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2005 Record (Ranking): 56-16 (1) RPI: 1
Coach (Record): Augie Garrido (391-193-1, 9 years)
C Preston Clark (R-Fr., HS--Rockwall, Texas)
1B Chance Wheeless (Jr., .314, 6 HR, 45 RBI, 2 SB)
2B Clay Van Hook (Jr. .266, 14 RBI, 6 SB)
3B Bradley Suttle (Fr., HS--Boerne, Texas)
SS Chais Fuller (So., Tr.--Sacramento City College)
LF Carson Kainer (Jr., .312, 3 HR, 31 RBI, 5 SB)
CF Drew Stubbs (Jr., .311, 11 HR, 46 RBI, 32 SB)
RF Nick Peoples (Jr., .306, 1 HR, 25 RBI, 13 SB)
DH Jordan Danks (Fr., HS--Round Rock, Texas)
RHP Kyle McCulloch (Jr., 12-4, 2.92 ERA, 139 IP, 99 K)
RHP Adrian Alaniz (R-So., 8-3, 2.67 ERA, 108 IP, 94 K)
RHP Kenn Kasparek (So., 8-0, 2.10 ERA, 73 IP, 46 K)
RP Randy Boone (Jr., 7-4, 3.46 ERA, 109 IP, 95 K )
It's impossible to play coach Augie Garrido's pitching-and-defense style without great pitching, so returning the top four starters from a 2005 team that ranked fourth nationally with a 2.80 ERA makes for a solid foundation.
Add to that a likely first-round pick patrolling center field and one of the nation's best recruiting classes, and the Longhorns stand a great chance to become the first team to repeat as national champions since Louisiana State did so in 1996-97. Texas also could become the fifth team since 1981 to open the year ranked No. 1 and finish there. Story
2005 Record (Ranking): 43-23 (14) RPI: 7
Coach (Record): Jack Leggett (555-243, 12 years)
C Adrian Casanova (Sr., .238, 4 HR, 27 RBI)
1B Andy D'Alessio (Jr., .276, 15 HR, 60 RBI, 1 SB)
2B Taylor Harbin (So. .343, 10 HR, 63 RBI, 4 SB)
3B Herman Demmink (Sr., .345, 4 HR, 41 RBI, 9 SB)
SS Stan Widmann (So., .289, 4 HR, 25 RBI, 7 SB)
LF Tyler Colvin (Jr., .285, 5 HR, 53 RBI, 12 SB)
CF Brad Chalk (So., .350, 11 RBI, 5 SB)
RF Travis Storrer (Sr. , .346, 6 HR, 43 RBI)
DH Marquez Smith (Jr. Tr.--Daytona Beach (Fla.) CC)
RHP Jason Berken* (R-Jr., 5-1, 2.53 ERA, 46 IP, 40 K)
RHP Stephen Faris (Jr., 6-4, 2.60 ERA, 97 IP, 79 K)
RHP Josh Cribb (Sr., 8-5, 3.54 ERA, 109 IP, 97 K)
RP Steve Richard# (Jr., 9-1, 2.07 ERA, 100 IP, 90 K)
*Stats from 2004
# Stats at Maine
Offense: DH Kris Harvey took 25 of the team's 76 home runs with him to pro ball, but Clemson should still hit with any team in the country. The Tigers pound the gaps with doubles. Harbin, a first-team all-conference performer as a freshman, ranked second nationally with 28 doubles, and Colvin (22), Demmink (17) and Storrer (15) did plenty of wall-banging as well. Chalk showed little power as a freshman but topped the team with a .458 on-base percentage and should again ignite the offense from the leadoff spot. Widmann, who had a game-winning hit against Baylor in last year's super-regional, has the tools and athleticism to develop into an offensive asset.
Pitching/Defense: Faris starts this season in the weekend rotation after working his way into and atop it a year ago. Cribb and RHP David Kopp (4-3, 4.61) return as the Nos. 3 and 4 starters. Clemson lost its other weekend starter in Robert Rohrbaugh (8-3, 4.22) and most trusted reliever in Jeff Hahn (4-1, 3.13), but their replacements should prove even better. Berken, Clemson's best pitcher in 2004, returns after missing 2005 following Tommy John surgery. Richard led the America East in wins and ERA as a starter and takes his power arm to the closer's role.
X Factor: Berken's power repertoire should make him an elite Friday starter. His fastball peaked at 94 mph during the fall, and he added a hard slider in the low 80s to compliment his curveball. And, as with many TJ survivors, he returned with better command of his changeup. Berken will work under precautionary pitch counts early on, but Clemson will unleash him as the year moves on.
2005 Record (Ranking): 48-23 (2) RPI: 5
Coach (Record): Pat McMahon (174-85-1, 4 years)
C Brian Jeroloman (Jr., .298, 8 HR, 49 RBI, 2 SB)
1B Matt LaPorta (Jr., .328, 26 HR, 79 RBI, 3 SB)
2B Matt Gaski (So., .364, 1 RBI)
3B Brandon McArthur (R-So., .268, 2 HR, 30 RBI, 1 SB)
SS Adam Davis (Jr., .306, 12 HR, 63 RBI, 24 SB)
LF Gavin Dickey (Jr., .292, 3 HR, 20 RBI, 8 SB)
CF Brian Leclerc (Jr., .277, 15 HR, 64 RBI, 5 SB)
RF Stephen Barton (Sr., .295, 26 RBI, 10 SB)
DH Jared Kubin (So., .292, 2 HR, 18 RBI, 2 SB)
RHP Bryan Ball (Sr., 7-6, 3.45 ERA, 102 IP, 72 K)
RHP Michael Branham (So., 0-0, 5.87 ERA, 8 IP, 6 K)
RHP Bryan Augenstein (So., 0-0, 7.88 ERA, 16 IP, 13 K)
RP Darren O'Day (Sr., 8-3 2.87 ERA, 69 IP, 63 K)
Offense: Just three NCAA Tournament teams averaged more home runs per game than Florida in 2005, and the Gators return the players responsible for 71 of those 85 homers. More than a third of that total comes from LaPorta, the reigning Division I home run champ. Kubin earns a regular role after a year of limited duty and gives Florida five players with double-figure home run potential. LaPorta might shift to third at times to allow Bryson Barber or transfer Austin Pride to play first for an offensive boost. The lineup's experience, power and versatility (with the speedy Davis and Dickey) should make up for the .358-10-53 contributions from departed senior Jeff Corsaletti.
Pitching/Defense: Staff ace Alan Horne (10-2, 4.05) and shortstop Justin Tordi signed pro contracts just before classes resumed, with Tordi's departure (as a 41st-round pick) the most unexpected. Davis slides over from second to replace him. After Ball and O'Day offer guts and experience, the rest of the staff looks as green as the school mascot following the graduation of starter Tommy Boss (9-4, 4.11) and rubber-armed reliever Connor Falkenbach (51 appearances, nine saves) and the loss of Stephen Locke (5-2, 4.04 as a freshman) to Tommy John surgery. Sophomore RHP Andy Gale (3-1, 3.38) transferred in from North Carolina at the start of the spring semester.
X Factor: Florida received more than 91 percent of its innings from six pitchers in 2005, and must find at least two quality starters from the rest of the staff. The best bets are four talented right-handers: Branham, Augenstein and freshmen Chas Spottswood and Jarrod Langlois. The pitching will need to mature quickly as Florida faces Miami, Missouri, Texas A&M, Florida State and Central Florida before conference play begins.
4. Georgia Tech
2005 Record (Ranking): 45-19 (11) RPI: 6
Coach (Record): Danny Hall (529-230, 12 years)
C Andy Hawranick (Sr., .293, 4 HR, 36 RBI, 4 SB)
1B Whit Robbins (Jr., .265, 5 HR, 40 RBI)
2B Mike Trapani (Sr., .327, 2 HR, 24 RBI, 4 SB)
3B Wes Hodges (Jr., .397, 9 HR, 51 RBI, 3 SB)
SS Michael Fisher (So., .300, 2 HR, 16 RBI, 2 SB)
LF Steven Blackwood (Sr., .336, 6 HR, 65 RBI, 3 SB)
CF Danny Payne (So., .284, 3 HR, 40 RBI, 24 SB)
RF Jeff Kindel (Sr., .359, 6 HR, 59 RBI, 2 SB)
DH Matt Wieters (So., .366, 10 HR, 68 RBI, 1 SB)
RHP Blake Wood (Jr., 10-1, 3.13 ERA, 106 IP, 74 K)
RHP Tim Gustafson (Jr., 6-2, 3.33 ERA, 70 IP, 62 K)
LHP Lee Hyde (Jr., 7-4, 4.68 ERA, 92 IP, 72 K)
RP Matt Wieters (So., 6 saves, 3-3, 2.85 ERA, 41 IP, 32 K)
Offense: No team that played more than 50 games topped Tech's average of 9.3 runs per game in 2005, and most of those bats return. First-round pick Tyler Greene will be missed at shortstop, though every projected regular aside from Fisher made at least 40 starts a year ago. Wieters and Hodges form one of the best middle-of-the-order combinations in the country, while seniors Blackwood and Kindel are pure hitters. Freshman Luke Murton, the younger brother of former Jacket and current Cub Matt, could emerge as an impact bat as the season progresses.
Pitching/Defense: The pitching staff returns even more intact than the offense and should improve last year's 4.34 ERA. Wood and Gustafson improved every week as sophomores, pounding the zone and letting their defense work behind them. Junior lefty Ryan Turner (7-3, 3.31) could push Hyde for his spot in the weekend rotation, and freshmen David Duncan, a 6-foot-9 lefty, and Chris Hicks, a 6-foot-4 righty, are power arms that could work themselves into the mix.
X Factor: Georgia Tech doesn't need much of a contribution from its recruiting class to be a good team. Yet strong debuts from freshmen Murton, Duncan, Hicks and infielder Russell Harben could make this an even better club, or help it survive if injuries hit. Another boost could come from Riverside (Calif.) JC transfer Wally Crancer, who offers left-handed power in the outfield to earn comparisons to current Phillies farmhand Jeremy Slayden, who hit 13 homers for the Jackets last season.
5. Cal State Fullerton
2005 Record (Ranking): 46-18 (9) RPI: 10
Coach (Record): George Horton (402-172-1, 9 years)
C John Curtis (Jr., .234, 29 RBI, 4 SB)
1B Brett Pill (Jr., .327, 9 HR, 57 RBI, 4 SB)
2B Justin Turner (Sr., .324, 3 HR, 41 RBI, 11 SB)
3B Bryan Harris* (Jr., .122, 8 RBI, 1 SB)
SS Blake Davis (Jr., .325, 2 HR, 36 RBI, 17 SB)
LF Danny Dorn (Sr., .272, 10 HR, 49 RBI, 3 SB)
CF Clark Hardman (Jr., .500, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 SB)
RF Brandon Tripp (Jr., .343, 4 HR, 18 RBI, 6 SB)
DH Jared Clark (So., .348, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 SB)
Yr. W-L ERA IP SO
RHP Wes Roemer (So., 7-3, 3.80 ERA, 90 IP, 71 K)
RHP Jared Clark (So., 1-1, 5.33 ERA, 25 IP, 17 K)
LHP Ryan Paul (Jr., Transfer--L.A. Pierce JC)
RP Vinnie Pestano (Jr., 13 saves, 3-4, 2.68 ERA, 50 IP, 49 K
* Stats at Louisiana State
Offense: Big West player of the year Sergio Pedroza (16 homers) and steady third baseman Ronnie Prettyman are gone, but the rest of an efficient, effective offense returns. Fullerton might not average 7.5 runs per game again this year, but the return of Hardman (labrum surgery) atop the lineup adds another gritty speedster to go along with Davis and Turner. Pill and Dorn each slugged .474 or better in 2005, while Clark and freshman David Cooper should also provide some pop when they find at-bats at DH or outfield.
Pitching/Defense: Fullerton posted a 3.57 team ERA in 2005 but lost three of its four starters and more than 50 percent of its innings with the departures of lefties Ricky Romero, Ryan Schreppel and Scott Sarver. Big West freshman pitcher of the year Roemer will front the rotation and has big-game experience after a gutsy regional performance to beat Arizona. Pestano helped Fullerton go 40-0 when leading after seven innings last year. Junior Evan McArthur could beat out Harris at third, but that would still leave every defensive position with a junior or senior on a team that returns six regulars after ranking fifth nationally with a .977 fielding percentage in '05.
X Factor: New faces must play key roles on the mound. Clark's power arm could help him emerge as an ace, while Paul, Ryan Jorgenson and Lauren Gagnier battle to fill out the rest of a rotation that will determine this team's fate. Curtis, Davis, Dorn, Pill and Turner each returned to school after being part of Fullerton's record-tying draft class last year (14 players picked), and their experience and energy should help as the Titans break in a very young pitching staff.
6. North Carolina
2005 Record (Ranking): 41-19-1 (NR) RPI: 16
Coach (Record): Mike Fox (827-145-1, 6 years)
C Tim Federowicz (Fr. HS--Apex, N.C.)
1B Chad Flack (So., .335, 15 HR, 49 RBI, 8 SB)
2B Bryan Steed (Jr., .268, 9 RBI)
3B Reid Fronk (So., .304, 1 HR, 15 RBI)
SS Josh Horton (So., .347, 2 HR, 35 RBI, 5 SB)
LF Mike Cavisinni (Fr. HS--Huntersville, N.C.)
CF Seth Williams (So., .280, 13 HR, 34 RBI, 3 SB)
RF Jay Cox (Jr., .326, 2 HR, 34 RBI, 4 SB)
DH Matt Spencer (So., .222, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 1 SB)
LHP Andrew Miller (Jr., 8-4, 2.98 ERA, 97 IP, 104 K)
RHP Daniel Bard (Jr., 7-5, 4.22 ERA, 90 IP, 77 K)
RHP Robert Woodard (Jr., 8-0, 2.11 ERA, 98 IP, 79 K)
RP Jonathan Hovis (Sr., 5 saves, 5-4, 2.51 ERA, 61 IP, 64 K)
Offense: North Carolina doesn't have a senior position player and might start only one junior if freshman Garrett Gore wins the second-base job. Despite the youth, the Tar Heels offer plenty of seasoned sophomores. Flack, Horton and Williams should continue to improve after solid freshman seasons and could be intriguing draft picks in 2007. Fronk and Spencer both enjoyed strong summers after part-time duty as freshmen. Spencer showed enough power in the Coastal Plain League to believe he could give UNC a third double-digit home run producer. Cavisinni, the North Carolina high school career steals leader, adds speed.
Pitching/Defense: North Carolina's 3.17 team ERA ranked 10th nationally last year and could improve this year. Likely first-rounders Miller and Bard form the country's most dominant duo with their size and power stuff, while Woodard, an ultracompetitive control specialist, enjoyed a better year than either of them as a sophomore. The arms run deeper with redshirt freshman righty Luke Putkonen (low-90s fastball) as the midweek starter while lone senior Hovis and junior righty Matt Danford (1.41 ERA, nine saves) anchor the bullpen. Three freshmen infielders and inexperience at catcher left the defense shaky early last year but those players have matured, and Federowicz possesses a strong arm.
X Factor: The Tar Heels will have to prove they have improved on defense, while sophomores such as Fronk and Spencer carry their summer gains into the season, but Miller and Bard could be all that matters. They have shown flashes of dominance earlier in their careers and in the Cape Cod League but also have been inconsistent. If they continue to mature and handle the draft pressure, UNC will boast the nation's two best pitchers, making up for other shortcomings.
2005 Record (Ranking): 45-19 (13) RPI: 14
Coach (Record): Wayne Graham (627-257, 14 years)
C Danny Lehman (So., .283, 7 HR, 33 RBI)
1B Joe Savery (So., .382, 5 HR, 43 RBI, 7 SB)
2B Greg Buchanan (Sr., .306, 1 HR, 36 RBI, 5 SB)
3B Aaron Luna (Fr., HS--Southlake, Texas)
SS Josh Rodriguez (Jr., .345, 11 HR, 54 RBI, 9 SB)
LF Jordan Dodson (So., .282, 2 HR, 12 RBI, 1 SB)
CF Tyler Henley (So., .301, 6 HR, 36 RBI, 12 SB)
RF Chad Lembeck* (So., .182, 1 RBI)
DH Kenny Ford (Fr., HS--Jacksonville, Fla.)
RHP Eddie Degerman (Sr., 8-1, 3.28 ERA, 99 IP, 117 K)
LHP Joe Savery (So., 8-5, 2.43 ERA, 118 IP, 129 K)
RHP Bobby Bell (So., 4-0, 2.77 ERA, 52 IP, 51 K)
RP Cole St. Clair (So., 2 saves, 2-0, 3.26 ERA, 47 IP, 62 K)
*Stats at Oklahoma
Offense: Known as a pitching-and-defense outfit, Rice last season ranked among the nation's top 40 teams in home runs per game (15th among NCAA Tournament teams). Alas, the heart of that order -- Lance Pendleton, Adam Rodgers and Adam Hale -- is gone. That means Savery, the team batting leader, and Rodriguez, the top home run and RBI man, will need to produce even more, especially with such a young group surrounding them in the order. Lehman hit five of his seven home runs before April last year and will need a stronger, more consistent year. Dodson could also emerge as a power threat after earning a regular role.
Pitching/Defense: A question mark entering 2005, the pitching staff enters 2006 capable of becoming more dominant than last year's group, which averaged more than a strikeout per inning and posted a 3.31 ERA. Savery, the '05 Freshman of the Year and Western Athletic Conference pitcher and player of the year, is the headliner with the power repertoire to push him near the top of the 2007 draft. Degerman turned down the draft and brings his big-breaking curveball back to campus. Fellow senior right-hander Ryne Tacker and Bryce Cox add depth to the rotation and bullpen and could replace Bell or St. Clair if either struggles in his new role. Henley, Rodriguez and Lehman make Rice strong up the middle.
X Factor: Last year was supposed to be a time for Rice to rebuild following the loss of its Big Three to the draft. But the Owls came within one win at Tulane of reaching Omaha. Rice won't surprise anyone this season, though moving to Conference USA after nine league titles in nine years in the WAC will give opponents a new look. It should also help raise Rice's RPI as long as the tougher slate doesn't cause any problems.
8. Oregon State
2005 Record (Ranking): 46-12 (7) RPI: 9
Coach (Record): Pat Casey (341-234-4, 11 years)
C Mitch Canham (So., .325, 8 HR, 39 RBI, 4 SB)
1B Bill Rowe* (Sr., .235, 3 HR, 39 RBI, 2 SB)
2B Ryan Gipson (Sr., .330, 1 HR, 22 RBI, 9 SB)
3B Shea McFeely (Sr., .319, 5 HR, 41 RBI, 4 SB)
SS Darwin Barney (So., .302, 2 HR, 44 RBI, 6 SB)
LF Cole Gillespie (Jr., .319, 18 RBI, 3 SB)
CF Tyler Graham (Sr., .307, 24 RBI, 21 SB)
RF Koa Kahalehoe (Fr., HS--Las Vegas)
DH Mike Lissman ( Sr., .284, 1 HR, 30 RBI, 5 SB)
RHP Dallas Buck (Jr., 12-1, 2.09 ERA, 129 IP, 118 K)
RHP Jonah Nickerson (Jr., 9-2, 2.13 ERA, 110 IP, 114 K)
LHP Anton Maxwell (Jr., 11-1, 4.33 ERA, 96 IP, 69 K)
RP Kevin Gunderson (Jr., 14 saves, 6-4, 2.76 ERA, 65 IP, 62 K)
* Stats at UC Santa Barbara
Offense: People rightly viewed Oregon State as a pitching-dominated team last year, but the Beavers' .316 team average ranked 22nd in the nation and they scored 7.3 runs per game. Replicating that feat might prove difficult without first-round pick Jacoby Ellsbury, whose .495 OBP helped start countless rallies. Graham, who's a faster runner, slides into his spot in center and atop the order. Canham should develop into more of a power threat in his second year, while McFeely (15 doubles) owns the skills to notch a key extra-base hit. JC transfer Scott Santschi joins Gillespie and Kahalehoe in a battle for playing time in the outfield corners.
Pitching/Defense: The Beavers ranked seventh nationally with a 3.06 ERA in 2005, the key factor in making their first trip to the CWS since 1952; instead of losing any starters, they add a very capable one in Santa Clara transfer RHP Mike Stutes (4-5, 4.50). Buck fronts the rotation with the heavy sinker that helped him lead the Pac-10 in ERA and tie for the most wins. Closer Gunderson, one of the nation's top competitors, should find a deeper group around him in the bullpen, with the development of 6-foot-4 sophomore righties Eddie Kunz (2-0, 1.50) and Daniel Turpen (1-0, 4.40). Stutes could also add depth here. OSU's fleet and slick-fielding defense helps those arms look even better statistically.
X Factor: Oregon State will miss departed senior Andy Jenkins' .388-6-56 numbers, but the stats might be easier to replace than the leadership he provided. Gunderson should take this role on the pitching staff, but the Beavers need someone to spur them on from the dugout once the season starts. They'll open the season wearing a bull's-eye, so sprinting out to another 21-2 nonconference start could be difficult, even though this club might be more talented on the mound than last year's.
2005 Record (Ranking): 46-21 (8) RPI: 21
Coach (Record): Rod Delmonico (634-347, 15 years)
C J.P. Arencibia (So., .322, 14 HR, 71 RBI)
1B Kelly Edmundson (Sr., .328, 8 HR, 39 RBI, 3 SB)
2B Michael Rivera (Sr., .331, 1 HR, 42 RBI, 13 SB)
3B Chris Siewert (Jr., Tr.--CC of Southern Nevada)
SS Tony Delmonico (Fr. HS--Knoxville, Tenn.)
LF Jarred Frazier (Fr. HS--Shelbyville, Tenn.)
CF Julio Borbon (So., .350, 3 HR, 42 RBI, 12 SB)
RF Brian Van Kirk (So. Tr.--Miami Dade CC)
DH Chris Kemp (R-Sr., .278, 2 HR, 45 RBI, 2 SB)
LHP James Adkins (So., 10-5, 3.32 ERA, 127 IP, 135 K)
RHP Josh Lindblom (Fr. HS--West Lafayette, Ind.)
RHP Ty Pryor# (So., 5-4, 7.28 ERA, 59 IP, 66 K)
RP Sean Watson (Jr., 7-3, 2.85 ERA, 79 IP, 82 K)
*Stats from 2004 # Stats at South Florida
Offense: Tennessee fans will want to pick up a roster during the first few weeks of the season, as five of the nine men in the batting order didn't appear in a game for the Volunteers a season ago. Arencibia broke Todd Helton's freshman homer record hitting between the departed Eli Iorg (.381-15-72) and Chase Headley (.387-14-65). Van Kirk, a slugger who teamed with Arencibia on the Florida Bombers as a prep, and Emundson will protect the catcher this season. Delmonico graduated high school in three years to come play for his father. He could have been a first-round pick had he stayed in high school for his senior year, but instead he should make an immediate impact in the Vols lineup.
Pitching/Defense: Only All-American Luke Hochevar (15-3, 2.26) is gone from the 2005 CWS staff, but new faces abound here as well. Adkins moves up to become the ace while Craig Cobb (7-4, 4.53) slides back to a midweek role following the additions of Lindblom, the highest-drafted prep to attend a Division I college, and Pryor, who both feature fastballs in the 90s. JC transfer RHP Deunte Heath adds yet another power arm who could work into the rotation or become a force in relief ahead of the fireballing Watson. This depth means the top four arms won't work 76 percent of the team's innings as Hochevar, Cobb, Adkins and Watson did in '05.
X Factor: All the newcomers come equipped with talent and glowing scouting reports, but each also lacks D-I experience upon entering the rugged SEC. These newcomers will need to follow the Freshman All-America seasons Arencibia and Adkins enjoyed a year ago if Tennessee is to live up to this ranking. Despite its raft of newcomers, Tennessee lacks position-player depth and must remain healthy.
2005 Record (Ranking): 40-23 (21) RPI: 46
Coach (Record): Tim Jamieson (364-252-2, 10 years)
C Jacob Priday (So., .305, 9 HR, 67 RBI, 8 SB)
1B Derek Chambers (Sr., .320, 3 HR, 48 RBI, 3 SB)
2B Trevor Helms (Sr., .282, 29 RBI, 4 SB)
3B John McKee (Jr., .268, 7 HR, 43 RBI, 1 SB)
SS Gary Arndt (Jr., .298, 32 RBI)
LF Zane Taylor (Sr., .321, 1 HR, 32 RBI, 4 SB)
CF Hunter Mense (Jr., .327, 3 HR, 43 RBI, 10 SB)
RF Ryan Lollis (Fr., HS--Houston)
DH Brock Bond* (So., .250, 14 RBI, 4 SB)
RHP Max Scherzer (Jr., 9-4, 1.86 ERA, 106 IP, 131 K)
LHP Nathan Culp (Jr., 9-2, 3.50 ERA, 93 IP, 63 K)
RHP Aaron Crow (Fr., HS--Wakarusa, Kan.)
RP Taylor Parker (Sr., 4 saves, 1-2, 2.88 ERA, 50 IP, 42 K)
*Stats at Arkansas
Offense: Missouri returns seven of the nine starters who helped it score more than eight runs per game and post a .405 OBP a year ago, though it did lose its best hitter in James Boone (.340-8-72). The Tigers won't club a bunch of home runs, but the offense scores in bunches because of a patient approach throughout the order; Arndt's .380 OBP rated as the team's lowest a year ago. Mense and his .440 OBP should key the attack, while Priday seems an easy bet to make sure Missouri doesn't go another season without a double-digit homer guy.
Pitching/Defense: Missouri's 3.20 ERA last year was lower than that of noted pitching factories such as Baylor and Rice. Plus, the Tigers get back their top two starters and closer. Scherzer used an explosive fastball that flirts with the upper-90s to rank as the ace of a pitching-dominated league. He led Big 12 starters in strikeouts and ERA while posting a .163 opponents' average. The rest of the staff doesn't have his power stuff, but does the opposite of the offense in being very stingy with walks; Missouri allowed just three walks per nine innings last year.
X Factor: Missouri not only returns plenty of players from a club that won 16 conference games in 2005, but it also brings back a good bit of confidence. It joins Texas as the only team in the league to reach the NCAA Tournament the last three seasons and could follow the pitching-and-defense formula that Baylor and Nebraska rode to Omaha a year ago.
2005 Record (Ranking): 41-23 (24). RPI: 32
Coach (Record): Steve Rodriguez (71-55, 2 years)
C Chad Tracy (Jr., .367, 12 HR, 61 RBI, 3 SB)
1B Justin Tellam* (Jr., .302, 16 HR, 43 RBI)
2B David Uribes (Sr., .311, 1 HR, 30 RBI, 25 SB)
3B Chase d'Arnaud (Fr. HS--Long Beach, Calif.)
SS Danny Worth (So., .306, 1 HR, 34 RBI, 8 SB)
LF Luke Salas (Jr. .298, 1 HR, 31 RBI, 7 SB)
CF Adrian Ortiz (So., 281, 19 RBI, 8 SB)
RF Donald Brown (So., .294, 2 HR, 30 RBI, 5 SB)
DH Denny Duron (Fr. HS--Shreveport, La.)
LHP Paul Coleman (Sr., 9-3, 3.35 ERA, 110 IP, 91 K)
RHP Barry Enright (So., 10-1, 4.62 ERA, 97 IP, 52 K)
RHP Adam Olbrychowski (So., 2-1, 4.15 ERA, 17 IP, 16 K)
RP Doug Konoske (So., 3 saves, 0-2, 2.41 ERA, 41 IP, 34 K)
* Stats at Nevada-Las Vegas
Offense: Pepperdine returns every key hitter aside from Steve Kleen (.350-8-50). Transfer Tellam should make up for his offensive production and provide protection for Tracy, the son of the new Pittsburgh Pirates manager and one of the better offensive catchers in the nation. Scrappy hitters who can bunt, run and make contact surround that power core, led by Uribes' speed and experience atop the order. Ortiz could steal 30-40 bases if he gets on base consistently.
Pitching/Defense: The Waves lost Kea Kometani (10-5, 3.17) but got a boost when Coleman, the West Coast Conference pitcher of the year, returned for his senior year. He and Enright, the reigning WCC freshman of the year, front a deep but young staff on which right-handers Rob Della Grotta (3-2, 5.02) and Jason Dominguez (1-5, 8.77) should emerge as key contributors. Konoske proved a solid set-up man for Kleen (17 saves, .213 average), but now must prove he can handle the pressure of closing. Pepperdine looks as strong up the middle as any team out West, with superlative defenders Worth and Ortiz ranking as the best in the conference.
X Factor: Pepperdine isn't some upstart that will fade when it faces tough competition. This club beat College World Series participants Oregon State and Tulane during the 2005 season and knocked off Long Beach State and Southern California in regional play before losing a rematch with USC to fall one win shy of super-regionals. Games this year against Fresno State, Long Beach State, Oregon State, Tulane, Cal State Fullerton, Oklahoma State and USC will get the Waves ready before conference play begins.
2005 Record (Ranking): 56-12 (3) RPI: 3
Coach (Record): Rick Jones (523-231-1, 12 years)
C Max Kwan (Fr. HS--Seattle)
1B Mark Hamilton (Jr., .318, 11 HR, 46 RBI)
2B Nate Simon (Fr.--Redmond, Wash.)
3B Brad Emaus (So., .321, 13 HR, 56 RBI, 5 SB)
SS Cat Everett (So., .250, 4 RBI)
LF Warren McFadden (R-Fr., .222, 2 RBI)
CF Nathan Southard (Sr., .341, 12 HR, 53 RBI, 16 SB)
RF Aja Barto (Fr. HS--Houston)
DH Sean Morgan (So., .158, 2 RBI, 1 SB)
RHP Brandon Gomes (Jr., 8-2, 3.80 ERA, 90 IP, 82 K)
RHP Sean Morgan (So., 6-1, 2.72 ERA, 36 IP, 42 K)
LHP J.R. Crowell (Sr., 10-1, 4.86 ERA, 93 IP, 83 K)
RP Daniel Latham (Jr., 13 saves, 2-0, 3.22 ERA, 45 IP, 36 K)
Offense: Last year's preseason No. 1, Tulane lost Brian Bogusevic as well as six hitters who appeared in at least 60 games each. Despite the exodus, this still should become one of the better offensive teams in the nation. Hamilton finally has found a full-time position and should emerge as one of the nation's best hitters. Emaus should build on his strong freshman year, and Southard provides a veteran presence among a young crop of position players. Barto and Morgan have enough raw power to push for double-figure homers, giving Tulane five players in that category. McFadden was a high-profile recruit during '04 and could deliver on his promise with five-tool skills after getting a redshirt six games into '05.
Pitching/Defense: Micah Owings and Bogusevic took their combined 25-7, 3.25 record and 264 strikeouts to pro ball -- but, like the offense, the pitching staff isn't empty either. Gomes, two years removed from Tommy John surgery, and Morgan bring power repertoires to the top of the rotation. Seniors Crowell and Billy Mohl add experience and depth, while Georgia Tech transfer John Michael Vidic gives Tulane yet another power arm. He could end up as the bridge to Latham, filling the role vacated by Morgan's move to the rotation and Ricky Fairchild's transfer to Kansas.
X Factor: Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans and forced the team to come together as it spent the fall semester at Texas Tech. The experience could end up helping the club's young players mature faster. Turchin Stadium won't be ready for the season, so the Green Wave will follow up the best season in school history by playing at Zephyr Field, home of New Orleans' Triple-A club. It plays bigger than the Turch, so expect defense and pitching to play a larger role in Tulane's success than in years past.
13. Mississippi State
2005 Record (Ranking): 42-22 (22) RPI: 25
Coach (Record): Ron Polk (1,401-512-2, 26 years)
Pos. Yr. Avg. HR RBI SB
C Ed Easley (So., .296, 3 HR, 32 RBI, 1 SB)
1B Brad Jones (Sr., .301, 5 HR, 37 RBI, 5 SB)
2B Jeff Rea (Jr., .305, 2 HR, 34 RBI, 5 SB)
3B Michael Rutledge (So., .262, 1 HR, 14 RBI)
SS Thomas Berkery (Sr., .302, 7 HR, 55 RBI, 2 SB)
LF Jeff Butts (Sr., 286, 2 HR, 36 RBI, 6 SB)
CF Joseph Hunter (Sr., .348, 1 HR, 31 RBI, 8 SB)
RF Andy Rice (Jr. Transfer--Itawamba (Miss.) JC)
DH Brian LaNinfa (Jr., .264, 2 HR, 35 RBI, 1 SB)
RHP Josh Johnson (Jr., 5-0, 4.03 ERA, 45 IP, 44 K)
RHP Jon Crosby (Jr., 5-3, 3.54 ERA, 74 IP, 35 K)
LHP Brooks Dunn (Sr., 6-3, 4.50 ERA, 54 IP, 43 K)
RP Brett Cleveland (Sr., 5 saves, 2-1, 1.96 ERA, 37 IP, 28 K)
Offense: Mississippi State often scored just enough to win games a year ago. The Bulldogs didn't have a double-digit home run threat, and only Hunter ranked among the SEC's top 35 hitters, and he cooled considerably after an early 17-game hit streak. All the principles from that offense are back, and experience should make this a better offensive club. The only loss in the lineup is Brad Corley, a thumper who slumped to five home runs in his draft year a season after bashing 19 homers. Rice replaces him a year after batting .412-20-59 in junior college and could become the lineup's centerpiece.
Pitching/Defense: MSU's 3.51 ERA ranked second to Vanderbilt among SEC teams a year ago, and many of those arms return. The Bulldogs added even more depth in Itawamba JC transfer Jared Koon and freshmen Aaron Weatherford and Matt Lea, son of ex-major-leaguer Charlie. Crosby posted the best numbers of any MSU starter in '05, and Dunn held Mississippi to one run to win the SEC Tournament title game. Josh Johnson, the least experienced of the crew, could emerge as the ace with a three-pitch mix that includes a fastball reaching 91 mph. Highly recruited sophomore righty Connor Lalor went 5-2, 1.16 to make the Cape Cod League all-star game after spare work during the spring.
X Factor: Berkery wears the bluest collar on a lunch-pail kind of team. Shortstop marks his fourth starting position in four years after turns at third base, catcher and second base. He's got the arm and athleticism to pull off the move -- and his maturity, leadership and savvy might allow him to blossom into the star of a team that comes with little glitter.
14. South Carolina
2005 Record (Ranking): 41-23 (25) RPI: 24
Coach (Record): Ray Tanner (413-175, 9 years)
C Trent Kline (Jr. Tr.--St. Petersburg (Fla.) JC)
1B Justin Smoak (Fr. HS--Goose Creek, S.C.)
2B Chris Brown (Sr., .274, 4 HR, 34 RBI, 4 SB)
3B Neil Giesler (Sr., .254, 5 HR, 24 RBI, 2 SB)
SS Reese Havens (Fr. HS--Charleston, S.C.)
LF Cheyne Hurst (Jr. Tr.--St. Petersburg (Fla.) JC)
CF Michael Campbell (Sr., .315, 8 HR, 42 RBI, 8 SB)
RF Mark Stanley (Sr., .311, 7 RBI, 1 SB)
DH Robbie Grinestaff (Jr. Okaloosa-Walton (Fla.) CC)
LHP Arik Hempy (Jr., 2-1, 2.63 ERA, 27 IP, 18 K)
LHP Forrest Beverly (Jr.,1-0, 4.50 ERA, 24 IP, 25 K)
RHP Wynn Pelzer (So., 1-2, 4.34 ERA, 29 IP, 26 K)
RP Shawn Valdes-Fauli* (Sr., 5 saves, 5-0, 3.18, ERA, 54 IP, 56 K)
*Stats at Miami in 2003
Offense: South Carolina didn't meet its usual standards at the plate in 2005, despite a .358-21-63 season from senior Steve Pearce. The Gamecocks will look to improve with an interesting group of old and new: four seniors and five players who have yet to play a game at the D-I level. Smoak and Havens each were potential high-round picks who turned down more than a combined $2 million to attend college. They're talented offensive players who must develop quickly, as the veterans are more complementary parts than stars.
Pitching/Defense: South Carolina will miss battle-tested seniors Aaron Rawl (9-6, 3.20) and Zac McCamie (9-4, 3.50). The new rotation lacks their weekend experience but offers better stuff across the board. Arm injuries have stunted the careers of Hempy and Beverly, though the former was dominant for stretches as a freshman. Limited by the staff's depth a year ago, Pelzer rated as the Coastal Plain League's top prospect with a power fastball/curveball combination. Valdes-Fauli transferred in last season, but was sidelined with Tommy John surgery. He was a solid closer before being dismissed from Miami's program in '04.
X Factor: South Carolina normally gets off to fast starts, and that will prove vital this season as the players find their roles. The Gamecocks need a few of the seniors to evolve from role players to leaders and the freshmen to play like veterans. Campbell's the pick for the former category. He opens the year needing 81 hits and 52 games played to break the career records of Mac White and Landon Powell. Campbell must also bounce back offensively, making a run at the 14 homers he hit as a sophomore.
15. Florida State
2005 Record (Ranking): 53-20 (16) RPI: 26
Coach (Record): Mike Martin (1,391-472-4, 26 years)
Pos. Yr. Avg. HR RBI SB
C Danny Diaz (Jr., .200, 1 HR, 2 RBI)
1B Dennis Guinn (So., .000, 1 RBI)
2B Tony Thomas, Jr. (So., .240, 6 HR, 29 RBI, 9 SB)
3B Ryne Malone (Jr., .316, 7 HR, 61 RBI, 10 SB)
SS Buster Posey (Fr. HS--Leesburg, Ga.)
LF Ruairi O'Connor (So., .227, 2 HR, 16 RBI, 2 SB)
CF Shane Robinson (Jr., .427, 6 HR, 43 RBI, 49 SB)
RF Jack Rye (So., .328, 2 HR, 31 RBI, 1 SB)
DH Josh Spivey (Jr., .260, 1 HR, 13 RBI)
RHP Bryan Henry (Jr., 9-3, 2.22 ERA, 89 IP, 58 K)
RHP Tyler Chambliss (Jr., 15 saves, 7-3, 2.06 ERA, 52 IP, 73 K)
RHP Michael Hyde (Jr., 7-2, 4.40 ERA, 100 IP, 71 K)
RP Luke Tucker (Jr. Transfer--Okaloosa-Walton (Fla.) JC)
Offense: Robinson ranked first nationally in runs (96), second in OBP (.532) and third in steals. He proved a one-man rally for a team whose cleanup hitter (Aaron Cheesman) failed to homer last season. The Seminoles did get 10 homers each from seniors Gibbs Chapman and Daniel Wardell, though their departures leave Malone as the only experienced power threat. Rye should continue to develop, but a pair of freshmen in Posey and catcher Kyle Maxie, who could work behind the plate and at DH, must contribute if the Seminoles are to improve offensively.
Pitching/Defense: Florida State coaxed as much out of its pitching staff as any team in 2005 by working with a simple plan: throw strikes and work the outside of the plate. Few executed that goal better than Henry, who spent several weeks among the nation's ERA leaders as he rose from third baseman to Friday starter. Chambliss brings the ACC's best curveball from the bullpen to the rotation, where he'll need more than just that nose-to-toes pitch to succeed. Tucker takes over at the end of the bullpen, joined by two seniors LHP Matt DiBlasi (1-2, 2.76) and RHP Brent Marsh (4-3, 2.87, 11 saves at South Carolina).
X Factor: Many pro teams liked Posey better as a pitcher in high school, and one scout called him a Greg Maddux clone because of his ability to throw four pitches for strikes, notably a sinking changeup. He could add another dimension to the pitching staff, but moving him off shortstop could hurt, as his presence on campus led last year's starter, Ryne Jernigan, to transfer. It's possible he could emerge as a closer as the season plays out.
16. Arizona State
2005 Record (Ranking): 42-25 (6) RPI: 13
Coach (Record): Pat Murphy (443-221-2, 11 years)
C Preston Paramore (Fr. HS--Allen, Texas)
1B Brett Wallace (Fr. HS--Sonoma, Calif.)
2B Joe Persichina (Jr., .214, 2 HR, 15 RBI, 4 SB)
3B C.J. Retherford (Jr. Transfer -- South Mountain CC)
SS Matt Hall (Fr. HS--Scottsdale, Ariz.)
LF Ryan Sontag* (So., .349, 1 HR, 17 RBI, 8 SB)
CF Colin Curtis (Jr., .342, 2 HR, 45 RBI, 17 SB)
RF J.J. Sferra (So., .312, 22 RBI, 8 SB)
DH Ike Davis (Fr. HS--Scottsdale, Ariz.)
LHP Ike Davis (Fr. HS-- Scottsdale, Ariz.)
RHP Zechry Zinicola (Jr., 4 saves, 4-4, 5.48 ERA, 64 IP, 55 K)
RHP Pat Bresnehan (Jr., 5-4, 5.60 ERA, 88 IP, 79 K) (br>
RP Brett Bordes (Sr., 4 saves, 5-7, 4.24 ERA, 74 IP, 54 K)
* Stats at Michigan State
Offense: In Travis Buck (.382-6-43), Jeff Larish (.324-24-67) and Tuffy Gosewisch (.321-6-74), Arizona State lost its three most important players from the 2005 CWS team. Shortstop Andrew Romine won't play in '06 after complications from a blood clot in his chest. So it's basically Curtis and a bunch of players he's never played with. Sontag, the Big 10 freshman of the year, does add some experience. Hall, Davis, Paramore and Wallace were part of the nation's second-best recruiting class, and must all deliver on their talents immediately.
Pitching/Defense: The Sun Devils lost just two pitchers, but Erik Averill and Jason Urquidez combined for 51 appearances and 149 innings as seniors. This crew must keep Arizona State afloat as the young offense comes together. Zinicola and Bresnehan each possess huge arms but must pitch under control. Davis reaches 90 mph with plenty of movement, and fellow freshman lefty Jeff Urlaub will also see key innings.
X Factor: Murphy loves to schedule big and play all comers. A year after opening against Long Beach State, he's got Cal State Northridge and Northern Illinois to start the year before the degree of difficulty increases dramatically. Games against Oregon State, Houston, Baylor, Texas Tech, Auburn, Rice, Texas Christian, Texas and Oklahoma -- all before conference play begins -- will shape the season. The young players will either get buried and crack, or hold their own and build tremendous confidence. Both outcomes could be scary; the first for Arizona State, the second for the Pac-10.
17. Southern California
2005 Record (Ranking): 41-22 (17) RPI: 11
Coach (Record): Mike Gillespie (19, years)
C Johnny Bowden (Jr. Tr.--Chandler-Gilbert (Ariz.) CC)
1B Lucas Duda (So., .208, 1 HR, 11 RBI)
2B Blake Sharpe (Sr., .297, 5 HR, 36 RBI, 11 SB)
3B Matt Cusick (So., .311, 4 HR, 35 RBI, 2 SB)
SS Hector Estrella (Jr., .271, 3 HR, 28 RBI, 1 SB)
LF Baron Frost (Sr., .274, 4 HR, 30 RBI, 1 SB)
CF Daniel Perales (Jr., .266, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 1 SB)
RF Cyle Hankerd (Jr., .298, 1 HR, 39 RBI)
DH Darin Vieira (Sr., .241, 5 HR, 32 RBI, 4 SB)
RHP Ian Kennedy (Jr., 12-3, 2.54 ERA, 117 IP, 158 K)
RHP Shawn Olsen (Jr. Transfer --CC of Southern Nevada)
RHP Ryan Cook (Fr. HS--Clovis (Calif.) HS)
RP Paul Koss (So., 14 saves, 4-1, 2.81 ERA, 51 IP, 42 K)
Offense: There's enough balance and experience in the lineup to expect an above-average performance despite its lack of Jeff Clement (.348-15-54), a first-round pick after leading USC in everything but stolen bases last year. Hankerd, the New England Collegiate League's top prospect after a .383-9-36 summer, and Duda, who missed half the year with a wrist injury, should each chase double figures in homers. Perales also is back after playing just 19 games before a back injury set him down. Roberto Lopez (.264-1-21) and Frost will see time in center and left field, while Sharpe and Estrella will play the middle infield in some combination.
Pitching/Defense: Kennedy, the nation's strikeout leader, is a true No. 1 and means USC won't lose very often on Fridays. Workhorse Jack Spradlin (6-3, 4.47 in 119 innings) is gone as the No. 2 man, and sophomore Anthony Encinas (7-4, 4.68) will miss the year following Tommy John surgery. So newcomers Olsen, Cook and Tommy Milone, a freshman lefty, must contribute immediately. Koss throws strikes at the end of games and has a year of experience to build on. His freshman ERA drops to 1.58 minus an ugly outing against Arizona. Coaches told Bowden his job is to catch -- not worry about replacing Clement's offense.
X Factor: Olsen and Cook both offer low-90s fastballs and potential for big years. They must refine their secondary offerings and continue to hone their knack for pitching, and should improve as the season progresses. Olsen spent most of his time at CCSN as an outfielder, earning conference player of the year accolades last year (.362, 20 steals). His move to the mound falls in line with enhancing his pro stock, but at times he could wield a bat off the bench or as DH.
2005 Record (Ranking): 39-22 (NR) RPI: 20
Coach (Record): Dave Van Horn (119-68, 3 years)
C Brian Walker (So., .253, 7 HR, 25 RBI, 1 SB)
1B Danny Hamblin (Jr., .341, 10 HR, 49 RBI, 8 SB)
2B Ben Tschepikow (So., .400, 1 HR, 16 RBI, 1 SB)
3B Blake Parker (Jr., .250, 9 HR, 30 RBI, 2 SB)
SS John Henry Marquardt (Sr., .339, 2 HR, 23 RBI, 2 SB)
LF Clint Arnold (So., .317, 27 RBI, 8 SB)
CF Craig Gentry (Jr., .311, 1 HR, 18 RBI, 18 SB)
RF Jake Dugger (Jr., .237, 8 HR, 45 RBI, 14 SB)
DH Chris Hollensworth (Sr., .364, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 5 SB)
RHP Nick Schmidt (So., 8-2, 2.80 ERA, 100 IP, 89 K)
RHP Charley Boyce (Sr., 10-8, 3.43 ERA, 102 IP, 53 K)
RHP Devin Collins (Sr., 2-0, 4.69 ERA, 48 IP, 23 K)
RP Trey Holloway (Sr., 4 saves, 4-0, 1.17 ERA, 15 IP, 9 K)
Offense: Just five NCAA Tournament teams topped Arkansas' 1.77 steals per game last season as the Razorbacks ran wild to compensate for an otherwise run-of-the-mill attack. Better health and better seasons from Parker and Dugger, who hit .303 and .293 in nearly twice as many at-bats as injury-free freshmen in '04, would make a good starting point. Tschepikow (back) and Gentry (Tommy John) looked fully recovered during the fall and are primed for breakout seasons. Walker hit .318 during the second half of the '05 season and could also be ready for a statistical uptick. Freshmen James Ewing and Logan Forsythe are able backups in the infield, while junior Steven Robison and Hollensworth add OF depth.
Pitching/Defense: Schmidt emerged as an ace during a Freshman All-America season. Boyce, who had a bone spur on his elbow shaved down in the fall, returns ready to throw whenever needed, and could again work as both a starter and reliever on key weekends. There's little certainty of roles behind that duo, but there are plenty of options. Righties Lee Land (1-2, 4.07), Daryl Maday (5-1, 6.64) and Josh Smith (1-3, 5.10) all showed more consistency and should be contributors. Holloway was a little tender in the fall following elbow surgery last spring but should end up as the key reliever.
X Factor: Van Horn isn't one for hyperbole, and he normally squeezes a lot out of a little. Well, he's calling this his deepest, most athletic team in his four years back at his alma mater, and that's counting a trip to Omaha in 2004 and nearly stealing a regional at Texas last year. Set expectations high. Well-stocked in outfielders and pitchers, Arkansas has the depth to withstand the injury and suspension problems that sabotaged it in 2005.
19. Texas Christian
2005 Record (Ranking): 41-20 (NR) RPI: 33
Coach (Record): Jim Schlossnagle (80-46, 2 years)
C Andrew Walker (So., .310, 11 HR, 38 RBI)
1B Matt Carpenter (So., .289, 1 HR, 27 RBI)
2B Chad Huffman (Jr., .353, 12 HR, 53 RBI)
3B Steven Trout (Jr. Transfer --Texarkana (Texas) JC)
SS Bryan Kervin* (So., .342, 22 RBI, 6 SB)
LF Austin Adams (Jr., .318, 8 HR, 36 RBI)
CF Ryan Pack (Sr., .211, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 4 SB)
RF Keith Conlon (Jr., .333, 6 HR, 42 RBI, 2 SB)
DH Matt McGuirk (So., .317, 7 HR, 38 RBI, 1 SB)
RHP Brad Furnish (Jr., 5-6, 4.14 ERA, 91 IP, 79 K)
RHP Sam Demel (So., 5-5, 4.65 ERA, 95 IP, 100 K)
RHP Jake Arrieta (So. Transfer --Weatherford (Texas) JC)
RP Shawn Ferguson (Sr., 3 saves, 1-2, 5.56 ERA, 34 IP, 49 K)
*Stats at Arizona
Offense: TCU's 1.23 home runs per game ranked third among NCAA Tournament teams a year ago. Moving to the thin air of the Mountain West means that figure is likely to rise -- even with the transfer of Shelby Ford (.370-7-39) to Oklahoma State -- because seven starters return. Huffman, the Horned Frogs' No. 2 quarterback, is the team's No. 1 power hitter, though Walker should push him for the home run lead now that he won't share time with the departed Kyle Dahlberg behind the plate.
Pitching/Defense: Lance Broadway (15-1, 1.62) wasn't a one-man team, but he never lost a start, and TCU was 17-2 in games he pitched (24-18 otherwise). Losing him, No. 2 starter Tim McGough (7-3, 3.21) and go-to reliever Chad Underwood (4-2, 4.50) puts pressure on a staff that is very inexperienced after Furnish and Demel, two power pitchers who must become more consistent. One of three pitchers transferring in from Weatherford JC along with Brent Allar and Donald Furrow, Arrieta also possesses dominant stuff and could emerge as the club's ace.
X Factor: Leaving Conference USA for a league that recently has produced only one NCAA bid puts TCU in a position similar to what Rice used to face in the Western Athletic Conference. C-USA ranked sixth in RPI in 2005, while the MWC was 22nd out of 31 leagues. TCU will need to play well against a strong nonconference schedule to prove itself as a Top 25 team and build a solid RPI.
20. Louisiana State
2005 Record (Ranking): 40-22 (18) RPI: 18
Coach (Record): Smoke Laval (175-85-1, 4 years)
C Matt Liuzza (Sr., .251, 3 HR, 24 RBI)
1B Jordan Mayer (So., .313, 4 HR, 26 RBI)
2B Jason Ogata (Fr. HS--Portland, Ore.)
3B Will Harris (Sr., .213, 4 HR, 20 RBI)
SS Michael Hollander (So., .246, 1 HR, 14 RBI, 2 SB)
LF Bruce Sprowl (Sr., .264, 2 HR, 13 RBI, 5 SB)
CF Jarred Bogany (Fr. HS--Houston)
RF Quinn Stewart (Sr., .250, 3 HR,13 RBI, 2 SB)
DH J.T. Wise (Fr. HS--Apopka, Fla.)
RHP Clay Dirks (R-Jr., 10-4, 3.24 ERA, 94 IP, 67 K)
RHP Michael Bonura* (R-So., 4-0, 4.46 ERA, 34 IP, 31 K)
RHP Daniel Forrer (R-Jr., Injured--Did not pitch)
RP Edgar Ramirez (Sr. , 1 save, 0-1, 4.50 ERA, 36 IP, 33 K)
* Stats from 2004
Offense: Longtime LSU fans might not recognize this team, as gorilla ball morphs into go-go ball after four departed seniors left with 56 of the club's 82 home runs in '05. Rather than waiting for three-run home runs, this speedy and athletic team might force the action. Bogany could top the 2005 team total of 37 steals by himself if given the opportunity. Mayer should emerge as the team's top power threat, launching 10-15 home runs. He could use rebound seasons from Liuzza (.328-9-45 in '04) and Harris (.329-7-39 in '04), who both struggled as juniors.
Pitching/Defense: Lane Mestepey, who played for Skip Bertman as a freshman, isn't on the roster for the first time since the 2001 season, and Greg Smith (10-3, 2.60) and Jason Determann (2.30 ERA, seven saves) are gone as well. LSU will go with an all-operation rotation of Dirks (Tommy John in 2003), Bonura (TJ in '05) and Forrer (shoulder problems in '04 and '05). Also, right-hander Eric English, a premium recruit a year ago, will miss this year following Tommy John. Righties Louis Coleman, a freshman, and Derik Olvey, a Notre Dame transfer, also should work pivotal innings.
X Factor: LSU fans were not pleased with last year's results, calling for Laval's head when their Tigers were 24-12 (5-8) at one point, lost a regional at home, got swept by Tulane and then watched the Green Wave earn a No. 1 ranking and cruise to Omaha. This is as young and inexperienced a team as Laval has presided over since his first year in Baton Rouge. Anxious fans might remember he coached that club to Omaha.
21. Fresno State
2005 Record (Ranking): 30-29 (NR) RPI: 168
Coach (Record): Mike Batesole (89-87, 3 years)
C Frank LoNigro (Jr. Tr.--Fullerton (Calif.) JC)
1B Kent Sakamoto (Sr., .305, 4 HR, 29 RBI, 9 SB)
2B Todd Sandell (So., .288, 1 HR, 8 RBI)
3B Beau Mills (So., .319, 22 HR, 63 RBI, 7 SB)
SS Christian Vitters (Jr., .293, 5 HR, 41 RBI, 8 SB)
LF Steve Susdorf (So., .283, 13 RBI, 3 SB)
CF Nick Moresi (Jr., .352, 11 HR, 54 RBI, 13 SB)
RF Chase Moore (Sr., .265, 5 HR, 30 RBI, 2 SB)
DH Loren Stanley (Jr. Transfer--Crowder JC)
RHP Doug Fister (Sr., 7-6, 4.32 ERA, 94 IP, 77 K)
RHP Andy Underwood (Jr. Transfer--Fresno City (Calif.) JC)
LHP Eddie Romero (Jr., 6-4, 4.62 ERA, 64 IP, 57 K)
RP Ryan Penn (Sr., 2-3, 4.75 ERA, 47 IP, 22 K)
Offense: Fresno State looks for three strong years of recruiting to pay off with an explosive offensive attack that returns all of its key players from 2005. Mills made a run at the national home-run lead during a Freshman All-America campaign, and he figures to improve as a hitter a season after leading the conference in homers and RBI. Moresi is capable of producing a season like that of former Bulldogs first-rounder Richie Robnett, and Vitters should prove a steady table setter.
Pitching/Defense: First-round pick Matt Garza (6-5, 3.07) comes off the top of the rotation, but the 6-foot-7 Fister returned with his low-90s sinker despite being drafted in the sixth round. Romero provides another experienced returning starter, and Underwood enters as something of a proven commodity given his two-year run as California JC pitcher of the year. Freshmen Justin Wilson, a lefty, and Tanner Scheppers, a righty, add depth, and one might factor into the end of games after the losses of all-conference closer Rudy Quinonez (3.66 ERA, five saves) and Michael Cooper (4.53 in 50 innings) from the bullpen.
X Factor: Fresno State started 1-9 in 2005, battled over .500 at 19-17, then promptly lost five in a row to drop below again and ended the year by getting swept at Nevada. The Bulldogs sprinkled two six-game win streaks and an eight-wins-in-nine-games spurt into their season as well. Fresno becomes the favorite in the WAC with Rice's departure, but it will need more consistency.
22. Long Beach State
2005 Record (Ranking): 37-22 (19) RPI: 22
Coach (Record): Mike Weathers (157-84, 4 years)
C Tito Cruz (Sr., .231, 8 RBI, 3 SB)
1B Brandon Godfrey (So., .305, 1 HR, 24 RBI, 2 SB)
2B Chuck Sindlinger (Sr., .264, 3 HR, 23 RBI, 6 SB)
3B Evan Longoria (Jr., .320, 5 HR, 30 RBI, 10 SB)
SS Danny Espinosa (Fr. HS--Santa Ana, Calif.)
LF Jose Hernandez (So., .224, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 3 SB)
CF Robert Perry* (Jr., .324, 4 HR, 19 RBI, 7 SB)
RF Sean Boatright (Sr., .299, 3 HR, 30 RBI, 5 SB)
DH Jordan Struble (Sr., .277, 14 RBI, 2 SB)
RHP Jared Hughes (Jr., 8-3, 2.83 ERA, 89 IP, 87 K)
RHP Andrew Carpenter (Jr. Transfer--Sacramento (Calif.) CC)
RHP Vance Worley (Fr. HS--Sacramento, Calif.)
RP Brett Andrade (Sr., 1-0, 4.66 ERA, 10 IP, 3 K)
*Stats at Santa Clara
Offense: The infield returns three of its four starters from a year ago, though the one loss -- shortstop Troy Tulowitzki (.349-8-29) -- is major. Look for Longoria to fill his role as the key offensive cog, reprising his 2005 role during Tulowitzki's 20-game absence with a wrist injury. Longoria led the Cape Cod League in home runs and RBI over the summer. Perry, a Little League teammate of Tulowitzki's, should set the table for Longoria and the oft-injured Boatright. Cruz or freshman Kip Masuda must replace Chris Jones (.308) at catcher. Expect the small-ball attack to score just enough to win, as usual.
Pitching/Defense: The Beach lost Jered Weaver and Jason Vargas before last season and led the nation with a 2.53 ERA. This season provides a similar opportunity as Cesar Ramos (10-7, 2.64) and Marco Estrada (8-3, 2.43) are gone. Hughes went 7-0 in the Cape as a preview of his ascension to the staff's ace. Worley throws four pitches for strikes and reaches the low 90s. Carpenter seeks to serve as the key JC plug-in the Dirtbags have found the last two years in Vargas and Estrada. The bullpen could prove shaky following the losses of seniors Neil Jamison (0.00 ERA, 11 saves) and Brian Anderson (0.83 ERA).
X Factor: Long Beach State likes its depth of position players, and this roster features the normal mix of seasoned players and key juco additions. But expect freshmen to prove vital this year. Worley and Espinosa must prove ready for their roles, and at least one of three other freshmen -- lefty Shane Peterson or right-handers Bryan Shaw and Scott Turmail -- must emerge on the mound to add depth to the bullpen.
2005 Record (Ranking): 48-20 (10) RPI: 4
Coach (Record): Mike Bianco (198-110-1, 5 years)
Pos. Yr. Avg. HR RBI SB
C Justin Brashear (Jr. .175, 1 HR, 3 RBI)
1B C.J. Ketchum (Jr., .391, 11 RBI)
2B Justin Henry (So., .374, 2 HR, 26 RBI, 7 SB)
3B Chris Coughlan (Jr., .364, 6 HR, 57 RBI, 7 SB)
SS Zack Cozart (So., .281, 9 HR, 46 RBI, 3 SB)
LF Jon Jon Hancock (So., .283, 3 HR, 21 RBI, 1 SB)
CF Alex Presley (Jr., .302, 2 HR, 17 RBI, 1 SB)
RF Mark Wright (Sr., .311, 13 HR, 51 RBI, 2 SB)
DH Kyle Mills (Jr. Transfer--Itawamba (Miss.) CC)
LHP Tommy Baumgardner (Sr., 2-1, 2.38 ERA, 45 IP, 32 K)
RHP Nick Hetland (Jr. Transfer--Clarendon (Miss.) JC)
RHP Cody Satterwhite (Fr. HS--Jackson, Miss.)
RP Lance Lynn (Fr. HS--Brownsburg, Ind.)
Offense: Mississippi ranked among the nation's top 20 in batting, slugging and home runs last season but lost middle-of-the-order bashers Stephen Head (.331-18-68) and Brian Pettway (.383-21-67). The rest of the lineup returns to the last team to beat Texas in 2005, including Coughlan, who led the Cape Cod League in batting last summer. Cozart should become more of a consistent threat as a sophomore, and regular playing time could allow Hancock, Ketchum and transfer Mills to vie for double-digit home run totals. Presley, a freshman All-American in 2004, also returns to a regular role following a strong Cape performance.
Pitching/Defense: The losses on the mound were more severe, with 10 pitchers leaving after throwing almost 85 percent of Ole Miss' innings. That includes the top four starters in Mark Holliman, Matt Maloney, Anthony Cupps and Eric Fowler as well as Head, the closer. That quintet earned 39 wins for the Rebels. Baumgardner moves up to take the ball on Fridays after making just two starts a season ago. At least he owns D-I experience, something the next four members of the staff -- juco transfers Hetland and lefty Garrett White (San Jacinto, Texas, JC) and two touted freshmen -- don't have. Senior right-hander Stoney Stone could be the first man out of the bullpen.
X Factor: The development and maturity of Satterwhite and Lynn are of vital importance. Satterwhite comes from the same school (Hillcrest Christian) that produced Head and Seth Smith. His fastball rarely dropped out of the 90s during fall practice, and he mowed through hitters with solid command during intersquad work. Lynn also tops out near 94 mph with a power curveball. A quick start could earn him a spot in the rotation, as well, though it's hard to fathom a CWS contender relying on a pair of freshmen on the weekends.
24. North Carolina State
2005 Record (Ranking): 41-19 (NR) RPI: 19
Coach (Record): Elliott Avent (297-193, 9 years)
C Caleb Mangum (Jr., .154, 4 RBI)
1B Aaron Bates (Jr., .425, 12 HR, 64 RBI, 3 SB)
2B Ramon Corona (So., .325, 4 HR, 32 RBI, 5 SB)
3B Matt Mangini (So., .161, 4 RBI)
SS Jonathan Diaz (Jr., .317, 1 HR, 30 RBI, 3 SB)
LF Ryan Pond (So., .340, 1 HR, 29 RBI
CF Matt Camp (Sr., .267, 1 HR, 38 RBI, 16 SB)
RF Brian Aragon (Sr., .287, 4 HR, 38 RBI, 5 SB)
DH Jon Still* (Jr., .305, 8 HR, 48 RBI)
RHP Andrew Brackman (So., 4-0, 2.09 ERA, 43 IP, 43 K)
RHP Gib Hobson (Jr., 6-4, 5.12 ERA, 84 IP, 60 K)
RHP Jason Duncan (Sr., 5-0, 2.74 ERA, 46 IP, 50 K)
RP Joel Brookens# (10 sv) (So., 10 saves, 0-1, 2.53 ERA, 32 IP, 45 K)
* Stats at Stetson # Stats at George Washington
Offense: N.C. State returns seven of nine starters to a lineup that scored more than seven runs per game last season. One of the country's best hitters, Bates ended last year and starts this one as a third-team All-American. He also could see time at catcher, allowing freshman Marcus Jones or senior OF/DH Aaron Cone (.341) to get their bats in the lineup. Camp led the team with a .332 average as a sophomore and needs a rebound year in the leadoff spot. Mangini rated as the top prospect in the Northwoods League and could provide an upgrade over departed Matt Devine (.311-2-34).
Pitching/Defense: Brackman, a 6-foot-10 post player on the basketball team, amounted to an ace acquired for the stretch run last April with his power arm and excellent command. The Wolfpack will again have to wait for his return, with freshman LHP Eric Surkamp, Brackman's former prep teammate, likely starting Sundays until then. Hobson, who went 6-1, 2.55 in the Cape Cod League, takes over on Fridays. Injured righty Jeff Stallings (5-3, 3.48) will miss the season. Replacing defensive ace Jake Muyco at catcher remains a concern.
X Factor: Last season was all about getting to All-America closer Joey Devine (5-3, 2.03 and 12 saves), but he's now a major-leaguer. Duncan, a security blanket as a setup man, has moved to the rotation. Brookens inherits the closer's role, but must get over his Atlantic 10 Conference struggles (6.11 ERA in 11 appearances). Junior righty Sam Walls (4-0, 2.61) moves into Duncan's former role.
2005 Record (Ranking): 34-23 (NR) RPI: 61
Coach (Record): Dave Esquer (175-161, 6 years)
C Garrett Bussiere (Jr., .262, 5 HR, 21 RBI, 2 SB)
1B Mike Van Winden (So., .296, 1 HR, 31 RBI, 3 SB)
2B Kyle Spraker (So., .218, 3 HR, 15 RBI, 3 SB)
3B Josh Satin (So., .348, 5 HR, 40 RBI, 7 SB)
SS Allen Craig (Sr., .304, 8 HR, 35 RBI, 13 SB)
LF Chris Errecart (Jr., .298, 8 HR, 35 RBI, 6 SB)
CF Brennan Boesch (Jr., .355, 7 HR, 33 RBI, 6 SB)
RF Jason Corder (So., .200, 1 HR, 6 RBI)
DH Jordan Karnofsky (So., .667, 1 RBI)
RHP Brandon Morrow (Jr., 0-1, 9.36 ERA, 25 IP, 25 K)
RHP Michael Cooper (Jr., 3-2, 3.47 ERA, 60 IP, 34 K)
RHP Tyson Ross( Fr. HS--Oakland, Calif.)
RP Alex Trafton (Sr., 1 save, 2-1, 3.54 ERA, 28 IP, 22 K)
Offense: Seven of last year's nine regulars return, headed by two All-Americans in the outfield. The 6-foot-6 Boesch might be the Pac-10's best hitter and offers a fine power-speed combination. Errecart's six homers ranked second in the Cape Cod League, and he should continue to hone his power this year. Craig made a run at the Northwoods League MVP with a .362-12-40 summer. The rest of the infield should continue to improve after a year of seasoning, while the other sophomores will get their first cracks at regular duty. Freshman outfielder DeSean Jackson is a wild card. He was a top prep football/baseball prospect who caught two of his seven touchdowns in the Las Vegas Bowl.
Pitching/Defense: Cooper returns as the Saturday starter, but the other three starters departed after throwing more than half the innings last year. Morrow takes over on Fridays after struggling to command his 95-99 mph fastball and split-finger last year. He showed marked improvement in relief on the Cape and will dominate if that course carries over to starting. The 6-foot-6 Ross pitched for the junior national team in the fall. Cal ranked 11th nationally in fielding last year and returns most of those players. The infield shifts around some with Craig going back to shortstop from the outfield. Satin moves from second to third and Spraker slides from short to second.
X Factor: Cal was the most deserving team left out of the NCAA Tournament last season. It finished with the same conference record as Stanford and earned series wins at Long Beach State and Arizona and against Arizona State and Stanford. Most of the key players on this year's club remember their feelings from selection day and don't want any sort of repeat. Esquer should have all the motivation he needs to drive his team.