#1 Fullerton (41-15, 21-3 Big West)
Dave Serrano’s Fullerton Titans had slow start to their season, similar to the one experienced before their run to the 2004 National Title. Serrano made a few changes with his squad, primarily by making Noe Ramirez the Friday starter. After starting the season at 4-7, Fullerton turned their season around and finished 41-15, which had them in contention to possibly be a national seed. Fullerton got over the hump during the season, but need to get over another certain obstacle called the Stanford Cardinal. The Cardinal have owned the Titans in the postseason as of late, most recently beating the Titans in 2 games in the 2008 Super Regional to advance to the College World Series.
The Titans were led offensively by Big West Player of the Year Gary Brown, who missed the final 8 games of the regular season and is also expected to miss the Fullerton Regional with a broken middle finger, totaled a .438 batting average, .485 on-base percentage, 62 runs scored, 92 hits, 8 triples and 31 stolen bases. With Brown out, the Titans will lean heavily on Junior SS Christian Colon, who had a career year with 14 HR and 58 RBI while batting .347 and has been moved to the leadoff spot in the absence of Brown.. #5 hitter Sophomore 1B Nick Ramirez came on strong in conference play and totaled 13 homeruns hitting .367 with a team leading 68 RBI for the season, and has been a doubles machine with 27 on the season. Ramirez also comes into to close some ball games with 9 saves on the season. Freshman RF Carlos Lopez is heading into his first postseason hitting .383 with 7 HR and 49 RBI, primarily hitting out of the 3rd spot of the order. Lopez and Ramirez sandwich cleanup hitter Tyler Pill, who is focusing mainly on the DH role even though he has started 9 games on the mound. Pill is hitting .371 with 7 homeruns and 41 RBI.
Speaking of on the mound, the Titans have gotten an amazing effort out of Sophomore RHP Noe Ramirez. The product of East Los Angeles has been named Big West Player of the Week twice this season, including a 14 K complete game shutout of Tempe Regional participant Hawaii. Ramirez totaled a 10-1 record with a 2.50 ERA while establishing his presence on the mound with a 9.5 K/9 rating. Freshman RHP Dylan Floro looks to gain some valuable postseason experience to add to his 7-0 record and 2.84 ERA. Floro appeared in 24 games but became so reliable that he was turned into the Titans 3rd weekend starter, and has only allowed 8 walks in 73 IP. Junior RHP Daniel Renken started the season as the Friday night starter but struggled early, and became more comfortable working Saturdays as he totaled an 11-2 record with a 3.95 ERA despite the early adversity. Aside from the three main starters Kyle Mertins and Kevin Rath are available for insurance and relief just in case any of the normal starters get in trouble, while Tyler Pill could be cleared to pitch again even though he has been injured for a few weeks.
#2 Stanford (31-23, 14-13 Pac-10)
Coach Mark Marquess has his Stanford Cardinal playing great baseball after a disappointing 2009, where they were expected to contend for a Pac-10 title only to miss the postseason completely. If the Cardinal want to continue their winning ways over the Titans, they’re going to have to get it together at the plate. I can’t tell if it’s a crutch or a great sign for the future, but the bulk of the hitting has come from the Cardinal freshman class. The Cardinal have another running back/outfielder following the footsteps of Toby Gerhart in RF Tyler Gaffney. Gaffney, who scored a touchdown in the Cardinal’s victory over USC this season, leads off the Cardinal order while 3B Kenny Diekroeger has pretty much been the team MVP as a Freshman, boasting a .351 average with 5 HR and 39 RBI and had a 23 game hitting streak at one point this season, hitting .434 over that span. Diekroeger is the first Freshman since Edmund Muth to lead the team in hitting. Junior Colin Walsh has been a rock at the 2B over the last two seasons for the Cardinal, hitting .321 and leading the team with 7 HR and 41 RBI.
On the mound, no one has had a more up and down season in college baseball aside from a certain former #1 pitching prospect than Brett Mooneyham. Mooneyham has the numbers for a dominant pitcher with 94 K’s over 81.2 innings, yet carries a 3-6 record as the Cardinal Friday starter. The lefty Sophomore carries a pedestrian 4.74 ERA over 16 starts, but the Cardinal offense has failed to score runs for him as of late, highlighted in a 4-2 loss to Arizona State last weekend. Jordan Pries picked up a big victory against Arizona State last weekend in which he threw 8 shutout innings against the top team in the country, completing the season at 4-3 and a 3.86 ERA. The Cardinal have struggled to find a third starter but may have found it in Freshman Dean McArdle, who is now 5-0 with a 5.25 ERA. Alex Pracher has been the main man in relief, picking up 4 saves and somehow going 6-4 with a 3.15 ERA over 25 appearances, meaning the Cardinal have trouble pulling away from teams.
#3 New Mexico (37-20, 14-8 Mountain West)
New Mexico was on pins and needles after losing 2-0 in the MWC final last weekend to TCU, but qualified for the at-large bid. The Lobos are led offensively by Senior 1B Justin Howard, who has 10 HR and 72 RBI. His 32 doubles, .455 average and 117 hits are tops NCAA participants and is 2nd only to Hunter Morris of Auburn with 183 total bases, and can send Stanford to an early exit if he can capitalize on a team that gave up 100 two baggers this season. Not to be outdone is Junior Catcher Rafael Neda, who matched Howard’s HR output with 10 while hitting .369 and drove in 63 runs.
The Lobos are led by Senior RHP Willy Kesler on the mound with his 6-3 record and 3.78 ERA, and picked up a victory against TCU on May 7th while pitching a complete game 4 hitter, striking out 9 and giving up 2 ER, where he rode a 28.1 inning scoreless streak until TCU picked up a couple runs in the 9th inning. Sophomore LHP Rudy Jaramillo is 4-2 with a 5.92 ERA on the year.
#4 Minnesota (30-28, 15-9 Big Ten)
The Golden Gophers are riding high at the end of the year after being a fringe Top 25 team at the start of the season. Minnesota won 7 of their last 9 Big Ten games before sweeping through their conference tourament en route to a #4 seed in the Fullerton regional. Senior Catcher Kyle Knudson was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Big Ten Tournament, while hitting .333 with 5 HR and 45 RBI on the season. Sophomore 1B Nick O’Shea has provided the power for the Golden Gophers, blasting 13 HR (8 in May) while hitting .339 with 59 RBI.
The Gophers are led on the mound by the core of Seth Rosin, TJ Oakes and Phil Isaksson. The imposing Junor RHP Rosin (8-4, 5.02) collected 5 wins in Big Ten play, leading Minnesota with 88 K’s, and will start off the regional against Fullerton. Freshman RHP TJ Oakes (4-3, 3.71 ERA) led all Freshman pitchers in the Big Ten in ERA. From April 24 – May 15, Junior LHP Isaksson (6-2, 3.29 ERA) went 3-1 with a 1.27 ERA in his Sunday outings.
3. New Mexico