TEXAS A&M (42-18, 19-8) Big 12 Conference Regular Season Co-Champions/Tournament Champions
Top Pitcher: Ross Stripling, Sr., SP (12-2, 2.41 ERA, 94 K)
Top Hitter: Tyler Naquin, So., OF (.379, 6 3B, 42 RBI)
The biggest story surrounding the Aggies is the loss of “star pitcher” John Stilson, who was diagnosed with a torn labrum, an injury that was mentioned in the reason why Texas A&M was not awarded a national seed. Ross Stripling, a senior who moved down from the bullpen, has been the top arm for the Aggies this year. The most consistent throughout the year, Stripling was the main reason Texas A&M shared the conference title with Texas thanks to his dominant performance in the final contest. Sophomore Michael Wacha is another able arm that can shut down a team for nine innings. At the plate, nobody is better than Big 12 Player of the Year Tyler Naquin. Naquin led the Big 12 in hitting, and has a major arm in right field. 2B Andrew Collazo is a quiet contributor. After a mediocre season, Collazo picked up the game-winning triple against Texas, and also hit the home run that claimed the automatic bid in the conference championship.
ARIZONA (36-19, 15-12) Pac-10 Conference At-large
Top Pitcher: Kurt Heyer, So., SP (8-3, 2.32 ERA, 127 K)
Top Hitter: Cole Frenzel, So., 1B (.365, 15 2B, 44 RBI)
Arizona travels to College Station thanks to a fourth place finish in the Pac-10. The Wildcats boast a good pitching staff, and a strong set of hitters, making them the ideal candidate to knock off top-seeded Texas A&M. Two Wildcat pitchers, Kurt Heyer and Kyle Simon, earned all-conference honors. Heyer went 8-3, and led Arizona with 127 strikeouts in 124 innings. Simon posted a 10-3 record, and had a K/BB ratio of nearly 8/1. The majority of the Wildcats’ lineup is made up of .300 hitters. 1B Cole Frenzel leads the group at .365, while Robert Refsnyder collected six triples and six home runs to add to his team-leading 24 extra base hits. One advantage coming from Tucson is head coach Andy Lopez. Lopez has already taken four teams to Omaha, including a National Championship with Pepperdine in 1992.
SETON HALL (33-23, 16-6) Big East Conference Tournament Champions
Top Pitcher: Joe DiRocco, Sr., SP (8-1, 1.68 ERA, 78 K)
Top Hitter: Sean Gusrang, Sr., 1B (.288, 3 HR, 34 RBI)
The Pirates swept through the Big East Tournament to make it to the NCAA Regional in College Station. Seton Hall doesn’t have the best resume, but they did sweep St. John’s in four games, including a 4-2 victory in the tournament championship. Starting pitcher Joe DiRocco was the lone all-conference performer, landing on the first team after an 8-1 season with a 1.68 ERA. DiRocco picked up a pair of wins in the conference tournament, and three Big East Pitcher of the Week awards during over the year. With a team batting average of only .249, the Pirates will probably struggle against the Arizona pitching staff, and most likely won’t face the Aggies. Freshman Zack Granite led the team with a .299 average, but senior Sean Gusrang was responsible for bringing him home all year. Gusrang finished with a team-high 34 RBI and four triples.
WRIGHT STATE (36-17, 16-7) Horizon League Regular Season/ Tournament Champions
Top Pitcher: Michael Schum, Jr., CL (9-2, 1.42 ERA, 9 SV)
Top Hitter: Jake Hibberd, Jr., 1B (.412, 9 HR, 56 RBI)
Lead by a pair of Louisville Slugger All-Americans in Schum and Hibberd, the Raiders head into College Station with a League title on their belt, hoping to make some noise. Unfortunately, they face a trio of tough teams and won’t likely make it far. Schum earned second team All-American honors after a 9-2 record, 1.42 ERA, and nine saves, while Hibberd hit .412 with nine home runs and 56 RBI. Those aren’t the only two weapons on the Raiders. Zach Tanner and Tristan Moore both hit over .360 with five home runs each, while the team hit 34 total home runs with a cumulative average of .329. On the mound, Casey Henn and Michael Woytek each posted 7-3 records in their starting roles. The strength, though, lies in their bullpen. Schum, Jordan Marker, and Michael Meintel all kept their season ERA under 2.00.
PREDICTION: Texas A&M will run away with this regional. Arizona will take care of Wright State and Seton Hall, but they don’t have the overall tools to take care of the Aggies strong pitching and hitting.