WildcatAuthority.com now takes a first look at the College Station Regional.
1) No. 13 Texas A&M Aggies
Head Coach: Rob Childress
Overall/Conference Record: 42-18, 19-8 in Big 12
Home Record: 27-8
Standing in Conference: Tied for 1st with Texas
Bid Type: Automatic bid (Big 12 Tournament Champions)
RPI rank: 10th
Last 10: 10-2
Last 15: 12-3
Key Wins: Series win over FIU, series win at Oklahoma, win over Cal State Fullerton, series win at Kansas State, series win at Texas Tech, series win over Baylor, and series sweep over Oklahoma State.
Strengths: The Aggies are a very strong all around ball club, as they led the Big 12 in both team batting average (.290) and team ERA (2.55). Texas A&M owns two of the conference's top four hitters, including Tyler Naquin who led the league in hits (42), runs scored (26), and batting average (.404).
The starting staff is also probably one of the best in D-I baseball with John Stilson, Michael Wacha, and Ross Stripling all owning ERAs under three and have a combined 24 wins amongst the three of them. The bullpen also is as solid as they come.
Weaknesses: While the Aggie offense puts up big numbers, it lacks power. As far as the long ball and slugging percentage is concerned, the Aggies were ranked near the bottom of the league this year in both categories. This team relies on small ball and timely hitting to win games. Texas A&M led its conference in two out RBIs this season.
Defensively, the Aggies are also pretty average in the infield and will make their share of mistakes. The team will also be without its best pitcher John Stilson (torn labrum), who more than likely was a first-round pick in the upcoming MLB draft.
2) Arizona Wildcats
Head Coach: Andy Lopez
Overall/Conference Record: 36-19, 15-12 in Pacific-10
Away Record: 9-13
Standing in Conference: 4th
Bid Type: At-Large bid
RPI Rank: 25th
Last 10: 7-3
Last 15: 12-3
Strengths: The Wildcats can swing the bats with the best in the nation. The Wildcats led the Pac-10 in batting average (.322), slugging percentage (.451), on base percentage (.387), runs scored (376), hits (602), RBIs (341), triples (25), and total bases (844). Arizona as a team was also second in the league in doubles (108) and third in homers (28).
The Wildcats also for the most part play very clean baseball, as their .977 fielding percentage was tops in the league, while their knack for turning double plays was good enough for third, with 47 twin killings turned this season.
Arizona also has two horses that anchor its pitching staff with Kurt Heyer and Kyle Simon. The two have a combined ERA of 2.62, 18-6 record, 243 innings pitched, and 207 punch-outs for the year. Coach Andy Lopez calls these guys a 1A and a 1B because they both have "staff ace" kind of stuff.
Weaknesses: Arizona has five guys in its bullpen with ERAs over four, including its closer Matt Chaffee. The one guy that has an ERA under four in the pen, is Bryce Bandilla, but even he at times can be erratic, as he leads the team in walks with 32 on the year. If you're going to beat Arizona, it's going to happen late in games. In fact, the Wildcats' last four losses have all been by one run.
3) Seton Hall Pirates
Head Coach: Rob Sheppard
Overall/Conference Record: 33-23, 14-13 in Big East
Away Record: 11-15
Bid Type: Automatic bid (Big East Tournament Champions)
RPI Rank: 55th
Last 10: 9-1
Last 15: 13-2
Strengths: Similar to Arizona, the Pirates have some arms at the top with Joe Dirocco and Jon Prosinski. The two are a combined 14-5 this year with a sub two ERA. Seton Hall is also equipped with a solid bullpen, which has been pretty reliable all year long. The defense will make the routine plays in the field, but nothing much more than that. If this team is going to win games, it has to ride its starting arms.
Weaknesses: The offense is inconsistent and lacks both power and speed. The Pirates rely on station-to-station base running and stringing base hits together to win games. Not sure if that's going to be enough to get it done with the pitching it will see in this regional.
4) Wright State Raiders
Head Coach: Rob Cooper
Overall/Conference Record: 36-17, 16-7 in Horizon League
Away Record: 14-12
Standing in Conference: Tied for 1st with UIC
Bid Type: Automatic bid (Horizon League Tournament Champions)
RPI Rank: 144th
Last 10: 7-3
Last 15: 10-5
Key Wins: 2-0 against Valparaiso in Horizon League Tourney and series sweep against Milwaukee.
Bad Loses: Swept at UIC, swept at Ole Miss.
Strengths: Wright State hasn't played this kind of competition all year, but this team is hot right now and it knows how to win games. The Raiders are the Horizon League regular season champions as well as the tournament champions. They'll have to hope Jake Hibberd gets hot and stays there if they want a chance to win a game or two. Hibberd leads the team in average (.412) homers (9) RBI (56) and slugging percentage (.618).
Weaknesses: The Raiders don't really have a standout starter that can control a game and shutdown an offense. In fact the team's ERA is 4.24, and that's in the Horizon League where the offensive talent isn't even close to what the Raiders will see this weekend. The bats might be able to put up three to four runs a game max, but the pitchers in this regional are just too good to allow any more than that. The three other teams in this regional have the type of arms that can silent any offense, especially Wright State's.