The Beavers are one of the favorites to win the national title for a reason. Though much of the talk surrounding the Beavers is about their pitching staff, the offense has been productive when it needs to be this spring with ultra-athletic outfielder Jeff Hendrix (.355/2/28) and All-American Michael Conforto (.364/7/55) leading the charge. Meanwhile, first baseman Kavin Keyes is back from an injury and should be a consistent offensive contributor in the postseason, while heralded prospect Dylan Davis leads the offense with six homers and 63 RBIs. Overall, the Beavers — outside of Conforto, Hendrix and Davis — don’t have an offensive lineup that will overwhelm opposing teams. But if you give OSU chances, it will capitalize … On the mound, senior lefthanded pitcher Ben Wetzler is having yet another stellar campaign, tallying a 0.76 ERA in 95 innings. Wetzler isn’t an overpowering lefty, but possesses a fastball that can get up to 89-91 at times. Wetzler’s best trait is his ability to change speeds and pound the strike zone. Fellow lefthanded pitcher Jace Fry also is having a strong season. Fry, who has an 88-92 fastball along with a big, breaking, curveball, is having a great year with a 1.43 ERA in 113 2/3 innings, along with 94 strikeouts and 29 walks. Andrew Moore rounds out the weekend rotation, while righthanded reliever Scott Schultz is the catalyst out of the bullpen, entering the weekend with a 1.88 ERA in 57 1/3 innings and 22 appearances.
Give head coach Tim Chambers credit for keeping this team together after outstanding ace righthanded pitcher Erick Fedde with down with a season-ending injury a few weeks ago. The Rebels closed out the season by reaching the Mountain West tournament title game. Righthanded pitcher John Richy, who has a fastball in the low-90s to go with a good curveball, leads the pitching staff with a 2.78 ERA in 113 1/3 innings, along with 105 strikeouts and 23 walks, while fellow righty Bryan Bonnell has been up and down at times this season, but still has a 3.01 ERA in 107 2/3 innings. With Fedde’s absence, the Rebels have looked to experienced righty Kenny Oakley to hold the Sunday role. Oakley can get up to the low-90s with his fastball, while he possesses a nice changeup to go with a 3.25 ERA in 91 1/3 innings. Brayden Torres leads the pitching staff on the back end of things with a 2.05 ERA in 30 2/3 innings … Offensively, the Rebels don’t have a lot of home run power, but to have a solid overall lineup, entering the weekend with a .293 team batting average. Senior first baseman Patrick Armstrong is someone the Rebels rely on for clutch hits and has displayed good power this season with a .306 batting average, seven homers and 45 RBIs, while brother Joey Armstrong is a disciplined hitter who’s batting .302 with four homers and seven stolen bases. Keep close tabs on T.J. White, who’s the Rebels’ best overall hitter. White is a threat on the bases, sitting at 17-for-18 in stolen bases, while he’s hitting .327 with two homers and 38 RBIs, along with an on-base percentage over .400.
I was glad to see the Anteaters get into the NCAA postseason. Sure, these guys finished the season in dismal fashion with back-to-back series losses to Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State, but their season-long body of work was pretty impressive. With that said, the 'Eaters have one of the more unheralded stars in the game in righthanded pitcher Andrew Morales, who touches 90-91 with his fastball and possesses near immaculate command with 119 strikeouts and 24 walks in 109 1/3 innings of work. Meanwhile, Elliot Surrey (2.12, 93.1 IP) and Evan Brock (2.95, 91.2 IP) are quality starting pitchers, while closer Sam Moore has been terrific this season with a 1.90 ERA and 23 saves in 42 2/3 innings … Should the Anteaters advance to an NCAA Super Regional, it means the offense found a way to turn the corner. Irvine scored a whopping nine runs in their last six games – all six losses, mind you – but have the ability to put up some runs in spurts. The 'Eaters have one of college baseball's elite players in third baseman Taylor Sparks, who's very athletic with gap power and has a .290 average with 14 doubles, seven triples, four homers and 33 RBIs, while first baseman Connor Spencer is a consistent producer with good plate discipline, hitting .361 with a .453 OBP. Speaking of plate discipline, the Anteaters will need a big weekend from catcher Jerry McClanahan, who's hitting .319 with just 24 strikeouts as opposed to 23 walks.
The Bison hit the road this weekend and will be tested, as you might imagine. NDSU hasn't faced a Top 100 RPI team since going against Evansville on Friday, March 14, so Oregon State, UNLV and UC Irvine will provide a serious test for a program making its first postseason appearance in quite some time. North Dakota State has a very solid ace pitcher in junior lefthander Parker Trewin, who has a good fastball and has a 2.59 ERA in 69 2/3 innings, along with 63 strikeouts and 27 walks, while freshman reliever Reed Pfnannenstein is sizzling hot, earning Summit League tourney MVP honors and entering the weekend with a 2.86 ERA in 44 innings, along with 28 strikeouts and 17 walks … Offensively, speedy Tim Colwell is the table setter with a .376 average, .435 OBP and 19 stolen bases, while Kyle Kleinendorst has a nice combination of some gap power and speed, hitting .311 with 10 doubles, five triples, three homers and 40 RBIs, along with 10 stolen bases. Nick Altavilla (.289/0/25), Jon Hechtner (.280/0/17) and David Ernst (.222/0/10) enter the postseason red-hot after earning Summit League all-tournament honors.
Oregon State, as the nation's top national seed, is absolutely the clear-cut favorite here, and anything but a Beavers advance would be a shock. However, UC Irvine is more than capable of pulling off an upset this weekend. Andrew Morales and the UC Irvine weekend rotation is stable, while Sam Moore provides a stable arm on the back-end of the bullpen. Irvine needs to get its offense going to have a chance. In the end, OSU will be victorious at Goss Stadium, which has been a graveyard for opposing teams during the Pat Casey era.