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2008 REGIONAL PREVIEW: HOUSTON & COLLEGE STATION
May 29, 2008

SCS.com College baseball powerhouse Rice is once again a national seed (#6), and therefore will host up to the Super Regionals if they win the Houston Regional at Reckling Park this weekend. Unfortunately for them, the selection committee also put the red hot Texas Longhorns in the Houston Regional as the 2 seed. With archrivals Rice and Texas both playing at Recking Park this weekend, there is sure to be exciting and competitive baseball that will be going on in Houston. Playing the 2 seed Texas in the first game will be the 3 seed St. Johnís, who received an at-large bid out of the Big East conference. Rice, the #6 national seed, will play 4 seed Sam Houston State in the first game of the Houston Regional.

The College Station Regional will be paired with the Houston Regional, with the winner of each regional advancing to the Super Regionals next week. The hosts, the Texas A&M Aggies, have lost eight of their past nine games and will play 4 seed Illinois-Chicago in their opening game of the College Station Regional. Surprise 2 seed Dallas Baptist will play Conference USA tournament winner Houston, the 3 seed, in their first game of the NCAA Tournament. In these two regionals, some of the best teams in the state of Texas will play- Rice, Texas, Texas A&M, Dallas Baptist, and Houston- with a shot at advancing to Omaha for the College World Series.

HOUSTON REGIONAL
  vs College Station Regional

The Field

(1) Rice [#6 national seed]
The Owls (42-13) lost both of their Conference USA tournament games over the past week but know how to play in the postseason. Longtime head coach Wayne Graham leads a Rice squad whose strength this year is their pitching. The team batting average of .308 suggests that the Owls have also hit the ball pretty well this season.
(2) Texas
The Longhorns (37-20) won the Big 12 Tournament last week after sweeping Texas A&M the previous weekend, and are one of the hottest teams in the nation. Augie Garrido was upset that Texas didnít get to host a regional this season as he thought this team was deserving due to their late season success and strong facilities. His Longhorn ball club will travel to Houston with a chip on their shoulders.
(3) St. Johnís
The Red Storm (41-14), who received an at-large bid out of the Big East conference, will have to make the long trip from New York City to Houston for the NCAA Tournament. In their first game, the Big East squad will face the red hot Texas Longhorns with many fans donning burnt orange in Reckling Park.
(4) Sam Houston State
The Bearkats (37-23) advanced to the final game of the Oxford Regional last year and are accustomed to big-time baseball in the postseason. They will have the task of playing #6 national seed Rice, another team whoís had their fair share of success in the NCAA postseason.

The Venue

Hosting the Houston Regional this weekend will be Reckling Park, home of the Rice Owls. In its ninth season, Reckling Park has undergone renovations recently that have made it one of the better places to watch a college baseball game in the nation. The Owlsí ballpark has a capacity of 3,700 and from anywhere in Reckling Park one can see downtown Houston.

The Best

Starting Pitcher - Chance Ruffin, Texas - Ruffin has become the ace of the Longhorn staff as a freshman, boasting a 7-3 record on the season to go along with a 2.04 ERA. In 70.2 innings this year, Ruffin has only given up 47 hits and is holding opposing batters to a .186 average. He was recently named Big 12 Freshman of the Year.
Runner-up: Ryan Berry, Rice
Relief Pitcher - Cole St. Clair, Rice - The Owls best relief pitcher also happens to be among the best relievers in the nation, owning an 8-2 record and a 2.88 ERA on the season. St. Clair has also picked up 5 saves for Rice, whose team ERA stands at 3.63.
Runner-up: Colin Lynch, St. Johnís
Infielder - Brandon Belt, Texas - The Longhorns first baseman has had a great year so far both at the plate and in the field. Belt has 6 homeruns and 64 RBIs this season to go with a .332 batting average. Playing first base, Belt only has committed four errors.
Runner-up: Diego Seastrunk, Rice
Outfielder - Jordan Danks, Texas - On the season, Danks owns a .329 average to go with 6 homeruns and 44 RBIs. His 34 extra base hits (21 2B, 7 3B) make him one of the most dangerous players in the Houston Regional.
Runner-up: Bobby Verbick, Sam Houston State
Homerun Hitter - Kyle Russell, Texas - Russell has had a down year this season after leading the nation in homeruns with 28 last year, but still possesses the ability to hit the long ball at any moment in the game. This year, Russell has hit 15 out of the park to go with a .297 average and 47 RBIs.
Runner-up: Aaron Luna, Rice
Coach - Augie Garrido, Texas - It was a hard choice between him and Wayne Graham of Rice, but itís his five national titles (1979, 1984, 1995, 2002, 2005) that make him the best coach in the Houston Regional. In the past eight seasons, Garrido has also led the Longhorns to Omaha five times. Garrido is a legend in the college baseball world.
Runner-up: Wayne Graham, Rice

The Forecast

The Houston Regional showcases two of the best teams in the state of Texas, and even in the nation, in the Owls and the Longhorns. Playing at Reckling Park wonít be that big of a home field advantage for Rice as there should be a lot of burnt orange in the ballpark this weekend. St. Johnís at 41-14 on the season is a pretty good team but shouldnít be able to do much damage to Rice or Texas in Houston. Donít count on the Bearkats, as they did advance to the Regional final last year in Oxford against Ole Miss.
On Sunday, it should be Rice and Texas battling it out as rivals to advance to the Super Regionals. Rice did beat the Longhorns two out of three times this year, but itís Texas thatís the hotter team right now as they have been on a roll lately while Rice lost their only two games in the Conference USA tournament last week. This should be one of the more interesting regionals in the NCAA Tournament this weekend.

The Predictions

Eddie Jason Jimmy Jonathan
Rice Texas Texas Rice

COLLEGE STATION REGIONAL
  vs Houston Regional

The Field

(1) Texas A&M
The Aggies (43-16) are on a cold spell currently, as they have lost eight of their last nine ballgames. Before the losing trend began, the Aggies saw themselves as a team that was consistently in the Top 10 in various national polls. They will have quite a home field advantage this weekend in College Station.
(2) Dallas Baptist
The Patriots (37-17) are the surprise 2 seed of the NCAA Tournament and will play the 3 seed Houston in their first game. Dallas Baptist did beat #6 national seed Rice twice this season in both of their ballgames so they know what it takes to compete against big-time college baseball teams.
(3) Houston
The Cougars (39-22) won the Conference USA tournament over the past week and are a hot ball club. They finished 14-10 in the CUSA this season, a conference that has got a few of their teams playing in the NCAA postseason.
(4) Illinois-Chicago
Winners of the Horizon League championship, the Flames (34-20) clinched an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. UIC has appeared in the NCAA Tournament in 4 of the last 6 years.

The Venue

Olsen Field will host the College Station Regional this weekend and it will be the second straight year the facility will host a regional. The Aggiesí ballpark has a seating capacity of a little over 7,000, so the A&M 12th man will be in order this weekend in College Station. This is the 25th year that Texas A&M will have played at Olsen Field.

The Best

Starting Pitcher - Clayton Ehlert, Texas A&M - Ehlert has had a nice year so far for the Aggies, as he owns a 6-2 record and a 3.25 ERA on the season. The Texas A&M starter is one of the best options for head coach Rob Childress, whose pitching staff owns an ERA of 4.03 this year.
Runner-up: Derrick Miramontes, Illinois-Chicago
Relief Pitcher - Travis Starling, Texas A&M - At 8-0, the Aggies closer has a record that one would normally see from a starter. But Starling also owns 9 saves on the year for Texas A&M, and has an ERA that stands at 3.53.
Runner-up: Chase Dempsay, Houston
Infielder - Jose Duran, Texas A&M - The Aggies shortstop has had a great campaign at the plate so far this season, as heís batting .394 with 6 homeruns and 66 RBIs. His 20 errors in the field are a concern, but his high average helps Texas A&M win ballgames.
Runner-up: Ryan Goins, Dallas Baptist
Outfielder - Evan Bigley, Dallas Baptist - The Patriots outfielder has been great not only at the plate but also in the field this season, owning a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage. At the dish, Bigley is hitting .340 with 13 homeruns and 58 RBIs along with 20 doubles.
Runner-up: Jake Stewart, Illinois-Chicago
Homerun Hitter - Luke Anders, Texas A&M - The Texas A&M first baseman has done what one would expect from a first baseman at the plate this season. On the year, Anders has hit 14 homeruns while totaling 51 RBIs and owning a .335 batting average.
Runner-up: Jake Stewart, Houston
Coach - Rob Childress- Texas A&M -Childress is known as one of the top pitching coaches and recruiters in the nation and that was shown in 2007. Last year, Childress lead the biggest turnaround in NCAA Division I baseball history, with the Aggies winning 23 more games in 2007 than they did in the previous year. With Childress at the helm, it seems the skyís the limit for this program.

The Forecast

The College Station Regional has been said by many in the college baseball landscape to be the weakest regional in this yearís NCAA Tournament field. Time will tell if that is true. But if Texas A&M can regain their winning form, they are a very good ball club, especially at home in College Station. Dallas Baptist looks to be a weak 2 seed but as mentioned earlier they did sweep Rice in a two games series this season. 3 seed Houston is hot as they are coming off winning the Conference USA Tournament.
The College Station Regional should be interesting because the Aggies are reeling while Dallas Baptist is a very mediocre 2 seed. In College Station this weekend, home field advantage should be enough for the Aggies to regain their winning form from earlier in the year. Look for Texas A&M to advance to the Super Regionals, playing the winner of the Houston Regional for a shot at making it to Omaha.

The Predictions

Eddie Jason Jimmy Jonathan
Texas A&M Texas A&M Texas A&M Texas A&M
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