2019 NCAA Baseball Tournament: Los Angeles Regional Preview
No. 1 UCLA vs. No. 4 Nebraska-Omaha (10 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
No. 2 Baylor vs. No. 3 Loyola Marymount (4 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
No. 1 UCLA (47-8)
Season In A Sentence: Behind a revamped starting rotation and a physical lineup, the Bruins didn’t endure a single losing weekend on the way to rolling through the 2019 regular season, putting up a 47-8 record and earning the distinction of being the top-seeded team in the field.
Best Pitcher: RHP Ryan Garcia, Jr. — Garcia missed the first month of the season due to injury but has been spectacular since he’s been back. The junior has thrown 76 innings this season with an ERA of 1.42, holding opponents to just a .158 batting average.
Best Hitter: OF Garrett Mitchell, So. — Mitchell has started all 55 games for the Bruins this year and has hit .360, leading the team in hits at 82. With a slugging percentage of .579 and nine triples this season, Mitchell has proven he’s capable of big hits every time he steps up to the plate.
Outlook: The Bruins are the most complete team in the country and get a relatively easy draw, which they should as the No. 1 overall seed. A potential matchup against a scrappy Baylor team could be tough, but UCLA has by far the most talent in this region and that should carry it to super regionals.
No. 2 Baylor (34-17)
Season In A Sentence: The Bears fought through a myriad of injuries, including a season-ending one to staff ace Cody Bradford, to secure a spot in a regional for the third straight year, the first time the program has accomplished that since making four in a row from 2009-2012.
Best Pitcher: LHP Ryan Leckich, Jr. — The reliever has been crucial to the Baylor pitching staff, posting a 1.74 ERA through 41.1 innings this season. In his last 17.1 innings, Leckich has given up just two earned runs.
Best Hitter: 3B Davis Wendzel, Jr. — Wendzel was sought after by scouts last year when he went in the 37th round of the 2018 Draft. After returning for his junior year, Wendzel leads Baylor in batting at .377, managing a hit in 14 of his last 15 games to go along with eight home runs this year.
Outlook: The Bears made a hard run at the Big 12 title but were unable to seal the deal and then had a tough week in the conference tournament. Baylor comes into the NCAA Tournament having lost five of its last seven games, and it’ll need to find a way to get back on track in a hurry to keep pace with UCLA and Loyola Marymount, which will make for a tricky opener.
No. 3 Loyola Marymount (32-23)
Season In A Sentence: As the fourth and final team in the West Coast Conference Tournament, LMU capped off a 32-win season with a tournament title, providing the program’s first regional appearance since 2000 and first under head coach Jason Gill.
Best Pitcher: RHP Codie Paiva, Sr. — Paiva has been pitching well for Loyola all season with an ERA of 1.71 and appears to be heating up at the right time. In his last 23.2 innings, Paiva has dealt 24 strikeouts while giving up just three earned runs.
Best Hitter: OF Trevin Esquerra, Jr. — At No. 433 in the BA 500, Esquerra has been having a solid season offensively, batting a team-high .335 with 18 doubles. Esquerra has also hit 16 of his team’s 22 home runs this year, helping him rack up 57 RBIs.
Outlook: The Lions lost their last four series of the regular season, but then turned that momentum around and swept through the WCC Tournament, including an opening-round upset of regular season champion Brigham Young. Senior righthander Codie Paiva has been excellent this season and the Lions will need him to be again Friday against Baylor if they’re going to make noise this weekend.
No. 4 Nebraska-Omaha (31-22-1)
BA 500 Prospects: None
Season In A Sentence: The Mavericks, in their eighth season as a Division I program, are making their first-ever regional appearance after winning the Summit League regular season and tournament titles, taking down perennial power Oral Roberts in the process.
Best Pitcher: RHP Payton Kinney, Sr. — At 11-1, 1.65 this season, Kinney has been dominant on the mound for Omaha. The senior has thrown 103 strikeouts and 38 walks through 109 innings.
Best Hitter: OF Parker Smejkal, Jr. — The only player on Omaha’s roster hitting over .284 with at least 10 games played, Smejkal has been the driving force behind Omaha’s offense this season. Smejkal is hitting .333 with 27 runs and 40 RBIs.
Outlook: The Mavericks are making their NCAA Tournament debut having ended Oral Roberts run of Summit League Tournament titles. Omaha received some previous Hollywood experience opening weekend with a series at Southern California and won the series finale, but this is still a big step up in terms of competition.