2009 NCAA Regional Preview: Fort Worth

Matt Vern and TCU host the Fort Worth Regional this weekend. (TCU Media Relations Photo)
Matt Vern and TCU host the Fort Worth Regional this weekend. (TCU Media Relations Photo)

Texas Christian University hosts the 2009 Fort Worth Regional in what looks like one of the more wide open regionals of the tournament.  The Horned Frogs meet the Wright State Raiders at 7 p.m. CT on Friday.  The two teams take the field after game one of the tournament which will see the two seed Texas A&M Aggies take on the three seed Oregon State Beavers at 2 p.m. CT.

Play will continue on Saturday with the first elimination game scheduled for 2 p.m. CT, followed by the winner’s bracket championship game at 7 p.m. CT.  The 2 p.m. game on Sunday will be the loser’s bracket championship game, and the 7 p.m. CT game will be the first championship contest.  If necessary, game seven will be at 7 p.m. CT on Monday.

(1) TCU (36-16)

The Horned Frogs earned a regional host after winning the Mountain West Conference regular season title.  TCU sports a .310 batting average, lead by senior first baseman Matt Vern with a .369 average.  Vern also leads the Horned Frogs in homeruns with 15 and steals with 16.  The Frogs have hit  61 homeruns and stolen 56 bases on the year. Outfielder Chris Ellington leads the team with 49 runs batted in and is tied with third baseman Matt Carpenter in doubles with 21.  The TCU offense averages 7.4 runs per game, and the team has compiled a 20-9 record at the friendly confines of Lupton Stadium this year.

On the hill, the TCU pitching staff has a 4.25 earned run average.  The starting rotation for TCU has changed throughout the season.  Kyle Winkler leads the team in starts with 12 and most recently threw a complete game against BYU in the Mountain West Conference Tournament.  Winkler has a 4.33 ERA in 60.1 innings this year, and opponents are hitting .278 off the freshman righty.  Paul Gerrish, a red shirt junior right hander with a 4.02 ERA in 47 innings, got the ball in the first game of the Mountain West Conference Tournament and also in the first game of the UNLV series at the end of the year.  Gerrish has 15 appearances on the year, with seven starts, and is averaging right at one strikeout per inning while allowing opponents to hit at a .272 clip.  Greg Holle, a right handed sophomore with a 3.89 ERA in 41.2 innings with 9 starts, and Steven Maxwell, a red shirt sophomore righty with a 6.27 ERA in 37.1 innings with 10 starts, are also candidates to toe the rubber at the start of the game for the Frogs over the weekend.  Taylor Cragin, 2.68 ERA in 16 appearances and 53.2 innings, and Trent Appleby, 3.05 ERA in 56 innings over 23 appearances, provide the middle relief for the Frogs.  Eric Marshall leads the TCU staff in saves with 8.  The junior righthander has a very impressive 1.35 ERA in 26.2 innings over 21 appearances.  Marshall has allowed only six runs, four earned, and opponents hit a very dismal .196 against him.

The TCU defense has committed 70 errors on the season, and the team fielding percentage is .967.  The Horned Frogs give up an average of just under 5 runs a game on the year.

(2) Texas A&M (36-22)

The Aggies finished the Big 12 regular season in sixth place with a 14-13 conference record.  Texas A&M hits .297 as a team this season, and second baseman Brodie Greene leads the charge with a .351 average.  The Aggies have hit 80 homeruns on the season, with four players hitting double digit homers.  Senior centerfielder Kyle Colligan is the team leader with 14 round-trippers.  First baseman Luke Anders has a team leading 52 runs batted in on the year, while Brooks Raley has a team high 19 doubles and 25 stolen bases.  The Aggies have stolen a total of 74 bases this year.  The Texas A&M offense averages just under 7 runs a game for the season.

On the bump for the Aggies, Brooks Raley is the staff ace and will get the ball in the first game against Oregon State.  Raley is a two-way player for the Aggies, playing one of the corner outfield positions when he’s not on the mound.  For the season, Raley is 7-2 with a 3.74 ERA in 14 starts and 91.1 innings of work.  He’s struck out 93 batters, and opponents hit .230 against the sophomore lefty.  Freshman lefthander Ross Hales is slated to pitch the second game.  Hales moved into the weekend rotation around the halfway point of conference play.  On the season, he is 6-2 with a 3.98 ERA in 72.1 innings of work.  Hales has struck out 74 opposing hitters, and opponents hit .251 against him.  The third starter for the Aggies is currently to be determined.  Sophomore righty Barret Loux is the usual Sunday starter for the Aggies, but he has been battling arm trouble as of late.  Loux has 12 starts on the year and is 3-3 with a 4.12 ERA in 48 innings.  He’s struck out 62 hitters while allowing opponents to hit only .226 against him.  If Loux can’t make the start, expect one of three guys to fill in for him.  Senior reliever Kyle Thebeau or red shirt junior Alex Wilson would be the most likely starters if their work is limited in the first two games.  Thebeau has 1 start on the year and has a 3.61 ERA in 52.1 innings over 23 appearances.  Wilson, who started the season as the Saturday starter for the Aggies, has a 3.98 ERA in 72.1 innings pitched.  Wilson leads the Aggie pitching staff with 116 strikeouts on the season.  Clayton Ehlert, a mid-week starter for most of the year, could also get the nod.  Ehlert has nine starts on the year and is 5-1 with a 5.96 ERA in 45.1 innings of work.  Travis Starling, 4 saves and 2.61 ERA in 10.1 innings, and Nick Fleece, 5 saves and 3.62 ERA in 27.1 innings pitched, share the closing duties for Texas A&M.  The Aggies have a team ERA of 4.34 on the year.

The Texas A&M defense has made 63 errors on the year, and the Aggies are fielding at a .971 fielding percentage.  Opponents are scoring just under 5 runs per game against them as well.

(3) Oregon State (35-17)

The Beavers finished the regular season in a tie for third place in the Pac-10 with a 15-12 conference record.  As a team, Oregon State is hitting .275 with 22 homeruns and 50 stolen bases this season.  Catcher Ryan Ortiz leads the Beavers in hitting with a .343 average and has 17 doubles, which ties him for the team lead with third baseman Stefen Romero.  Romero is the team leader in homeruns with 5 and runs batted in with 46.  Designated hitter Adalberto Santos leads the Beavers with 13 steals in 15 attempts this season.  The Beaver offense averages 6.8 runs per game.

The Oregon State pitching staff has a team earned run average of 3.69.  Freshman righthander Sam Gaviglio is expected to toe the rubber in game one for the Beavers against Texas A&M.  For the year, Gaviglio has 17 appearances and 9 starts, and he has a 2.84 ERA in 57 innings pitched, allowing opponents to hit only .192 against him.  Other starting pitchers for the Beavers are junior righty Jorge Reyes, sophomore left hander Tanner Robles, and sophomore right hander Tyler Waldron.  Reyes, 5-2 with a 4.35 ERA in 72.1 innings, has struck out 69 batters while allowing opponents to hit at a .270 clip against him.  Robles has 7 starts and 8 appearances this year, and is sporting a 1-3 record with a 5.01 ERA in 32.1 innings pitched.  Waldron, the team leader in innings pitched with 89, is 6-3 with a 3.84 ERA.  He’s struck out 66 opposing batters while allowing a .254 batting average against him.  Kevin Rhoderick leads the Beavers in saves with 9 and is allowing opponents to hit only .213 against him in 21.1 innings pitched this year.  Kraig Sitton leads the team in relief appearances with 25, and the lefty specialist has a 4.19 ERA in 19.1 innings pitched.  Ryan Gorton, Josh Osich, and James Nygren are the core of the middle relief crew for Oregon State.  Gorton has a very impressive 1.17 ERA in 30.2 innings over 10 appearances.  Osich is sportin a 1.93 ERA and has struck out 30 hitters in 23.1 innings pitched.  Nygren has 17 relief appearances this year, and he has a solid 2.73 ERA in 26.1 innings.

Oregon State has only made 48 errors on the year, and the team is fielding at a .976 fielding percentage.  The Beaver pitching staff and defense are allowing opponents to score only 4.1 runs per game.

(4) Wright State (33-28)

The Raiders finished the regular season in third place in the Horizon, but they made it to the field of 64 via a Horizon Conference Tournament Championship.  The team hits .319 on the season with 48 homeruns and 45 stolen bases.  Senior first baseman Jeff Mercer leads the charge with an outstanding .360 batting average and a team-high 26 doubles and 73 runs batted in on the year.  Third baseman Quentin Cate leads the squad with 12 homeruns.  The leadoff man, short stop R.J. Gundloff, and outfielder Kory Twede are tied for the team lead in steals with 9 each.  The Raider offense is averaging just under 7 runs a contest.

Wright State enters the post-season with a 4,98 team earned run average in 61 games this year.  Alex Kaminsky has the best numbers of the starting staff, bringing in a 6-2 record with a 2.77 ERA in 78 innings pitched.  Rylan Ostrosky leads the team in starts with 13, and he is 5-6 with a 4.48 ERA in 70.1 innings.  Michael Woytek has 12 starts in 13 appearances this year.  Woytek is 4-3 with a5.89 ERA in 65.2 innings and is allowing opponents to hit .337 over his 13 appearances.  Michael Meintel and Jordan Marker provide middle relief for the Raiders.  Meintel has 16 relief appearances, with a 3.74 ERA in 33.2 innings while allowing an opponent batting average of .277.  Marker has 19 relief appearances, has a 5.03 ERA in 39.1 innings pitched, and is allowing a .265 batting average against him.  The rock of the Raider bullpen is Michael Schum.  The freshman righty has a team high 33 appearances, 13 saves, and 55 strikeouts on the year.  In 69.2 innings pitched, Schum is 5-6 with a stellar 1.68 ERA, and opponents are hitting only .218 against him.

The Wright State defense has committed 73 errors on the field for a .968 fielding percentage.  The pitching staff and defense are allowing opponents to score 5.8 runs per game on the season.

Prediction:

1. Texas A&M

2. TCU

3. Oregon State

4. Wright State