|SAN LUIS OBISPO REGIONAL|
Baggett Stadium, San Luis Obispo, Calif. (Host: Cal Poly)
No. 1 Cal Poly (45-10, 19-5 in Big West) Roster | Statistics
Third appearance (second straight), automatic, Big West champion
Top 200 Prospects: LHP Matt Imhof (42), OF Nick Torres (117), RHP Reed Reilly (186)
No. 3 Pepperdine (39-16, 18-9 in WCC) Roster | Statistics
26th appearance (last in 2009), automatic, West Coast Conference regular-season and tournament champion
Top 200 Prospects: LHP/OF Aaron Brown (87)
Cal Poly won its first Big West championship and won 45 games to enter the postseason ranked No. 5 in the BA Top 25. The Mustangs have a pair of impact players anchoring the lineup in Big West player of the year Mark Mathias (.378/.447/.485) and junior outfielder Nick Torres (.323/.375/.478). Early in the year, coach Larry Lee called Torres, who had minor knee surgery in the fall but returned strong, the backbone of the team's offense. Two other keys are senior third baseman Jimmy Allen (.457 slugging) and hulking sophomore DH Brian Mundell, who knocked in 41 runs, second-best on the team. Mathias, who Lee said has developed into an "outstanding" second baseman, produced well beyond expectations offensively and helped solidify the defense up the middle; shortstop Peter Van Gansen, a Brooks Wallace Award finalist, headlines a group that is one of the most defensively sound in the country (.977 fielding percentage, 12th in the country). On the mound, the Mustangs have a legitimate ace in junior Matt Imhof (9-4, 2.55), a 6-foot-5 lefty who works downhill with an 88-92 fastball that touches 94 and a solid curveball. Sophomore righty Casey Bloomquist (12-1, 1.60), the Tuesday starter a year ago, blossomed in a weekend role this spring, and the heavy sink on his fastball helps him rack up groundball outs. The Mustangs also have a fantastic bullpen duo in righthander Reed Reilly (3-1, 1.67, 10 SV) and lefty Taylor Chris (4-0, 0.91, 5 SV). The durable Reilly can handle multiple innings and racks up strikeouts primarily with his fastball, which sits at 88-91 and touches 93-94 with good angle. Chris has deception and funk in his delivery, making his 86-88 fastball play up.
Arizona State, a perennial power, had a mediocre season by its standards. Its expected strength—an all-sophomore weekend rotation—did not pan out exactly as planned. Heading into the season, the Sun Devils moved righthander Ryan Burr from closer to Friday starter, but his aggressive approach, power stuff and lack of fine command made him better suited for the 'pen. He allowed just 22 hits in 43 innings this spring, but walked 37. Burr has a mid-to-high-90s heater, plus slider and solid change, but spotty command. LHP Ryan Kellogg was 8-3, 3.84, but gave up 115 hits in 96 IP, despite advanced feel for four pitches. Brett Lilek, who can run his heater up to 94 and is a three-pitch lefty power arm, is 4-4, 2.59. ASU also has questions in the bullpen beyond Burr, but 5-foot-5 sophomore righty Jordan Aboites (5-2, 3.27) emerged an invaluable setup man. Offensively, the Sun Devils have a fairly deep lineup well-stocked with veterans with a knack for working counts and turning in productive at-bats. Junior shortstop Drew Stankiewicz (.337/.426/.479) and junior DH Nathaniel Causey (.333/.430/.469) lead the offense, and Trever Allen (4 HR, tied with Causey for the team lead) brings some pop as well. But this is not a home run-hitting outfit.
The Waves have a talented bunch of freshmen surrounding a veteran core that includes two-way star and Top 100 draft prospect Aaron Brown (11-1, 2.24), senior RHP Corey Miller (8-4, 1.70) and senior closer Eric Karch (1.80 ERA, 13 SV) on the mound. On the mound, Brown is a physical, athletic and aggressive lefthander who attacks hitters with an 89-91 mph fastball that bumps 92-93. Miller's funky, deceptive delivery helps his 88-91 fastball play up, and he has good feel for his low-80s slider and changeup. Karch is another strike-thrower who bumps 91 and locates his 78-80 slider. Brown is also the starting center fielder and the centerpiece of the offense, hitting .320/.360/.562 with 12 homers and 45 RBIs. Scouts widely agree that he is a top-four-rounds talent as both a pitcher and an outfielder, and they are divided about where he fits best. Veterans Bryan Langlois and Austin Davidson provide additional physicality, and sophomore speedster Hutton Moyer (.300/.381/.446, 15 SB) has emerged as a key catalyst. But the addition of two freshmen up the middle—catcher Aaron Barnett and shortstop Manny Jefferson—has made a huge difference for the Waves this year. Barnett has helped anchor the defense (throwing out 42 percent of basestealers) and slashed .378/.402/.403, leading the team in hitting. He makes good contact, and his 21.1 at bats-per-strikeout average was eighth in the nation. Jefferson (.958 fielding percentage) anchors the infield and sparked a Pepperdine comeback with a game-saving catch in Sunday's WCC title game against Loyola Marymount.
The Hornets are making their first regional appearance after beating Utah Valley 10-3 in the WAC championship game. Sacramento State is 12-32 all-time against Cal Poly—its first-game opponent—having last faced the Mustangs in 2009 in a three-game sweep by Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, and Sacramento State has dropped the last seven games overall in the series. But this is Sacramento State's best team ever, and it lived up to its preseason billing as WAC favorite. The Hornets are a veteran squad, with seven returning starters and a pair of seniors who slid into the two vacated spots. Physical slugger Rhys Hoskins, the league's best prospect and a Cape League standout last summer, is the WAC Player of the Year after slashing .330/.437.596 with team-bests in homers (12) and RBIs (53). Despite Hoskins' heroics, the team's strength is its pitching, headlined by one of the WAC's top Friday starters in junior righthander Brennan Leitao (9-4, 2.21), a dogged competitor who generates good fastball movement from a low three-quarters slot. Sacramento State's best arm is closer Sutton McLoughlin (1.85 ERA, 9 SV), a 6-foot-5 righty who can bump 95. The Hornets are seen as a long shot, but have had impressive wins over ranked teams this season, including a 7-6 come-from-behind win April 21 over Pac-12 champion Oregon State.