gamecocks are defending champions for a reason, and they can't be given any extra chances to win it all.
However, Lopez decided to throw out the sophomore instead of pitching Kurt Heyer, who is 13-2 with a 2.24 ERA this season.
Farris, on the other hand, has an ERA of almost five, and is 7-3 because of Zona's great lineup. However, he can't rely on getting too much run support tonight, as USC is starting Michael Roth, who is 9-1 with an ERA of 2.41.
Roth looks to silence the Wildcats' productive offense, and he has a legitimate chance of doing so. Roth is a great pitcher who can take the bat out of opponents' hands, and he will look to step up in a must-win Game 2 for the Gamecocks.
With Roth presumably bringing his A-game, Farris must pitch incredibly well in order to clinch the series tonight.
Roth pitched well in his last start, throwing a complete game while only allowing two earned runs (three total runs) on 12 hits, and striking out seven. That outing was in the third game of an NCAA regional against Louisville on June 3.
Farris also got 16 runs of support in that game.
Would you have pitched Farris or Heyer in Game 2?
Farris has yet to pitch in a close game in the postseason, and the added pressure might get to the young pitcher.
Knowing that he can't rely on Robert Refsnyder and the offense to put up more than a couple of runs is a lot to handle, and he will need to pitch one of the best games of his life in order to win.
Lopez is certainly asking a lot of Farris, knowing that this series cannot go to a Game 3.
Even with Heyer pitching in the definitive Game 3, the Wildcats can't give South Carolina any extra chances in the series. The Gamecocks have already had to fight back from being put to the brink of elimination during this year's postseason, coming back against Arkansas earlier in the tournament.
USC is chasing its third straight CWS title, and if Arizona is going to stop them, it has to be tonight.
When the Gamecocks have any momentum at all they find a way to get things going. Their experience is incredibly valuable at this stage in the competition, and if Farris can't put them away tonight, the Widlcats are done.