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NOTE: Regional previews are paired up in twos by Super Regional pairing.
1. Baylor (44-14) -- Big 12 Conference
2. Dallas Baptist (39-17) -- Independent
3. Texas-Arlington (36-23) -- Southland Conference
4. Oral Roberts (37-23) -- Summit League
The favorite: Baylor
Top pitcher: LHP Josh Turley, Baylor
Top hitter: C Josh Ludy, Baylor
Top prospect, 2012 draft: OF Preston Beck, Texas-Arlington
What an impressive campaign the Bears have put together this season. They entered the campaign expected to finish behind Texas A&M and Texas in the Big 12 standings. However, the Bears, outside of Oklahoma, dominated the competition in conference. Now, they hope to dominate the competition in the NCAA postseason. BU has a productive offensive, entering the Waco Regional with a .311 batting average, with senior catcher Josh Ludy leading the way with a .363 average, 13 homers and 64 RBIs. Meanwhile, outfielder Logan Vick is hitting .347 with two homers and 33 RBIs and Dan Evatt and Lawton Langford each are hitting .320. Also keep an eye on power hitting first baseman Max Muncy, who's hitting .317 with six homers and 52 RBIs ... Pitching-wise, the Bears have one of the best in the business in left-handed starting pitcher Josh Turley, who does a tremendous job of spinning the ball, and has a fastball that can touch 89 at times with impeccable location. Turley has a 1.64 ERA in 93 1/3 innings of work. Meanwhile, Trent Blank essentially is a right-handed version of Turley with a 2.07 ERA in 91 1/3 innings of work. The only question mark with this BU team is the No. 3 role, which has changed faces throughout the year. Tyler Bremer now is holding down the spot and has a 3.09 ERA in 43 2/3 innings. Bullpen-wise, keep an eye on Crayton Bare and Dillon Newman, but also Max Garner, who was nasty and up to 90-92 with his fastball down the stretch.
There aren't many college baseball coaches who have done a better job over the past few seasons than Dallas Baptist head coach Dan Heefner. Heefner has done a tremendous job and guided the program to an NCAA Super Regional last season. Can he get to Omaha this season? That remains to be seen. The Patriots, as usual, have a solid offensive lineup with a .304 average and hard-hitting first baseman Ryan Behmanesh leading the way, hitting .402 with eight homers and 32 RBIs. Meanwhile, outfielder Boomer Collins is having a great year with a .376 average, 12 homers and 55 RBIs. Also keep an eye on Austin Elkins, (.356), Joel Hutter (.338) and Landon Anderson (.312). In other words, this Patriots club has absolutely no trouble hitting the ball ... The one area where the Patriots could be susceptible is the pitching staff, where they were touched up a bit down the stretch, particularly against Bradley. However, it's worth mentioning the starting rotation typically is solid with Taylor Massey (3.46), Cy Sneed (3.98) and Andrew Elkins (3.86) leading the charge. It also will be interesting to see what DBU does with Michael Smith, who made his first start of the season against Bradley. Smith has appeared in 28 games and has a 2.93 ERA in 61 1/3 innings.
The Mavericks made a name for themselves this season by taking care of business in midweek action against Texas, Texas A&M, TCU and Oklahoma, among others. But overall, this is a very solid club that put together a consistent approach in Southland Conference play, too. Offensively, the Mavericks enter the weekend only hitting .278, but they have a pair of outstanding hitters in shortstop Ryan Walker and outfielder Preston Beck. Walker is hitting .368 with 30 RBIs and a .424 OBP, while Beck is one of the nation's elite prospects for the upcoming draft, hitting .335 with 13 homers and 70 RBIs ... Pitching-wise, UTA has several arms it can rely on this weekend. Ace starting pitcher Lance Day is having a fantastic year, entering the weekend 12-3 with a 2.98 ERA in 117 2/3 innings. He also has struck out 68 and walked 32, while teams are hitting him at a .266 clip. Michael Oberto has a 1.56 ERA in 40 1/3 innings, while John Beck, another starter, has a 3.71 ERA in 34 1/3 innings. Bullpen-wise, UTA has a solid trio in Adam Boydston (2.15), Michael Morales (2.96) and Adam Westbrook (2.63). It'll be interesting to see if the Mavericks can translate their midweek success against the big boys to success on the weekend.
The Golden Eagles are used to dominating the Summit League. But this season, they went 17-6 in league play and had to double dip North Dakota State to win the tournament crown and advance to the NCAA postseason. Still, this is a team with some talent capable of upsetting anyone. ORU enters the weekend hitting .275 with a solid trio of hitters leading the way in first baseman Jared Schlehuber, third baseman Jose Trevino and second baseman Cam Schiller. Schlehuber is hitting .322 with 13 homers and 55 RBIs, Trevino is hitting .318 with 13 homers and 55 RBIs and Schiller is hitting .313 with eight homers and 50 RBIs ... Pitching-wise, the Eagles have four solid starting pitchers in Drew Bowen (1.87), Alex Gonzalez (2.04), Kurt Giller (3.39) and Mike Torrence (3.96). They also have some big-time relievers in Joe Spring and Lars Liguori, who each have ERAs under 2.50.
1. Rice (40-16) -- Conference USA
2. Arkansas (39-19) -- Southeastern Conference
3. Sam Houston State (38-20) -- Southland Conference
4. Prairie View A&M (28-23) -- Southwestern Athletic Conference
The favorite: Rice
Top pitcher: RHP Matthew Reckling, Rice
Top hitter: 3B Matt Reynolds, Arkansas
Top prospect, 2012 draft: RHP J.T. Chargois, Rice
There's no doubt this Rice team has a chance to compete for a national title, but to do so, it must rise to the occasion from an offensive standpoint. The Owls have been bad offensively the past few weeks and enter the weekend hitting .284 with just three everyday sluggers hitting over .300. Second baseman Christian Stringer is hitting .348 with three homers and 36 RBIs, while outfielder Jeremy Rathjen has legitimate power potential, hitting .333 with nine homers and 41 RBIs. Meanwhile, also keep an eye on Michael Fuda, who's hitting .303 with seven homers and 44 RBIs, and two-way stud J.T. Chargois, who's hitting .333 with 31 RBIs. Michael Ratterree and Ford Stainback are two guys that could step up this weekend ... While the Owls have some issues offensively, this team is the complete opposite from a pitching standpoint, entering the weekend with 2.91 ERA. Right-handed ace pitcher Matthew Reckling has been much more hittable the past couple of weeks, but still has a 2.90 ERA in 83 2/3 innings of work. Meanwhile, Austin Kubitza has a 2.96 ERA in 73 innings and John Simms has a 2.72 ERA in 56 1/3 innings. Bullpen-wise, J.T. Chargois can get his fastball up to 98 and has a 2.25 ERA and eight saves in 36 innings. Also keep an eye on red-hot reliever Tyler Duffey, who has a 1.71 ERA and six saves in 47 1/3 innings of work. Rice will have a fantastic weekend if it hits with consistency.
The Razorbacks know exactly how Rice feels entering the weekend. They've had a nice run from a pitching standpoint the past few weeks, but they've certainly left something to be desired from an offensive standpoint, entering the weekend with a .279 batting average. Still, there are some guys in this lineup to keep an eye on and that could get hot. For instance, Dominic Ficociello only is hitting .309 with six homers and 37 RBIs, but has the ability to have a big-time weekend. Meanwhile, third baseman Matt Reynolds and shortstop Tim Carver spearhead the offense. Reynolds clearly is the key offensive cog, hitting a team-best .340 with seven homers and 41 RBIs, while Carver is hitting .313 with two homers and 27 RBIs. As with Rice, the Hogs could have a big weekend if their offense steps up. If not, it'll be much of the same in the win column ... Pitching-wise, the Hogs are a fun team to watch with a plethora of high quality arms. The one-two punch on the weekend in DJ Baxendale and Ryne Stanek can sometimes be something of beauty. Baxendale threw very well in the SEC tournament and has a 3.02 ERA in 86 1/3 innings, while Stanek has a fastball in the mid-to-upper 90s and a nasty changeup. He has a 3.09 ERA in 75 2/3 innings of work. Bullpen-wise, Brandon Moore serves a dual role and has a 2.66 ERA in 64 1/3 innings, while Colby Suggs (1.32), Cade Lynch (2.11), Barrett Astin (2.31) and Nolan Sanburn (2.78) have been very solid.
Sam Houston State could be a very interesting team to watch this weekend, especially if it can get past Arkansas in the opening game. The Bearkats are coached by former Rice pitching coach David Pierce, who obviously knows Wayne Graham's tendencies in the other dugout. With that said, the Bearkats enter the weekend with a solid offense, hitting .295. Anthony Azar, who's hitting .382 with three homers and 35 RBIs, has returned as the designated hitter after suffering a tough injury that caused him to be in an arm sling for a while. Meanwhile, third baseman Kevin Miller is hitting .324 with two homers and 33 RBIs, outfielder Colt Atwood is hitting .317 with 16 RBIs and first baseman Ryan O'Hearn has power potential, and is hitting .312 with two homers and 30 RBIs ... Pitching-wise, SHSU has some legitimate starting pitching, but has had issues closing the deal from a bullpen standpoint. SHSU starting pitchers include Michael Oros (2.67), Justin Jackson (2.93), who's up to 92 with his fastball, and Caleb Smith (3.00). In the bullpen, the Bearkats need Michael Burchett (3.52) and Brandon Bergen (3.86) to be fantastic this weekend.
Rice coach Wayne Graham would tell you, simply put, never take a SWAC school for granted. The Owls had their postseason hopes ultimately dashed a few years ago with a first-round loss to Texas Southern. They also almost dropped a bout to these same PVAMU Panthers in the first round of the Houston Regional a couple of seasons ago, too. The Panthers enter the weekend with something to be desired offensively, hitting .263 with just two everyday starters hitting over .300, including first baseman Dominiq Harris and third baseman Brad Benes. Harris is hitting .314 with two homers and 31 RBIs while Benes is hitting .313 with a home run and 24 RBIs ... Pitching-wise, the Panthers certainly lack quality depth, but have a very solid ace starting pitcher in Derrick Mitchell, and one very good reliever. Mitchell has started 14 games and has a 3.09 ERA in 87 1/3 innings, while Daniel Castillo has appeared in 24 games and has a 1.81 ERA in 49 2/3 innings of work.