NCAA Baseball Regional Capsules: Corvallis Regional
The Corvallis regional should immediately catch your eye—if for no other reason than the records of some of the teams involved.
Arkansas-Little Rock, the No. 4 seed in this regional, finished at just 24-32. They caught fire at the right time, though, and made their way through the Sun Belt Conference tournament to nab the automatic bid to the NCAAs.
Georgia comes in with a record of just 31-30. A team has to simply finish .500 or better to qualify for the NCAA tournament. It doesn't take a math wizard to see that George just barely made it. After losing their opening game in the SEC tournament, Georgia made an inspired run to get the number of wins they needed.
Oregon State, the host and top seed in the regional, put together a solid campaign. Consistency is the word for them as they never really moved into consideration for the top eight seeds, but they also never dropped out of mix for hosting.
Creighton will come into the postseason with a gaudy record. Few people know just how good they truly are.
1. Oregon State
Oregon State (38-17) Pac-10 at-large
If there is such a thing as quietly putting together a 38-17 season, the Beavers did it this year. Maybe it's their lack of a big star that brings them national attention or maybe it's the relative obscurity of Corvallis, Oregon. Either way, no one is talking about them and that's a mistake.
The Beavers win games by pitching better than their opponent. It's plain and simple. They have a 2.93 team ERA led by bullpen aces Matt Boyd and Tony Bryant. Sam Gaviglio gives them a true ace starting pitcher.
Offensively, they just aren't very good. They sport a .266 team batting average and have only three hitters with averages better than .300. None of those averages are higher than .325. To be successful, they have to scratch out runs and let their pitching staff protect early leads.
Best case scenario: The Beavers win the regional thanks to great starts by Sam Gaviglio and others. They get out to leads early in games and opposing teams can't mount comebacks against their stout bullpen.
Worst case scenario: Oregon State simply can't hit enough to be successful. Opposing teams solve one or more of their top pitchers and the offense doesn't have enough pop to come back. The Beavers win one game in the regional, but nothing more.
Offensive players to watch: Andrew Susac (.325 BA, 5 HR, 31 RBI), Kavin Keyes (.315 BA, 29 RBI), Ryan Dunn (.296 BA, 4 HR, 26 RBI)
Pitchers to watch: Sam Gaviglio (11-2, 1.95 ERA), Matt Boyd (1.55 ERA, 4 saves), Tony Bryant (1.59 ERA, 10 saves)
Creighton (44-14) Missouri Valley Conference automatic bid
Creighton is not too dissimilar to Oregon State. They try to beat you with great pitching and fundamentals. Like Oregon State, they also snuck up on people with their great season. Few would have thought they would be capable of finishing 30 games over .500.
The Blue Jays have what can be described as a top-heavy offense. They have one hitter with an average of .392, but no other regular hitter with an average better than .286. As a team, they are hitting .269.
They are much more solid on the mound. They have a team ERA of 3.38, led by ace starter Jonas Dufek and closer Kurt Spomer. Only two pitchers with regular mound time have ERAs higher than 4.38.
Best case scenario: In a battle of anemic offenses, Creighton overcomes Oregon State in the regional final thanks to a big performance from leading hitter Trever Adams, who may be the best hitter in the regional.
Worst case scenario: No amount of great pitching can overcome the Blue Jays lack of offensive punch. Opposing teams refuse to let Trever Adams beat them and the rest of the offense can't pick up the slack. Creighton wins their game against Arkansas-Little Rock in the loser's bracket, but no more.
Offensive players to watch: Trever Adams (.392 BA, 14 HR, 57 RBI), Alex Staehely (.286 BA, 3 HR, 35 RBI), Mike Gerber (.278 BA, 6 HR, 22 RBI)
Pitchers to watch: Jonas Dufek (11-1, 2.17 ERA), Kurt Spomer (1.93 ERA, 13 saves), Ty Blach (10-2, 2.72 ERA)
Georgia (31-30) SEC at-large
The Bulldogs just barely got into the field. They made a late run through the SEC tournament to get over the requisite .500 mark. They will be hoping to ride that momentum into a run in the Corvallis regional.
Their less than impressive record is not to say that they are devoid of talent. That couldn't be further from the truth.
The offense is led by do-everything players Levi Hyams and Kyle Farmer. They also have guys like Zach Cone, who has struggled for much of the season, but could do some damage at any time.
The pitching staff doesn't appear to have much in the way of overpowering arms, but that has less to do with a lack of talent and more to do with the staff taking their beatings in the rough and tumble SEC.
Best case scenario: Georgia stays hot and shows that the SEC conference season is the perfect primer for regional play. Zach Cone and other hitters who have fought their way through a difficult season put things together and help lead the Bulldogs through to the Super Regional.
Worst case scenario: Georgia struggles to get solid starts from anyone other than Michael Palazzone. Their closer situation also continues to be a problem and Georgia finds themselves out of the regional with only one win to show for themselves.
Offensive players to watch: Levi Hyams (.318 BA, 4 HR, 37 RBI), Kyle Farmer (.304 BA, 7 HR, 53 RBI), Chase Davidson (.276 BA, 7 HR, 30 RBI)
Pitchers to watch: Michael Palazzone (10-4, 3.20 ERA), Alex Wood (5-7, 4.53 ERA), Blake Dieterich (27 appearances, 3.44 ERA, 2 saves)
4. Arkansas-Little Rock
Arkansas-Little Rock (24-32) Sun Belt Conference automatic bid
The record that Arkansas-Little Rock will bring into the regional would tend to hint that they are far from dangerous. Sometimes, though, it's those types of teams you have to be scared of.
The Trojans are playing with house money. They aren't even supposed to be in the tournament. They have nothing to lose. Not only that, but they are hot. They went undefeated in the Sun Belt tournament and beat two other regional teams on the way to their tournament win.
Keeping with the theme of this regional, the Trojans struggle as a team at the plate. Overall, they have a .275 team average. They do have a few solid bats, though, in guys like Myles Parma and Jason Houston.
The pitching situation doesn't look a lot better. They have a 5.84 ERA as a team. Their "ace," Calvin Drinnen, sports a 4.82 ERA. If they are to be successful, they are going to have to continue to pitch way over their heads.
Best case scenario: The Trojans jump out to an early lead on a team that comes out flat and they hold on to steal a game.
Worst case scenario: The magic ends and Arkansas-Little Rock goes back to being themselves. They not only go 0-2, but are completely blown out in both losses.
Offensive players to watch: Myles Parma (.355 BA, .447 OBP), Jason Houston (.327 BA, 6 HR, 26 RBI), Nick Rountree (.287 BA, 7 HR, 34 RBI)
Pitchers to watch: Calvin Drinnen (6-6, 4.82 ERA), Nick Grimmett (20 appearances, 3.83 ERA), Andrew Hohn (24 appearances, 4.11 ERA)
The outcome of this regional will come down to which team gets offensive production above and beyond what they got in the regular season.
None of these teams swung the bats very well this year, but they will have to turn that around to be successful in the postseason.
Based on that, I'm picking Creighton. Oregon State probably has the best pitching staff overall, but Creighton's is good enough to at least come close to offsetting that advantage.
The Blue Jays have the best single offensive player in the regional in Trever Adams and I think he'll have a big weekend.