Cusick's Eye at Irvine & Tokarski Leads Off For Illinois State


The last thing a team wants to see is a strikeout in a clutch situation. It happens all the time, whether it’s done on a wind slicing swing that makes the crowd groan, or on a completely dazed look at a called third strike. So when UC Irvine confronts a momentum gaining LSU team in the first game of the Los Angeles Regional on Friday, it’s must be good to know that at their cleanup spot they feature a quality bat like Jeff Cusick. It’s not Cusick’s power that’s most impressive. He’ leads his team with 8 long shots, but that’s not nearly enough to consider Cusick a fence driving threat. Does he lead the entire nation in batting average? Not really. His .379 batting average leads the Irvine Anteaters, but in the Big West Conference it’s only the 6th best. So what is it that can make him so valuable in a game? Well, he has an attribute that many wish they had. Jeff Cusick is almost impossible to strikeout. In 214 at bats during the 2010 season Cusick has only struck out 9 times. That gives the Irvine Anteaters better odds of at least moving a runner over instead of embarrassingly striking out with your team down by a run or two. In tournaments, there is no time for missing opportunities. Making contact and putting the ball in play is much better than leaving the ball in a cocky catcher’s glove.


This is a game of averages, the more times a hitter connects with the ball, the more chances of attaining your goal of reaching a base. It becomes evident with his on base percentage of .458 which in the top two in the conference. And ultimately, everyone except for the villainous pitcher feels cheated by a lazy swing or the lack of one. What pitchers dislike the most are distractions. The best way to distract a pitcher is by getting on base and becoming a menace. In 2010, not many were more present on the base paths than Illinois State’s Kevin Tokarski. The sophomore infielder will pose a problem for Vanderbilt as they clash in their first game of the Louisville Regional. Tokarski has an on base percentage (.551) which is the absolute highest of any player involved in the NCAA Tournaments this year. It does not stop there. Tokarski has the 19th highest batting average (.429), and he scored a Missouri Valley Conference high 67 runs. The combination of getting on base and scoring runs is how baseball games are won. Illinois State was tied for 1st place with Wichita State in their conference, but the Illinois State Redbirds were unstoppable in their pursuit of a conference title. They slammed past Bradley and then Indiana State twice. In the final game against the #1 seed Wichita State, the Redbirds banged out 20 hits and scored 17 runs as they routed their conference rivals 17-8. As they went 4-0 in tournament play, Tokarski went 5 for 13, scored 7 runs, walked 6 times, and drove in 6 runs.

At the top of the lineup, Tokarski is an action maker and the headaches the 22nd ranked Vanderbilt will feel tomorrow will start there. If you think that Tokarski was that impressive because he played in a mid major conference, this will be the moment of truth. The last time these two teams faced off was back in March during the Music City Classic. Vanderbilt won the game 9-2, but Kevin Tokarski did not play. This time around, the stakes are higher, and things are a little different. The small things win baseball games. With aluminum bats it’s hard to say who has real homerun power, but getting on base is a more natural statistic. Having the best hand to eye coordination is a sincere and obvious trait. That’s how underdogs topple the giants in a double elimination tournament. And that’s how I watch the College World Series



By: Adrian Nevarez
College Sports Fans Staff Writer


> Be sure to follow Adrian during the entire 2010 College World Series & be sure to check out his in depth coverage of the MLB, online through DFN Sports Sites!




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