Houston Regional Capsule

No.
1 Rice (50-10)
12th
appearance, automatic, won Conference USA regular season and
tournament, No. 2 national seed

No.
2 Arizona State (36-19)
30th
appearance, at-large, Pacific-10

No.
3 Baylor (35-24)
13th
appearance, at-large, Big 12

No.
4 Prairie View A&M (33-20)
First
appearance, won Southwestern Athletic tournament

Rice
led the nation in wins and dropped just two games after March.
Pitching, as usual, is the key for the Owls, who led the nation with
552 strikeouts and 9.4 per nine innings. Lefthanded closer Cole St.
Clair punched out 88 batters in 62 innings, while righthander Eddie
Degerman led the rotation with an 11-1, 1.80 record and 136-43 K-BB
ratio in 105 innings courtesy of a 12-to-6 curveball he delivers from
a straight-over-the-top arm stroke that perplexes hitters. Shoulder
tendonitis limited sophomore Joe Savery to 57 innings a year after
his Freshman of the Year performance. He hasn’t gone more than three
innings since returning from missing a month and half. Savery has
remained in the lineup at first base (.332-7-57), and while his
absence from the mound allowed Rice to develop depth in the rotation,
he’ll be needed if Rice is to replicate its 2003 national title. Rice
clubbed 144 doubles and 67 homers, led by shortstop Brian Friday’s 20 doubles and .379 average and 13 jacks from freshman outfielder Aaron
Luna.

Arizona
State
fielded a much younger team than the one that wore
Cinderella’s glass slipper to Omaha a year ago. Pat Murphy mixed and
matched arms all season, with 11 pitchers making starts and 10
working at least 28 innings but none topping 60 innings. It worked as
the Sun Devils ranked 15th nationally with more than eight strikeouts
per nine innings, led by senior righthander Tony Barnett, whose 5.09
season ERA doesn’t tell this story; his Pac-10 record of 5-0, 3.51
does. ASU led the Pac-10 in average and runs, with freshman Brett
Wallace (.395-4-18 in Pac-10 games) and sophomore Eric Sogard
(.354-4-29 in Pac-10 games) coming on strong late. Freshman first
baseman Ike Davis led the Pac-10 with 65 RBIs and was named the
conference freshman of the year. Arizona State is one of seven teams
to beat Rice on the year and it upset top-ranked Cal State Fullerton
on the road last year in super-regionals, so don’t be surprised if it
emerges from this bracket.

Like
Jose Reyes, Baylor likes triples. The Bears tallied 32
three-base hits, more than any team in the regional field. Senior
right fielder Seth Fortenberry led the way with a Big 12-best 10
triples, while adding nine doubles and nine homers for a nifty .590
slugging percentage. He and senior catcher Zach Dillon (.510 on-base
percentage) often comprised most of Baylor’s offense in an
up-and-down year following the school’s first College World Series
appearance. The Bears swept Nebraska at home in their penultimate
conference series before getting swept at Kansas State to end the
regular season. That partially illustrates a young team that went
27-7 at home and 8-17 away from Baylor Ballpark. Baylor opens against
Arizona State, which won a three-game series at Baylor in February.

Five
of the nation’s top 10 teams in terms of steals per game came from
the SWAC, and Prairie View A&M led the nation with 211
bags in 53 games, an average of four per game. Center fielder Calvin
Lester (.345, 54-for-64 in steals) and shortstop Michael Richard
(.342, 41-for-52) rank first and third individually in steals. But
it’s going to be hard for any the Panthers, which went 22-19 against
Division I competition, to get on base enough to make use of that
running game.

College | #2006 #Postseason #Regional

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