Dallas Baptist closer Brandon Koch (DBU Athletics)

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2015 Dallas Regional Preview

Dallas Regional Participants

Dallas Baptist

Patriots

Dallas, TX

43-13

15-6 (2nd MVC)

At-Large

Roster

Statistics

Oregon State

Beavers

Corvallis, OR

38-16-1

19-10-1 (2nd Pac-12)

At-Large

Roster

Statistics

Texas

Longhorns

Austin, TX

30-25

11-13 (5th Big 12)

Automatic

Roster

Statistics

VCU

Rams

Richmond, VA

37-22

14-10 (T-4th Atlantic 10)

Automatic

Roster

Statistics

Regional Superlatives

Most Exciting Player: Brandon Koch, rhp, Dallas Baptist. Certain closers — usually the ones who pop high 90s on the radar gun — create a buzz in the stadium when they take the mound. Koch is one of those guys.

Best Hitter: Jeff Hendrix, of, Oregon State. The best all-around player in this regional, Hendrix trails only DBU’s Drew Turbin in batting and OBP, but he’s driven the ball with more authority, slugging .545.

Best Defensive Player: C.J Hinojosa, ss, Texas. Nagging injuries have hampered Hinojosa this season, but he’s still a heady playmaker with sure hands and a rare feel for the game, making his fringy range play up.

Best Pitcher: Andrew Moore, rhp, Oregon State. With apologies to Koch and his absurd 16.2 strikeouts per nine innings rate, Moore gets the nod because he has maintained an elite level of performance (1.73 ERA, 103-19 K-BB) over 114.2 innings. Few college pitchers can match Moore’s pitchability, toughness and track record.

X-Factor: Connor Mayes, rhp, Texas. The talented freshman has shored up Texas’ leaky rotation down the stretch, throwing a two-hit shutout in the Big 12 tournament against Baylor. His emergence changes the complexion of UT’s staff.

Best Starting Rotation: Oregon State. Moore is the veteran anchor for a very young but very talented staff. The Beavers follow him with a pair of quality newcomers with swing-and-miss stuff: freshman Drew Rasmussen and juco transfer Travis Eckert.

Best Bullpen: Dallas Baptist. In case you missed it earlier, let me repeat that Brandon Koch strikeout rate: 16.2 batters per nine innings. Chance Adams and Drew Smith give the Patriots a pair of very able setup men, too.

Best Offensive Team: Dallas Baptist. DBU leads these four regional teams in the triple-slash categories (.290/.380/.445) as well as home runs (50) and doubles (123). No other team in this field has more than 87 doubles.

Best Defensive Team: Oregon State. The Beavers are rock-solid up the middle thanks to SS Caleb Hamilton, 2B Christian Donahue, speedy CF Jeff Hendrix and catch-and-throw whiz Logan Ice. All four teams take care of the baseball, but OSU has the most standout defenders.

Best Name: Added this bonus category just for this regional, because never has a regional featured so many hall of fame names. Scotland Church, Trooper Reynolds, Tagg Duce, Vimael Machin, Nash Knight, Daniel Sweet, Logan Ice, Kirby Bellow and Walker Haymaker will all compete in the same glorious regional. And the winner is … Scotland Church, by a nose.

No. 1 Seed Win Probability (1-10): 5. I’m picking Dallas Baptist to win this regional, but OSU and Texas are two very worthy challengers – especially the Beavers, who finished second in the Pac-12 and had a strong case to host a regional themselves. And VCU is a dangerous No. 4 seed with a chance to pull off a Friday upset.

Team Breakdowns

Dallas Baptist

Dallas Baptist RHP Joseph Shaw (DBU Athletics)Dallas Baptist RHP Joseph Shaw (DBU Athletics)

The Patriots carried significant expectations into 2015 — even garnering “preseason Omaha sleeper” status from one writer on this site (ahem). They got off to a strong start, winning quality road series at San Diego and Oral Roberts, then kept on chugging. DBU spent a large chunk of the season ranked No. 1 in the RPI and finished at No. 2, but it did not earn a national seed after finishing three games behind Missouri State in the MVC. The Patriots didn’t deserve a national seed — but they do have Omaha-caliber talent, and it would be a mistake to dismiss their No. 1 seed as a product of a fluky RPI year in the Valley. DBU lacks the name recognition of Oregon State and Texas, but it is the favorite in this regional nonetheless.

Dallas Baptist stands out most for its stable of flame-throwing righthanders on the mound. Joseph Shaw made a seamless transition from the bullpen into the No. 1 starter role this year, showing the ability to hold his low-90s velocity, bump 93-95 and miss bats with a quality slider. No. 2 starter Cory Taylor might be even more electric, with a heavy 90-94 fastball that reaches 96 along with a solid curveball and developing slider. The No. 3 spot has been a revolving door, but freshman Dalton Higgins pitched well in two starts down the stretch, and DBU has plenty of depth behind him. The bullpen has a pair of overpowering arms in closer Brandon Koch (who pitches at 93-97 with a devastating mid-80s slider) and Drew Smith (who also features a plus fastball and hard slider). Few pitching staffs can match DBU’s firepower on the mound, but the offense is also very good, with tough outs up and down the lineup. The Patriots are built to wear out the gaps and rack up doubles (they rank 18th in the country in that category), led by seniors Drew Turbin and Tagg Duce, the team’s top two hitters. Justin Wall, David Martinelli and Trooper Reynolds add home run power, while athletich switch-hitter Daniel Sweet and undersized grinder Camden Duzenack spark the offense from the top of the order. This lineup is legitimately nine deep.

Oregon State

Andrew Moore (Oregon State)Andrew Moore (Oregon State)

The Beavers had to reload after losing a raft of key veterans from the club that earned the No. 1 national seed in last year’s tournament. OSU brought in an elite recruiting class, and it took some time for its freshmen to gel, but coach Pat Casey got his young bunch to play its best down the stretch, winning its last six series to finish second in the Pac-12. It helps that the Beavers have a rock-solid ace atop the staff in Andrew Moore, a slam-dunk All-American with advanced command of a solid four-pitch mix. Freshman No. 2 starter Drew Rasmussen burst onto the scene with a perfect game against Washington State in March, and when he commands his 90-93 fastball and excellent slider, he can be dominant. Third starter Travis Eckert, a junior-college transfer, attacks hitters with an 89-92 fastball and a nice 77 mph curve. Another talented freshman, Mitch Hickey (4-1, 2.05, 10 SV), anchors the bullpen with a heater that bumps 94. Oregon State’s deep pitching staff is its strength: the staff has allowed the third-fewest hits per nine innings in Division I, and it ranks sixth in WHIP and 11th in ERA (2.88).

An airtight defense (15th in the nation with a .977 fielding percentage) makes Oregon State a run prevention machine. Losing standout defensive shortstop Trever Morrison to a hand injury at the end of April was a setback, but scrappy sophomore Caleb Hamilton has done an outstanding job in his place and has provided a spark in the No. 2 hole in the lineup. Dynamic center fielder Jeff Hendrix (.341/.447/.545) is OSU’s best player, a stellar defender with speed, surprising pop and a patient offensive approach. And Oregon State has a game-changing slugger behind him in national freshman of the year candidate KJ Harrison (.314/.408/.543, 10 HR, 58 RBI). How Oregon State’s precocious freshmen handle the pressure of their first NCAA tournament will determine how far the Beavers can go.

Texas

Parker French (Texas)Parker French (Texas)

Through 14 weeks, Texas was one of college baseball’s biggest disappointments — a preseason top-10 club coming off a final four showing at the College World Series that finished below .500 in the Big 12 and had no shot at an at-large regional bid. Then the Longhorns saved their season with four straight wins at the conference tournament to snag a surprise automatic bid. Pitching carried Texas to the title, allowing just seven runs total in those four games. Senior bulldog Parker French (5-3, 2.33), who throws strikes with solid but not overwhelming stuff, tossed a complete game in the opener and bounced back to earn the win in relief against Oklahoma State in the title game. The ‘Horns had to remake their rotation on the fly down the stretch, getting quality contributions from wily lefty Ty Culbreth as well as talented freshmen Connor Mayes and Kyle Johnston. But none of those three is a particularly experienced starter, as all three have made just four starts this season. The bullpen does have experience, leaning heavily on senior lefty Kirby Bellow (1.04 ERA, 5 SV) and junior lefty Travis Duke. It’s a staff that relies on its defense to make plays behind it, because Texas does not miss many bats, ranking outside the national top 200 in strikeouts per nine innings.

Fortunately, the defense is sound, led by instinctive shortstop C.J. Hinojosa, rock-solid outfielder Zane Gurwitz (.993 fielding percentage), and strong-armed catcher Tres Barrera. The biggest reason Texas struggled all season was its offense, which simply did not produce enough quality at-bats in key situations. Texas’ 40 home runs are nearly double last year’s total, as Barrera (9 HR), Hinojosa (7), leading hitter Ben Johnson (5) and doubles machine Collin Shaw (5) are capable of hurting opponents. But for Texas to win, it must execute Garrido’s small-ball style, not swing for the fences.

VCU

Virginia Commonwealth logoThe Rams headed into the season as the favorites in the A-10 thanks to the return of seven senior pitchers and a lineup that remained mostly intact from the previous season. They wound up finishing fourth in the standings but caught fire down the stretch, winning their last seven regular-season games then going 4-0 in the conference tournament to snag the automatic bid. VCU is a dangerous No. 4 seed thanks largely to its all-senior rotation of LHP JoJo Howie (7-6, 2.95), LHP Heath Dwyer (9-2, 2.95) and RHP Matt Blanchard (2-3, 4.20). Howie, who threw a five-hit shutout in the A-10 tournament opener, is a soft-tosser who mixes four pitches and thrives off his emotion. Dwyer has a bit more velocity, with a fastball that reaches 88 along with good command of his curveball and changeup. Blanchard has better stuff, with a low-90s fastball and a 12-to-6 curve, but command can be an issue. Another senior, Daniel Concepcion (2.91 ERA, 11 SV), anchors the bullpen with a four-pitch mix highlighted by a heater that bumps 92 and a plus changeup.

Offensively, VCU is a hard-nosed club that finds a way to get on base by any means necessary — as evidenced by its Division I-leading 104 hit-by-pitches. Senior SS Vimael Machin (.330/.388/.438) is the team’s best overall player and one of the best in this regional, a tough out who also plays very sound defense at shortstop (.956). Second-leading hitter Logan Farrar (.326/.415/.446), has the team’s best tool set, with 6.6-second speed and occasional pop. Third baseman Matt Davis (.321/.409/.468, 7 HR, 43 RBI) took a big step forward this year to emerge as VCU’s primary power threat. The offense is sound, and the defense is a big strength, ranking 24th in the nation in fielding percentage (.976). Don’t overlook the veteran Rams in this regional – they’ve got a real chance to make some noise in a bracket loaded with much bigger names.

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