College Station Regional Preview

College Station Regional Capsule
Olsen Field, College Station, Texas
No. 1 Texas A&M (43-16)24th appearance, at-large, Big 12 Conference regular-season champion
No. 2 Dallas Baptist (37-17)
First appearance, at-large, independent
No. 3 Houston (39-22)
17th appearance, automatic, Conference USA tournament champion
No. 4 Illinois-Chicago (34-20)
Fourth appearance, automatic, Horizon Conference regular-season and tournament champion
Texas A&M ripped off 16 consecutive Big 12 victories before dropping a pair of heartbreakers at Nebraska in a May 11 doubleheader, starting an eight-game losing streak that finally ended in A&M's final game in Big 12 tournament pool play. Still, the Aggies won the regular-season title by one game over Oklahoma State and will host a regional for the second straight year. In 2007, A&M held off Louisiana-Lafayette to win its regional before falling to Rice in a super-regional, and many of the key bats from that team are still around. While senior second baseman Blake Stouffer (.252 with five homers) slumped after earning All-America honors as a junior, other Aggies emerged as stars, including dynamic third baseman Dane Carter (.382/.457/.609 with eight homers, 59 RBIs and 13 steals), hulking first baseman Luke Anders (.335 with 14 homers and 51 RBIs) and athletic center fielder Kyle Colligan (.312 with 10 homers and 12 steals). As usual with a Rob Childress-coached team, the Aggies' hallmark is the pressure it puts on opposing defenses with its aggressive baserunning. The pitching staff relies heavily upon freshmen, and while righty Barret Loux (5-2, 4.25) got stronger as the year went on, lefty Brooks Raley (6-2, 4.76) seemed to tire down the stretch. But the pitching staff has no shortage of quality arms, including bullpen stalwarts Travis Starling (8-0, 3.53 with nine saves) and Kyle Thebeau (5-4, 1.87 with 70 strikeouts in 67 innings).
Dallas Baptist became the first independent team other than Miami to earn an at-large regional bid since Cal State Northridge in 1992. It was an uphill climb, as the Patriots had to play 27 games on the road and just 19 at home, but they earned a surprise No. 2 seed on the strength of quality wins against Rice, Oral Roberts, Baylor, Texas A&M and San Francisco. In righthanders Jordan Meaker (7-1, 4.28) and Victor Black (1-5, 4.64), the Patriots have a pair of power arms that give them a chance to beat any team on any given day. DBU also has one of the nation's strongest bullpens, anchored by the dynamic duo of Tyson Bagley (4-2, 2.19 with 11 saves) and Chris Haney (6-4, 2.33 with three saves). The lineup is deep and balanced with three players with double-digit home runs and three with double-digit steals. DBU's best all-around player, junior center fielder Evan Bigley (.340/.388/.602 with 13 homers, 58 RBIs and 13 steals), does a bit of everything.
Unlike most teams in the Texas area, Houston challenged itself in non-conference play with series against three quality California programs—UC Santa Barbara, San Francisco and San Diego State. The Cougers won two of those series and also notched big conference series wins against East Carolina and Tulane, and they beat the Pirates twice more in their run to the CUSA tournament title. Houston's greatest strength is its speed: the Cougars rank fourth in the nation with 2.31 stolen bases per game, and every player in the lineup can run. Senior second baseman Ryan Lormand (29 steals in 31 attempts) leads a group of six Cougars with double-digit steals. The lineup also has power threats in Bryan Pounds and Jake Stewart, who combined to hit 23 homers. Houston's pitching staff lacks depth, but it has three impact arms in lefthander Wes Musick (8-4, 4.08), righty John Touchton (5-3, 3.98) and closer Chase Dempsay (6-3, 2.50 with 11 saves).
Illinois-Chicago edged Wright State by a half-game in the regular season but didn't play the Raiders in their run to the conference tournament title. The Flames are battle tested, having held their own in early series at Tulane and Vanderbilt; three of those six games were decided by one run, and UIC got the victory against Vandy ace Mike Minor. Undersized righthanders Mike Kool (6-4, 3.92) and Derrick Miramontes (6-2, 3.31) make up for their small statures with their competitiveness, and closer Adam Worthington (2-3, 2.98 with five saves) is a weapon in the bullpen. UIC's most dangerous hitter is 6-foot-4 junior first baseman Brett Schaefer (.384/.453/.626 with 10 homers and 58 RBIs), but the lineup is filled with tough outs.