2018 NCAA Tournament: Stanford Regional
1. Stanford (44-10, 22-8 Pac-12 Conference)
34th appearance (second straight); automatic bid; first in the Pac-12 Conference
BA 500 Prospects: RHP Tristan Beck (31), LHP Kris Bubic (40), SS Nico Hoerner (42)
Season In A Sentence: Stanford is hosting its second straight regional after a dominating year that saw the school win 44 games and capture its first Pac-12 title since 2004, thanks in part to a formidable 30-3 home record and a 10-game winning streak that started the 2018 season.
Player To Watch: Nico Hoerner, SS: Hoerner is having a phenomenal junior campaign and will likely be selected on day one of the draft next week. He has been the Cardinal’s most consistent hitter, posting a .349 batting average to go along with 39 RBIs and he leads the team with 75 hits. While not having home run power, Hoerner has contributed 16 doubles and five triples and he possesses speed on the basepaths with 14 steals this season.
Best Weekend: vs. Cal State Fullerton, Feb. 16-18. Stanford started its season against Cal State Fullerton in a rematch of last year’s Stanford Regional final and beat the Titans in three straight games. The three-game sweep ignited a fire under the Cardinal and the team went on to win its next seven games. After Fullerton ended Stanford’s 2017 season, the Cardinal got some early revenge this year.
Outlook: With a 30-3 home record on the season, it will be extremely tough to beat the No. 2 national seed Stanford twice in a regional. Boasting solid hitting and one of the best pitching staffs in college baseball—its 2.85 team ERA ranks second nationally—the Cardinal are the favorite to win the regional.
2. Baylor (36-19, 13-11 Big 12 Conference)
20th appearance (second straight); automatic bid; fifth in the Big 12 Conference; Big 12 Tournament champions
BA 500 Prospects: None.
Season In A Sentence: Baylor is making a trip back to regionals for the second consecutive year after a late-season run culminated in a Big 12 Tournament championship and an automatic bid into the 64-team field.
Player To Watch: Cody Bradford, LHP: Bradford had an outstanding sophomore campaign that saw him become the first pitcher in program history to receive the honor of Big 12 pitcher of the year. The sophomore led all Baylor starters with a 2.38 ERA and won seven games on the season. He also showed an ability to pitch deep into ball games with two complete games to his name and led the team in innings pitched (90.2) and strikeouts (86). Bradford could be called upon again to pitch the distance this weekend in regional play.
Best Weekend: Big 12 Tournament, May 23-27. The Bears played their best baseball of the season at the most important time, winning four straight games to win the Big 12 Tournament and clinch an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Baylor had three straight convincing victories before needing an extra-inning battle to win the tournament. An RBI single from Shea Langeliers in the 11th lifted the program to its first-ever Big 12 Tournament championship.
Outlook: Baylor did not have a great start to the season, but the team has peaked at the right time and is 20-2 in its last 22 games heading into regionals. One of the hottest teams in college baseball, the Bears have a strong pitching staff to anchor a solid lineup. The Bears will need to keep up their hot play to reach super regionals.
3. Cal State Fullerton (32-23, 18-6 Big West Conference)
40th appearance (27th straight); automatic bid; first in the Big West Conference
BA 500 Prospects: RHP Colton Eastman (75), RHP Andrew Quezada (132), RHP Brett Conine (256), OF Ruben Cardenas (318), RHP Blake Workman (438)
Season In A Sentence: Cal State Fullerton overcame a rocky 1-7 start to the 2018 season to go 16-8 in conference play and clinched a 27th straight NCAA Tournament appearance—the third-longest streak in college baseball history.
Player To Watch: Colton Eastman, RHP: Eastman has impressed in his junior campaign after missing most of the 2017 season due to elbow tendinitis. In 15 starts this year, the righty has a 2.26 ERA and a 9-3 record. Eastman leads his team in wins, ERA, innings pitched (103.2) and strikeouts (108). He also makes it very difficult to get on base, holding hitters to a .198 batting average.
Best Weekend: vs. Cal Poly, April 6-8. Fullerton had lost back-to-back weekend series to close out March, losing at home to archrival Long Beach State in a non-conference series and then opening Big West play with a series loss at UC Santa Barbara. Facing Cal Poly, which was expected to contend for the conference title and eventually finished second in the standings, the Titans got back on track with a sweep. It would prove to be a turning point as Fullerton shut down Cal Poly’s potent offense and didn’t lose a conference series for the remainder of the year.
Outlook: There’s extra motivation for Fullerton to win its first game against Baylor to get another shot at Stanford. The Titans were swept at this same field to open the season against the Cardinal and would love to get another crack at their familiar rival. Fullerton has played very well in the second half of the season and will have to draw on that experience this weekend at Stanford.
Under The Radar: Arkansas State Starts Red Hot In Sun Belt Play
Arkansas State has swept two straight series and looks like a contender in the Sun Belt West Division as it aims for its first regionals appearance since 1994.
4. Wright State (39-15, 22-6 Horizon League)
7th appearance (first since 2016); automatic bid; first in the Horizon League; Horizon League Tournament champions
BA 500 Prospects: LHP Zane Collins (297), RHP Ryan Weiss (459)
Season In A Sentence: Wright State cruised through the campaign with little turbulence and finished the regular season with eight consecutive victories, scoring double-digit runs in the last six games, to make its third regional in the last four years.
Player To Watch: Gabe Snyder, 1B: Snyder was named the Horizon League player of the year after an outstanding campaign that saw him post a .363 batting average with 15 home runs and 72 RBIs. The redshirt senior leads his team in seven different offensive categories and has been the driving force behind Wright State’s success. Snyder also has some speed on the basepaths, having stole 15 bases this season.
Best Weekend: Horizon League Tournament, May 24-26. The Raiders used three double-digit outbursts to win their third Horizon League Tournament title in the last four seasons. Wright State defeated Youngstown State, 11-1, in the opening game, then disposed of Illinois-Chicago twice in two days to capture the championship. The Raiders scored 32 runs in the three-game stretch.
Outlook: Wright State comes into tournament play red hot and is one of the best four-seeds in the tournament. The question is whether its hot bats can perform against one of the top pitching staffs in the nation in Stanford. But the Raiders are riding an eight-game winning streak and could have a few more offensive explosions left in store for regional play.