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Thursday, June 02, 2011

Preview: College Station Regional

Kendall Rogers        

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The Road to Omaha has begun and 64 teams around the country are vying for the eight lucrative spots in the first College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb.

As part of our extensive NCAA postseason coverage, we take an in-depth look at each of the 16 NCAA Regionals.

Team Conference Record Berth Last NCAA appearance
1. Texas A&M Big 12 42-18 Auto bid 2010
2. Arizona Pac-10 36-19 At-large 2010
3. Seton Hall Big East 33-23 Auto bid 2001
4. Wright State Horizon 36-17 Auto bid 2009
The favorite: Texas A&M
1. Texas A&M

2. Arizona

3. Seton Hall

4. Wright State
The Aggies will be without stud right-handed pitcher John Stilson the entire postseason, but that shouldn't stop them from taking care of business in the College Station Regional. The Aggies still have a solid two-headed monster on the weekend in starting pitchers MIchael Wacha and Ross Stripling. Wacha has a 2.37 ERA in 102 2/3 innings and is limiting teams to a .247 average, while Stripling has been on the team's most consistent arm and has a 2.41 ERA in 100 2/3 innings. At the plate, the Aggies heated up in Oklahoma City last week and enter the NCAAs with a .291 batting average. Leading hitter Tyler Naquin is hitting .379 with two home runs, 42 RBIs and has a .449 OBP, while freshman Krey Bratsen is hitting .339 with 34 RBIs. He also is 26-for-34 in stolen bases. The Aggies might only have issues if a team pushes them to Monday with a thinner pitching staff.
The dark-horse contender: Arizona
The Wildcats entered the season with very high hopes, and though they have a solid record and are an NCAA Regional two-seed, they haven't exactly been consistent against elite competition this spring. The Wildcats have the potential to do some special things, though. Arizona has a solid offense and enters the postseason with a .322 average. Cole Frenzel and Joey Rickard each are hitting .360 or better this season, while Robert Refsnyder is having a solid campaign with a .323 average, six home runs and 53 RBIs. Pitching-wise, starting pitchers Kurt Heyer and Kyle Simon must be solid this weekend as the Wildcats' pitching staff is otherwise shaky at times. Heyer has started 18 games and has a 2.32 ERA in 124 innings with teams hitting him at a .248 clip, while Simon has a 2.93 ERA in 119 2/3 innings and teams are hitting him at a .243 clip.
Best hitter: 1B Jake Hibberd, Wright State
A couple of weeks ago Texas A&M outfielder Tyler Naquin would've been the slam dunk pick in this category, but his average has dropped several points over the past few weeks. As a result, keep an eye on Wright State's big slugger this weekend. Hibberd is having a sensational campaign for the Raiders, hitting a team-high .412 with 20 doubles, nine home runs and 56 RBIs. He also is slugging .618 and has a .452 OBP. It'll be interesting to see if Hibberd can have a wealth of success against elite pitching this weekend.
Best pitcher: RHP Kurt Heyer, Arizona
It's an extremely close race between Texas A&M's Michael Wacha and Ross Stripling and Heyer, but the talented right-handed pitcher gets the overall edge. Heyer is having an amazing season for the Wildcats. He has started 18 games and has a 2.32 ERA in 124 innings. He also has struck out 127 and walked 24 and teams are hitting him at a .248 clip. The Wildcats need to start the weekend off on the right foot with Heyer on the mound against Seton Hall.
Best prospect: Michael Wacha, Texas A&M
Though Heyer has had a slightly better campaign this spring, Wacha definitely is the top prospect in this NCAA Regional. The Aggies right-handed pitcher is expected to be one of the first pitchers taken in the 2012 MLB draft, and he's having a solid sophomore season. He has started 15 games and has a 2.37 ERA in 102 2/3 innings. More impressive about Wacha is the fact he has a tall, lanky frame, that reminds some people of Texas pitcher Taylor Jungmann. He's up to 95 mph with his fastball at times and can display a devastating changeup when he wants to.
The buzz
With John Stilson out of the Texas A&M rotation this weekend, all the Aggies' attention is on the No. 3 starting spot, which likely will go to either Brandon Parrent or Derrick Hadley. Parrent has started four games this spring and has a 3.65 ERA in 44 1/3 innings, while Hadley has started four games and has a 4.11 ERA in 30 2/3 innings. Also keep an eye on the A&M bullpen, as Nick Fleece, Joaquin Hinojosa and Kyle Martin must have productive weekends ... As with the Aggies, Arizona's success this weekend likely will hinge on the rest of the rotation after Heyer and Simon, and of course, the bullpen. Arizona reliever Bryce Bandilla is an elite prospect, but has been hittable at times this season. He has made 29 appearances and has a 3.65 ERA in 44 1/3 innings. He also has struck out 47 and walked 32 and teams are hitting just .212 against him. Also keep an eye on Matt Chaffee, who has a 4.65 ERA in 40 2/3 innings ... Seton Hall might not have much hitting (it's hitting just .249 as a team), but it certainly doesn't lack starting pitching with Joe Dirroco and Jon Prosinski leading the charge. Dirroco has a 1.68 ERA in 112 2/3 innings and has struck out 53 and walked 29. Teams are hitting him at a .207 clip. Prosinski, meanwhile, has a 2.11 ERA in 85 1/3 innings and teams are hitting him at a .232 clip ... Wright State has some very solid relievers in Michael Schum, Jordan Marker, MIchael Mentel and Taylor Braun, but it'll be up to starting pitcher Michael Woytek to start the weekend on the right foot. Woytek has started 14 games, is 7-3 and has a 4.09 ERA in 81 1/3 innings. He also has struck out 38 and walked 26 and teams are hitting him at a .302 clip.

Kendall Rogers is the college baseball editor for Perfect Game USA and has covered the sport for over 10 seasons. He can be reached at

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