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NCAA Baseball Tournament – Tucson Regional

NCAA Baseball Tournament – Tucson Regional

NCAA BASEBALL TOURNAMENT – TUCSON REGIONAL — Maybe it was Pac-12 nostalgia that landed Arizona a seed. Maybe it was the idea that the NCAA just couldn’t not seed the regular season and tournament champions in the league.

Whatever the reason, Arizona seems overseeded at No. 13. The Wildcats do have a pitching advantage, but they’ve also faced a rather soft Pac-12 schedule. They also went 1-3 against their region’s opponents, losing twice to Grand Canyon and falling once to Dallas Baptist.

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This regional seems wide open, especially with both Dallas Baptist and West Virginia boasting plenty of base stealers and quality pitching. This regional might be decided the first day, as the Patriots throw Ryan Johnson against the Mountaineers’ Derek Clark. Whichever team wins that game will have a decided advantage for the rest of the regional, as it will still have its No. 2 pitcher available to take on Arizona.

Players to Watch

If you like pitching, this is the regional for you. Ryan Johnson ranked second in the nation in ERA to Arkansas’ Hagen Smith and third in the nation in strikeouts. Johnson’s slider has proven devastating all year, and the Patriots’ hurler has 147 Ks to his name as a result. West Virginia counters with Derek Clark, who has held three of his past four opponents to two earned runs or less.

However, Arizona has the deepest rotation of anyone in the regional, as all three of its starters boast an ERA of 4.08 or better. The Wildcats have a pair of aces in Cam Walty and Clark Candiotti, which gives them a reasonable chance in the all-important second game.

On the offensive side, West Virginia’s been strengthened by having a healthy JJ Wetherholt. Wetherholt, potentially the No. 1 pick in the draft, leads the Mountaineers with a .356 batting average in an injury-shortened campaign. Dallas Baptist counters with third baseman Chayton Krauss, who bats .352 and hit 16 home runs. Even Grand Canyon, who’s not likely to make much impact, has a top hitter: Tyler Wilson bats .381 with 16 long balls.

The Favorite

Even though Arizona’s the No. 1 seed, the favorite has to be Dallas Baptist. The Patriots are in their ninth straight NCAA tournament appearance and can run opponents to death. DBU has swiped 86 bases on the season, and only Vanderbilt has more steals with fewer caught steals than DBU’s 16. Six Patriot starters have at least nine steals on the year, so anyone who gets on for DBU is a threat to go.

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Just as important, the Patriots know how to win. Dallas Baptist went 4-0 against Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, who were the two top teams in the Big 12 standings. They’ve won 11 of their past 12 games and went 19-8 away from home this season. They don’t have much depth on their bench, but they make up for it with a deep pitching staff. As a team, Dallas Baptist’s ERA sits at 3.98, eighth in the country.

Potential Surprise

If West Virginia can shake off its rough Big 12 tournament, it’s got a chance to make a run. The Mountaineers have never made a super regional before, but they have a reasonably quick lineup. They also boast a solid array of bullpen arms, which makes a big difference.

The rotation isn’t quite as deep as Arizona’s, which makes the first game crucial to the Mountaineers’ chances. If they have to come through the loser’s bracket, it’s going to be very difficult for West Virginia to win consecutive games over either the Wildcats or the Patriots.

There’s too much uncertainty with Arizona to trust the Wildcats, even with their pitching. To me, the winner of this regional will come down to the winner of Dallas Baptist and West Virginia.


  • Dan Angell, Contributor

    Dan is originally from Virginia and has covered basketball games across the country over the past 18 years. He now resides in Indianapolis and loves a good defensive showcase. His Twitter @danangell11.

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