After failing to reach the NCAA postseason last year, there might not have been a more motivated program entering the 2012 campaign. The Tigers have been on a mission the entire season and now are expected to compete for the national title. LSU enters the weekend hitting .295 as a team with one of the nation's elite hitters, outfielder Raph Rhymes, leading the way. Rhymes is hitting a team-best .459 with three homers and 50 RBIs. Astonishingly, he also has a .513 on-base percentage. Outfielder Mason Katz is hitting .335 with 11 homers and 48 RBIs, while shortstop Austin Nola is hitting .308 with four homers and 38 RBIs ... Pitching-wise, the the Tigers have one of the nation's best in Kevin Gausman, potentially the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming MLB draft. Meanwhile, fellow starters Ryan Eades and Aaron Nola hope to continue where they left off last week, while Nick Goody, who has a 2.67 ERA in 30 1/3 innings of work, leads the way out of the bullpen.
It has been a rather strange year for the Beavers. Some weeks they look like a national title contender; others they look the complete opposite. Fortunately for coach Pat Casey, it looks like his team is playing exceptionally well at exactly the right time. The Beavers enter the Baton Rouge Regional hitting .283 as a club with shortstop Tyler Smith leading the way, hitting .350 with a home run and 34 RBIs. Freshman outfielder Michael Conforto has made a seamless transition to the Division I level and is hitting .343 with 13 homers and 71 RBIs, while third baseman Ryan Dunn has been a big-time hitter at times this season, batting .299 with seven homers and 34 RBIs ... Pitching-wise, the Beavers have an outstanding freshman in Jace Fry, who has a 2.48 ERA in 83 1/3 innings of work. Meanwhile, Dan Child has a 2.75 ERA in 101 1/3 innings, while Ben Wetzler has a 3.39 ERA in 93 innings of work. Bullpen-wise, keep an eye on Scott Schultz (2.92), Matt Boyd (3.71) and Tony Bryant (4.03). OSU definitely has the arms to win this tourney, but what about the bats?
The Bruins really have gotten things going in the Atlantic Sun the past couple of seasons, and now they have a chance to make a statement in the postseason. The Bruins aren't a highly offensive club, as they enter the tournament with a .266 average. They're led at the plate by second baseman Zac Mitchell, who's hitting .361 with 16 doubles, five homers and 36 RBIs, while first baseman Judah Akers is hitting .339 with three homers and 36 RBIs ... Pitching-wise, the Bruins tend to really get it done when it comes to starting pitching. Chase Brookshire is the seasoned staff ace, and has a 2.45 ERA in 103 innings of work, while No. 2 starter James Buckelew has a 2.45 ERA in 73 1/3 innings. To wrap things up, Matt Hamann, the No. 3 starter, has a 3.78 ERA in 95 1/3 innings. Bullpen-wise, keep very close tabs on Scott Moses (0.94), Austin Coley (2.42) and Josh Davis (2.50). All three have had really solid campaigns for the Bruins.
The Warhawks haven't been the most consistent team this season, but they've put everything together at exactly the right time. ULM enters the weekend red-hot, but still hitting .272 as a club. Shortstop Jeremy Sy leads the way at the plate, hitting .329 with 14 doubles, four homers and 35 RBIs. Meanwhile, first baseman Joey Rapp is the big-time power producer for this club, hitting .325 with nine homers and 51 RBIs ... Pitching-wise, the Warhawks have a fantastic ace pitcher in Randy Zeigler, who's mighty familiar with these LSU Tigers. Zeigler has a 3.65 ERA in 106 innings. He also has struck out 108 and walked 55, while teams are hitting him at a .235 clip. Meanwhile, Cale Wine, another starting pitcher, has a 3.93 ERA in 94 innings. Bullpen-wise, keep close tabs on Kendall Thamm (3.18), Will Browning (3.36) and Fraser Adams (3.43). Can ULM pull off a major first-round upset?
After receiving plenty of grief for earning a No. 1 seed in an NCAA Regional, the Hurricanes would love nothing more than to make a statement this weekend at home. The 'Canes enter the weekend hitting just .261 as a club, but received a boost here recently with the return of hard-hitting catcher Peter O'Brien, who's hitting .348 with 10 homers and 39 RBIs, but continues to battle a sore wrist. Also keep an eye on third baseman Brad Fieger, who's hitting .296 with three homers and 35 RBIs ... Pitching-wise, the Hurricanes have had some injury setbacks this season. However, they're stout on the mound with Eric Erickson (2.84) leading the way. Eric Whaley has a 2.84 ERA in 92 innings, while Steven Ewing has a 3.28 ERA in 90 2/3 innings. Bullpen-wise, the 'Canes have some good ones in AJ Salcines (1.47), Eric Nedeljikovic (1.93) and E.J. Encinosa (2.57), who has a fastball in the mid 90s.
When you see the way coach Terry Rooney has recruited the past few years, it's absolutely no surprise to see the Knights making some serious strides. UCF enters the weekend hitting .294 as a team with first baseman D.J. Hicks leading the way. Hicks is hitting .318 with 12 doubles, 11 homers and 68 RBIs. Meanwhile, outfielder Alex Friedrich is hitting .327 with four homers and 38 RBIs, while Chris Taladay is hitting .309 with five homers and 47 RBIs and Ronnie Richardson, a very athletic outfielder, is hitting .307 with eight homers and 33 RBIs. He's also 23-for-30 in stolen bases this spring ... Pitching-wise, the Knights have some solid starting pitchers in Chris Matulis (3.14), Ben Lively (3.23) and Ray Hanson (3.42). Brian Adkins (4.50) also starts at times for the Knights. Bullpen-wise, left-handed power arm Joe Rogers has appeared in 28 games and has a 1.60 ERA in 39 1/3 innings, while Garrett Nuss is a talented young arm that enters the postseason with a 3.89 ERA in 44 innings.
There's no doubt the Bears are the dark horse in this NCAA Regional field, but one thing is for sure, they must hit with more consistency. MSU enters the postseason with just a .278 batting average, as second baseman Kevin Medrano leads the way, hitting .328 with 23 RBIs and 11 stolen bases. Meanwhile, keep an eye on Keenen Maddox and Luke Volt. Maddox is hitting .310 with seven homers and 29 RBIs, while Volt is hitting .305 with six homers and 46 RBIs ... Pitching-wise, what a staff the Bears have put together. Pierce Johnson is a premier arm with a fastball in the low-to-mid 90s. He'll be a high draft pick in the upcoming MLB draft and has a 2.55 ERA in 91 2/3 innings. He also has struck out 112 and walked 26. Nick Petree put together an amazing scoreless streak earlier this season and has a 10-3 record and a fabulous 0.92 ERA in 107 1/3 innings of work. Meanwhile, No. 3 starter Cody Schumacher also is solid, entering the weekend with a 3.57 ERA and 93 strikeouts in 93 1/3 innings. Bullpen-wise, the Bears don't have a lot of depth, but do possess a very solid arm in Tyler Burgess, who has appeared in 25 games and has a 1.63 ERA in 38 2/3 innings.
If you're looking for a wild upset in the first-round of an NCAA Regional, the Seawolves might be the team to watch out for on Friday. Stony Brook is a very solid No. 4 seed and enters the postseason with a very solid .337 team batting average, albeit it's a little inflated due to a weak strength of schedule. Outfielder Travis Jankowski leads the charge for the Wolves, hitting an impressive .411 with four homers and 40 RBIs, while second baseman Maxx Tissenbaum is hitting .400 with three homers and 41 RBIs. Also keep an eye on third baseman William Carmona, who's a big-time power producer. He's hitting .380 with 21 doubles, seven triples, 10 homers and 60 RBIs ... Pitching-wise, the Seawolves have a solid ace pitcher in Tyler Johnson, who has a 1.78 ERA in 76 innings. Meanwhile, Brandon McNitt has made 14 starts and has a 2.26 ERA in 87 2/3 innings, while Evan Stecko-Haley has a 3.08 ERA in 79 innings with teams only hitting him at a .235 clip.