NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament Regionals Preview Part 2by Alex Kielar June 1, 2022 1 comment
Selection Monday went down Monday at noon Eastern Daylight Time, with the field of 64 being announced for the NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament. The regionals will get underway on Friday and go through Monday in a double-elimination tournament. The 16 teams to win their portion of the regionals will advance to best-of-3 super regionals, taking place June 10 to June 13. The eight winners from there will advance to the College World Series beginning on June 17. The top 16 seeds and the regional hosts are Tennessee, Stanford, Oregon State, Virginia Tech, Texas A&M, Miami, Oklahoma State, East Carolina, Texas, North Carolina, Southern Mississippi, Louisville, Florida, Auburn, Maryland, and Georgia Southern.
For this preview, we will be splitting it up into four parts. Be sure to take a look at part one from yesterday. For part two we will be looking at the College Station, Lousiville, Gainsville, and Blacksburg Regionals. The winner of the College Station Regional will face the winner of the Louisville Regional and the winner of the Gainsville Regional will face the winner of the Blacksburg Regional.
College Station Regional
Texas A&M Aggies
Texas A&M was one of the biggest surprise teams this year, as they earned the number five national seed after being ranked as the sixth-best team in the SEC before the season. They wound up having the second-best record in the conference. The Aggies saw their 14-season NCAA tournament streak come to an end last year. They completely turned things around behind their new head coach and former TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle. It is the first time since 2016 that Texas A&M is hosting a regional. They are one of the hottest teams coming in, winning seven of their last nine games by scoring an average of nearly 10 runs a game.
Second baseman Ryan Targac, outfielder Dylan Rock, and DH Austin Bost made Second Team All-SEC, while relief pitcher Chris Cortez made the Freshman All-SEC Team. Rock leads the Aggies with 17 homers and a .668 slugging percentage, while Targac has 14 bombs of his own and a .607 slugging percentage. Cortez has struck out 30 and walked 10 in 39 2/3 innings over 23 appearances, including one start.
TCU Horned Frogs
TCU was Big 12 regular-season champions but lost to Texas and Oklahoma State in the conference tournament. That caused them to become the first regular-season champion since Texas A&M in 1998 to not host a regional. While the matchup isn’t guaranteed, the Horned Frogs are expected to meet up with the Aggies and their former coach Schlossnagle in the regional. TCU Head Coach Kirk Saarloos was named the Big 12 Coach of the Year after leading them to their second consecutive regular-season title. Infielder Tommy Sacco and relief pitcher Luke Savage were both named to First Team All-Big 12. Infielder David Bishop made the Big 12 All-Freshman Team. Sacco led the team with a .350 average, 12 homers, and a 1.067 OPS. Savage recorded a 2.15 ERA, a .214 batting average against, and 33 strikeouts in 37 2/3 innings.
Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns
The Ragin’ Cajuns entered the Sun Belt Conference Tournament as the fourth seed and were projected to miss the NCAA Tournament. But they made a run to the championship where they took down Georgia Southern, the first seed in the Statesboro Regional, 7-6. It is Louisiana’s first NCAA regionals berth since 2016. Aggressive base running will be key for the Cajuns after they stole five bases against Georgia Southern. Their 134 steals rank seventh in the country with sophomore Carson Roccaforte leading the team with 23. If they are to advance past this regional, though, the bottom of their lineup will have to perform better. The seven through nine spots in the lineup haven’t been consistent all season.
Oral Roberts Golden Eagles
Oral Roberts won all three of their Summit League tournament games ending with a 21-2 trouncing of Omaha in the championship game. Ledgend Smith was named the Summit League Pitcher of the Year. It was the second straight season a Golden Eagle won the award. The southpaw recorded a league-best 0.94 ERA and struck out 57 in 47 2/3 innings. Smith and six other Golden Eagles, starting pitcher Isaac Coffey, first baseman Jake McMurray, outfielders Joshua Cox and Caleb Denny, utility player A.J. Archambo, and shortstop Jackson Loftin made the All-League First Team.
#1 Texas A&M (37 – 18) vs. #4 Oral Roberts (38 – 18), 2 p.m., ESPN+
#3 Louisiana (36 – 21) vs. #2 TCU (36 – 20), 8 p.m., ESPN+
Regional prediction: TCU
Despite losing to Pitt and Georgia Tech to begin the ACC Tournament, Louisville is hosting this regional as the 12th overall seed. It is the Cardinals’ first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2019 when they last hosted at Jim Patterson Stadium. Senior outfielder Levi Usher was selected as the ACC Defensive Player of the Year and stole an ACC-leading 33 stolen bases in 36 attempts. Second baseman Logan Beard was selected to the All-Freshman Team after slashing .309/.409/.440 with four homers, 48 RBI, and 35 runs scored. Louisville won the 2019 Regional and Super Regional rounds at home for their fifth College World Series berth.
Oregon enters the NCAA Tournament after losing both their games in the Pac-12 Tournament to Arizona and Arizona State. They are making their ninth postseason appearance and their seventh since the program restarted in 2009. If the Ducks make it out of the regional, it would be their second Super Regional in program history. Oregon had three players make the All-Conference Team, infielder Josh Kasevich, DH Brennan Milone, and left-handed pitcher Kolby Somers.
Michigan won the Big Ten title game against Rutgers and finished the season with a 12-12 conference record. Outfielder Clark Elliot made the All-Big Ten First Team after he led the team with 14 homers and a .626 slugging percentage while he stole 19 bases. The Wolverines will be without one of their top pitchers in senior Willie Weiss for the first three games of the NCAA Tournament. Weiss was caught with a foreign substance on his glove in the Big Ten semifinal against Iowa and was suspended for four games. The suspension began in the Big Ten Championship.
Southeast Missouri State Redhawks
The Redhawks took down the first seeded Belmont in the OVC Tournament Championship, 5-4, in 10 innings. That earned them a spot in the regionals. They are making a second straight NCAA Tournament appearance for the first time in their history. Senior Jason Rackers was named the conference tournament MVP after striking out a season-high eight strikeouts in 9 2/3 innings against Belmont in the championship. Senior shortstop Tyler Wilber was a First-Team All-OVC selection after recording a .321 average, 14 doubles, and 16 homers. Pitchers Ethan Osborne and Anthony Klein made the All-Freshman with four players making the second team.
#1 Louisville (38-18-1) vs. #4 Southeast Missouri State (37-20), 2 p.m., ESPN+
#2 Oregon (35-23) vs. #3 Michigan (32-26), 7 p.m., ESPN+
Regional prediction: Oregon
The Gators have won 16 of their last 21 games despite losing ace Hunter Barco for the season after he underwent Tommy John surgery. That was after they began conference play with just six wins in 18 tries. Florida lost to top-ranked Tennessee, 8-5, in the SEC championship game but is hosting their 18th regional in program history. It is their 14th appearance in a row in the regionals under head coach Kevin O’Sullivan. They have gone 116-80 in the NCAA Tournament, with 12 College World Series appearances and the 2017 national title. Catcher BT Riopelle made First Team All-SEC and pitcher Brandon Neely made Freshman All-SEC.
Oklahoma went on a run to the Big 12 Championship where they emphatically took down Texas, 8-1, for their first conference title since 2013. The Sooners scored eight runs in the third inning before even recording an out. Cade Horton struck out nine across 5 1/3 one-run innings. Oklahoma was a perfect 4-0 in the conference tournament. First baseman Blake Robertson was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Year after he hit .338 with a .498 on-base percentage and led the Big 12 with 22 doubles and 61 walks. In conference play, Robertson hit .360 and his 35-game on-base streak was the longest for a Big 12 player this season. The Sooners had three All-Freshman Team honorees including unanimous selections Wallace Clark and Jackson Nicklaus, and Horton. They also had two First Team All-Big 12 selections in infielder Peyton Graham and starter Jake Bennett.
Liberty earned their third straight trip to the NCAA Tournament as an at-large bid after winning five of their last six games. The Flames lost the ASUN Championship, 10-6, to Kennesaw State but still finished the season with a 19-11 conference record. Starter Joe Adametz III and DH Brady Gulakowski both made First Team All-Conference while outfielder Aaron Anderson was named the ASUN Scholar-Athlete of the Year. Adametz is the ace of the team. He recorded a 2.47 ERA, 6-3 record, and 77 strikeouts in 80 innings over 15 starts on the season. Gulakowski leads the squad with 16 homers, 63 RBI, and a .548 slugging percentage.
Central Michigan Chippewas
Central Michigan has made the NCAA Tournament for the third straight season after defeating Ball State, 11-7, in the Mid-American Conference title game. The Chippewas haven’t gotten past the regionals but they have recorded wins, one win in 2019 and two wins in 2021. Their path to the tournament was not an easy one. They came back to beat Toledo, 11-10, in the first game after falling behind 6-1. Then they lost the second game to Ball State before winning three games in two days. It was another comeback over Toledo and two straight wins over Ball State for the MAC championship.
#2 Oklahoma (37-20) vs. #3 Liberty (37-21), 1 p.m., ESPN+
#1 Florida (39-22) vs. #4 Central Michigan (42-17), 6:30 p.m., ESPN+
Regional prediction: Florida
Virginia Tech Hokies
Virginia Tech earns the fourth overall seed after winning their first ACC Coastal Division championship and finishing with a 19-9 conference record. The Hokies are hosting a regional for just the second time and it is their 10th regional overall. They have yet to make a Super Regional but have a pretty favorable draw this year. After losing four starters to the MLB Draft last year, Virginia Tech had a very uncertain pitching rotation. They wound up starting true freshman Drue Hackenberg who emerged as one of the conference’s best starters. The right-hander has a 2.83 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 10-2 record, and 80 strikeouts to just 15 walks over 86 innings.
Hackenberg and outfielders Gavin Cross and Jack Hurley made the All-ACC First Team, while Hackenberg and third baseman Carson DeMartini made the All-Freshman Team. Cross has raked all season and is emphatically on the map as one of the top draft prospects in the class. He is above average in every area of his game while being a key piece for the Hokies. Head Coach John Szefc was tabbed the ACC Coach of the Year after his squad was voted for sixth place in the Coastal Division in the preseason coach’s poll and was unranked by every major publication. They first came in at 16 in our seventh edition of the top 25 rankings.
Gonzaga lost out on their hopes of hosting a regional after losing to San Diego in the West Coast Conference title game. But they still earned a second seed for the regionals after finishing with a 20-7 conference record. The Bulldogs tied a program record with nine players winning WCC All-Conference honors. Head coach Mark Machtolf was named the WCC Coach of the Year, infielder Connor Coballes won Defensive Player of the Year, and third baseman Cade McGee won Freshman of the Year. The team’s ace Gabriel Hughes and catcher Tyler Rando made All-Conference First Team. Hughes is one of the top pitching prospects in the draft. The big right-hander holds an 8-2 record, 2.84 ERA, 1.109 WHIP, and 131 strikeouts in 92 innings on the season.
Columbia won the Ivy League Championship and will make its seventh appearance in the NCAA Regionals. The Lions are led by their pitching staff which is made up of senior arms. They also had three players make First Team All-Ivy, catcher Weston Eberly and outfielders Hayden Schott and Cole Hage, and five players make Second Team. Head coach Brett Boretti was named Ivy League Coach of the Year after leading the squad to their sixth conference title and first since 2018.
Wright State Raiders
Wright State makes their ninth trip to the NCAA Regionals after taking the Horizon League Tournament championship. Their three wins in the conference tournament came by a combined score of 56-7 while smashing 11 homers. They will face the Hokies in the opener of the regionals, who they faced back in early March and took the opener of a three-game set. Outfielder Alec Sayre leads the charge for the Raiders as he was named Horizon League Player of the Year. The Ohio native is the fourth straight Raider to win the award after he hit .340 on the year with nine home runs and 45 RBIs. Wright State also had seven selections to the All-Horizon League First and Second Teams.
#3 Columbia (30 – 16) vs. #2 Gonzaga (36 – 17), 1 p.m., ESPN+
#1 Virginia Tech (41 – 12) vs. #4 Wright State (30 – 25), 7 p.m., ACCN
Regional prediction: Virginia Tech
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Main Image Credit: From 12th Man