Previewing the Tempe Regional

Follow Kendall Rogers on Twitter at @ysportsncaabb. | Connect to us on Facebook

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

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

THE TEAMS
TeamConferenceRecordBerthLast NCAA appearance
1. Arizona StatePac-1047-8Won Pac-102009 (College World Series)
2. San DiegoWest Coast36-20Won WCC2008 (Long Beach Regional)
3. HawaiiWAC33-26Won WAC2006 (Corvallis Regional)
4. Wis.-MilwaukeeHorizon33-24Won Horizon2002 (Lincoln Regional)
THE BREAKDOWN
The favorite: Arizona State
1. Arizona State
2. San Diego
3. Hawaii
4. Milwaukee
The Sun Devils are one of college baseball’s best stories this season. Despite losing long-time coach Pat Murphy back in November and All-American pitcher Josh Spence to an injury, the Devils haven’t skipped a beat this spring. ASU has been incredibly consistent and enters the postseason with a .340 batting average and a 3.16 ERA. Zack MacPhee (.381,8,59) is the best hitter to watch this weekend, while starting pitcher Seth Blair (3.20, 90 IP) and reliever Mitchell Lambson (2.37, 60 2/3 IP) are two of the nation’s best pitchers. ASU shouldn’t have too much trouble advancing to super regional play.
The dark-horse contender: San Diego
After having a less than stellar 2009 campaign, the Toreros responded in a big way this spring with a dominant 36-20 regular season record, including a 19-2 mark in the West Coast Conference. There are plenty of reasons to watch USD in the Tempe Regional this weekend. The Toreros will be without James Meador, but still enter the weekend with a solid .314 batting average. They also are fantastic on the mound with starting pitchers Kyle Blair, Sammy Solis and AJ Griffin leading the charge. Reliever Matt Thomson also is having a fantastic season. USD has the pitching to stay with ASU, but does it have enough offense?
Best hitter: Arizona State 2B Zack MacPhee
There is a reason MacPhee is in the running for Rivals.com National Player of the Year honors entering the NCAA tournament. After not having an impressive batting average last season, MacPhee has risen to the occasion in a big way this spring. He enters the postseason hitting .381 with seven doubles, 14 triples, eight homers and 59 RBIs. He also is slugging .686 and has a .490 batting average. Additionally, he is 18-for-22 in stolen bases. MacPhee does everything for the Devils.
Best pitcher: San Diego RHP Kyle Blair
The Toreros couldn’t be more pleased with what the junior right-handed pitcher has accomplished this season. Blair has increased his draft stock with a fabulous campaign. Blair has made 14 starts, thrown a pair of complete games and has a 2.99 ERA in 90 1/3 innings of work. He also has struck out 118 and walked 28 and limited opposing teams to a .217 batting average. Blair and fellow starters Sammy Solis and AJ Griffin are huge keys to the regional for the Toreros.
The buzz
Arizona State’s players no longer have to worry about playing for Tim Esmay’s job. Esmay was named the interim coach to replace Pat Murphy earlier this year. However, that interim tag is no more as the Sun Devils announced him the permanent head coach this week. Esmay getting the permanent title was not a surprise … San Diego will have to take care of business in Tempe without veteran slugger James Meador. Meador fractured his hand this week and will not play this weekend. Meador is a huge loss for the Toreros. The veteran was hitting .391 with 22 doubles, a triple, seven homers and 62 RBIs. He also was slugging .600 and had a .449 on-base percentage … Hawaii is flying under the radar entering the weekend, but could be an interesting team to watch. The Warriors have a few hitters to watch from a lineup that is hitting .289, but many eyes will be on starting pitcher Josh Slaats and reliever Lenny Linsky. Slaats has had a great year and has 15 starts and a 3.22 ERA in 72 2/3 innings. He also has struck out 74 and walked 32 and limited teams to a .252 batting average. Linsky, meanwhile, has recorded 12 saves and has a 1.59 ERA in 39 2/3 innings. He also has struck out 27 and walked 11 and has limited teams to a .239 batting average. The Warriors have the arms to make some noise this weekend … Milwaukee was the dark horse to win the Horizon League tournament last week and took care of business against Wright State. Now the Panthers hope to surprise this weekend. Milwaukee ace pitcher Chad Pierce (3.70, 99 2/3 IP) is having a fantastic campaign, while the offense enters regional play on a hot streak with a .326 batting average. Milwaukee is led at the plate by Cole Kraft, who’s hitting .353 with five homers and 35 RBIs.

Kendall Rogers is the college baseball editor for Yahoo! Sports and Rivals.com. 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