2021 NCAA Tournament Fort Worth Regional Preview
To view the full bracket, click here.
No. 1 Texas Christian vs. No. 4 McNeese State (7 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
No. 2 Oregon State vs. No. 3 Dallas Baptist (2 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
No. 1 Texas Christian (40-17)
All-Conference Team Honorees: OF Phillip Sikes (1st), RP Haylen Green (1st), INF Braydon Taylor (2nd), INF Gene Wood (2nd), DH Hunter Wolfe (2nd), SP Austin Krob (2nd), SP Russell Smith (2nd)
Season in a Sentence: Although it nearly missed winning the Big 12 regular-season title, TCU re-established itself as one of the elites in college baseball with a Big 12 Tournament title and a 40-17 season in 2021, its first 40-win season since 2017, which is also the last time the Frogs hosted and got to the College World Series.
Best Pitcher: Haylen Green, LHP—Starting pitchers Austin Krob and Russell Smith have both been solid for the Horned Frogs, but Green has probably been the most important arm on the staff. He’s been dominant in his relief role this season, and his numbers would be even better if you removed the one really tough outing he suffered through against Kansas State, where he gave up seven runs. On the season, he has a 3.21 ERA, 55 strikeouts compared to four walks and 12 saves in 47.2 innings.
Best Hitter: Phillip Sikes, OF—After his first season at TCU was cut short, Sikes made the most of his first full season in Fort Worth. He’s hitting .337/.438/.639 with 18 doubles, five triples, 11 home runs and 60 RBIs, all of which lead the team. He also swiped 13 bases in 14 tries for a team that has 115 of them this season.
Outlook: TCU did well to bounce back and win the Big 12 Tournament after suffering a series loss to Kansas State that cost it the Big 12 regular-season title over the last weekend of the regular season. The Frogs’ offense can swing it with anyone and that bodes well for the team’s ability to succeed once pitching staffs get taxed by the end of the weekend. The concern is what kind of production TCU gets on the mound, especially if it ends up in a regional final with DBU, a team that can go toe-to-toe with TCU offensively.
No. 2 Oregon State (34-22)
Season in a Sentence: Oregon State had a quietly consistent year in the Pac-12, where it was always considered a solid postseason team, if perhaps not among the true elite in the conference, and in the end that was enough for it to earn its 11th regional bid in 12 seasons.
Best Pitcher: Kevin Abel, RHP—There were some ups and downs this season for Abel in his first healthy campaign since 2018, but he proved in 2021 that when he’s on his game, there’s no one better on the staff. In 79 innings of work spread over 15 starts, he has a 3.42 ERA, 106 strikeouts and a .167 opponent batting average. Honorable mention here should go to righthander Will Frisch, who has given up just two runs in his last 18 innings and has a 2.17 ERA in a swingman role.
Best Hitter: Troy Claunch, C—Up until relatively recently, outfielder Jacob Melton was the correct answer here, but Melton is out for the season due to a shoulder injury. Claunch has been a steady bat in a lineup that has seen a lot of different permutations this season, and he goes into the weekend not only hitting .321/.389/.424 but also on a 17-game hitting streak.
Outlook: Oregon State is a team talented enough to win a regional, especially if TCU falters and doesn’t play at its best, but to do so, the Beavers will have to do what they haven’t done all year and win games against the best teams on the schedule. This season, OSU was a combined 4-11 against the other postseason teams in the Pac-12.
No. 3 Dallas Baptist (37-15)
All-Conference Team Honorees: 2B Jackson Glenn (1st), DH Austin Bell (1st), SP Rhett Kouba (1st), RP Peyton Sherlin (1st), 1B Cole Moore (2nd), 3B Andrew Benefield (2nd), OF Jace Grady (2nd) OF River Town (2nd), SP Dominic Hamel (2nd), SP Luke Eldred (2nd), RP Kragen Kechely (2nd)
Season in a Sentence: Dallas Baptist continued its run as one of the most consistent teams in college baseball, going 37-15 overall and 18-6 in the Missouri Valley Conference, capturing its third MVC regular-season title, fourth conference tournament title and seventh straight postseason appearance.
Best Pitcher: Dominic Hamel, RHP—Hamel has been a workhorse for the Patriots this season, going 12-2 with a 3.71 ERA, 123 strikeouts and a .199 opponent batting average in 80 innings. His performance has been particularly important this season in light of the fact that Luke Eldred has spent the season working his way back up to strength after missing the last two years with injury and Rhett Kouba was only moved into the rotation just before conference play started. The one constant in the rotation has been Hamel.
Best Hitter: Jackson Glenn, 2B—On a team that can mash one through nine in the batting order, Glenn stood out with a monster season as a fifth-year senior. He’s hitting .364/.438/.738 with 16 doubles, 19 home runs, 49 RBIs and 13 stolen bases in 13 tries.
Outlook: There’s no question about DBU being able to hit enough to win a regional. It has one of the deepest lineups in the country, and it can beat you with the long ball (as it did to win the MVC Tournament) and by running the bases, as it is also a team that has swiped 80 bags this season. The question will be pitching depth if it can get to a regional final. Although they won the game in a slugfest, the Patriots struggled to put away Indiana State in the fourth game of the week at the MVC Tournament, and offenses like TCU’s won’t let you get away with that as easily.
No. 4 McNeese State (32-28)
All-Conference Team Honorees: 2B Nate Fisbeck (1st), OF Clayton Rasbeary (1st), SP Will Dion (1st), DH Tre Obregon III (2nd), Payton Harden (3rd)
Season in a Sentence: Overcoming numerous obstacles, including two hurricanes, an ice storm, flooding and head coach Justin Hill coming down with Covid-19, a veteran McNeese State team bounced back from an up-and-down regular season to win the Southland Conference Tournament and earn a second straight postseason bid for the first time in program history.
Best Pitcher: Will Dion, LHP—After a dominant season as a reliever on the 2019 regional team, Dion came into his own as a starting pitcher this season, earning SLC pitcher of the year honors. The lefthander is 9-4 with a 2.82 ERA and 113 strikeouts compared to 17 walks in 92.2 innings. The TCU lineup will pose a challenge for him in the opener, but that won’t be an easy task for the Frogs, either.
Best Hitter: Clayton Rasbeary, OF—Sporting one of the fullest, wildest beards in college baseball, Rasbeary has been raking this season. He leads the team in all three slash line categories at .360/.420/.628, in doubles with 19 and in homers with 12. This is Rasbeary’s last go round in the sport and word is that his beard is set to be shaved before long, so enjoy his talents, both on the baseball field and in terms of growing facial hair, while you still can.
Outlook: Coming into the season, McNeese looked the part of the kind of veteran mid-major team that could take advantage of getting a bunch of seniors back and make a deep run in the postseason. There were plenty of speed bumps in the regular season, but the Cowboys are playing their best baseball right now, and it would not be a surprise if they are extremely competitive this weekend.