College : : Story
Thursday, May 31, 2012

Preview: Chapel Hill/Tucson

Kendall Rogers        
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NOTE: Regional previews are paired up in twos by Super Regional pairing.


1. North Carolina (44-14) -- Atlantic Coast Conference
2. East Carolina (35-22-1) -- Conference USA
3. St. John's (37-21) -- Big East Conference
4. Cornell (31-15-1) -- Ivy League

The favorite: North Carolina
Top pitcher: LHP Kent Emanuel, North Carolina
Top hitter: 3B Colin Moran, North Carolina
Top prospect, 2012 draft: RHP Kyle Hansen, St. John's

The Tar Heels have been one of the nation's perennial powers for years, but somehow they've flown a little under the radar this spring. This is a very balanced club despite some offensive numbers that won't impress observers too much. UNC is hitting .279 as a team with third baseman Colin Moran, who's finally back from injury, leading the way with a .362 average, three homers and 34 RBIs. Meanwhile, Chaz Frank is hitting .303 with 37 RBIs. Also keep an eye on veteran catcher Jacob Stallings, who's hitting .299 with four homers and 38 RBIs, while Tommy Coyle has potential despite hitting .246 with four homers and 28 RBIs ... Pitching-wise, this Tar Heels staff has been fantastic all-spring long. Sophomore left-handed pitcher Kent Emanuel has continued where he left off as a freshman last season, sitting 8-4 with a 2.03 ERA in 102 innings. Meanwhile, Benton Moss has a 1.97 ERA in 73 innings and Hobbs Johnson has a 1.37 ERA in 52 2/3 innings of work. Bullpen-wise, the Tar Heels have one of the best in the business in right-hander Michael Morin, who has a 0.83 ERA with 17 saves in 54 1/3 innings of work. Meanwhile, R.C. Orlan, Chris McCue, Shane Taylor and Tate Parrish have been terrific.

East Carolina's inclusion to the NCAA postseason field was certainly up for debate, but it's now official and it's time to see what the Pirates have in their tank this weekend. ECU enters the weekend with a .293 batting average, as John Wooten leads the way, hitting .341 with eight homers and 38 RBIs. Meanwhile, Drew Reynolds is hitting .328 with two homers and 22 RBIs and third baseman Corey Thompson is hitting .319 with four homers and 38 RBIs. Also keep an eye on Zach Wright, who has smacked five homers and knocked in 38 runs ... Pitching-wise, the Pirates have some solid arms to keep an eye on. For instance, veteran starting pitcher Kevin Brandt is having a terrific year and has a 1.85 ERA in 102 innings of work. Meanwhile, Jeff Hoffman has a 3.37 ERA in 69 1/3 innings. It's important to keep close tabs on relievers such as Andy Smithmyer (1.54), Tanner Merritt (2.91) and Drew Reynolds (3.33). ECU has underachieved for much of the season. Could it have a huge weekend in store?

The Johnnies could be a very dangerous team to watch this season. They entered the season with high hopes, but really didn't play a consistent brand of baseball until down the stretch. Now they hope to make a big-time statement this weekend in North Carolina. St. John's has the tools to get the job done, hitting .284 entering the weekend with shortstop Matt Wessinger leading the way, hitting .348 with six homers and 45 RBIs. Also keep an eye on outfielder Jeremy Baltz, who's hitting .342 with seven homers and 49 RBIs. Additionally, third baseman Sean O'Hare is one to watch, hitting .333 with three homers and 40 RBIs ... Pitching-wise, a big change for the Johnnies down the stretch has been more consistently good starts from hard-throwing right-handed pitchers Kyle Hansen and Matt Carasiti. Hansen has a 3.44 ERA in 86 1/3 innings of work, while Carasiti has a 3.79 ERA in 78 1/3 innings. Also keep an eye on the Johnnies' most consistent starting pitcher, Sean Hagan, who has a 2.58 ERA in 94 1/3 innings. Bullpen-wise, Stephen Rivera (1.84) is having a terrific year.

The Big Red hopes to make a big splash this weekend, but they'll need a few things to go their way to make a statement. The Big Red enters the weekend hitting .283 with Brian Billigen leading the way, hitting an impressive .362 with five homers and 38 RBIs. He also has a very solid .446 on-base percentage. Also keep an eye on Frank Hanger, who's hitting .305 with three homers and 20 RBIs. Otherwise, the Big Red will need several hitters to rise to the occasion ... Pitching-wise, the Big Red has three solid starters in Brian McAfee, Connor Kaufmann and Rick Marks. McAfee has a 3.19 ERA in 62 innings, Marks has a 3.09 ERA in 58 1/3 innings and Kaufmann has a 4.00 ERA in 54 innings of work. Also keep an eye on relievers Kellen Urbon and Houston Hawley, who have ERAs of 0.51 and 1.99, respectively.


1. Arizona (38-17) -- Pac-12 Conference
2. New Mexico State (35-22) -- Western Athletic Conference
3. Louisville (39-20) -- Big East Conference
4. Missouri (32-26) -- Big 12 Conference

The favorite: Arizona
Top pitcher: RHP Kurt Heyer, Arizona
Top hitter: OF Robert Refsnyder, Arizona
Top prospect, 2012 draft: RHP Matt Koch, Louisville

The Wildcats have been playing a solid brand of baseball the past few weeks and enter the weekend in very good shape with an offense that's hitting at an impressive .325 clip. Arizona has one of the nation's elite hitters in outfielder Robert Refsnyder, who's hitting .359 with six homers and 57 RBIs. Meanwhile, outfielder Johnny Field is hitting at a high level, batting .379 with two homers and 31 RBIs. Also keep an eye on shortstop Alex Mejia, third baseman Seth Mejias-Brean and Bobby Brown. Mejia is hitting .357 with three homers and 46 RBIs, Mejias-Brean is hitting .351 with a home run and 52 RBIs and Bobby Brown is hitting .343 with four homers and 47 RBIs ... Pitching-wise, the Wildcats are vulnerable at times, but fantastic when right-handed pitcher Kurt Heyer is on the mound. Heyer is 11-2 with a 2.03 ERA in 119 2/3 innings. He is limiting teams to a .250 average. Meanwhile, Konner Wade has a 4.88 ERA in 101 1/3 innings and James Farris has a 4.40 ERA in 90 innings. The Wildcats have had a shaky bullpen at times, though youngster Mathew Troupe has a 3.98 ERA in 31 2/3 innings.

When the Aggies finished the regular season on such a high note and didn't exactly impress in the WAC tournament, it was thought they might miss out on the postseason all together. Well, now only is NMSU in the postseason, it also is a No. 2 seed. The Aggies have a productive offense, entering the weekend with a .308 batting average. Stud catcher Zac Fisher leads the way, hitting .363 with six homers and 58 RBIs. Meanwhile, Parker Hipp is hitting .350 with a home run and 49 RBIs. Also keep an eye on shortstop Zach Voight, who should return full-time from an injury. Voight is hitting .301 with eight homers and 54 RBIs ... Pitching-wise, the Aggies don't possess a lot of high level arms. However, they've got a good one in veteran left-handed hurler Ryan Beck, who has a 4.22 ERA in 91 2/3 innings. Meanwhile, reliever Scott Coffman is a good one with a 3.79 ERA and eight saves in 40 1/3 innings. The Aggies must pitch better to win this series.

The Cardinals put together a solid regular season campaign, but somehow was a No. 3 seed in this NCAA Regional behind New Mexico State. The Cards have a chip on their shoulder and likely will play like a team on a mission this weekend. The Cards enter the weekend hitting .292 with Nick Ratajczak leading the charge, hitting .349 with six homers and 38 RBIs. Also keep an eye on Cole Sturgeon, Adam Engel and Stewart Ijames. Sturgeon is hitting .319 with a home run and 40 RBIs, Engel is very athletic and hitting .317 with a home run and 17 RBIs and Ijames has blasted 12 homers and knocked in 60 runs ... Pitching-wise, the Cards have some big-time arms to watch this weekend. Talented right-handed pitcher Justin Amlung has a 2.36 ERA in 103 innings of work, while Jeff Thompson has a 3.91 ERA in 73 2/3 innings. Jared Ruxer is another quality arm to watch, sitting with a 2.88 ERA in 75 innings. Bullpen-wise, the Cards have some big-time arms, including Derek Self and Matt Koch. Self has appeared in 25 games and has a 3.64 ERA in 29 2/3 innings, while Koch has a fastball that touches the mid 90s and has a 3.90 ERA in 27 2/3 innings.

Even with an RPI in the 80s entering the NCAA postseason, the Tigers definitely are an interesting team to watch this weekend. With their season on the line in Oklahoma City last week, the Tigers played an outstanding brand of baseball. Missouri enters the weekend hitting .274 with some solid hitters to watch, such as Scott Sommerfield, Blake Brown and Ben Turner. Sommerfield is hitting a team-best .302 with two homers and 25 RBIs, while Brown is a big-time power producer, hitting .299 with 10 homers and 39 RBIs. Turner is hitting .293 with a home run and 27 RBIs ... Pitching-wise, the Tigers have a couple of very solid starting pitchers to watch in Rob Zastryzny and Blake Holovach. Both pitched very well last week. Zastryzny has a 3.84 ERA in 103 innings while Holovach has a 4.60 ERA in 76 1/3 innings. Bullpen-wise, the Tigers have some quality arms to watch, such as Dusty Ross and Jeff Emens. Ross has appeared in 30 games and has a 2.38 ERA in 45 1/3 innings, while Emens has appeared in 30 games and has a 2.58 ERA in 80 1/3 innings.

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