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A look at Arizona baseball’s Tucson Regional opponents

arizona-wildcats-college-baseball-tucson-regional-ncaa-tournament-grand-canyon-oklahoma-state-ucsb BRYAN TERRY/THE OKLAHOMAN via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Hi Corbett Field will be hosting an NCAA Tournament regional for the first time since 2012 this weekend when Arizona plays host to Oklahoma State, UC Santa Barbara and Grand Canyon.

Oklahoma State and UCSB meet at 1 p.m. PT, with Arizona and Grand Canyon meeting for the third time this season at 7 p.m. PT. Two more games apiece are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, with a seventh game (if needed) set for Monday.

Here’s a closer look at the teams the UA (40-15) needs to deal with in order to make the Super Regionals, which as the No. 5 national seed would host at Hi Corbett:

Oklahoma State

  • Record: 35-17-1, 12-12 Big 12 (4th)
  • RPI: 14
  • Best wins: vs. No. 2 Texas (x2), vs. No. 4 Vanderbilt, at No. 8 Texas Tech

Overview

The Cowboys come to Tucson playing some of their best baseball, having reached the Big 12 tournament championship game on Sunday which they lost 10-7 to No. 6 national seed TCU. OK State got to the final by beating No. 2 national seed Texas the day before.

Coached by Josh Holliday, OK State is making its 47th NCAA appearance, 4th-most in tourney history, having made the Super Regionals in 2019 and reaching its last College World Series in 2016 (where Arizona beat the Cowboys two out of three times to reach the championship series).

OK State ranks 17th nationally in scoring, at 7.6 runs per game, and is in the top 30 in on-base percentage (.400) and slugging (.471). Its pitching staff has a solid 4.15 ERA, averaging 11.0 strikeouts per nine innings to rank eighth in the country.

Players to know

  • 3B Christian Encarnacion-Strand: The sophomore leads OK State in batting (.362), home runs (15) and RBI (66), leading the Big 12 in RBI. Prior to the Cowboys he was a junior college All-American at Yavapai JC, winning the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference Player of the Year in 2019.
  • 1B Jake Thompson: A .350 hitter, the junior led the Big 12 with a .505 on-base percentage thanks to 34 walks and 15 HBP against only 18 strikeouts in 188 plate appearances. OSU is his third Division I program, having also been on the rosters at South Dakota State and Kentucky.
  • RHP/1B Justin Campbell: The second-year freshman is OSU’s ace, posting a 7-1 record with a 2.08 ERA, second-best in the Big 12. He strikes out 12.0 batters per nine innings and has allowed only one run in his last three starts, tossing a no-hitter against Kansas on May 8. And for good measure he hits .269 with a homer and 10 RBI.

UC Santa Barbara

  • Record: 39-18, 29-11 Big West (2nd)
  • RPI: 51
  • Best wins: vs. Big West champ UC-Irvine, at UCLA

Overview

The Gauchos were the last team into the 64-team NCAA field, per ESPN2’s broadcast, strengthening their case by winning their final eight games by a combined score of 78-22. Coach Andrew Checketts has UCSB in the tourney for the fifth time since 2013, making the 2016 CWS (where it was eliminated by Arizona).

UCSB led the Big West in batting and are in the top 30 nationally in ERA, with three starters hitting better than .300. It had 82 stolen bases, with five guys swiping at least seven bases.

The Gauchos have won 17 road games, tied for third-most among NCAA tourney qualifiers,

Players to know

  • SS Jordan Sprinkle: The freshman leadoff hitter is batting .358 and led the Big West with 25 stolen bases. He’s riding a 9-game hitting streak, going 15 for 38 with 12 runs scored in that span.
  • LF Brock Mortensen: A sophomore, the lefty slugger has led the Big West with 15 home runs and is tied for the team lead with 51 RBI. He has five homers in the last 10 games.
  • LHP Rodney Boone: The sophomore is 10-4 with a 2.20 ERA, which ranks 24th in Division I, and in his last start he struck out 12 over eight shutout innings against Cal State Bakersfield. The 2019 Big West Newcomer of the Year is 20-5 in his career.

Grand Canyon

  • Record: 39-19-1, 29-7 WAC (T-1st)
  • RPI: 93
  • Best wins: vs. No. 5 Arizona, at Oklahoma State (tie), vs. ASU

Overview

The Antelopes are making their first NCAA Tournament appearance and will likely bring a large contingent of fans with them from Phoenix. They played at Hi Corbett on May 4, losing 13-2 to Arizona, after beating the Wildcats 5-4 in 10 innings at home on April 13.

Andy Stankiewicz, a former New York Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks infielder, won his 300th game as GCU’s coach in Saturday’s WAC title game victory over UTRGV.

GCU finished in the top two in the WAC in nearly every offensive and defensive category, and it has played 11 games against NCAA tourney qualifiers, including a tie at Oklahoma State in March.

Players to know

  • 1B Elijah Burries: The true freshman led GCU with a .365 batting average while hitting six home runs with 38 RBI and eight steals. He scored the game-winning run in the WAC title game.
  • SS Channy Ortiz: One of 24 Arizona natives on the roster, Ortiz is in his second stint with the Antelopes after playing a season at Yavapai JC in between. A .318 hitter with team highs in hits (70) and runs scored (56), he hit a walk-off home run to beat Arizona in April.
  • RHP Pierson Ohl: The junior is 10-1 with a 2.36 ERA, walking only 12 batters in 95.1 innings while throwing seven 7-inning complete games. He threw a 3-hit shutout with eight strikeouts against Sacramento State on Friday in the WAC semifinals.