2017 NCAA Tournament Stanford Regional Preview

Colton Hock (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

SEE ALSO: NCAA Regional Preview Podcast

1. Stanford (40-14, 21-9 in Pac-12)

32nd appearance (first since 2014), at-large, second place in Pac-12

Top 200 Prospects: RHP Tristan Beck (66), RHP Colton Hock (116), OF Quinn Brodey (181)

Season In A Sentence: In coach Mark Marquess’ 41st and final season, the Cardinal won 21 of its final 23 games, including seven in a row, to win its most games since 2004 despite an injury that sidelined Preseason All-American Tristan Beck all year.

Player To Watch: Colton Hock, rhp. Sure, the junior can start, but he did a bang-up job as the closer, recording a Stanford single-season best 16 saves, and going 6-1, 1.94. His 25 career saves are one shy of Steve Chitren’s program record. He is a big part of the reason the Cardinal is undefeated when leading after seven innings.

Best Weekend: vs. Arizona, April 27-29. The Cardinal have had several great weekends of late, but this sweep of then-No. 13 Arizona was the best. The games were decided by a total of four runs, and Hock recorded two saves.

Outlook: The Stanford regional is the only one starting Thursday because of the inclusion of Brigham Young, which does not allow sports to be played on Sunday. The Cardinal are said not to be thrilled with the early start but are still well-positioned to defend their turf and motivated to make Marquess’ final postseason a memorable one. Sacramento State, Stanford’s first opponent, comes in hot, having won eight games in a row.

2. Cal State Fullerton (34-21, 15-9 in Big West Conference)

39th appearance (26th straight), at-large, third place in Big West

Top 200 Prospects: RHP Connor Seabold (179).

Season In A Sentence: The Titans, the preseason favorites in the Big West Conference, were unseated by archrival Long Beach State, but with a typically stout pitching staff return to the NCAA Tournament for the 26th consecutive season.

Player To Watch: Scott Hurst, of. The lefthanded hitting junior benefitted from improved health this season and broke out to hit hit .339/430/.592 with a team-high 11 homers. He finished the season on a tear, going 17-for-38 (.447) with seven home runs in the last two weeks.

Best Weekend: vs. Stanford, Feb. 16-19. Fullerton’s series win against Stanford on opening weekend gave it an early marquee victory. It should also give the Titans confidence as they eye a potential rematch with the Cardinal this weekend.

Outlook: The Titans are an experienced club with a veteran skipper in Rick Vanderhook. This is Fullerton’s third time in a regional at Stanford, and the Titans have gone 1-2 each time. Expect them to get to the winner’s bracket, especially with righthander Colton Eastman back, but they have a tough task to slow down Stanford on the Farm.

3. Brigham Young (37-19, 20-7 in West Coast Conference)

12th appearance (first since 2002), automatic, tied for first in WCC, won WCC Tournament

Top 200 Prospects: None

Season In A Sentence: After sharing part of the WCC regular season title thanks to a high-powered offense, the Cougars won four straight games in the conference tournament, beating Gonzaga twice on May 27 to secure a spot in regionals.

Player To Watch: Brock Hale, of. The draft-eligible sophomore led an offense that ranked sixth in Division I in batting, runs and runs per game. Hale hit .399/.489/.694 with 12 homers, second on the team to Bronson Larsen.

Best Weekend: WCC Tournament, May 26-27. The Cougars had a chance to win the WCC regular season title outright, but were swept at Gonzaga on the final weekend of the season. BYU brushed off that letdown at the WCC Tournament and knocked off Gonzaga twice on May 27 in the finals to clinch their first regionals appearance in 15 years.

Outlook: The Cougars can score runs in bunches and built momentum last week in the conference tournament. BYU is in for a style contrast in regionals, however, as both Fullerton and Stanford are built around pitching. The Cougars will have to beat elite pitching to stay alive this weekend.

4. Sacramento State (32-27, 12-12 in Western Athletic Conference)

Second appearance (first since 2014), automatic, fourth place in WAC regular season, WAC Tournament champion

Top 200 Prospects: None

Season In A Sentence: The Hornets shrugged off a middling regular season by winning their final eight games, including four in a row in the WAC Tournament to earn the automatic bid and just the program’s second NCAA Tournament bid.

Player To Watch: Justin Dillon, rhp. The 6-foot-3 senior pitched the first no-hitter in Sac State's Division I history on Feb. 24, striking out 13 in a 2-0 win over Northern Kentucky. Dillon was WAC Tournament MVP, going 2-0 and striking out 12 in 12 innings with just one run allowed. He is 5-7, 3.12 with 103 strikeouts in 106.2 innings this season.

Best Weekend: vs. Washington State, Feb. 18-19. Before the conference tournament, the Hornets’ best weekend was the first one of the 2017 season. Rain pushed its opener back a day, and Sac State swept a Saturday doubleheader against Washington State to claim the series. It was a portend of the season as Dillon pitched one-hit ball over seven innings and senior infielder Kody Reynolds homered and drove in three runs in the season-opening win.

Outlook: The Hornets last played Stanford in 2009 and are just 13-19 all-time against the Cardinal, but they’re rolling, having won eight in a row. They’ll have Dillon on the mound and the country’s rapt attention as the lone regional game Thursday night. It would be quite the upset should Sac State put Stanford into the loser’s bracket in Mark Marquess’ final season.

STAT PACK (National rank in parentheses)
Team Avg. Runs P/G HR SB ERA K/9 WHIP Field %
1. Stanford  .283 (95) 5.6 (148) 32 (186) 31 (253) 3.44 (17) 7.3 (164) 1.26 (25) .979 (14)
2. Cal State Fullerton  .267 (176) 5.4 (173) 40 (134) 47 (153) 3.83 (50) 7.5 (147)  1.26 (20) .981 (10)
3. Brigham Young  .324 (6) 8.4 (6)  73 (16) 33 (239) 4.62 (132) 7.2 (173) 1.54 (166) .971 (118)
4. Sacramento State .271 (160) 5.6 (155) 47 (92) 65 (70) 3.80 (46) 6.9 (200) 1.28 (31) .978 (31)