Houston, Tex.– The 2012 NCAA Baseball Tournament begins on June 1 with 64 teams vying for a shot to advance to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. Of the 16 regionals taking place one could argue that the Rice regional is one of the tougher brackets in play.
No. 1 seed Rice Owls
Rice earned one of 16 regional seeds awarded by the NCAA selection committee after winning Conference USA’s regular season title, their 17th straight regular season conference title, with an overall record of 40-17 before losing to Memphis and Southern Miss in their conference tournament.
In nonconference play the Owls took on 2012 tourney teams such as Dallas Baptist, Stanford, Arizona, Texas A&M, UAB, and UCF on their way to posting 40 plus wins for the 18th consecutive year.
Rice’s pitching staff is led by All-American Matthew Reckling (8-2, 2.90 ERA). Reckling led the Blue and Grey in innings pitched (83.2), strikeouts thrown (97), wins (8), and complete games (2).
The Owls have the luxury of trotting out starting pitchers Andrew Benak (7-2, 2.70 ERA) and Austin Kubitza (6-4, 2.96 ERA) during theHoustonregional. Be prepared to see long reliever Taylor Wall (6-4, 3.19 ERA) should an Owl pitcher get in a jam in the early rounds.
J. T. Charqois (4-1, 2.25 ERA, 8 saves) and Tyler Duffey (1-1, 1.71 ERA, 6 saves) have alternated closing games out for Rice.
Offensively Rice is fueled primarily by three players- Christian Stringer, .348 average, 36 RBI, Jeremy Rathjen, .333 average, 9 homeruns, 41 RBI, and Michael Fuda, .303 average, 7 homeruns, 44 RBI.
As a team Rice posted a .284 batting average on the season. If opposing pitchers can slow down the big three of the Owls, trouble could be had for the regional host.
Runs have come easy for the Owls during the 2012 season but not so much for their opponents. The Blue and Grey have outscored the opposition by a margin of 332 to 192.
With a team ERA of 2.91 Rice cannot be taken lightly. Despite playing well in tough nonconference games, have the Owls seen enough quality pitching and hitters throughout the Conference USA season to be prepared for a run to Omaha?
No. 2 seed Arkansas Razorbacks
The Arkansas Razorbacks have a chance for redemption in the 2012 post season. The Hogs underperformed during conference play and not just by fan and media expectations but by Arkansas Head Coach Dave Van Horn’s expectations.
Van Horn ripped his team for over 40 minutes after a disappointing Sunday and series loss to Auburn at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville. The Hogs swept Tennessee to finish their regular season but went two and out in the SEC Tournament only scoring one run in 18 innings of play.
The Hogs had two starting pitchers taking turns as team ace throughout the season, D.J. Baxendale, 7-4, 3.02 ERA, and Ryne Stanek, 6-4, 3.09 ERA. On FridayArkansaswill take no chances against the Bearkats of Sam Houston State as they will see D.J. Baxendale to start their 2012 NCAA Tournament.
Arkansas has as deep of a bullpen and pitching staff as one can find in college baseball posting a team ERA of 2.99 in 2012.
Van Horn can call on Brandon Moore as a long reliever, 4-2, 2.66 ERA in 64.1 innings pitched, Randall Font, 2-2, 3.59 ERA in 42.2 innings pitched, or Nolan Sanburn, 3-1, 2.78 ERA, should the Hogs starters get in trouble early.
Cade Lynch (3-1, 2.11 ERA) and Colby Suggs (6-0, 1.32 ERA) have been terrific as set-up men leading to team closer Barret Astin (3-5, 2.31 ERA with 9 saves).
At the plate the Hogs are led by third baseman Matt Reynolds (.340). Reynolds is an All-SEC performer and third team All-American in 2012.
Reynolds posted team high marks in batting average (.340), homeruns (7), RBI (41), doubles (18), total bases (107), and runs scored (44).
Short stop Tim Carver (.313) and first baseman Dominic Ficociello (.309) flittered with the team’s lead in batting average throughout the season until the last weeks of the season.
Freshman Brian Anderson has provided a much needed spark for the Razorback offense over the final three weeks of SEC play. Anderson finished the year hitting .307 after appearing in 37 games and starting in 23 of those contests.
Arkansas ended the year hitting .279 at the plate, sixth best in the SEC.
The Hogs should not be intimidated by any team they may face in the Rice regional. Arkansas notched quality wins against Kentucky, Mississippi State, Ole Miss,Florida, and South Carolina during the 2012 college baseball season.
No. 3 seed Sam Houston State Bearkats
The Bearkats enter the tournament with an overall record of 38-20 (24-9 in conference) and winners of the regular season Southland Conference title; their first since 1989.
Sam Houston State played a balanced non-conference schedule against tournament teams including Texas A&M,Baylor,UT-Arlington, Dallas Baptist, and two potential bracket foes in Rice and Prairie View A&M.
The Bearkats notched quality wins over Houston, Rice, and Dallas Baptist on their way to post season action.
Sam Houston state has a great balance of hitting and pitching. As a team the Bearkats are hitting .295 led by catcher/first base man/designated hitter Antony Azar’s .382 average. Other top sluggers on the team includes: third baseman Kevin Miller .324, center fielder Colt Atwood .317, and first baseman Ryan O’Hearn .312.
The Bearkats can be viewed as another version of the Arkansas Razorbacks at the plate and on the mound. They have no true power hitters on the team but show patience at the plate and use gap hitting as their power hitting.
Right fielder Jarke Arrington has nine triples on the year pacing the way to the team’s 25 overall.
Seven Bearkats have 20 or more RBI on the year.
Sam Houston State will work the count, draw walks, and use situational hitting to string together scoring opportunities.
Skipper David Pierce, a former Rice assistant coach for the previous nine years, can have confidence giving the ball to four different starters with 68 or more innings pitched, three of which earned seven or more wins in 2012- Michael Oros 7-1, 2.67 ERA, Justin Jackson 8-4, 2.93 ERA, and Caleb Smith 8-5, 3.00 ERA.
Michael Burchett leads Sam Houston State with eight saves but Pierce was able to get saves from Scott Allen (4), Brandon Bergen (3), Michael Oros (2), and Taylor Holt (1).
The pitching staff posted a season ERA of 3.42, not far off ofArkansas’ 2.99.
Caleb Smith is the strikeout artist for the Bearkats getting 80 on the year. He also led the team in innings pitched (90) and tied Justin Jackson for the most complete games thrown with two.
No. 4 seed Prairie View A&M
Prairie View A&M (28-23) earned their first regional spot in the NCAA field of 64 since 2007 by winning the Southwestern Conference Tournament title.
Fourth year Panthers skipper Waskyla Cullivan (86-104 overall record) is making his first showing in the NCAA tourney as head coach of Prairie View A&M.
If the Panthers hope to win their first NCAA regional game in school history (0-4) they will need ace pitcher Derrick Mitchell (6-4, 3.09 ERA) to provide a quality start.
If Mitchell can work the innings to closer Daniel Castillo (5-0, 1.83 ERA with 6 saves) Prairie View A&M might be able to knock Rice into the loser’s bracket.
Catcher Evan Richard posted a .385 batting average in the SWAC Tournament to earn MVP honors.
In each of their last three appearances in regional action, the Panthers have played each time at the Rice regional.
Every game of the Rice regional will be carried live online at OwlVision All Access.
Rice Regional and NCAA Tournament Factoids
Arkansas is appearing in a NCAA regional for the 11th straight year, 25th overall.
Sam Houston State’s Anthony Azar had multi hit games of 15 two-hits, 4 three-hits, and 2 four-hits.
Kevin Miller posted a 15-game hit streak for the Bearkats in 2012, the longest on the team.
Rice pitcher Matthew Reckling will get to add to his 2012 All-American stats at his home field, Reckling Park.
Sam Houston State, out of the Southland conference, did not win the conference’s automatic bid by winning their tournament. Texas-Arlington won the 2012 Southland tournament and earned a No. 3 seed in the Baylor regional.
Rice split the regular season series against Sam Houston State going 1-1; lost 2-1 on April 3 and won 5-0 on May 15 in Huntsville.
The Razorbacks have played against 10 tournament teams posting a win-loss record of 12-15- Valparaiso 2-1, Mississippi State 2-2, LSU 0-3, Kentucky 1-2, Ole Miss 1-3, Oklahoma 0-1, Oral Roberts 1-0, Florida 2-1, Missouri 2-0, and South Carolina 1-2.
Sam Houston State is 6-10 against 2012 tournament teams.
The Hogs posted a 17-16 record after starting the season 22-3.
Arkansas Razorback relief pitcher Cade Lynch spent his time during the 2012 SEC Tournament at a Hoover, Ala.area hospital suffering from migraine headaches.
Derrick Bleeker and Tim Carver suffered wrist injuries while playing in the 2012 SEC Tournament. How will the injuries affect their play at the plate?
South Carolina has an opportunity to become the first college baseball team since the 1970-74 USC Trojans to win three or more consecutive NCAA baseball championships.
The Florida Gators earned the No. 1 overall seed for the 2012 baseball tournament. The last No. 1 seed to win the College World Series was Miami in 1999.
Miami is in the NCAA Tournament for the 40th consecutive year, extending their NCAA baseball record of consecutive appearances.
Arkansas posted the 15th best team ERA in Division-I baseball, 2.99.
Rice had the 9th best team ERA in Division-I baseball, 2.91.
Best NCAA Tournament team no one is considering, Samford!
Topics: 2012 Houston Regional Information, Arkansas, Arkansas Razorbacks, Baseball, College Baseball, College World Series, D.J. Baxendale, Matthew Reckling, Prairie View A&M, Razorbacks, Rice Regional, Rice Regional Overview, Rice University, Ryne Stanek, Sam Houston State, SEC Baseball, University Of Arkansas