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College : : Story
Preview: Tempe Regional
Published: Friday, June 03, 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. Arizona State Pac-10 39-16 At-large 2010
2. Arkansas SEC 38-20 At-large 2010
3. Charlotte Atlantic 10 42-14 Auto bid 2008
4. New Mexico Mountain West 20-39 Auto bid 2010
THE BREAKDOWN
The favorite: Arizona State
1. Arizona State

2. Arkansas

3. Charlotte

4. New Mexico
Though we picked Arkansas to upset Arizona State in this NCAA Regional, the Sun Devils still enter the weekend as the favorite. The Sun Devils enter the weekend hitting .304 with Joey DeMichele, Johnny Ruettiger, Deven Marrero and Riccio Torrez leading the way. DeMichele has blossomed this season and has a .371 batting average with seven home runs and 39 RBIs, while Ruettiger is hitting .329, Marrero is hitting .320 and Torrez is hitting .314. Pitching-wise, weekend starters Brady Rodgers and Kramer Champlin have ERAs of 2.90 and 3.13, respectively, while Jake Barrett has a 4.14 ERA in 76 innings. The Devils didn't play particularly well against UCLA last weekend, so they'll be looking to bounce back in impressive fashion.
The dark-horse contender: Arkansas
Considering we picked Arkansas to upset the Sun Devils, we're not sure it's right to call the Hogs actual dark-horses. But looking at this team from top-to-bottom, it's obvious they rely heavily on one thing, and that's pitching. DJ Baxendale is one of the nation's elite pitchers while Ryne Stanek, Brandon Moore, Randall Fant and Cade Lynch have the ability to dominate. Fant will start the opener against Charlotte and has a 3.74 ERA in 67 1/3 innings, Lynch has a 3.18 ERA in 62 1/3 innings and Moore has a 3.74 ERA in 65 innings. Offensively, the Hogs have an outstanding young freshman in Dominic Ficociello, but the rest of the lineup must rise to the occasion with James McCann (.309), Kyle Robinson (.293), Bo Bigham (.290) and Collin Kuhn (.285) leading the charge. The Hogs will have a lot of success this weekend if they put all the pieces together.
Best hitter: DH Joey DeMichele, Arizona State
It's safe to say DeMichele made some solid offseason adjustments. He competed in just eight games last season and had a dismal .111 batting average. This season, though, has been a completely different story. DeMichele is hitting a team-best .371 with 14 doubles, six triples, seven home runs and 39 RBIs. He also is slugging .647 and has a .416 OBP. It's also worth noting DeMichele only has struck out 26 times this season, while he has walked on 12 occasions. DeMichele's transformation into an elite hitter is one of the better stories of the season.
Best pitcher: RHP DJ Baxendale, Arkansas
Charlotte ace pitcher Andrew Smith certainly deserves to be in this discussion, but we give the overall edge to Baxendale. The talented right-hander is having a fantastic campaign. He has started 11 games and has a 1.75 ERA in 77 1/3 innings. He also has struck out 70 and walked 18 and teams are hitting him at a .235 clip. It's worth noting that Baxendale has tossed one complete game and has allowed just two home runs.
Best prospect: C James McCann, Arkansas
Outside of Oregon State's Andrew Susac, there's not a better overall catcher in college baseball than McCann. McCann is known as the best defensive catcher in the game, and has taken a step forward in the offensive department. He's hitting .309 with 13 doubles, a triple, six home runs and 33 RBIs. He's also slugging .479 and has an OK .395 OBP. McCann also has stolen nine bases and has struck out just 25 times as opposed to drawing 24 walks. Behind the plate, McCann has made just four errors (.991) this season. Look for McCann's name to be called early in next week's MLB draft.
The buzz
Arkansas has three primary players to watch this weekend, position guys Kyle Robinson and Collin Kuhn and freshman pitcher Ryne Stanek. Robinson and Kuhn played exceptionally well at the SEC tournament last week. Robinson is hitting .293 with nine home runs and 45, while Kuhn is hitting .285 with seven home runs and 39 RBIs. As for Stanek, he turned down third-round overtures last summer to attend college. He was fantastic last week, and overall is 3-2 with a 4.25 ERA in 55 innings. He also is limiting teams to a .217 batting average ... Though Arizona State has a solid crop of starting pitchers, it'll be important to keep close tabs on Trevor Williams, Alex Blackford and Mitchell Lambson this weekend. Williams has appeared in 30 games and has a 2.02 ERA in 35 2/3 innings, Blackford has appeared in 22 games and has a 2.70 ERA in 60 innings and Lambson has appeared in 27 games and has a 4.32 ERA in 41 2/3 innings ... Offensively for Charlotte, keep close tabs on Ross Steedley (.349), Justin Wilson (.338) and Corey Shaylor (.310) this weekend. But the headliners on this team are starting pitchers Andrew Smith and Tyler Barnette. Smith has a 1.85 ERA in 102 innings and is limiting teams to a .213 average while Barnettte has a 1.96 ERA in 87 1/3 innings and is limiting teams to a .216 average. The 49ers really could surprise this weekend if their starting pitching is solid ... New Mexico appeared to make a huge statement last season when it reached the NCAA postseason played well. Well, the Lobos were horrible for much of the season, but played well in the Mountain West tournament. That's why they're here this weekend. Though the pitching staff has a dismal 5.88 ERA, there are some key cogs to watch at the plate, such as DJ Peterson, who's hitting .324 with 31 doubles, three triples, six home runs and 48 RBIs.


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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