Arizona Baseball matches up with Sam Houston State in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament

Arizona baseball returns to the postseason in 2016 and faces off against Sam Houston State to open the Lafayette Regional. Read on to find out more about Sam Houston State and the other two teams that the Wildcats may face.

For the first time since 2012, when Arizona won it all, the Wildcats are headed to the postseason. 

After starting the season hot and finishing with a 22-5 non-conference record, Arizona struggled at times in conference play, winning just 16 games while losing 15. The Wildcats were one of only four Pac-12 teams to make the NCAA Tournament field and were shipped out to Lafayette, La. as the second seed in the pod hosted by Louisiana-Lafayette. 

As the two seed, the Wildcats will open the tournament at 11 AM PST Friday morning against Sam Houston State. The Bearkats are heading into the playoffs on an incredible hot streak, having won 10 of the last 11 games including a come from behind victory to take home the Southland Conference Championship trophy.

Sam Houston State won the regular season Southland Conference as well, finishing with a 24-6 conference record and a 41-20 record overall. 

The Wildcats have yet to name a starter for Friday's match-up, but already know that they will be going up against star right-hander Heath Donica.

The junior college transfer turned some heads this season, marking up a 10-4 record while holding just a 3.23 ERA in 92 innings.

Donica will get the ball to open the tournament, but Arizona could potentially see Riley Gossett and Sam Odom at some point during the weekend. The duo of pitchers may be the best of the Bearkats' staff, each touting a 2.57 and 2.33 ERA respectively. 

Donica is the hot hand for Sam Houston State, taking home the Southland Conference Tournament MVP honor after pitching 16 innings of four run baseball over two games in the tournament. The junior is also one of the reigning Louisville Slugger National Players of the Week after his performance. 

Whoever Johnson sends to the mound for Arizona will have to pitch with a steady focus throughout the game as the Kats have had several big run scoring innings over the past few weeks that have elevated them in each of their wins.

Leadoff man Bryce Johnson can pose a major threat for the Wildcats with his .356 batting average and team-high 84 hits. Senior first baseman Zach Smith leads the Bearkats with 39 RBI, but true freshman third baseman Andrew Fregia is the team leader with eight home runs on the year. 

Whether Arizona wins or loses on Friday, the Wildcats will face either Louisiana-Lafayette or Princeton on Saturday. The host Ragin' Cajuns (41-19) are the top seed in the region and the favorites to advance from the regional.

They are currently riding the nation's longest winning streak at ten games after sweeping the Sun Belt Conference Tournament in four straight. Sophomore fireballer Gunner Leger burst onto the scene last season and continued his dominance in his second campaign, marking up a 2.08 ERA on the way to his 6-3 season.

Leger stumbled at times in March, but is hitting his peak a the right time, allowing just one earned run in his last four starts.

On the offensive side of things, the Cajuns' hottest hitter is senior center fielder Kyle Clement, who has led Lafayette in batting the last two seasons, rolling up a .355 average this year while slugging .503. He finished the regular season with just three long balls and 21 RBI.

The final team in the pool is the Princeton Tigers. The Ivy League Champions only boast a 24-19 record, but dress one of the top pitchers in the Regional in Chad Powers, who is 6-3 on the season with a 2.07 ERA.

In addition, Powers only allowed opponents to hit .207 against him en route to Ivy League Player of the Year honors.

The Tigers improved as a team all season, but the offense flowed through the bats of Danny Hoy and Nick Hernandez. Hoy led the Tigers with 52 hits and five home runs while Hernandez led the team with 32 RBI.   


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