NCAA Baseball: Santa Clara Super Regional
You read the title correctly. It says Santa Clara Super Regional. The actual participants in the series are Dallas Baptist and California.
The fact that it is being held in Santa Clara says something about how unexpected this matchup is. Dallas Baptist plays its games at a campus facility that is not ready to host such an event. Minor league facilities in the Dallas area were either booked up or didn't have interest in hosting the event.
Cal plays in a stadium that doesn't have lights. This would make playing night games difficult. The NCAA offered to put up temporary lighting at their facility, but rather than deal with all of that, the NCAA elected to have Santa Clara's facility host the series with California as "host."
The unexpected nature of this series is what interests me so much. It's fun to think that one of these two teams will be in the College World Series.
Let's take a look at the head-to-head comparison of the two teams to give us an idea of what to expect this weekend.
Dallas Baptist set a torrid pace on offense in the regular season and it continued into their win in the Fort Worth regional final against Oral Roberts where they scored 11 runs.
They are led by NCAA doubles leader Jason Krizan. Krizan, who has 39 doubles, leads the team in average at .419, hits with 101, and RBI with 81, among many other categories.
Krizan is protected in the lineup by Landon Anderson and his .358 average and Tyler Robbins, who has 10 home runs and a .517 on-base percentage. In total, DBU hits .311 as a team and has seven regulars with averages over .280.
Cal has had less success at the plate, but are led by the Pac-10 Player of the Year Tony Renda. Renda led the team with a .335 batting average and 41 RBI. Austin Booker, Chadd Krist and Vince Bruno also give the Bears solid production.
This category is no contest. Cal can't afford to get into slugfests with Dallas Baptist.
Advantage: Dallas Baptist
Cal pitches well overall. They have a 2.88 team ERA, led by solid bullpen arms Kyle Porter and Matt Flemer. Porter has an ERA of 1.62 and hitters have a .227 batting average against him. Flemer has a 2.14 ERA and leads the team with five saves.
In the starting rotation, the Bears have four different guys with at least nine starts. None has an ERA higher than 3.90. This group is led by Kevin Miller (6-4, 2.62), and Erik Johnson (6-4, 2.91).
Dallas Baptist struggles a little bit on the mound, but they do have two top notch starting pitchers. Jared Stafford is 8-4 with a 3.03 ERA. Opponents hit .239 off of him. Brandon Williamson is 10-3 with a 3.98 ERA.
In the bullpen, the Patriots are led by their closer, Chris Haney. Haney has 15 saves and a 2.34 ERA.
These two teams field the ball equally well and I don't mean that as an exaggeration. They both have fielding percentages of exactly .974.
Dallas Baptist is solid at all the most important positions. Catcher Duncan McAlpine doesn't field the ball as well as some other catchers still in the tournament, but his .970 fielding percentage is passable.
Shortstop Joel Hutter is very solid, with a .947 fielding percentage. Second baseman Tyler Robbins is an elite infielder. He only made two errors all season, good for a sparkling .993 fielding percentage.
Cal is led up the middle by Marcus Semien and Tony Renda. No player in the regular playing rotation has a fielding percentage lower than .955.
Dallas Baptist will come into this super regional with an "us against the world" mentality. As an independent program, they have to work harder and be even more convincing as an at-large candidate to get a bid to the tournament.
Coach Dan Heefner has his team playing with a lot of confidence. On the way to winning the Fort Worth regional, they beat Oklahoma and TCU.
The Cal Bears take sticking together as a team to the next level. Up until early April, the Cal baseball program was going to cease to exist after this season. They were on a mission to go out with a bang.
Even though their program has been reinstated and saved for the time being, the Bears have continued on their mission to have a season for the ages. Dave Esquer won't soon let his team forget how close they were to not having a baseball team next season.
Neither coach has broken through to Omaha, but after this weekend, one of them will.