Virginia is the clear cut favorite in this region and rightfully so. The Cavs boast one of the best players in Danny Hultzen, who if it were not for Trevor Bauer, would have a mantle full of postseason individual trophies headed his way. Virginia’s pitching staff has a tiny 2.34 despite playing in one of the best conference in the nation and defensively you can’t get much better than the Hoos. Second seeded ECU has been to the NCAA’s a number of times with better teams and has yet to make it to Omaha; this won’t be the season either. St. John’s will probably win a game or two out of spite as seemingly no one outside of New York thinks they deserve to be playing.
LOS ANGELES REGIONAL
The Bruins’ Trevor Bauer and Gerrit Cole have nearly 300 K’s between them and will surely eclipse that mark the next time either takes to the mound. Offensively UCLA doesn’t have much to write home about, but when your staff holds opposition to a .205 batting average, you don’t need to score a bunch of runs. Fresno State’s Dusty Robinson has only one less homerun than the Bruins do as a team and Jordan Ribera led DI in homeruns last season, but if the Bulldogs are to advance it will likely be due to senior leader Danny Muno who was a valuable freshman when FSU won the title in 2008. FSU also has an ace of their own in Greg Gonzalez who is a perfect 11-0 so far this season. Irvine’s fundamental small ball team is a great dark horse to win the region, but UCLA’s aces and home field advantage should get them through to the next round.
FORT WORTH REGIONAL
If TCU is to return to Omaha for the second year in a row they’ll need the arm of Matt Purke to recover from soreness. Ace Kyle Winkler is having a first team All American year himself, but the Frogs have a difficult draw and will need all their talent to advance. Like TCU, Oklahoma was a consensus top five pick at the beginning of the season, and but hasn’t quite lived up to expectations. Nevertheless, the Sooners are experienced and have the talent to make another run to the CWS. Dallas Baptist has earned wins over Rice, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Charlotte this season and can not be taken lightly. Slugger Jason Krizan has a .431 batting average and established a new season record with 37 doubles in a season. It wouldn’t be a shock to see any of the top three advance, but the Sooner’s team chemistry makes them our choice to continue playing for another week.
Rice quietly put together another solid season and earned a national seed for the fourth time in the last six years. However this year’s edition of the Owls doesn’t seem as formidable as teams past on paper. Anthony Rendon lead the team in most major offensive categories, but didn’t create the video game type stats that he was projected to – albeit he was walked 78 times. Both Baylor and Cal are capable of upsetting the Owls, but that shouldn’t be the case. Baylor batted only .268 during the regular season and finished fifth in a lackluster Big 12. Cal can play ball, but how much extra kudos are the Bears getting for their feel-good story of being brought back from nearly having the program cut. Cal was 7-15 against teams with a RPI in the top 50. Look for Rice to win easy, but not impressively.
Florida State should have little problem winning their hosted region. The Seminoles are 21-14 against teams in this year’s field and won the ACC regular season title. Sean Gilmartin has been dominating with a 11-1 record and the Seminoles have four regular starters who batted at least .330 during the regular season. UCF seems a bit of a stretch to be a number two seed considering they finished fourth in the Conference USA. Alabama finished in a tie for second in the SEC West, which sounds impressive until you see that doing so only required finishing a game below .500 for the conference season – that’s like finding out the model your buddy set you up with works for Layne Bryant instead of Victoria’s Secret. Bethune-Cookman has won an NCAA record 46 conference games in a row. Again, see the Layne Bryant analogy as BC plays in the MEAC.
COLLEGE STATION REGIONAL
The Aggies lost their ace John Stilson to a season-ending labrum. Despite the loss, the Aggies should be able to win their Region, but making it past that would be a feat. The Wildcats can give A&M a run as the young team has been peaking late, winning 12 of their last 15 games. The Wildcats were one of the best hitting teams in the Pac-10, which is impressive considering the talented arms in the conference. Wright State batted .329 for the season and would be a better bet than third seeded Seton Hall to make an upset bid. No team in the region really is the cat’s meow, but the Wildcats are the choice the move on to the next round.
Connecticut was a preseason favorite of many to go deep into the post season, but a lackluster start of the season dropped the Huskies off the national radar. UConn had an exceptional second half of the season, lead by Team USA vets George Springer and Matt Barnes, to gain some of their ground back. UConn will have to usurp Clemson if they are to advance to a Super Regional which is a daunting task. Tiger pitchers complied their best team ERA in 15 years and have the ACC Player of the Year, Brad Miller. Had Kyle Parker stuck around for another season on the diamond as he did on the gridiron, Clemson would be a favorite to win a national title. Coastal Carolina has had better lineups and accomplished less. It’s a coin flip between the Tigers and Huskies. If the games were played up north, UConn would be a solid choice, but playing in Kingsmore Stadium gives Clemson too much of an advantage.
Even with an injury to last year’s CWS Most Outstanding Player, Jackie Bradley Jr. (who had been underperforming statistically) USC should easily prevail in their region. Christian Walker swings a mighty bat and the Gamecocks have stellar starting and bullpen pitching. Stetson made its way into the top twenty rankings midseason, but had a late season swoon that is hard to explain. The Hatters will have to get by NC State in the first round who has some good talent, namely Pratt Maynard, but not enough of it. Look for the Gamecocks to sweep their way into Super Regionals.