When the Arizona Wildcats begin their quest for a second consecutive College World Series appearance on Friday, they will be faced with some familiar sights and faces.
Arizona is the 2-seed in the Lubbock Regional, a place where they lost 13-1 to No. 5 National Seed Texas Tech on March 7th. But the Wildcats’ first game is against Sam Houston State, a team that UA faced twice in the Regional round last year, winning those games 7-3 and 6-5.
This year, Sam Houston State went 40-20 overall, but finished 3rd in the Southland behind McNeese State and Southeastern Louisiana. SHSU made a run in the conference tournament this past weekend though, earning the conference’s auto-bid. SE LA is the 2-seed in the Baton Rouge Regional, while Arizona non-conference opponent McNeese State got left out.
SHSU returns seven of the starters from last year’s games against Arizona. They also add junior college transfer Blake Chisolm, who also played a year at Furman. Chisolm is the team’s leading hitter this season, putting up a .355 average in 166 ABs. The Bearkats have seven regular starters hitting above .300 this year, and they hit .307 as a team, which is 23rd nationally.
Both starting pitchers Arizona faced are also back this season. Heath Donica and Dakota Mills both have double digit starts, and Donica has posted an ERA of 1.69 in 101 innings. It’s very likely that a JC Cloney/Heath Donica showdown is coming on Friday night.
The Red Raiders are the No. 5 overall seed, and already beat Arizona 13-1 earlier this year. Tech went 43-15 this year, went 16-8 in a deep Big 12, and they have a record of 16-11 against the RPI top 50.
Texas Tech hits .306 as a team and outscores its opponents by an average of three runs per game. If Arizona were to get the Red Raiders on Saturday, it would be a tough matchup for Cameron Ming.
Not only do they get a lot of hits, but they hit for power. The Red Raiders are 23rd nationally in slugging percentage, and average nearly a home run per game. They’re also fourth in the country in triples.
The Blue Hens did most of their damage at home this year, posting a record of 21-4 at their own ballpark. However, they were just 13-17 away from comfort, and only 2-4 against the RPI top 100.
They are also a prolific offensive team, posting a .313 team batting average (14th in the country). Their slugging percentage is also absurd (.487 - 13th).
Three different Blue Hens have hit double digit home runs this year. Sophomore infielder Nick Patten leads the way with 14, while senior catcher Brian Mayer has 11 and senior outfielder Jordan Glover has 10.
Their pitching depth will be the concern for them as they try to stun the field. Only one guy (Jr. RHP Ron Marinaccio) has an ERA below 3.20, and the majority of their pitchers sit somewhere in the 4.30-6.20 range. Like most four-seeds, that will likely lead to their demise against some of the top teams in the country.
Texas Tech and Delaware will begin play in Lubbock at Noon PT on Friday. Arizona and SHSU will start at approximately 4 PM PT, or 55 minutes after the first game ends. Both games will be shown on WatchESPN and the ESPN app.