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College | Story | 5/30/2019

College Baseball Regional Preview

Patrick Ebert         Mike Rooney        
Photo: Michael Toglia (Scott Chandler)

Field of 64 | Perfect Game Top 25 | College Player Database

Below are breakdowns of the teams playing in each of the 16 Regional sites. The sites are listed starting with the No. 1 National Seed, UCLA, followed by the Regional site they are paired with for the Super Regional round. Those teams are also listed just below, with the Regional sites on the left paired through the Super Regionals with the sites on the right. The number in parenthesis is the National Seed (1-16).


Site Host Site Host
Los Angeles, CA UCLA (1) Corvallis, OR Oregon State (16)
Nashville, TN Vanderbilt (2) Morgantown, WV West Virginia (15)
Atlanta, GA Georgia Tech (3) Chapel Hill, NC North Carolina (14)
Athens, GA Georgia (4) Baton Rouge, LA LSU (13)
Fayetteville, AR Arkansas (5) Oxford, MS Ole Miss (12)
Starkville, MS Mississippi State (6) Stanford, CA Stanford (11)
Louisville, KY Louisville (7) Greenville, NC East Carolina (10)
Lubbock, TX Texas Tech (8) Oklahoma City, OK Oklahoma State (9)


Los Angeles, Calif., Regional

1. UCLA (1)
4. Omaha

3. Loyola Marymount
2. Baylor

UCLA is the most complete team in the country and it’s possible that they haven’t even reached their peak yet. Outfielder Jeremy Ydens is just getting back to full health and projected high picks Chase Strumpf and Michael Toglia have had good but not great years. Meanwhile Garrett Mitchell, Jack Stronach and Ryan Kriedler have had breakout seasons. Here’s the best indicator of how good this offense is: former first rounder Matt McLain hits ninth for this team.

The Bruins field at a .982 clip and their pitching staff, while not tremendously deep, is a vintage John Savage group. Ryan Garcia matches up with any ace and Holden Powell offers a high velocity arsenal at the back of the bullpen. If you’re looking for a weakness here, it might be the rotation as it appears righthander Zach Pettway is out for the year. This forces highly touted freshman Jesse Bergin into the Sunday starter role.

This is a tough draw for Baylor but maybe it’s also a tough draw for UCLA. The Bears’ sport one of the nation’s best position player groups, led by stars Shea Langeliers and Davis Wendzel. This is an older group that defends at a high level and most of the lineup has more walks than strikeouts. Baylor lost Big 12 Preseason Pitcher of the Year Cody Bradford early in the season and that would be this club’s main vulnerability.

Loyola Marymount is one of the great stories of this tournament as the Lions make their first Regional appearance since 2000. LMU lost in the WCC championship game in both 2015 and 2016, and then also won the regular season title in 2017 without qualifying for the NCAA Tournament. Skipper Jason Gill runs a typical West Coast outfit and this club starts with pitching and defense. Shortstop Nick Sogard and catcher Cooper Uhl are both winners of the WCC Defensive Player of the Year award during their careers. First baseman Trevin Esquerra has 16 of the team’s 22 home runs.

UNO dethroned 19-time Summit League champion Oral Roberts and the Mavericks won both the regular season and tournament titles. UNO ace Payton Kinney put together a year for the ages, going 11-1 with a 1.65 ERA. This club owns an eye-popping .984 fielding percentage and the defense is ahead of the offense.

 
Corvallis, Ore., Regional

1. Oregon State (16)
4. Cincinnati

3. Michigan
2. Creighton

This shapes up to be one of the most interesting Regionals nationally. For starters, the Beavers are the defending National Champions. But they also enter postseason having lost two home series in the month of May. And the absence of former skipper Pat Casey feels particularly acute in the postseason.

Adley Rutschman is the best player in the country so that’s a good starting place for Pat Bailey’s Oregon State club. Shortstop Beau Philip offers big upside and he has been the Beavers’ second-best player most of the year. Tyler Malone and Griff McGarry are two lefthanded bats who could catch fire in the postseason. Keep an eye on pitching depth here as both Mitchell Verburg and Kevin Abel are out for the year and newly minted ace Brandon Eisert missed his last three starts.

Creighton returns to the Corvallis Regional as their last NCAA Tournament appearance (2012) also occurred here. The ‘Jays are a unique combination of power (.480 slugging percentage) and elite defense (.981 fielding percentage). This is also an older group led by sluggers Jake Holton and Will Robertson. The bullpen is another strength of this club with Bobby Kametas and John Sakowski having combined for a 9-0 record with 11 saves through 47 appearances.

Michigan nearly won the Big Ten yet this club has been an enigma at times. The rotation of Tommy Henry, Karl Kauffmann and Jeff Criswell is the best of its kind in this Regional. Outfielder Jordan Brewer won Big Ten Player of the Year and Jordan Nwogu is a freak athlete who had scholarship offers to play linebacker at the Division I level. If the Wolverines were to match up with Oregon State, their running game versus Adley Rutschman would be interesting. Michigan has attempted 110 stolen bases whereas opponents have run on Rutschman just 36 times.

Cincinnati skipper Scott Googins has worked his typical magic and the Bearcats are in the NCAA Tournament way ahead of schedule. This team is scrappy and well-schooled in the finer points of the game but this group won’t overwhelm you with physical talent. Cincinnati was picked to finish eighth in the AAC but Googins, who took multiple Xavier teams to Regionals, and company ended up finishing second in the league.


Nashville, Tenn., Regional

1. Vanderbilt (2)
4. Ohio State

3. McNeese
2. Indiana State

Vanderbilt claimed their third SEC Tournament championship on Sunday and look to become the first team since LSU in 2009 to also win the College World Series in the same season. They beat all four of their opponents, three of which are also Regional hosts – Mississippi State, LSU and Ole Miss – out-scoring them by a combined run differential of 36-15. The championship game was the biggest feat as they trailed Ole Miss early by a significant 9-1 margin only to storm back to secure the 11-10 victory.

Heading into the postseason Vanderbilt is tied for third in the nation in runs scored with an incredibly deep and dangerous lineup. Outfielder JJ Bleday is the marquee name, and is likely going to be taken among the top 3-5 overall picks in Monday’s draft, but there’s not a weak link anywhere in the lineup. Their starting staff goes four deep with Drake Fellows, Patrick Raby, Kumar Rocker and Mason Hickman and they also have four arms they frequently turn to out of the bullpen, headlined by closer Tyler Brown. Vanderbilt has gone 25-2 since their series loss to Georgia in early April and it’s hard to imagine them stumbling at this point of the season.

However, Indiana State is a legitimate contender to de-throne the Commodores. They have one of the best weekend starting trios in the nation as Triston Polley, Collin Liberatore and Tyler Whitbread are a combined 25-4. Closer Tyler Grauer, Tyler Ward and Jake Ridgway each have at least 20 relief appearances. The offense does a nice job of manufacturing runs and most importantly they showed great resolve, beating Dallas Baptist twice in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament finals, just two weeks after DBU had swept the Sycamores during the regular season.

McNeese won their first Southland Conference Tournament championship since 2003 on Saturday with a rather convincing 4-0 showing. They can match both Vanderbilt’s and Indiana State’s arms with four pitchers they feel comfortable starting – Rhett Deaton, Aidan Anderson, Brad Kincaid and Bryan King. The three-headed monster in the everyday lineup – Nate Fisbeck, Clayton Rasbeary and Carson Maxwell – has accounted for 32 of the team’s 46 home runs.

Ohio State heads into the tournament having won 11 of their last 13 games, which included their Big Ten Conference championship. There’s some star power on their roster evidenced by big numbers – Dominic Canzone and Brady Cherry each have 15 home runs, Seth Lonsway has 122 strikeouts and Andrew Magno has recorded 13 saves.


Morgantown, W.Va., Regional

1. West Virginia (15)
4. Fordham

3. Duke
2. Texas A&M

West Virginia beat each of the other two Big 12 Regional hosts, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, during the regular season, taking down the Red Raiders at home and the Cowboys in Stillwater. They beat TTU twice more in the Big 12 Tournament but eventually lost the championship game to OSU. Hulking ace Alek Manoah is having an equally big season as this is a team that can match up with anyone.

The staff combined for a 3.63 ERA although starters Kade Strowd and Jackson Wolf have been roughed up as of late. Midweek starter Nick Snyder went 8-1 during the regular season and they have four bullpen arms that they can turn to with sub-3.00 ERAs. The offense is similarly balanced without a primary standout, as five of their regulars have hit five or more home runs yet only two of them have a batting average over .300.

Should WVU and Texas A&M each win (or lose) their first games the biggest pitching matchup of the weekend could occur should Manoah face off against Aggies sophomore lefthander Asa Lacy. Between Lacy and fellow lefthander John Doxakis, Texas A&M has arguably the best 1-2 punch in the nation. Chris Weber is coming off of a dominant start against Georgia in the SEC Tournament and Kasey Kalich brings a high-octane arm in to close out games. The offense doesn’t make the same kind of impact, but they’re used to grinding out close games and shortstop Braden Shewmake has been an impactful three-year starter.

Through the midpoint of the season it didn’t look like Duke would be in the postseason picture, but they rebounded well and finished with a 15-15 mark in the ACC to advance. Not coincidentally their fortunes turned around with the return of their table-setter, second baseman Joey Loperfido, and what they lack in star power on their pitching staff they make up for in depth. Sophomore catcher Michael Rothenberg has posted big power numbers and is a name to watch for the 2020 MLB Draft.

Fordham won their second-ever Atlantic 10 Championship title to earn their first postseason appearance since 1998. Two things stand out for the Rams as they head to Morgantown: their 3.08 team ERA is the fourth-best mark among all Division I programs and their 177 stolen bases led the nation. In particular keep an eye on staff ace John Stankiewicz (8-3, 1.21 ERA), closer Kyle Martin (10 saves) and shortstop Jake MacKenzie (.313-3-28, 43 stolen bases).


Atlanta, Ga., Regional

1. Georgia Tech (3)
4. Florida A&M

3. Coastal Carolina
2. Auburn

Georgia Tech was rewarded handsomely for their successful season, earning the No. 3 overall seed in the tournament. They advanced to the ACC Tournament title game, losing to North Carolina, but beat the Tar Heels earlier in the season. They also had series wins over fellow ACC postseason participants Louisville, Clemson and Duke while going 2-1 against in-state rival Georgia in midweek contests.

The one development that was especially surprising for the Jackets was catcher Kyle McCann. He led the ACC in home runs with 23 one year after their star backstop, Joey Bart, went second overall in the draft. McCann, with a .298 batting average, is seventh on the team in hitting, pointing to just how dangerous the lineup is from top to bottom. While losing Brant Hurter in early May was a tough blow, Xzavion Curry, Connor Thomas and Amos Willimgham is a more than competent trio of starters to keep their offense in games. Plus they have one of the most productive two-way players in the nation in Tristin English, who has hit .315-17-63 while going 3-0 with fives saves on the mound.

Auburn has had a tough time keeping pitchers healthy this season, and struggled down the stretch as a result. They still enter the postseason with an RPI of 19 and had series wins over Ole Miss and Tennessee during the regular season. Staff ace Tanner Burns didn’t make an appearance during the SEC Tournament although star sophomore Jack Owen has been making meaningful contributions again and closer Cody Greenhill is one of the SEC’s best. The Tigers’ offense will need to step up for Auburn to make some noise in Regional play.

After opening the season in the Top 25 and staying there for roughly the first month of the season, Coastal Carolina ended up losing four of their 10 Sun Belt Conference series. After losing the first game of the Sun Belt Championship they won their next five to claim the tournament, and the league’s automatic bid. The Chants offense – which is tied for third in the nation in runs scored – is scary when firing on all cylinders with a lineup that has five hitters with double-digit home runs.

Florida A&M’s MEAC championship was their second in five years, returning to the postseason for the first time since 2015. The Rattlers won five games in four days, taking down Southern Division top seed North Carolina A&T in the semifinals and Northern Division top seed Norfolk State twice in the championship series.


Chapel Hill, N.C., Regional

1. North Carolina (14)
4. UNC Wilmington

3. Liberty
2. Tennessee

Although North Carolina somewhat limped into the ACC Tournament, losing five of their last eight games – including each of their last two weekend series – they rebounded well, at the perfect time, to claim the conference championship. They went 4-0 in Durham with wins over fellow Regional host Georgia Tech as well as Miami as they look to return to Omaha for the second straight season.

There’s definite star power on UNC’s roster as Michael Busch is poised to be a first-round pick come Monday while Tyler Baum and Austin Bergner have been solid contributors since they stepped on foot on campus three years ago as part of a talented recruiting class. Freshmen Aaron Sabato and Danny Serretti are having big seasons and will ensure the Tar Heels’ success continues into the future as part of a deep and balanced lineup. The pitching staff is a little top heavy as Joey Lancellotti, Hansen Butler and Austin Love have received a lot of looks out of the bullpen.

Although they were never really in the mix to host due to a sub-.500 in-conference record (14-16), Tennessee’s RPI of 14 is just behind UNC’s 12. The Volunteers definitely responded well to the tutelage of second-year head coach Tony Vitello, particularly the pitching staff, delivering 10 shutouts over the course of the season. Keep an eye on outfielder Alerick Soularie (.363-11-45) and third baseman Andre Lipcius (.311-16-56) who each had big, breakout seasons.

In their first year in the Atlantic Sun, Liberty captured the conference championship, and they played North Carolina twice during the season, splitting the two games. The Flames offense is led by ASUN Player of the Year Jonathan Embry, who is hitting .311-10-42 with 16 doubles. Staff ace Andrew McInvale has just as impressive stats (10-2, 3.25 ERA, 97 strikeouts in 97 innings) on the pitching side of things while Evan Braband was a PG Midseason All-American as the team’s closer thanks to loud numbers of his own (13 saves, 1.56 ERA).

For the second year in a row UNC Wilmington knocked off the No. 1 seed in the Colonial championship to earn an automatic bid, taking down Northeastern in 2018 and Elon this year. They too played UNC twice during the regular season (0-2) and arrive in Chapel Hill with a solid starting trio and dynamic leadoff hitting shortstop Greg Jones, who is hitting .343 this year with 40 stolen bases and is a likely first round pick for Monday’s MLB Draft.


Athens, Ga., Regional

1. Georgia (4)
4. Mercer

3. Florida State
2. Florida Atlantic

Georgia repeats as a Top 8 National Seed and the Bulldogs are most certainly anxious to erase the memory of last season’s home Regional loss to the Duke Blue Devils. This club maintains an identity of very good defense, efficient and competent offense and absolutely dominant pitching. The rotation of Emerson Hancock, Tony Locey and Cole Wilcox features fastballs that rarely if ever see a velocity under 92 mph. And the bullpen has plenty of depth. Hancock did struggle with a thumb injury in Hoover so that is something to keep an eye on.

The lineup is made up of complete baseball players more so than any one offensive leaning. Aaron Schunk is the perfect example of that as he hits third and also acts as the club’s closer. Tucker Maxwell struggles with swing-and-miss but his sneaky power and extraordinary speed makes him a threat. Cam Shepherd hit a walk-off home run in the SEC Tournament, and while his offense has showed signs of emerging, his defense at shortstop has been exceptional all year.

Florida Atlantic is quite a bit different from Georgia as the Owls can really swing it. John McCormack’s lineup features eight regulars who hit over .300 and they slugged .440 as a team. Center fielder Eric Rivera has had a huge season and he leads FAU with 59 runs scored. Pitching has been the main challenge as the staff ERA is 4.80. Blake Sanderson is the ace of the rotation and he has been an important innings eater. Closer Zach Schneider has been the most valuable arm and he has recorded 15 saves in just over 50 innings.

Mike Martin led Florida State to its 42nd straight NCAA Tournament appearance and he has never missed Regionals in his 40 years as the head coach in Tallahassee. This club is extremely young and starts four true freshmen on most days. Junior third baseman Drew Mendoza has been very productive with 14 home runs and 64 walks and sophomore righthander CJ Van Eyk has emerged as the ace of the staff. Yet it feels like junior lefthander Drew Parrish is the key to the Seminoles postseason hopes. The preseason All-American has seen his ERA balloon to 4.81 in 2019.

Mercer won the SoCon Tournament and the Bears come to Athens having beaten Georgia in their last two meetings in 2017. Kel Johnson is a familiar name and the Georgia Tech transfer leads Mercer with 22 home runs.


Baton Rouge, La., Regional

1. LSU (13)
4. Stony Brook

3. Southern Miss
2. Arizona State

LSU’s season has been tough to figure out. Much of the physical talent that led to this club being ranked preseason No. 1 remains. Pitching has been a challenge for most of the season but things may be coming together at just the right time. Zack Hess has moved back to his more natural role of high-leverage reliever. Freshman star righthander Cole Henry returned from injury to pitch in the SEC Tournament and that was huge. And finally, highly touted freshman righthander Landon Marceaux has pitched very well down the stretch.

Amongst the position player group, catching had become a glaring issue. Saul Garza has been the solution over the last few weeks and he provides big offense while offering just enough defense. Garza’s emergence has been critical but he is catching every day on a surgically repaired knee so that is a situation to keep an eye on. At the end of the day, a lineup that features veteran star players like Josh Smith, Zach Watson and Antoine Duplantis always has a chance.

Arizona State is an exciting two seed for this Regional and the Sun Devils are built for a friendly hitter’s park like Alex Box Stadium. Spencer Torkelson and Hunter Bishop are as good of a one-two punch as you’ll see anywhere and the duo helped ASU to lead the country with 91 home runs. Overall this lineup is actually quite deep and very athletic. Alika Williams and Drew Swift partner with catcher Sam Ferri to give this club exceptional defense up the middle. Pitching is where the rubber meets the road for Arizona State and Alec Marsh winning his start is mandatory. The bullpen has been wildly inconsistent although freshman flame-thrower Blake Burzell has been effective down the stretch. This is a team that must stay out of the losers’ bracket.

Southern Mississippi brings enormous postseason experience and an offense led by star outfielder Matt Wallner. Wallner hit 21 home runs and drove in 55 runs but this lineup has length. In fact, Bryant Bowen, Gabe Montenegro, Matthew Guidry and Hunter Slater combine with Wallner to give this club five hitters with an OPS over .900. The pitching staff lacks out pitches but Walker Powell is as steady as they come and freshman Gabe Shepard may be their best arm currently.

Stony Brook returns to the scene of their 2012 Super Regional victory. Matt Senk’s club is led by lefthanded-hitting outfielder Michael Wilson and shortstop Nick Grande.


Fayetteville, Ark., Regional

1. Arkansas (5)
4. Central Connecticut

3. TCU
2. California

The preseason questions on Arkansas focused in two areas: would there be a hangover from losing the CWS Finals in dramatic fashion and would the star power of Matt Cronin, Casey Martin, Heston Kjerstad and Dominic Fletcher be enough? Ironically, neither story has really played out. The Razorbacks plowed ahead in 2019 and this roster ended up being deeper than we imagined.

Role players like Trevor Ezell, Matt Goodheart, Jack Kenley and Jacob Nesbit have been outstanding and that allowed the stars to find themselves late in the year. The depth had a positive impact on the pitching staff as well and the 2019 bullpen is significantly deeper than that of a year ago. Isaiah Campbell found another gear this year and he leads a rotation that includes two true freshmen in Connor Noland and Patrick Wicklander.

Cal is an interesting club for many reasons but it starts with Andrew Vaughn being one of the top hitters in America. Vaughn should have a field day at Baum Stadium but he doesn’t ride alone. Korey Lee has emerged as an offensive force at catcher and Quentin Selma also has double-digit home runs. Cameron Eden has moved to center field and found his offensive mojo once again in 2019. Here’s where Cal gets really interesting: ace Jared Horn has been the Saturday starter all year. If the Bears can beat TCU in game one, then Arkansas (assuming they win their first game) may have to face Horn with a true freshman on the hill.

TCU was the most controversial inclusion in the 2019 field and their 59 RPI caused a lot of consternation. That said, Jared Janczak did find something in the Big 12 Tournament and his pairing with Nick Lodolo in the rotation doesn’t look the part of a normal three seed. The Horned Frogs have struggled defensively all season and that has hurt them continually. That said, this is a physical and athletic position player group that can get going offensively.

Central Connecticut State needed to upset a very strong Bryant club in order to win the NEC Tournament. The scariest hitter in the Blue Devils lineup is redshirt sophomore T.T. Bowens. Bowens is a 6-foot-4, 235-pound righthanded hitter with athleticism and he has slugged .649 through just 29 games as he returned from injury.


Oxford, Miss., Regional

1. Ole Miss (12)
4. Jacksonville State

3. Clemson
2. Illinois

Ole Miss’ performance at the SEC Tournament in Hoover earned them an opportunity to exorcise its hosting demons from 2018 when Tennessee Tech came back through the losers’ bracket and eliminated the Rebels on their own field. This Ole Miss season has been one of high highs and low lows. Mike Bianco’s squad won road series at Arkansas and LSU while also going 4-0 versus Texas A&M. This group also lost series to Missouri and Kentucky but their 0-4 showing against Mississippi State cut the deepest.

The 2019 version of Ole Miss is led by their high-powered junior class. Grae Kessinger has grown into a star player with elite defensive chops at shortstop. Thomas Dillard hasn’t put up the numbers expected of a player with his immense talents but he certainly offers a dangerous power and speed combination from the leadoff spot. The rotation has settled in down the stretch with Will Ethridge leading a pair of talented freshman in Doug Nikhazy and Gunnar Hoglund. A real key for this team will be the performance of closer Parker Caracci whose ERA has ballooned to 5.16 in 2019.

Illinois returns to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since their magical 2015 season that earned them a Top 8 National Seed. There aren’t a lot of out pitches on this pitching staff but that group does have a ton of experience as the rotation of Andy Fisher, Ty Weber and Cyrillo Watson has combined for over 100 career starts. The key to the Illini’s run prevention is an elite defense that fielded .982 this season and closer Garrett Acton has been a rock with 19 saves on the year. The offense is more efficient than prolific, but Zac Taylor has 10 home runs and 20 stolen bases. No player in the Illinois lineup has reached either the 40-run or 40-RBI marks but senior Grant Van Scoy is having a great year hitting .347.

Clemson certainly has physical talent and shortstop Logan Davidson could be a day one pick in the draft. Yet the Tigers finished the year on a difficult 9-16 downturn. Lefthander Mat Clark may have pitched this club into the NCAA Tournament by beating Louisville a week ago. Davis Sharpe is one of the best two-way players in the freshman class.

Jacksonville State won both the OVC regular season and tournament championships. The Gamecocks are led by third baseman Nic Gaddis and ace Garrett Farmer.


Starkville, Miss., Regional

1. Mississippi State (6)
4. Southern

3. Central Michigan
2. Miami

Despite finishing the season ranked fourth, while also having the fourth-best RPI in the nation, Mississippi State was handed the No. 6 seed and will have one of the field’s more challenging No. 2 seeds visiting the Dude in Miami. The Bulldogs defied quite a few odds a year ago to make it to Omaha, starting with their improbable come-from-behind Regional win over Florida State that saved their season.

And many of the faces remain the same from last year’s team, starting with senior leader, offensive catalyst and all-time SEC hits leader Jake Mangum. Mangum sets the table for a powerful offense that really doesn’t have a weakness with a team slash line of .315/.399/.480, the SEC’s second most dangerous offense right behind Vanderbilt. SEC Pitcher of the Year Ethan Small stepped forward in a big way this year while JT Ginn and Peyton Plumlee give the team two more starters that regularly work deep into games. Jared Liebelt is their most reliable bullpen option, logging 45 innings in 28 appearances.

The Hurricanes are making their 46th tournament appearance as one of college baseball’s most successful programs. While Miami was in the mix to host heading down the stretch, they have more than a fighting chance as they head to Starkville with a well-balanced team headlined by their usual hard-hitting offense. Freshman Adrian Del Castillo is having a huge rookie campaign (.329-9-65 with 20 doubles) while sophomore Alex Toral is second in the ACC with 22 bombs. There’s depth amongst both their starters and bullpen options, and getting three-year starter Evan McKendry back late in the season couldn’t have come at a better time.

Central Michigan’s offense was one of the more prolific scoring units in the nation, as seven of their regular, everyday hitters have a batting average above .300. Four of those hitters had 100 or more total bases and five players had double-digit stolen bases. The pitching was solid as well, posting a 3.95 team ERA while being led by Friday and Saturday starters Pat Leatherman and Cameron Brown, who each had sub-3.00 ERAs and combined to go 20-1.

Southern claimed their first SWAC title in 10 years, ending an uncharacteristic drought for a storied program that had won 14 conference championships in 23 years from 1987-2009. The offense, which finished seventh in the nation in batting, is paced by SWAC co-Player of the Year Tyler LaPorte who finished at or near the top of nearly every significant offensive category in the conference.


Stanford, Calif., Regional

1. Stanford (11)
4. Sacramento State

3. Fresno State
2. UC Santa Barbara

If any team has a legitimate reason to gripe about their hosting position (11) it’s Stanford, who finished the regular season ranked third in the nation with a 41-11 overall record and the 10th-best RPI. The Cardinal will just need to add that fuel to the fire as they have a lot more to prove after having their season come to an end, at home, in Regional play each of the last two seasons.

They have their usual pitching and defense formula, with the nation’s 11th-best pitching staff (3.47 ERA) and 17th-best defense (.979 fielding percentage). What’s different about this year’s club is the offense. Andrew Daschbach in particular has been on fire as of late, sitting at 16 home runs for the year, while both Will Matthiessen (10) and Brandon Wulff (17) are also in double digits. Matthiessen pulls double duty and forms one of the nation’s better weekend trios with Friday ace Brendan Beck and hard-throwing lefthander Erik Miller leading to a deep and experienced bullpen.

Stanford drew a tough field as UC Santa Barbara was in the hosting mix before losing their last series to close out the regular season. The Gauchos can match Stanford’s arms with three proven starters of their own as Ben Brecht, Jack Dashwood and Rodney Boone combined to go 27-3 with each throwing more than 80 innings. Their offense is equally dangerous with a team .299 batting average and is led by three-year starter Tommy Jew who is hitting .282 this season with 11 homers and 20 stolen bases.

Fresno State could (or should) have been a No. 2 seed but makes the tournament as easily the most difficult 3-seed in the field. Center fielder Zach Ashford does a nice job setting the tempo at the top of the lineup giving JT Arruda, Tatum McCarthy and Nolan Dempsey plenty of RBI opportunities for a Bulldogs squad that has blasted 51 home runs. Staff ace Ryan Jensen is the prospect to watch on their staff, who is 11-1 this season with a 2.92 ERA and could be taken on the first day of next week’s MLB Draft.

Don’t look past the WAC champs, Sacramento State, whose depth of pitching alone makes them dangerous. Parker Brahms has been posting big numbers since his freshman year three years ago as he and fellow righthanders Scott Randall, Austin Roberts and Tanner Dalton in particular can miss bats and pitch deep into ballgames.


Louisville, Ky., Regional

1. Louisville (7)
4. UIC

3. Illinois State
2. Indiana

There’s going to be a definite Midwest feel to the Louisville Regional as the Cardinals host Indiana, Illinois State and UIC. Louisville has been a remarkable 109-40 in conference play since joining the ACC in 2015, however, they have made only one College World Series appearance during that time (2017). While this year’s team wasn’t dominant, and they had a poor 0-2 showing in the ACC Tournament, they seemed to hit their stride in the middle of the season, particularly on offense.

At the time the Cardinals were hitting around .250 as a team and yet they enter postseason play with a cumulative .292 batting average. Freshman third baseman Alex Binelas coming to life has been a huge boost while getting steady, season-long contributions from shortstop Tyler Fitzgerald and first baseman Logan Wyatt, a pair of projected early picks for Monday’s draft. Staff ace Reid Detmers has been lights out all season long while few teams can match the quality of pitching depth Louisville possesses, both among their starters and in the bullpen.

Indiana appeared to be on the cusp of a legitimate hosting resume before they lost a late season series to Illinois and then went 0-2 to quickly bow out of the Big Ten Tournament. However, they can put up runs in a hurry, leading the nation in home runs with 90 with three players in double-digits: Matt Lloyd (16), Cole Barr (16) and Matt Gorski (12). Gorski has an exciting blend of power and speed, Lloyd pulls double duty as a reliever and the team’s weekend trio of Pauly Milto, Tanner Gordon and Andrew Saalfrank is formidable.

Illinois State was one of three MVC teams to make the postseason, and their offense can score runs in bunches with a cumulative .295 team batting average and five regulars hitting above .300. The pitching staff hasn’t been as stout, but Brent Headrick could take advantage of Indiana’s aggressive approach in their Friday matchup after going 9-3 with a 3.50 ERA this season, striking out 101 batters in 90 innings along the way.

After taking down the Nos. 1 and 3 seeds in the Horizon League championship, UIC arrives in Louisville with some positive momentum. Two players stand out on the UIC roster: Jacob Key, a key three-year contributor who has the guile and experience to pitch well against the Cardinals on Friday, and outfielder Scott Ota, who is enjoying a huge senior season by slashing .358/.454/.746 with 19 bombs.


Greenville, N.C., Regional

1. East Carolina (10)
4. Quinnipiac

3. Campbell
2. NC State

The potential Super Regional pairing between East Carolina and Louisville is one of only two that includes two teams (No. 5 East Carolina and No. 10 Louisville, No. 3 Stanford and No. 4 Mississippi State) ranked among the Top 10 teams heading into the postseason. And while ECU didn’t have a particularly inspired run during the American Athletic Conference Tournament, they dominated the league during the regular season with a 20-4 conference mark (43-15 overall).

The Pirates do just about everything well. They have three strong starters, led by lefthander Jake Agnos who is 10-2 with a 2.00 ERA and 131 strikeouts in 90 innings of work thanks to his signature curveball. Alec Burleson, Bryant Packard, Spencer Brickhouse and Jake Washer provide some serious thump at the top and in the middle of the ECU lineup, with Burleson pulling double duty as one of the team’s more reliable arm in a swing role. They played solid defense and have a deep, experienced bullpen, giving them a strong overall profile.

NC State is a tough draw, a team that was in the mix as a Regional host as one of the stronger No. 2 seeds in the nation. The Wolfpack is all about their dynamic offense, led by shortstop Will Wilson, first baseman Evan Edwards, catcher Patrick Bailey and outfielder Tyler McDonough. Wilson could go in the first round of the draft come Monday while McDonough is a likely Freshman All-American. The pitching has more of a sum-of-its-part profile, but Jason Parker and Reid Johnston have enjoyed solid seasons as the team’s Nos. 1 and 2 weekend starters.

The regular season and conference tournament champion in the Big South, Campbell, like NC State, won’t have to leave their home state for their Regional assignment. And they could cause some serious mismatches with a talented roster that is highlighted by a pair of players with lofty draft aspirations come Monday, hard-throwing Saturday starter Seth Johnson and leadoff hitting outfielder Matthew Barefoot. Johnson brings mid-90s heat (77 strikeouts in 61 innings) while Barefoot has an exciting blend of speed and power (25 stolen bases, 13 home runs).

Quinnipiac claimed their first-ever MAAC championship and head to the postseason for the first time since 2005 during a historic season for the Bobcats. Starters Tyler Poulin, Chris Enns and Arthur Correira, along with bullpen ace Andrew Workman, did most of the heavy lifting on the pitching staff, while DH Andre Marrero and first baseman Ian Ostberg help make the offense go.


Lubbock, Texas, Regional

1. Texas Tech (8)
4. Army

3. Florida
2. Dallas Baptist

Texas Tech advanced to the College World Series in three of the last five seasons and this version of the Red Raiders also shows that kind of upside. Their season shifted into overdrive when All-American third baseman Josh Jung made the transition to shortstop. Gabe Holt brings electric speed to this lineup and Cam Warren is an old-fashioned run producer.

On the mound, Caleb Killian leads an effective rotation but it is the bullpen that jumps off the page. Dane Haveman is a lefthander with an outrageous 52-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio and Taylor Floyd brings velocity, out pitches, and a very intense demeanor from a low three-quarters arm slot. Clayton Beeter and John McMillon are two righthanders with extreme velocity as both have been up to 97 mph.

Dallas Baptist has earned their eighth Regional bid in the last nine seasons, a truly remarkable accomplishment for a mid-major. The strength of the Patriots lies in a senior-laden pitching staff. Veterans MD Johnson and Jordan Martinson have been rocks at the top of the rotation and they have a combined 107 starts. Massive lefthanded hitter Bryce Ball (6-foot-6, 235-pounds) leads an offense that is in the top 50 nationally in both home runs and stolen bases. Ball leads the club with 17 round trippers and a 1.031 OPS. Junior center fielder Luke Bandy is having a breakout season and he has 22 stolen bases to go with a career-high .959 OPS.

This has been a very unique year for Kevin O’Sullivan’s Florida Gators. While they were clearly one of the final teams into the tournament, there is plenty of talent on this roster. And most of their inconsistencies can be attributed to extreme youth. If sophomore arms Tommy Mace and Jack Leftwich pitch to their capabilities, Florida could be a factor in this Regional. Keep an eye on draft-eligible sophomore shortstop Brady McConnell who had big year hitting .341 with 15 home runs. McConnell should be a high draft pick next week.

Army West Point upset Navy and their All-American righthander Noah Song to win the Patriot League Championship. Head coach Jim Foster led this group to the Raleigh Regional a year ago and the Black Knights upset host NC State in game one. Junior outfielder Jacob Hurtubise finished third in the nation with 45 stolen bases and Army stole 123 as a team.


Oklahoma City, Okla., Regional

1. Oklahoma State (9)
4. Harvard

3. Nebraska
2. UConn

Oklahoma State is one of the most fascinating teams in the NCAA Tournament. The Cowboys have earned seven straight bids under Josh Holliday and his team is sixth in the country with a whopping 84 home runs. Physical center fielder Trevor Boone, who is comped to Aaron Rowand, leads the way with 17 but there are four different players in this lineup with double-digit round-trippers. The downside is that this club also averages over 10 strikeouts per game.

While the offense gets most of the headlines, the Oklahoma State pitching staff may be where the real treasure lies. This group is led by a wizard of a pitching coach in Rob Walton and there is depth and talent here. Jensen Elliott was hot down the stretch and showed flashes of his 2016 form. The bullpen also has seven different arms who have recorded a save so the losers’ bracket might not be a death knell for this club.

Connecticut makes the NCAA Tournament for the sixth time since 2010 and this is a vintage Jim Penders’ team: a very competitive position player group coupled with high-end talent on the mound. Anthony Prato may be the best shortstop in America who no one knows about and John Toppa is an athletic veteran with who has hit .293 over nearly 900 career at-bats. Ace Mason Feole is a lefthander with swing-and-miss stuff who is famous in scouting circles, but the bullpen has been the star of the show in 2019. Closer Jacob Wallace enters the weekend with 0.73 ERA and 15 saves while counterparts Caleb Wurster and C.J. Dandeneau have combined for 62 appearances and over 80 innings.

Nebraska nearly won the Big Ten Tournament and this club is an interesting blend of a veteran core and an exciting freshman class. Aaron Palensky is a pure hitter with strength and freshman Spencer Schwellenbach is a dynamic talent who can impact the game on both sides of the baseball. The all-senior rotation of Matt Waldron, Reece Eddins and Nate Fisher leads the way but freshman closer Colby Gomes brings big arm strength at the back of the bullpen.

Harvard is led by sluggers Patrick McColl and Jake Suddleson who both made a run at the Ivy League Triple Crown. Keep an eye on junior ace Hunter Bigge who is a California native with legitimate arm talent.



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