Well before the 2012 season began, former hitting coach Rick Vanderhook, now the head coach at Cal State Fullerton, told me the Bruins would be very productive at the plate. At the time, I figured Vanderhook was being optimistic. Well, he was exactly right. The Bruins have been very solid at the plate this season, hitting .310 as a club entering the NCAA postseason. Outfielder Jeff Gelalich has blossomed as a very solid prospect this season, hitting a team-best .367 with nine homers and 39 RBIs. Meanwhile, catcher Tyler Heineman and outfielder Cody Keefer are hitting .359 and .338, respectively. Also keep an eye on outfielder Beau Amaral, who’s hitting .313 with five homers and 43 RBIs … Pitching-wise, the Bruins have some very good arms in their arsenal. Ace pitcher Adam Plutko is very consistent and has a fastball in the 88-92 range, while Zack Weiss and Nick Vander Tuig are good, but not great. Closer Scott Griggs, who has a 2.27 ERA in 31 appearances, has a big-time arm with a fastball in the mid 90s, while Ryan Deeter has a 0.98 ERA in 34 innings of work. The Bruins play a very balanced brand of baseball.
The Toreros haven’t exactly been known for their offensive capabilities in the past, but have risen to the occasion at the plate this season with a .310 batting average. Third baseman Kris Bryant, one of the top prospects for the 2013 MLB draft, is having an outstanding campaign with a .359 average, 14 homers and 57 RBIs. He’s also slugging .660 and has a .478 on-base percentage. Additionally, shortstop Andrew Daniel is hitting .350 with four homers and 45 RBIs and outfielder Louis Hagberg is hitting .340 with 11 RBIs … Pitching-wise, the Toreros are seriously contemplating moving stud reliever Michael Wagner to the starting rotation. Wagner has appeared in 30 games, made one start and has a 2.50 ERA in 54 innings of work. Meanwhile, Paul Sewald (2.83), Calvin Drummond (3.33) and Dylan Covey (3.38) have been solid as starters this season, while reliever James Pazos has a 1.53 ERA in 58 2/3 innings. Covey, of course, is a prized arm to watch, as he’s a former first-round pick to the Milwaukee Brewers. Also worth noting, the Toreros likely will be without leading hitter Corey LeVier again this weekend with a jaw injury.
New Mexico coach Ray Birmingham has done a fantastic job guiding the Lobos the past few seasons. That didn’t change this season, as UNM won both a regular season and tournament conference crown in the Mountain West. Offensively, this team can be very scary with third baseman DJ Peterson leading the way, hitting .418 with 16 homers and 76 RBIs. Meanwhile, catcher Mitchell Garver is hitting .391 with 10 homers and 57 RBIs, while outfielders Ryan Padilla and Josh Melendez are hitting .368 and .356, respectively … Pitching-wise, the Lobos actually have a few very quality arms. For instance, ace starting pitcher Austin House has a 2.92 ERA in 104 2/3 innings of work, and teams are hitting him at just a .253 clip. Meanwhile, No. 2 starting pitcher Josh Walker has a 3.81 ERA in 78 innings. Keep an eye on relievers Hobie McClain and Gera Sanchez. McClaine has appeared in 20 games and has a 1.95 ERA in 27 2/3 innings, while Sanchez has a 2.45 ERA in 73 1/3 innings of work. The Lobos are well-coached and could be a very scary club to watch this weekend.
The Bluejays are a classic case of a team that is getting hot at exactly the right time. The Bluejays had a rather lackluster regular season campaign, but played exceptionally well during the Missouri Valley Conference tournament. They will have a hard time winning the Los Angeles Regional with an offense that is hitting .248 with just one hitter, first baseman Nick Judkins, hitting .308 with a home run and 30 RBIs. Meanwhile, the pitching staff has some quality arms. For instance, ace left-handed pitcher Ty Blach has electric stuff and enters the weekend with a 2.64 ERA in 112 1/3 innings of work. Meanwhile, CU has a pair of solid relievers in Chase Webb and Mark Winkelman, who have earned-run averages of 2.51 and 2.53, respectively. It’ll be interesting to see if Ed Servais’ club can work some magic this weekend.
To absolutely no surprise, the Aggies put together yet another impressive regular season campaign. They were a few bad Sunday losses away from perhaps fighting hard for a national seed. As it stands, the Aggies enter the postseason motivated with an offense that has been inconsistent, but yet, still is hitting .292. Outfielder Tyler Naquin is one of the nation’s leading hitters, batting .384 with three homers and 46 RBIs, while catcher Troy Stein and first baseman Jacob House are hitting .313 and .308, respectively, with House having eight homers and 55 RBIs … Pitching-wise, the Aggies have one of the nation’s best one-two punches in right-handed pitchers Michael Wacha and Ross Stripling, while Rafael Pineda has been solid and Daniel Mengden has been dominant as the No. 4 starter. Mengden has a 2.80 ERA in 45 innings of work. The only question with this club is the closer role, where righty Kyle Martin has a 3.40 ERA in 53 innings.
The Horned Frogs have been very inconsistent at times this season, especially offensively, but this still is a team with the talent to do something special in the postseason. TCU, as with other teams in this NCAA Regional, is a little challenge offensively, entering the weekend with a .268 team batting average. Furthermore, they're without leading hitter Jason Coats, who missed the Mountain West tournament with a knee injury. If Coats is unable to go, the Frogs will have just three hitters in the lineup (Josh Elander, Kevin Cron, Jantzen Witte) with batting averages over .300 … Pitching-wise, Preston Morrison is pitching extremely well and has a 1.73 ERA in 98 2/3 innings. Meanwhile, Andrew Mitchell has a 3.62 ERA in 69 2/3 innings and Stefan Crichton has a 3.56 ERA in 86 innings of work. The Frogs certainly aren’t as dominant pitching wise as they’ve been in the past, but still have the talent.
The Rebels absolutely are lucky to even be in an NCAA Regional. As the committee announced on Monday, they were one of the last five teams in the field of 64. Look for this team to play with something to prove. The Rebels have struggled immensely at the plate the past few weeks. They’re led at the plate by second baseman Alex Yarbrough, who’s hitting .389 with three homers and 41 RBIs, while gritty Tanner Mathis is hitting .346 with 21 RBIs. Also keep an eye on hard-hitting first baseman Matt Snyder, who’s hitting .333 with 12 homers and 57 RBIs … Pitching-wise, the Rebels have some issues in some key areas. For instance, Bobby Wahl and Mike Mayers make up a solid one-two punch, while the Rebels really don’t have a No. 3 starter, at least one that can be relied upon on a consistent basis. Because of that, having slider-throwing right-handed pitcher R.J. Hively back this weekend is huge. Still, this team’s success will hinge on their ability to get a good third start.
The Flyers hope to make a strong impression this weekend as they’re appearing in just the program’s first postseason appearance. The Flyers have some legitimate offensive talent with shortstop Brian Blasik and outfielders Bobby Glover and C.J. Gillman leading the way. Glover is hitting .331 with nine homers and 41 RBIs, while Glover is hitting .331 with nine homers and 41 RBIs and Gillman is hitting .314 with five homers and 63 RBIs … Pitching-wise, the Flyers have some work to do this weekend, as ace starting pitcher Mike Hauschild enters the weekend with a 4.29 ERA and an opponent batting average (OBA) of .283. Meanwhile, also keep an eye on No. 2 starting pitcher Tim Bury, who has a 3.14 ERA in 103 1/3 innings of work.