College : : Story
Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Los Angeles Regional preview

Kendall Rogers        


Team Conference Record Berth Last NCAA appearance
1. UCLA Pac-12 39-17 At-large 2012
2. Cal Poly Big West 39-17 At-large 2009
3. San Diego West Coast 35-23 Automatic 2012
4. San Diego State Mountain West 31-29 Automatic 2009
2. Cal Poly  

3. San Diego

4. San Diego St.
UCLA might just be one of the nation's most fascinating clubs this season. The Bruins enter the NCAA postseason with a dismal .249 batting average. Yet, this club has a 39-17 overall record and finished the tough Pac-12 with a 21-9 record. That tells you two things: The Bruins are very opportunistic at the plate, and the pitching staff is excellent. UCLA has a fantastic starting rotation that includes right-handed pitchers Adam Plutko and Nick Vander Tuig, and left-hander Grant Watson. Both Plutko and Vander Tuig can get up to 90-92 on the radar gun, but specialize in command pitchability, while the same can be said for Watson, who lives in the mid-to-upper 80s with his fastball. UCLA also has a steady diet of elite relievers with right-handers David Berg and James Kaprielian leading the charge. Berg is one of the nation's elite hurlers with an 0.70 ERA and 18 saves in 64 innings, while Kaprielian dealt with an injury issue earlier this season, but has a 1.54 ERA in 35 innings. Offensively, Kevin Kramer and Pat Valaika lead the charge, hitting .290 and .262, respectively, with a total of 77 RBIs. There's no doubt this offensive lineup must rise to the occasion if the Bruins want to meet their goals.
Cal Poly
If there's a team we think has a chance to come out of the Los Angeles Regional, it's the Mustangs. Larry Lee's club has been very consistent this season and is balanced with a very strong pitching staff. The Cal Poly starting rotation is impressive with sophomore left-handed pitcher Matt Imhof and right-handed pitcher Joey Wagman leading the charge. Imhof is a rising sophomore prospect with a 2.52 ERA in 96 1/3 innings, along with 90 strikeouts and 29 walks, while Wagman has a 3.11 ERA in 104 1/3 innings, along with 100 strikeouts and 26 walks. The No. 3 starting spot in the CP rotation is a little iffy at times, but Casey Bloomquist is a guy who must rise to the occasion, entering the weekend with a 4.78 ERA in 49 innings. The Mustangs also have a solid bullpen with right-hander Reed Reilly, who has a fastball in the mid-90s, leading the way, while Michael Holback has appeared in 23 games and has a 3.66 ERA in 46 2/3 innings. Offensively, the Mustangs are much better than their .279 team batting average might indicate. Denver Chavez is having a solid campaign with a team-best .362 average, a home run and 21 RBIs, while Nick Torres is hitting .336 with seven homers and 47 RBIs. Also keep an eye on power hitter Brian Mundell, who's hitting .266 with 10 homers and 38 RBIs. Cal Poly also has some speed on the base-paths, with Chavez and David Armendariz each in double digits when it comes to stolen bases.
San Diego 
San Diego has a lengthy history of not taking care of business in the postseason, but hopes to turn the tide this weekend at the Los Angeles Regional. The Toreros have a respectable offensive lineup entering the weekend with a .290 batting average, but the obvious leader of the pack if hard-hitting third baseman Kris Bryant, who could very well be in the top overall pick in next week's MLB draft. Bryant is having a monster year at the plate, hitting .340 with 13 doubles, three triples, 31 homers and 62 RBIs. Amazingly, he has an .860 slugging percentage and .500 OBP. Beyond Bryant, keep an eye on Dillon Haupt, Austin Green and Connor Joe, among others. Haupt has been overshadowed power-wise by Bryant, but has 11 homers and 49 RBIs on the season, while Green is coming off a great showing at the WCC tournament and is hitting .290 with five homers and 35 RBIs. Meanwhile, Joe is hitting an impressive .321 with seven homers and 40 RBIs. From a pitching standpoint, left-handed hurler PJ Conlon will start the opener against Cal Poly and has a 1.65 ERA in 82 innings of work, while Troy Conyers tossed a complete game shutout against San Francisco last week and has a 5.49 ERA in 19 2/3 innings. Also keep an eye on a power arm like Dylan Covey, who has a 5.22 ERA in 69 innings, along with 63 strikeouts and 39 walks, while Louis Lechich has a 3.13 ERA in 46 innings. In the bullpen. Michael Wagner (4.57, 80 2/3 IP) and Max Homick (2.91, 68 IP) give the Toreros a pair of solid arms, while Trevor Bayless and Wes Judish have appeared in a combined 47 games and have ERA's of 2.14 and .4.94, respectively.
San Diego State
San Diego State certainly isn't your typical No. 4 seed entering the Los Angeles Regional. Though the Aztecs have been very inconsistent at times this season, this squad has the personnel to go the distance in this NCAA Regional. Ryan Doran leads the charge on the mound this weekend with a 2.63 ERA in 106 innings, along with 84 strikeouts and 26 walks, while sophomore right-handed pitcher Michael Cederoth, who can get up to 100 with his fastball, has a 4.15 ERA in 91 innings. Also keep an eye on fellow starting pitcher Philip Walby, who has started 15 games and has a 3.77 ERA in 93 innings, while Ethan Miller (3.40, 47 2/3 IP) and freshman right-handed pitcher Bubba Derby (3.79, 10 saves) lead the bullpen. Offensively, the Aztecs certainly aren't going to overwhelm anyone, but they have some key hitters, such as second baseman Tim Zier, who's hitting .346 with a home run and 41 RBIs, while first baseman Ryan Muno is a key bat and Tyler France is smoking hot after his performance in last week's Mountain West tournament. France is hitting an impressive .313 with five homers and 35 RBIs. Can the Aztecs pull off the surprise?
It's safe to say this is a very tough NCAA Regional to predict. John Savage's UCLA club always seems to rise to the occasion in the postseason, but we'd be lying if we said the offense hitting .249 entering the weekend wasn't a bit of a concern, especially against such a balanced field. We'll slightly go with the Bruins for now, but Cal Poly poses a very, very big threat in this NCAA Regional. The Mustangs have a solid one-two punch on the mound, along with a steady diet of impressive relievers and potent offense. However, the starting pitching after Imhof and Wagman is a concern. There's also San Diego and San Diego State, both teams with plenty of talent to win this tournament, but also with a tendency to be inconsistent. Something must give this weekend at JRS.


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