There might only be a couple of head coaches who have done a better job than Oregon coach George Horton this season. The Ducks entered the season with a couple of key injuries, but have played at a high level despite some setbacks. The Ducks have had a ton of success without much of an offense, entering the weekend with a .266 batting average. Outfielder Kyle Garlick leads the team with a .307 batting average, six homers and 36 RBIs, while first baseman Ryon Healy has been solid with a .303 average, four homers and 36 RBIs. Also keep an eye on outfielder Aaron Jones, who's hitting .294 with six homers and 38 RBIs. With such a strong field, the Ducks must rise to the occasion from an offensive standpoint. ... Pitching-wise, it doesn't get much better than the Ducks. UO enters the weekend with a 3.02 ERA and has several premier arms at its disposal. Senior right-handed pitcher Alex Keudell has been terrific this season, entering the weekend with a 2.12 ERA in 110 1/3 innings. Meanwhile, the rest of the rotation also is in great shape with freshman Jake Reed having a 3.14 ERA in 100 1/3 innings and Jeff Gold having a 3.33 ERA in 70 1/3 innings of work. Also keep an eye on stud closer Jimmie Sherfy, who has appeared in 31 games and has a 2.29 ERA and 17 saves in 55 innings. Others relievers to watch include Joey Housey (2.08) and Thomas Thorpe (2.11).
There are a few similarities between the Titans and Ducks. Both teams have some issues scoring runs at times, but both also pitch at an extremely high level. That can be said about the Titans, who enter the weekend with just a .278 team batting average. The Titans are led at the plate by third baseman Richy Pedroza, who's hitting .332 with 20 RBIs. Meanwhile, Carlos Lopez is hitting .327 with a home run and 34 RBIs, while athletic outfielder Michael Lorenzen has really stepped off the gas since earlier this year, now only hitting .303 with a home run and 39 RBIs. He also has just a .358 on-base percentage ... Pitching-wise, there are plenty of reasons to like this Fullerton club. Right-handed pitcher Dylan Floro, who should be a top 4-6 round pick in the upcoming MLB draft, leads the way with a 2.52 ERA in 107 1/3 innings of work, while the rotation is rounded out by Grahamm Wiest (2.78) and Kenny Mathews (3.68). Also keep an eye on Lorenzen out of the pen, as he has a fastball that touches 95-97 and a 1.23 ERA in 22 innings. Rick Vanderhook really has done a nice job with this team this spring, so it wouldn't be a surprise if they won this NCAA Regional.
Speaking of great coaching jobs this season, how about Indiana State head coach Rick Heller? He really has done a terrific job throughout the 2012 campaign, and now he has a chance to guide the Sycamores -- legitimately -- to an NCAA Super Regional. This is a very good club despite the fact they're not a great offensive club. The Sycamores are hitting just .290 as a club, but have some big-time hitters to watch. For instance, catcher Jeremy Lucas is having a fantastic campaign, hitting .350 with 13 doubles, nine homers and 52 RBIs. Meanwhile, designated hitter Landon Curry is hitting .320 with a home run and 27 RBIs, while first baseman Jon Hedges and outfielder Rob Ort are guys to watch. Hedges only is hitting .307, but has seven homers and 42 RBIs. Similarly, Ort is hitting .293 with seven homers and 53 RBIs ... Pitching-wise, this is a very fun club to keep tabs on with starting pitchers Dakota Bacus, Sean Manaea and Ryan Torgerson leading the charge. Bacus has a 2.37 ERA in 114 innings and has limited teams to a .234 average, Manaea has a 3.50 ERA in 97 2/3 innings and has struck out 106 and walked 32, while Torgerson has a 3.03 ERA in 86 innings. Also keep an eye on relievers Brandon Dorsett (1.61), Reggie Hochstedler (3.26) and Chris Machado (3.60).
The Governors made plenty of noise last season when they shook up the Atlanta Regional. Now, Gary McClure's club hopes to do the same this weekend against a tough field at the Eugene Regional. The Governors enter the weekend hitting .295 as a club with third baseman Greg Bachman leading the way, hitting a team-best .339 with 16 homers and 67 RBIs. Meanwhile, second baseman Jordan Hankins is hitting .332 with nine homers and 63 RBIs and shortstop Reed Harper is hitting .331 with three homers and 36 RBIs ... Pitching-wise, the Governors certainly lack premier pitching, but at least have a couple of arms capable of rattling some cages this weekend. For instance, ace pitcher Zach Toney has been fantastic this season, and enters the weekend with a 2.89 ERA in 87 1/3 innings. Meanwhile, reliever Tyler Rogers is one to watch. Rogers has been very consistent this season, having made 35 appearances and entering the weekend with a 2.05 ERA in 57 innings.
The Boilermakers were expected to be solid this spring, but after losing ace starting pitcher Brad Schreiber to an injury, there at least was a little tapping of the brakes on the hype train. Still, the Boilermakers found a way to avoid skipping a step without Schreiber and have put together an amazing campaign. Offensively, this is a very dangerous team to watch, hitting a team-best .365 with seven homers and 45 RBIs. Meanwhile, second baseman Eric Charles is hitting .364 with 33 RBIs (he will miss Friday because of suspension), and third baseman Cam Perkins is hitting .358 with nine homers and 58 RBIs. Also keep an eye on Barrett Serrato, who's hitting .327 with six homers and 45 RBIs ... Pitching-wise, the Boilermakers don't have a ton of high quality depth, but are good enough on the mound. Lance Breedlove really has stepped up this spring and has a 2.82 ERA in 95 2/3 innings, while soft-tossing Joe Haase is 10-1 with a 3.41 ERA in 95 innings of work. Bullpen-wise, the Boilermakers have two premier arms in Blake Mascarello (1.72) and Nick Wittgren (1.89).
There might not be a more motivated team this weekend than the Wildcats. UK finished just one game out of first place in the Southeastern Conference. Yet, it was sent on the road as a No. 1 seed, primarily because of its non-conference schedule. The Wildcats will be motivated and they enter the weekend with a solid offense, hitting .297 with freshman outfielder Austin Cousino leading the way with a .318 average, nine homers and 38 RBIs. Meanwhile, two-way stud A.J. Reed stepped up in Hoover, Ala., last week, and is hitting .314 with four homers and 42 RBIs. Also keep an eye on stud catcher Luke Maile, who's hitting .313 with 12 homers and 49 RBIs. He also has a .424 on-base percentage ... Pitching-wise, the Wildcats have a strong crop of arms. Left-handed pitcher Corey Littrell spearheads the weekend rotation and has a 2.66 ERA in 91 1/3 innings of work, while Jerad Grundy threw well in the SEC tourney and has a 3.95 ERA in 79 2/3 innings. Also keep an eye on lefty Taylor Rogers, who sits 89-92 and has a 4.31 ERA in 85 2/3 innings of work. Another strength of this club is the bullpen, which possess premium arms such as Trevor Gott, who has a low-to-mid 90s fastball and Alex Phillips, who has a 3.08 ERA in 52 2/3 innings of work.
Few coaches have done a better job with their respective programs over the years than Kent State coach Scott Stricklin. Stricklin has continued the tradition of success with the Flashes, and don't be too surprised if they reach the Regional final again this season. The Flashes have a solid offensive lineup, entering the weekend hitting .308 with designated hitter Nick Hamilton hitting a team-best .377, while first baseman George Roberts is hitting .368 with seven homers and 57 RBIs. Also keep an eye on shortstop Jimmy Rider, who's hitting .361 with five homers and 49 RBIs, while outfielder Evan Campbell is hitting .346 with six homers and 37 RBIs. From a sheer power standpoint, catcher David Lyon is one to watch. He's only hitting .288 but has 10 homers and 40 RBIs ... Pitching-wise, Kent has one of the best in the business in left-handed starting pitcher David Starn, who has a 1.77 ERA in 101 2/3 innings. The Flashes have a good No. 2 guy in Ryan Bores, while Tyler Skulina has a 3.94 ERA in 89 innings. Also keep an eye on reliever Brian Clark, who has recorded four saves and has a 0.44 ERA in 20 2/3 innings of work.
Wright State and Illinois-Chicago typically dominate the landscape in the Horizon League, but the Crusaders rose to the occasion this spring. The Crusaders enter the weekend hitting .292 with some talented hitters to watch, including second baseman Tanner Vavra and third baseman Elliott Martin. Vavra is hitting .333 with 19 RBIs and has a .427 OBP, while Martin is hitting .310 with two homers and 50 RBIs ... Pitching-wise, the Crusaders have some solid arms entering the field. Starting pitchers Kevin Wild (2.91), Tyler Deetjen (3.22) and Kyle Wormington (3.28) have been solid this season, while reliever Jarad Miller is one of the best in the business. Miller has appeared in 28 games this season and has a fantastic 2.06 ERA in 43 2/3 innings of work with eight saves. He's limiting teams to a .265 batting average. Valpo could pull off an upset this weekend if it hits with consistency.