Round Rock Regional Capsule

Round Rock Regional Capsule
Dell Diamond, Round Rock, Texas

No. 1 Texas (44-15)
51st appearance, at-large, won Big 12 regular season, No. 4 national seed

No. 2 UC Irvine (40-15)
Third appearance, at-large, Big West

No. 3 Wake Forest (33-27)
11th appearance, at-large, Atlantic Coast

No. 4 Brown (27-19)
First appearance, automatic, won Ivy regular season and tournament

Under coach Augie Garrido, Texas is known for applying pressure on opposing defenses through small ball. The 2007 Longhorns can still execute all the little things, but they can also mash. Leading the way is sophomore outfielder Kyle Russell, whose 27 home runs tied him for the national lead and shattered Texas’ single-season record (20). Russell has plenty of offensive help in Bradley Suttle, Chance Wheeless, Russell Moldenhauer and company, and the Longhorns rank in the top 25 in the nation in batting, home runs, triples and slugging. Typical of a Garrido team, they can also defend (.977 fielding percentage, third-best in the nation). Righthander Adrian Alaniz has 12 wins, two off the national lead, and senior Randy Boone has settled in at the back of the bullpen, notching 13 saves (ninth in the nation). This is an experienced team, and it would certainly be surprising if the ‘Horns lost a home regional for the second straight year.

UC Irvine is very capable of knocking off Texas. Despite winning series against three other Big West teams that earned No. 1 or 2 seeds in regionals (Long Beach State, Cal State Fullerton, UC Riverside) and reaching No. 9 in the rankings, the Anteaters were denied a home regional and shipped to the No. 4 national seed. Irvine coach Dave Serrano is in the extended Augie Garrido coaching tree (he was an assistant at Cal State Fullerton under George Horton, who had assisted Garrido), so it shouldn’t be too surprising that the Anteaters play a similar style of baseball, applying constant pressure on the defense, making things happen by starting runners on the basepaths, fielding soundly. NCAA career saves leader Blair Erickson has been up and down at the back of the bullpen, but righthanded starters Scott Gorgen and Wes Etheridge have been outstanding all season. The sinkerballer Etheridge will get the nod against Wake Forest, keeping the red-hot Gorgen available for a potential meeting with Texas. Gorgen struck out 11 in a three-hit shutout against UC Riverside last Friday.

Wake Forest made a late surge to secure its first regional appearance since 2002. The Deacons sealed the deal with a run to the ACC championship game, which they dropped to North Carolina. Sophomore first baseman Allan Dykstra is truly one of the nation’s premier power hitters–he blasted 18 homers this year to give him 33 in his first two years at Wake. Dykstra has drawn 54 walks this year, and don’t expect him to get too much to hit this weekend, because the lineup around him is uninspiring. Excepting Dykstra, only Willy Fox has an average over .300, and no other player has more than eight home runs. The Demon Deacons have experienced quality arms in senior Josh Ellis (5-3, 2.74) and junior Ben Hunter (7-6, 4.41), but they’ll hand the ball to sophomore lefty Garrett Bullock (4-2, 4.71) against UC Irvine.

Brown won its first-ever Ivy League championship this year to reach its first regional. Righthander Jeff Dietz (9-3, 2.53) has arm strength and a deceptive sidearm delivery, and he could keep the Bears in the game against Texas. The offense is powered by switch-hitting senior catcher Devin Thomas, who set Brown single-season records for home runs (16) and RBIs (64). Dietz, a two-way player, was second on the team with eight homers and 52 RBIs. Closer Rob Hallberg doesn’t have pretty numbers (5.48 ERA), but he’s got a low-90s fastball and could be a weapon out of the bullpen if he’s on. But Brown will put the ball in Dietz’s hand and hope he can go the distance like he did in a 1-0 win against Pennsylvania in the first game of the Ivy League championship series. He struck out 10 and allowed just three hits in the complete-game shutout; but that was Penn, and this is Texas.