College : : Story
Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Eugene Regional preview

Kendall Rogers        


Team Conference Record Berth Last NCAA appearance
1. Oregon Pac-12 45-14 At-large 2012
2. Rice Conference USA 41-17 Automatic 2012
3. San Francisco WCC 34-22 At-large 2011
4. South Dakota State Summit 35-22 Automatic First
1. Oregon
2. Rice

3. San Francisco
4. South Dakota State
For the second-straight season, the Ducks have made a strong impression on the national stage, and enter the NCAA postseason as a top-eight national seed. Though they were tripped up by Kent State last season, the Ducks hope to punch their ticket to the College World Series with a good showing the next couple of weeks. UO has one of the nation's elite pitching staffs, entering the weekend with a 2.79 ERA. Sophomore left-handed pitcher Tommy Thorpe, who can get his fastball up to 90-91, but relies mostly on a heavy diet of off-speed stuff, leads the way with a 2.22 ERA in 97 1/3 innings of work, while freshman left-handed pitcher Cole Irvin had 15 starts and a 2.61 ERA in 107 innings. Also keep an eye on right-handed starting pitcher Jake Reed, who has a 3.24 ERA in 91 2/3 innings of work, while relievers Garrett Cleavinger and Jimmie Sherfy are elite. Cleavinger is a stocky freshman lefty who can get up to 91, while Sherfy has been up to 98 at times this season. The biggest challenge for the Ducks is getting going offensively. First baseman Ryon Healy has been dealing with a sore back, but is good to go this weekend. He's hitting .324 with 10 homers and 50 RBIs, while Brett Thomas leads the charge average wise with a .328 mark, two homers and 28 RBIs.
If you're the type who strictly just looks at postseason resumes and judges a team by that, you might not be impressed with the Owls, who went 0-4 against RPI Top 50 teams this spring. But make no mistake about it, though these Owls aren't as flashy as some teams of the past, this is a very solid club with the ability to win this NCAA Regional. The Owls have a serviceable offense, entering the weekend with a .282 batting average. Shane Hoelscher leads the offense with a .339 average and 21 RBIs, while Michael Ratterree is hitting .288 with nine homers and 41 RBIs. To me, Michael Aquino is the big X-factor this weekend. Aquino isn't a huge guy, but has some serious, deceptive, pop in his swing. He has a .323 average, eight homers and 42 RBIs. From a pitching standpoint these Owls have the ability to compete with anyone. Ace right-handed pitcher Austin Kubitza has a sick, late-breaking slider, while Jordan Stephens isn't overpowering, but has good pitchability at times, and John Simms is a tough, durable, arm for the Owls. The guy I love from this staff is right-handed reliever Zech Lemond. Lemond has an unorthodox pitching motion and consistently throws a controlled fastball 92-94, along with a good secondary offering.
San Francisco
It was refreshing to see the Dons included in the field of 64. So many times in the past the Dons have thought they were in the field, only to be snubbed, a lot like Cal Poly. Well, the Dons hope to make a big statement this weekend in Eugene. From an offensive standpoint, the Dons aren't going overpower you with a .267 team batting average, but leading hitter Bradley Zimmer is an excellent athlete who can wreak havoc. Zimmer is hitting .335 with 12 doubles, three triples, seven homers and 36 RBIs, along with 18 stolen bases in 26 attempts. Also keep an eye on Zachary Turner, who's hitting an impressive .335 with eight homers and 62 RBIs. Justin Maffei is one to watch on the base-paths, as he enters the weekend with 15 stolen bases. From a pitching standpoint, right-handed pitcher Alex Balog has the potential to be as good as anyone in the country with a big-time arm and fastball. Balog has a 3.69 ERA in 85 1/3 innings of work, along with 63 strikeouts and 30 walks. Meanwhile, Christian Cecilio has a 4.11 ERA in 70 innings along with 46 strikeouts and 19 walks, while Haden Hinkle earned his fourth start last weekend at the West Coast Conference tournament and has a 1.83 ERA in 73 2/3 innings of work. Also keep an eye on relievers such as Adam Cimber (3.81, 9 saves) and Bob Mott (2.40, 30 IP), among others.
South Dakota State
The Jackrabbits have had some success the past couple of seasons, but nothing compares to this campaign, as they look to make a huge statement on the national stage. The first thing that jumps out about this team is the starting pitching. Senior right-handed pitcher Stephen Bougher is having a huge campaign with an 8-2 record and 2.89 ERA in 81 innings. He has thrown complete games, while tallying 60 strikeouts and 22 walks. Fellow starting pitcher Layne Somsen (1.92, 84.1 IP) has also been fantastic this spring, while right-handed reliever J.D. Moore is a premium arm to watch. Moore has made 24 appearances this season and has a 1.67 ERA and 13 saves. Also keep an eye on reliever Talon Jumper (.3.14, 28.2). Offensively, keep an eye on designated hitter Daniel Telford, who's hitting an impressive .421 with six homers and 36 RBIs, while Paul Jacobson is hitting just .293, but can cause issues for opposing catchers with 10 stolen bases in 12 attempts. Interestingly about the Jackrabbits, they finished second in the Summit League during the regular season behind first-year Division-I program Nebraska-Omaha. The Jackrabbits ended regular season play with a 16-10 league mark.
If the teams traveling to this NCAA Regional don't know already, it's incredibly difficult -- even when it's warm -- to hit the ball out of the park in Eugene, Ore. So, whichever team is successfully able to execute the small ball game will be the one who advances to an NCAA Super Regional. Oregon is my pick to win this NCAA Regional. The Ducks leave something to be desired from an offensive standpoint, but have an excellent pitching staff, with Sherfy being the X-factor on the back end of the bullpen. Sure, he struggled against Oregon State a couple of weeks ago, but he's an outstanding arm that can't be undervalued in a tournament like this. San Francisco is a seasoned club that could cause some issues this weekend, while Rice poses the biggest threat to the Ducks. The Owls have the arms to matchup with the Ducks at times, but must be more consistent offensively this weekend. Aquino and Ratterree need to have big weekends for the Owls to advance to an NCAA Super Regional. Barring a surprise, next weekend's Eugene Super Regional will feature the Ducks and North Carolina State.


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