2017 NCAA Tournament Corvallis Regional Preview

Nick Madrigal (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

1. Oregon State (49-4, 27-3 in Pac-12)

17th appearance (first since 2015), automatic, first place in Pac-12

Top 200 Prospects: LHP Luke Heimlich (37), 1B/C K.J. Harrison (56), RHP Jake Thompson (85), RHP Drew Rasmussen (115)

Season in a sentence: The Beavers entered the No. 1 spot in the Top 25 rankings on March 27 and stayed in that spot for the final 10 weeks of the regular season, setting a program record with 49 regular season wins and making an easy case as the best team in the country.

Player to watch: Nick Madrigal, ss/2b. Sure, there are four players in the 2017 draft class ranked in the top 200, but Madrigal is arguably the best player on Oregon State’s roster, and near the top of the 2018 class. He leads the Beavers in each triple slash category, hitting .377/.444/.544, and has a team-best 15 steals to go along with it. Additionally, he might be the best defender on the team, although double-play partner Cadyn Grenier is no slouch either.

Best weekend: vs. Stanford, March 31-April 2. Is “all” a legitimate answer? No? OK, we’ll have to settle with Oregon State’s series sweep of Stanford (No. 8 in RPI) in California, which allowed the Beavers to set a new school record with 19-straight victories after a 7-0 shutout in Sunday’s finale. They would go on to extend that record to 23 games.

Outlook: Nothing to see here. If Oregon State doesn’t come out of Corvallis, it will be the most shocking result of the entire tournament.

2. Nebraska (35-20-1, 16-7-1 in Big Ten)

15th appearance (second straight), at-large, first place in Big Ten

Top 200 Prospects: None

Season in a sentence: The Huskers’ conference title came down to the final game of the season against Penn State, where Nebraska pummeled the Nittany Lions 21-3 to finish half a gam ahead of Michigan and capture its first Big Ten regular season crown since the school joined the conference ahead of the 2012 season.

Player to watch: Jake Myers, lhp/of. Myers is one of the five finalists for the John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year Award after going 8-1, 3.09 on the mound and hitting .302 with 51 runs scored at the plate.

Best weekend: vs. Penn State, May 18-20. There were a few series sweeps that might have made the cut, but we have to go with the Huskers’ 2-1 series win that ended the season on a high note and locked up the Big Ten Conference. Nebraska’s final victory also was its highest-scoring game of the season, with first baseman Ben Miller and outfielder Hagge Mojo tallying four hits apiece.

Outlook: Better than the teams below, but it’s tough to be placed with the Beavers. On the bright side, Nebraska does have some experience in NCAA Tournament, having reached the Field of 64 last season and in 2014.

3. Yale (32-16, 16-4 in Ivy League)

5th appearance (first since 1993), automatic, first place in Ivy League

Top 200 Prospects: None

Season in a sentence: The Bulldogs started their season 3-9 against a tough nonconference schedule that included games against New Mexico State, William & Mary and Clemson, but figured things out in conference and went 16-4 in their final 20 games.

Player to watch: Benny Wanger, DH/1B. Wanger is a sophomore first baseman who leads Yale in average (.352) and slugging (.685), and is second on the team with a .446 on-base percentage. He has dramatically improved his power numbers in his second year with the Bulldogs, almost tripling his freshman year ISO (.113) with a .333 mark in 2017. That might stem from getting off the mound, as Wanger was a two-way player who threw 38.1 innings as a freshman but has been used exclusively as a hitter this season.

Best weekend: Ivy League Tournament Championship, May 16. Winners of the Ivy League’s Red Rolfe Division for the second year in a row, Yale needed to top Penn—the Lou Gehrig Division champs—in a best-of-three series to take the league title. They did that in two games, by a combined score of 16-7, with No. 1 starter sophomore Scott Politz throwing a complete-game shutout in the opener.

Outlook: Yes, being placed with the No. 1 national seed is a bummer, but Yale can at least claim to have beaten No. 4 seed Holy Cross in two games added to the end of their schedule this season. That’s . . . something?

4. Holy Cross (23-27, 12-8 in Patriot League)

11th appearance (first since 1978), automatic, second place in Patriot League, Patriot League tournament champions

Top 200 Prospects: None

Season in a sentence: The Crusaders started off the season by losing seven in a row, and finished the regular season four games below .500—none of that matters, though, when you run the table 4-0 in your conference tournament and steal the automatic bid.

Player to watch: Anthony Critelli, 1B. Critelli broke the Holy Cross program record for career home runs with 25. He has nine this season—tied for the most on the team with junior infielder Cam O’Neill—and is leading the team with a .302 average and .543 slugging percentage. Critelli is also tied for the most doubles in program history (52) and could set that record in Corvallis with his 13th of the year.

Best weekend: Patriot League tournament, May 13-20. Holy Cross wouldn’t be in this tournament without taking down Bucknell in a pair of games in the Patriot League tournament championship, the second of which was won after a four-run 11th inning that included three consecutive Holy Cross walks with the bases loaded.

Outlook: Grim. Not only does Holy Cross get the most difficult first matchup in the country, but if it manages to pull an upset of the Beavers, the Crusaders still could face a team (Yale) that just beat up on them last Saturday.

STAT PACK (National rank in parentheses)
Avg. Scoring (R/G) HR SB ERA K/9 WHIP Fielding %age
1. Oregon State .289 (65) 5.8 (130) 23 (245) 57 (102) 1.84 (1) 8.1 (88) .98 (1) .978 (33)
2. Nebraska .282 (101) 5.9 (111) 24 (236) 41 (190) 3.64 (31) 6.7 (227) 1.34 (50) .977 (37)
3. Yale .291 (53) 7.1 (29) 40 (134) 39 (206) 5.51 (203) 6.8 (211) 1.59 (193) .973 (89)
4. Holy Cross .257 (235) 5.3 (183) 36 (152) 19 (288) 5.18 (179) 7.9 (109) 1.51 (150) .964 (220)