The Cowboys continue to impress under second-year head coach Josh Holliday, winning the Big 12 regular season title, and reaching the Big 12 tournament title game. Well, despite racking up an impressive overall record and taking care of business in the conference, the Pokes weren’t exactly granted an easy NCAA Regional. With that said, the Pokes are dangerous both offensively and on the mound. Offensively, one of the big question marks going into the weekend is the status of hard-hitting Zach Fish. Fish should be able to play this weekend after suffering an ankle injury last weekend in Oklahoma City. His return is big, as he’s hitting .320 with 11 homers and 44 RBIs. Meanwhile, veteran Gage Green (.321/3/29) and first baseman Tanner Krietemeier (.270/9/43) are mainstays in the lineup. OSU likes to get aggressive at times, and that’s most evidenced by Gage Green and Tim Arakawa having a combined 33 stolen bases … On the mound, junior righthanded pitcher Jon Perrin followed a breakthrough with a strong regular season and conference tournament, tallying a 1.78 ERA in 91 innings, along with 76 strikeouts and 26 walks. Meanwhile, freshman righthanded pitcher Tyler Buffett (3.22, 50.1 IP) has evolved into a very reliable option, while the Pokes have an impressive set of relievers in Brendan McCurry, who has 0.42 ERA in 43 innings, along with 18 saves, Vince Wheeland, who has a 1.49 ERA in 72 2/3 innings, and Blake Battenfield, who has a 1.76 ERA in 51 innings, along with a good slider.
It’s hard to imagine the Huskers are making just their first NCAA postseason appearance since 2008, but that’s precisely the case. NU head coach Darin Erstad has done a terrific job the past two seasons, and this year, the Big Red gets rewarded with a postseason appearance. Nebraska’s offense might not have particularly overwhelming statistics, but don’t get fooled — this lineup is very solid 1-9. Blake Headley leads the Huskers in hitting with a .319 average, two homers and 24 RBIs, Pat Kelly earned Big Ten all-tournament honors and is hitting .312 with some gap power and 55 RBIs, while Michael Pritchard and Ryan Boldt are exciting players to watch. Pritchard caught my attention earlier this season with a good, patient, approach, along with the ability to drive the ball into the gaps, while Boldt, a former Perfect Game High School All-American, showed advanced skills as a freshman, displaying athleticism with a .302 average, two homers and 30 RBIs … On the mound, lefthanded pitchers Kyle Kubat and Aaron Bummer both showed very good flashes during the regular season, Kubat heading into the postseason with a 4.55 ERA in 57 1/3 innings with a good changeup, while Bummer has a 3.59 ERA in 82 2/3 innings, and sits upper-80s with the ability to touch 90 with his sinking fastball. Righthanded pitcher Chance Sinclair (2.29 ERA, 94.1 IP) has been a quality arm down the stretch, while the Huskers hope to get Christian DeLeon back from an arm injury this weekend, as he has a 2.46 ERA in 80 1/3 innings. Josh Roeder (2.70, 12 saves), Zach Hirsch (1.32, 47.2 IP) and Bob Greco (3.86, 37.1 IP) are quality arms to watch out of the bullpen.
It only was a few weeks ago Cal State Fullerton was riddled in controversy and struggling more than any power program in college baseball. Well, the last two weeks have been the complete opposite, as the Titans have looked like the team that began the season ranked No. 2 nationally, sweeping UC Irvine and Cal State Northridge to enter the postseason with a full head of steam. Fullerton’s offense isn’t explosive, with just a .260 batting average, but this lineup is very solid when the big duo of J.D. Davis and Matt Chapman are producing at a high level. Davis has been phenomenal the past couple of weeks, hitting two homers in one game against Northridge last weekend. Meanwhile, Chapman, the club’s elite prospect, is looking like the Chapman we all expected, hitting .321 with six homers and 46 RBIs … Though the offense has performed well here recently, the Titans, should they advance, will be doing so primarily because of their pitching. Ace righthanded pitcher Thomas Eshelman is Mr. Command with just seven walks in 117 1/3 innings this spring, while fellow righty Justin Garza threw a no-hitter last weekend, and is showing electric stuff, sitting his typical 92-94 with his fastball, while also showcasing a quality changeup and slider. Grahamm Wiest is an unheralded and very good piece to this rotation with a 1.55 ERA in 104 2/3 innings, along with just 12 walks as compared to 81 strikeouts, while hard-throwing freshman righthander Phil Bickford is a quality relief/fourth starting option, and Willie Kuhl and Koby Gauna are quality arms out of the bullpen.
Though Stony Brook and Hartford entered the America East tournament as the favorites, Binghamton shook things up with a very strong showing. This is an intriguing club entering the Stillwater Regional. For starters, the offense might not be overwhelming, but outfielder Bill Bereszniewicz is an electric player to watch. Bereszniewicz is hitting a team-high .360 with 12 doubles, five triples and 24 RBIs, along with a .425 OBP and 23 stolen bases. Meanwhile, the Bearcats have even more speed with Eddie Posavec, the team’s second-leading hitter, having 11 stolen bases and Jake Thomas having 11 stolen bases as well … On the mound, the Bearcats have a quality ace pitcher in righthander Jack Rogalla, who has a fastball anywhere from 87-91, good secondary stuff, and also has good numbers with a 3.77 ERA in 86 innings, along with 63 strikeouts and 27 walks. Meanwhile, Greg Ostner (2.01, 49.1 IP) and Jake Cryts (3.90, 85.1 IP) are quality arms to watch, while Jextin Pugh is a talented young arm with 18 appearances and a fastball anywhere from 88-90.
We're giving the host Cowboys a slight edge to win this NCAA Regional, but I see the Huskers and Titans having a legitimate shot to advance to the NCAA Super Regional round, especially Fullerton. The Titans have the best weekend rotation in this field with Eshelman, Garza and Wiest leading the charge, while the bullpen is more than good enough with Kuhl, Gauna, and others in charge. The big question with the Titans this weekend is the offense, but this team is scary if Davis and Chapman continue to produce. OSU is definitely on upset watch.