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College : : Story
Preview: Houston Regional
Published: Thursday, June 02, 2011

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REGIONAL COVERAGE: SCHEDULE/RESULTS | REGIONAL BREAKDOWN | PAIRINGS MESSAGE BOARDS


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.

THE TEAMS
Team Conference Record Berth Last NCAA appearance
1. Rice Conference USA 41-19 Auto bid 2010
2. Baylor Big 12 29-26 At large 2010
3. California Pac-10 31-20 At-large 2010
4. Alcorn State SWAC 27-28 Auto bid Never
THE BREAKDOWN
The favorite: Rice
1. Rice

2. Baylor

3. California

4. Alcorn State
The Owls are playing a very solid brand of baseball at the right time and enter the weekend with high hopes. Though the Owls are only hitting .285 as a team, they're better offensively than the stats indicate. Rendon obviously leads the way at the plate, but infielder Michael Ratterree is hitting .322 with 17 doubles, six home runs and 51 RBIs. Also keep an eye on J.T. Chargois, who has had some big hits this season and is hitting .306 with two home runs and 31 RBIs. Pitching-wise, starting pitcher Austin Kubitza is the key cog. Kubitza has had a fantastic freshman campaign. He has started 14 games and has a 2.33 ERA in 92 2/3 innings. He also has struck out 93 and walked 21 and teams are hitting .255 against him. Abe Gonzales, who has a 3.03 ERA in 65 1/3 innings, will start the opener against Alcorn State, while Matthew Reckling has a 3.07 ERA in 73 1/3 innings. The Owls should get through this NCAA Regional with the way they're playing.
The dark-horse contender: California
The Golden Bears have had solid pitching throughout the season, but tend to go through some offensive lulls at times. The Bears only are hitting .284 as a team with Tony Renda and Austin Booker leading the way at the plate. Renda is hitting .330 with 13 doubles, two triples, three home runs and 38 RBIs, while Booker is hitting .318 with a home run and 22 RBIs. Pitching-wise, the Bears have an excellent ace in Erik Johnson, while they also have high hopes for Justin Jones and Dixon Anderson. Jones has a 3.33 ERA in 105 1/3 innings and teams are hitting him at a .281 clip, while Anderson has a 4.04 ERA in 62 1/3 innings and teams are hitting him at a .268 clip. The Bears should make plenty of noise this weekend if their offense rises to the occasion.
Best hitter: 3B Anthony Rendon, Rice
Rendon hasn't tallied the incredible batting average everyone thought he would this season, but he's still having a solid campaign. Rendon leads the Owls with a .327 batting average, 20 doubles, two triples, six home runs and 35 RBIs. He also has a .535 slugging percentage and a fabulous .523 OBP. Also impressive is the fact Rendon has drawn 78 walks (many of them intentional) and struck out on just 32 occasions. Look for the talented junior, who could play second or designated hitter this weekend, to have a strong weekend.
Best pitcher: RHP Erik Johnson, California
It was difficult to pass over sensational Rice freshman pitcher Austin Kubitza in this category, but Johnson, the veteran hurler for the Golden Bears, has had a fantastic season. He has started 14 games and has a 2.03 ERA in 90 2/3 innings. He also has struck out 91 and walked 41 and teams are hitting him at an incredibly low .184 clip. It's also worth noting that Johnson has only allowed three home runs this spring. The Bears need him to start the weekend on a positive note.
Best prospect: Anthony Rendon, Rice
After putting together a mammoth sophomore campaign for the Owls last season, it was assumed Rendon was the slam-dunk top pick in this year's MLB draft. Some still believe Rendon will go No. 1 overall, while others believe UCLA pitcher Gerrit Cole or Virginia pitcher Danny Hultzen could be the top overall picks. At any rate, despite his taking a step back this season, Rendon is a pure player and will be fantastic at the next level if he can stay healthy. Rendon has all the tools you'd want, including a good clubhouse personality.
The buzz
Much has been said about the job Austin Kubitza has done as the Rice staff ace this season, but plenty of love also needs to be given to the bullpen, which possesses several quality arms, including Tony Cingrani, Tyler Duffey, Jeremy Fant and Taylor Wall. Cingrani has transformed into a fantastic reliever this season and has a 1.76 ERA in 56 1/3 innings with 12 saves, Duffey has appeared in 29 games and has a 2.50 ERA, Fant has 3.71 ERA in 26 2/3 innings and Wall has a 3.60 ERA in 35 innings ... The Golden Bears are led on the mound by Erik Johnson and Justin Jones, but they have plenty of other quality arms to watch this weekend. Key relievers include Kyle Porter, Kevin Miller, Matt Flemer and Logan Scott. Porter has a 1.87 ERA in 43 1/3 innings, Miller (who also might start) has a 2.27 ERA in 75 1/3 innings, Flemer has a 2.40 ERA in 30 innings and Scott has a 3.37 ERA in 34 2/3 innings ... Baylor can win this NCAA Regional if it gets hot this weekend. Max Muncy, who's hitting .329 with nine home runs and 43 RBIs, leads the way at the plate. But the weekend rotation is the key to the weekend with Logan Verrett, Josh Turley and Brooks Pinckard leading the way. Verrett has a 2.81 ERA in 93 innings, Turley has a 3.63 ERA in 86 2/3 innings and Pinckard has a 3.81 ERA in 52 innings. Also keep an eye on reliever Max Garner, who has appeared in 27 games and has a 2.74 ERA in 42 2/3 innings ... Alcorn State is one of the nation's most improved teams and is in its first NCAA tournament. The Braves don't have a great offense -- hitting just .276 -- but Kilby Perdomo and Eduardo Gonzalez definitely are worth watching. Perdomo is hitting a team-best .357 with 17 doubles, a triple, 10 home runs and 49 RBIs, while Gonzalez is hitting .348 with 23 doubles, three home runs and 46 RBIs. Also keep an eye on Angel Rose, who has stolen 37 bases this season.


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 kendall@perfectgame.org



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