2019 NCAA Baseball Tournament: Fayetteville Regional Preview
No. 1 Arkansas vs. No. 4 Central Connecticut State (2 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
No. 2 California vs. No. 3 Texas Christian (7 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
No. 1 Arkansas (41-17)
Season In A Sentence: The Razorbacks kept pushing from beginning to end in 2019, starting the season at No. 18 in the rankings and ending at No. 4 after going 41-17 with a 20-10 mark in SEC play.
Best Pitcher: RHP Isaiah Campbell, R-Jr. — Campbell has been the standout of the Arkansas pitching staff this season. At 10-1, 2.37, Campbell has 100 strikeouts while only walking 18 batters.
Best Hitter: OF Heston Kjerstad, So. — The 2018 SEC freshman of the year has carried his tremendous play into his sophomore season, hitting .329 with 14 home runs. Both of those marks are second-most on the team.
Outlook: The Razorbacks have played at a high level all season long, mixing a powerful offense with a solid pitching staff. They’re incredibly difficult to beat in Baum Stadium, where they’re 28-6 this season, and it’s difficult to see them losing twice this weekend. But Arkansas has lost five of its last seven games and is averaging less than three runs a game in that stretch. To advance, it’s going to need to get its offense back on track.
No. 2 California (32-18)
Season In A Sentence: The Bears showed potential early in the season, giving Louisiana State everything it could handle at Alex Box Stadium in early March and then delivered on that potential when it was all said and done, going 32-18 overall and 17-11 in the Pac-12.
Best Pitcher: RHP Jared Horn, Jr. — Horn is having a career year this season, posting a 1.82 ERA through 11 starts after an appendectomy sidelined him the first few weeks of the spring. The junior is holding his opponents to a .200 batting average and proven he has what it takes to go late in games, pitching at least seven innings in six of his starts.
Best Hitter: 1B Andrew Vaughn, Jr. — Vaughn, the 2018 Golden Spikes Award winner, is hitting .387 with an OPS of 1.277. His 15 home runs, 49 RBIs and 126 total bases are all team highs, despite having as many as 34 fewer at-bats than some of his teammates, illustrating why he is sure to be one of the first names off the board in the 2019 draft.
Outlook: The Golden Bears are back in regionals for the first time since 2015, giving the nation a chance to see first baseman Andrew Vaughn, the 2018 Golden Spikes Winner, before he becomes a top-five draft pick next week. Cal has played the best teams on their schedule tough, winning games at LSU, Oregon State and UCLA and against Arizona State and Stanford. But it didn’t win any of those series and is going to need to find a way to put together a more complete weekend if it’s going to advance to super regionals.
No. 3 Texas Christian (32-26)
Season In A Sentence: TCU dealt with a myriad of injuries throughout the 2019 season, but it snuck in as one of the last teams in the field on the strength of some improving team health, a solid showing in the Big 12 Tournament and 12 wins against top-50 opponents.
Best Pitcher: LHP Nick Lodolo, Jr. — Lodolo was the 41st overall player drafted in 2016 for a reason. In his junior season, Lodolo has pitched 98 innings and posted an ERA of 2.48 to go along with 125 strikeouts.
Best Hitter: OF Josh Watson, Sr. — Watson is hitting .335 for the season with an OPS of .984. He shares the lead for home runs on the team with 10.
Outlook: The Horned Frogs caught a lot of flak this week for their inclusion in the tournament field after finishing under .500 in Big 12 play and No. 59 in the RPI. How TCU responds to that will be crucial. TCU may feel like it’s playing with house money at this point, which could make it dangerous, or maybe it’s already ready to move on from this season. Regardless, whenever the Frogs throw ace Nick Lodolo, whether that’s against Cal or in a potential showdown with Arkansas, they’re going to need the lefthander to deliver against a potent lineup.
No. 4 Central Connecticut State (30-21)
BA 500 Prospects: None
Season In A Sentence: Central Connecticut State beat Northeast Conference regular season champion Bryant twice in the final round of the NEC Tournament to secure its second regional appearance in three years after a 30-21 season.
Best Pitcher: RHP Tom Curtin, Sr. — The senior, along with Brandon Fox, has pulled the majority of the pitching staff’s weight this season, pitching 88.2 innings and going 5-3, 3.96. Curtin gets the edge over Fox due to slightly less hits, runs and eight more strikeouts.
Best Hitter: INF/OF Dave Matthews, Jr. — With a .297 batting average, Matthews leads CCSU in hits (54) and home runs (6). The junior has had 17 doubles and 89 total bases this year, proving he can pick up big hits.
Outlook: The Blue Devils are riding strong momentum into regionals, but now they’re in for a step up in competition. CCSU hasn’t played a Power Five conference team since its last regional appearance in 2017, when it went 0-2 in Fort Worth. Now it must contend with the raucous crowds at Baum Stadium.