Goss Stadium at Coleman Field, Corvallis, Ore. (Host: Oregon State)
No. 1 Oregon State (42-12, 23-7 in Pac-12) Roster | Statistics
15th appearance (sixth straight), automatic, Pac-12 regular-season champion, No. 1 national seed
Top 200 Prospects: OF Michael Conforto (11), LHP Jace Fry (91), OF Dylan Davis (92)
After reaching the College World Series a year ago, Oregon State entered this spring ranked No. 2 in the BA Top 25, and it enters the postseason as the No. 1 national seed after winning the Pac-12 for the second straight year. OSU's greatest strength is its weekend rotation, which rates as the nation's best. Lefties Ben Wetzler (11-1, 0.76, the national ERA leader) and Jace Fry (11-1, 1.43) tied for the Pac-12 lead in wins; both are dogged competitors, but Fry has better stuff, with a fastball that bumps 93, an excellent changeup and an improved breaking ball. Wetzler has pitched in the mid- to upper 80s this spring, but he has advanced feel for his slider, which gives fits to righties and lefties alike. Sophomore righty Andrew Moore (5-5, 2.88) was a first-team All-American as a freshman in 2013 thanks to his ability to command solid but not overpowering pitches. The Beavers rank second in the nation with a 2.13 ERA, but their bullpen isn't as strong as their rotation, so the key to beating them is driving up the starters' pitch counts and getting into the 'pen early. Few opponents have been able to do that. Power sinkerballer Scott Schultz (6-2, 1.88, 5 SV, 57 IP) is the linchpin of the 'pen, and Zack Reser (5-0, 0.69) is the key option from the left side. The Beavers also have a pair of All-Americans anchoring the heart of the order in Michael Conforto (.364/.518/.578, 7 HR, 55 RBI) and Dylan Davis (.286/.343/.429, 6 HR, 63 RBI), two of the premier run producers in college baseball. Speedy Jeff Hendrix (.355/.451/.500) is the spark plug atop the lineup, but the bottom half of the order is more pitchable. Freshmen Logan Ice, Caleb Hamilton and Trever Morrison have all struggled to hit for average (none is above .242), but all of them have drawn plenty of walks, and they have provided reliable defense at the key positions of catcher, third base and shortstop. Still, few teams win the CWS with freshmen behind the plate and at short.
UNLV has made steady progress in coach Tim Chambers' four years at the helm, winning 37 games last year and finishing tied with New Mexico atop the Mountain West standings this year, helping the Rebels break a nine-year NCAA tournament drought. UNLV is battle tested, having traveled to Tennessee (where it was swept in Week Two), Nebraska (where it won two of three), Arkansas (where it split two midweek games) and Clemson (where it was swept in two games late in the year immediately after losing ace Erick Fedde). When Fedde, a projected top-10 overall pick, was forced to have Tommy John surgery, the Rebels did not fold, sweeping Nevada in their final series and reaching the MWC tournament finals, where they lost to San Diego State. Even without Fedde, UNLV has a hard-throwing ace in John Richy (11-3, 2.78), whose velocity has climbed as he has lost about 25 pounds since his freshman year; he now bumps the mid-90s at times, and his quality secondary stuff helps him rack up strikeouts. Bryan Bonnell (6-5, 3.01) and Kenny Oakley (4-7, 3.25) give UNLV two more quality starting options who can touch the low 90s and pound the strike zone. Like Bonnell, lefthanded closer Brayden Torres (2.05, 8 SV) has flourished since ditching his curveball and focusing on a splitter. The experienced lineup has tough outs from top to bottom, with brothers Patrick Armstrong (.306/.353/.507, 7 HR, 45 RBI) and Joey Armstrong (.302/.388/.429, 4 HR, 27 RBI) providing most of the punch. The team's most dynamic player is junior third baseman T.J. White (.327/.402/.438, 15 2B, 17-for-18 SB), who wreaks havoc atop the order.
UC Irvine had an up-and-down season that ended on a sour note, as the Anteaters were swept in their final two series and lost their last eight conference games. They still finished third in the standings because they had taken care of business against the lesser teams in the conference in the first half, and they were one of the last teams to make the field of 64. Irvine has some star power in the form of ace Andrew Morales (9-2, 1.56), closer Sam Moore (1.90 ERA, nation-leading 23 saves), powerful third baseman Taylor Sparks (.290/.375/.475, 4 HR, 14 2B, 33 RBI) and sweet-swinging Connor Spencer (.361/.453/.477). Morales pitches at 89-91, occasionally bumps 93-94 and has a swing-and-miss slider. Moore pitched sparingly in his first two seasons but made a breakthrough this year with the development of his split-finger, giving him an out pitch to go along with an 83-85 fastball that he locates well. He is fearless and poised. Soft-tossing lefty Elliot Surrey (6-4, 2.12) and veteran bulldog Evan Brock (8-5, 2.95) give Irvine two more strike-throwers in the rotation, and the defense is solid behind them. Sparks, a potential top-50 pick next week, provides most of the power in a lineup that relies on small ball, as usual. But Grant Palmer, Jonathan Munoz, Jerry McClanahan and Chris Rabago all have a knack for making contact and grinding out productive at-bats, and Spencer wears out the gaps.
North Dakota State struggled in its first few seasons after reclassifying as a Division I team in 2005, averaging 12.7 wins for three years under coach Mitch McLeod. The program has made steady progress since then under the direction of Tod Brown, and the Bison expected to take a step forward this year thanks to the return of eight everyday starters from a year ago, including five who earned all-conference honors. Brown and his staff have found success attracting hard-nosed players to the unforgiving climate of Fargo, and this club did not play its first home game until April 12, its 22nd game of the year. NDSU wound up as the No. 2 seed in the Summit League tournament, where it went 3-0, capped by a 9-0 win in Saturday's title game against Western Illinois to send the Bison to a D-I regional for the first time since 1956. A trio of seniors forms the core of North Dakota State's lineup. Leadoff man Tim Colwell (.376/.435/.474, 19 SB) has been a catalyst for four years; he has a compact lefthanded swing and good speed that plays up because of his aggressiveness. Satzinger (.361/.465/.529, 2 HR, 31 RBI) and Kleinendorst (.311/.435/.485, 3 HR, 40 RBI) hit third and fourth in the lineup and give the Bison a pair of dangerous run producers. On the mound, junior lefthander Parker Trewin (7-2, 2.85) has put together a breakout season; he has a loose, projectable frame and a fastball that has touched 90. But the tone-setter is junior righty David Ernst (5-4, 3.70), a competitor with some pedigree (he was drafted out of high school by the Cubs).