The Arizona Wildcats made their way through a four-team Regional and best-of-three Super Regional to reach the College World Series.
To win the National Championship, they’ll have to do each in Omaha.
First up is the "Regional" format, where Arizona is matched up with the Miami Hurricanes, UC-Santa Barbara Gauchos and Oklahoma State Cowboys in what is essentially a four-team double-elimination tournament.
SATURDAY’S GAME SCHEDULE (Both games on ESPN2 and Watch ESPN)
Noon PT — OSU vs. UCSB
5 PM PT -- Arizona vs. Miami
The Hurricanes are in Omaha after piling up a 50-12 record this year (best winning percentage in the nation), including a 5-1 record in NCAA postseason play to this point. Their lone loss was in the second game of their Super Regional against Boston College. The Eagles won that game 5-3. The Canes also played two games against West Coast power Long Beach State in the Coral Gables Regional. Miami won those games 4-3 (11 innings) and 9-8.
This is the second-straight year Miami has been in the CWS, and the seventh time since 2001.
For the last part of the year, Miami threw Thomas Woodrey on Fridays, with Andrew Cabezas often coming on in relief for him. Woodrey actually has the worst numbers of the Miami starting pitchers, posting a 4.98 ERA, .305 opponents’ batting average and a 5-4 record. Cabezas has a 5.26 ERA.
Woodrey led the Hurricanes in just about every pitching stat last year, and has the team’s last complete game, shutting out Georgia Tech on May 14th, 2015. This year, Jesse Lepore (9-0) leads the starting pitchers in ERA with a 2.20 ERA. Michael Mediavilla has the most wins with an 11-1 record in 17 starts.
Miami relies heavily on two relievers: Bryan Garcia and Frankie Bartow. Garcia is the closer, recording 18 saves (2nd in the country) while giving up a team-best .184 opponents’ batting average. Bartow has appeared in 41 games this year (most in the country), chalking up a 6-0 record. He only walked nine guys in 52 2/3 innings. That would be the best BBs/9IP ratio in the country as well.
To become the third-ranked team in the country, you need a potent offense to go along with a pitching staff like this, and that’s just what Miami has. The Hurricanes are similar to Arizona in a lot of ways. Their .300 team batting average is only eight points higher than the Wildcats. The two are tied for third in the nation with 77 sac bunts. Arizona is 16th in walks drawn. Miami is 17th.
The biggest difference is home runs, where Miami almost doubles up the Cats (49 to 25). Yeah, you can attribute this to having to play in Hi Corbett, but it shouldn’t go overlooked. In fact, the Hurricanes can surpass Arizona’s home run total with just two guys — Zack Collins has 15 and Willie Abreu has 12.
Collins also has the second-best batting average on the team, hitting .357 in 60 games played. He also has 75 walks this year (most in the country), giving him an on-base percentage of .538, the second-best mark in the nation.
The best batting average owned by a Miami player is the .385 mark held by Brandon Lopez. Johnny Ruiz and Carl Chester round out the group hitting above .340 this year. Chester has also been hit by a pitch 19 times this year, which is in the top-ten nationally.
This is the best all-around team Arizona will have faced this year. They’ve shown they can take down teams like this (Mississippi State last weekend), but it’ll take the Wildcats playing above their level again.
OKLAHOMA STATE PREVIEW
The Cowboys ride a 41-20 record into Omaha, the first time this program has made the CWS since 1999. They are 5-0 in the NCAA postseason so far, taking the Clemson Regional and the Columbia Super Regional for the clean sweep of South Carolina powerhouses.
If Arizona were to play OSU, it would likely be the second game of the week. This means that they’d probably face Tyler Buffett on the mound. Buffett only started two games in the regular season, but has started against both Clemson and South Carolina the last two weekends. He lasted seven innings in both of those games, which is a season high for him. In those 14 innings, Buffett has allowed just two earned runs and 15 hits. Prior to this, he was the Cowboys’ closer, recording nine saves.
OSU actually has three different pitchers that have both games started and saves this year, so they’ll have a lot of flexibility with their pitching situation throughout the CWS.
This team does not rely on its offense. Their team batting average of .268 was 9th in the Big 12. R.J. Davis and Donnie Walton lead this team at the plate, and have put up similar numbers to each other. Both tend not to get extra-base hits, get a fair share of walks, and can be aggressive on the base paths.
I will start this by saying that of all the teams I’ve seen in person this year, UCSB was the most impressive.
Just like the Cowboys, the Gauchos are undefeated in the NCAA postseason thus far after sweeping arguably the most talented team in the country, Louisville, in last weekend’s Super Regional thanks to possibly the greatest moment in the history of college baseball.
This is real...— NCAA Baseball (@NCAACWS) June 12, 2016
A walk-off GRAND SLAM to go to Omaha by UC Santa Barbara's Sam Cohen! #CWShttps://t.co/avSzj06I9t
UCSB holds an overall record of 42-18-1 this year, and Andrew Checketts is a finalist for National Coach of the Year. If Checketts gets to face off against Arizona, it will be a battle of the guy who got the head coaching job against the strongest contender who did not wind up in Tucson. Checketts has done amazing things at UCSB, leading this program to its first-ever CWS this year.
With Shane Bieber (12-3) likely getting the start in their first game, Arizona would probably face Noah Davis (6-4) in game two. The freshman righty has a 4.70 ERA this year, and just a 5.56 mark in postseason play. The Wildcats could also see Joe Record on the mound. Record’s record is 6-5 this year, and has a slightly better ERA than Davis, putting up a 3.91 number.
The conversation about the Gaucho offense has to start with Austin Bush. His 11 HRs and 49 RBI are by far the most on the team. His problem is he doesn’t get enough regular hits (.269 batting average) and is only third on the team in walks, leading to a .350 on-base percentage.
No player that has played the majority of the season is hitting above .300. In fact, UCSB is 205th in team batting average this year with a .262 mark. The thing they do best is getting hit by pitches. 91 times has a Gaucho been hit by a pitched ball, 8th-most in the country. They also manufacture runs well, ranking in the top 22 in both sac bunts and sac flies.
These are obviously three of the best teams that Arizona will see all year. It should be a highly-competitive bracket, and it’s too bad that only one of these teams will have a shot at the best-of-three Championship Final.