Previewing the Los Angeles Regional

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The Road to Omaha continues this weekend with NCAA regional action.

We take an in-depth look at all 16 NCAA regionals.

TeamConferenceRecordBerthLast NCAA appearance
1. UCLAPac-1043-13At-large2008 (Fullerton Regional)
2. LSUSEC40-20Won SEC2009 (National champion)
3. UC IrvineBig West37-19At-large2009 (Irvine Regional)
4. Kent StateMid-American39-23Won MAC2009 (Tempe Regional)
The favorite: UCLA
2. LSU   
3. UC Irvine
4. Kent State
Many college baseball coaches and enthusiasts subscribe to the theory that pitching wins championships. If that’s the case, UCLA is in good shape this weekend and beyond. The Bruins enter the postseason with a solid .309 batting average, but they get most of their work done on the mound with fantastic starting pitchers Gerrit Cole, Trevor Bauer and Rob Rasmussen leading the charge. The Bruins also have a fabulous No. 4 starter in Garett Claypool. The Bruins can afford to lose a game this weekend and still bounce back to win the regional. Can we say the same for LSU and UC Irvine?
The dark-horse contender: UC Irvine
With UCLA’s fabulous pitching and LSU hot play entering the weekend, UC Irvine has flown under the radar much of this week. Perhaps people shouldn’t sleep on the Anteaters, though. The Anteaters enter the postseason with a .304 batting average and solid hitter Jeff Cusick (.379, 8, 56) leading the way. They also have a solid crop of starting pitchers in Danny Bibona, Eric Pettis and Christian Bergman. UCLA and LSU may lead the way, but Irvine is close behind.
Best hitter: LSU catcher Micah Gibbs
West Coast fans will get a close look at why professional organizations value Gibbs so much for the upcoming MLB draft. Gibbs is having a fantastic campaign for the Tigers and is hitting .392 with nine homers and 55 RBIs. He also has recorded 13 doubles, three triples and has a .467 on-base percentage. Gibbs also is a sensational defensive player for the Tigers.
Best pitcher: UCLA RHP Gerrit Cole
Cole had a couple of bad starts in the regular season that allowed his earned run average to climb to 3.27, but he still is the elite pitcher in this field of four. Cole has started 15 games this season and has struck out 124 and walked 46 in 96 1/3 innings. He also is limiting opposing teams to a .200 batting average. Teams will have a tough time getting much off Cole if he is clicking.
The buzz
UC Irvine may start senior pitcher Danny Bibona against LSU on Friday. Bibona has had some injury issues as of late, but the veteran appears to be ready to go. Bibona has had a fantastic season with a 2.10 ERA in 90 innings of work. If Bibona is unable to go, the Anteaters will choose between Christian Bergman and Eric Pettis … Speaking of tough decisions, LSU must choose between Anthony Ranaudo and Austin Ross for the first start against the Anteaters. Ranaudo is the easy choice, but he threw twice in the SEC tournament last week. Ross also threw well in the SEC tournament last week, but he is not nearly as reliable … For LSU, keep an eye on Mason Katz. Katz came out of nowhere to be a big-time contributor in the SEC tournament last week. Katz is hitting .278 in 36 at-bats … We’ve talked the entire season about how good the UCLA pitching staff is, but give a ton of credit to its offense, too. The Bruins failed to impress at the plate last season, but hitting coach Rick Vanderhook has done a great job of transforming the Bruins’ lineup into a formidable unit. UCLA was hitting around .350 earlier in the season but now is hitting .309. Speaking of unsung heroes, keep an eye on pitcher Garett Claypool. He has flown under the radar because of Cole, Bauer and Rasmussen, but Claypool has a 2.05 ERA in 79 innings of work … It should come as no surprise that Kent State is back in the NCAA postseason. The Flashes have accomplished a lot during the Scott Stricklin area. This season is no different. The Flashes have a 5.06 ERA this season, but they have a productive offense that is hitting .320 with Anthony Gallas and Ben Klafczynski leading the way. Also, keep an eye on Travis Shaw, who’s hitting .341 with 15 homers and 60 RBIs … The Los Angeles Regional will be televised by Cox Sports Television later this week. CST is available in states such as Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana and also can be found on Dish Network channel 421.

Kendall Rogers is the college baseball editor for Yahoo! Sports and Follow him on Twitter and follow Yahoo! Sports College Baseball on Facebook. Send Kendall a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Wednesday, Jun 2, 2010