2022 NCAA Tournament Corvallis Regional Preview
No. 1 Oregon State vs. No. 4 New Mexico State (10 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
No. 2 Vanderbilt vs. No. 3 San Diego (4 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
No. 1 Oregon State (44-15)
Season in a sentence: Oregon State has been one of the best teams in the country all season and finished as runner-up to Stanford in both the Pac-12 standings and conference tournament.
Best pitcher: Cooper Hjerpe, LHP. Hjerpe has been one of the best pitchers in the country this season and is 10-2, 2.33 with 140 strikeouts and 18 walks in 89 innings. He ranks third in the nation in strikeouts and first with 14.16 strikeouts per nine innings. Hjerpe attacks hitters with a low-90s fastball and a good slider.
Best hitter: Jacob Melton, OF. Melton was named Pac-12 player of the year after he hit .375/.439/.694 with 15 home runs and 20 stolen bases. He does a bit of everything for the Beavers and is not only their biggest power threat, but also brings speed on the bases and in center field. He is the third Beaver to win Pac-12 player of the year in six years, joining Nick Madrigal (2017) and Adley Rutschman (2019).
Outlook: Oregon State is among the national title contenders thanks to its all-around talent. Hjerpe gives the Beavers a true ace, while Jacob Kmatz (8-1, 3.89) and Jake Pfennigs (3-0, 2.54) have been excellent behind him. They have a deep bullpen behind the rotation, with Ferrer (4-0, 1.79) at the heart of it. Oregon State has a deep lineup and isn’t afraid to play matchups to get the most out of its group and its .984 fielding percentage ranks third in the country. While Oregon State did lose back-to-back series to end the regular season, it should be ready to go this weekend and start on the road to Omaha.
No. 2 Vanderbilt (36-21)
Season in a sentence: Vanderbilt had mixed results all season against the best teams on its schedule, going 14-17 against teams that made the NCAA Tournament, but its remarkable consistency against lesser competition helped it build the RPI and resume of a No. 2 seed.
Best pitcher: Carter Holton, LHP. It’s rare at Vanderbilt that a freshman is a member of the weekend rotation from the start of the year, but that’s just what Holton did this season. He went 8-3, 3.15 with 92 strikeouts in 74.1 innings. He has advanced feel on the mound and is very tough on opposing hitters, who batted just .189 against him.
Best hitter: Enrique Bradfield Jr., OF. Bradfield is certainly the fastest player in the country, and he might also be the most dynamic. He is hitting .315/.413/.500 with seven home runs and 43 stolen bases to go with elite defense in center field. He has impact speed at the top of the order and can affect the game in a number of ways.
Outlook: At its best, Vanderbilt can beat anyone in the country, and it has series wins against Arkansas, Florida and Georgia. But the Commodores also were swept twice at home this season (Louisiana State and Tennessee) and have lost five of their last six games. With that in mind, just about anything feels possible this weekend. If Vanderbilt is to win the regional, it likely needs to stay in the winner’s bracket. The Commodores have a strong pitching staff—their 4.04 team ERA ranks 18th nationally—but lately they’ve struggled to find the right combination on the mound over the course of a weekend. That makes Holton’s start Friday against San Diego critical to their whole weekend.
No. 3 San Diego (36-18)
Season in a sentence: In Brock Ungricht’s first season as head coach, San Diego won the West Coast Conference Tournament and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013.
Best pitcher: Brycen Mautz, LHP. Mautz, a San Diego native, has anchored the Toreros rotation this season. He’s 9-2, 4.09 with 124 strikeouts and 21 walks in 83.2 innings. Mautz attacks hitters with a good fastball-slider combination and his 13.34 strikeouts per nine innings rank 10th nationally.
Best hitter: Caleb Ricketts, C. Ricketts was named WCC player of the year after hitting .375/.427/.676 with 16 home runs. He was especially good in the WCC Tournament, going 10-for-17 with five home runs and eight runs. The third-year sophomore takes an 11-game hitting streak into the weekend.
Outlook: San Diego has a tough draw with Oregon State and Vanderbilt in the same regional. After Mautz on Friday, its pitching plan could go in a number of different ways and the Toreros will look to play matchups as much as possible. They have a lot of depth at their disposal and Ricketts is as hot as any player in the country. Still, it’ll be a tall order to keep pace with Oregon State in Corvallis.
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No. 4 New Mexico State (24-32)
All-conference honorees: 1B Logan Gallina (first)
Season in a sentence: NM State needed to win a series at Utah Valley on the final weekend of the regular season just to qualify for the Western Athletic Conference Tournament and then swept through the event, allowing just five runs in four games, to advance to regionals for the first time since 2018.
Best pitcher: Ian Mejia, RHP. Mejia has been the constant in NM State’s rotation this spring and is 6-4, 4.24 with 93 strikeouts in 93.1 innings. He came up big in the WAC Tournament for the Aggies, throwing a seven-inning shutout and then coming back to throw three innings in the championship game against Abilene Christian.
Best hitter: Logan Gallina, 1B. Gallina, a junior college transfer, has made an immediate impact for NM State. He is hitting .333/.399/.681 with 21 home runs. Gallina also earns praise for his defensive ability at first base.
Outlook: NM State is tied with Coppin State for the least wins of any team in the field. Going into its series at Utah Valley, it was on an eight-game losing streak. Now, however, the Aggies have won six of their last seven games and seem to be playing their best baseball of the season. Carrying that momentum into such a tough regional field will be a real challenge, but they will at least be coming into Corvallis with confidence.