The Road to Omaha continues this weekend with NCAA regional action.
We take an in-depth look at all 16 NCAA regionals.
Last NCAA appearance
2009 (College World Series)
2. Washington State
2009 (Norman Regional)
3. Kansas State
2009 (Houston Regional)
1985 (Central Regional)
The favorite: Arkansas
The Hogs struggled in their two games in the SEC tournament last week. However, we don't expect that trend to continue in the Fayetteville Regional this weekend. The Hogs were without Zack Cox last weekend, but will have him back for regional action. The Hogs enter the postseason hitting .305 with Cox, Collin Kuhn (.343,12,45) and Brett Eibner (.332,18,61) leading the way. On the mound, the Hogs possess a respectable 3.86 ERA and expect big things from do-it-all pitcher Mike Bolsinger (4.35, 78 2/3 IP) and reliever DJ Baxendale (3.83, 54 IP). UA has too many weapons to not take care of business this weekend.
The dark-horse contender: Washington State
The Cougars and Razorbacks should be familiar with one another after competing in last year's Norman Regional. The Cougars have had a solid season and bring something to the table both at the plate and on the mound. The Cougars are hitting just .293 but have a few key hitters to watch, including Derek Jones, who's hitting .300 with 10 doubles, 11 homers and 40 RBIs. On the mound is where the Cougars get it done, though. Ace pitcher Chad Arnold has a 3.47 ERA in 98 2/3 innings and reliever Adam Conley has made 27 appearances and has a 3.13 ERA in 60 1/3 innings. Conley also has recorded 11 saves for the Cougars. WSU needs to start the regional in the winner's bracket.
Best hitter: Arkansas 3B Zack Cox
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn wasn't real sure this time last week if Cox would be able to play in an NCAA regional. Well, the Hogs fortunately now feel good about his situation. Having Cox makes UA's offense much better. Cox is having a banner campaign, hitting a team high .432 with 11 doubles, a triple, eight homers and 47 RBIs. He also is slugging .606 and has a .514 on-base percentage. Cox also is 11-for-12 in stolen bases. Cox is a complete player.
Best pitcher: Arkansas LHP Drew Smyly
The Razorbacks have had a solid season and the sophomore left-handed pitcher is a huge reason why they've had some success. Smyly raised plenty of eyebrows with a strong finish last season. He has continued to earn headlines this season. Smyly has made 12 starts and has an 8-1 record and a 2.54 ERA in 88 2/3 innings. He also has struck out 98 and walked 29 and is limiting opposing teams to just a .224 batting average. The Hogs are in great shape if Smyly can avoid more blister issues.
After missing the SEC tournament last week because of a rib-cage injury, the Razorbacks are optimistic that likely All-American Zack Cox will play this weekend after having a good practice earlier this week. Outside of Cox, though, the Razorbacks need a big weekend from Collin Kuhn, who has fizzled a bit since begin one of the nation's hottest hitters in the middle of the season. Something else to watch in regards to the Hogs is the health of starting pitcher Drew Smyly. Smyly has dealt with blister issues the entire season. Last week in Hoover, Ala., he used medical glue to keep the blister together. It'll be interesting to see if that issues flares up again this weekend … Adam Conley is the most impressive reliever to watch for Washington State this weekend. But also keep an eye on Paris Shewey and Connor Lambert. Shewey has made 26 appearances and has a fantastic 2.75 ERA in 52 1/3 innings. He also has struck out 45 and walked 22 and opponents are hitting just .201 against him. Lambert, meanwhile, has a 3.11 ERA in 37 2/3 innings … Kansas State leaves plenty to be desired on the mound this weekend, but keep an eye on its offense. The Wildcats enter the postseason with a .323 batting average. Five often used hitters are hitting .333 or better, while leading hitter Nick Martini is batting .416 with 16 doubles, four triples, three homers and 53 RBIs. Martini also is slugging .566 and has a .507 on-base percentage … Grambling coach James Cooper couldn't have had a better season. Cooper guided the program to its first SWAC tournament title since 1985 last week. Cooper also was named the SWAC Coach of the Year. Interestingly, the Tigers enter the postseason with a respectable .302 batting average. However, they could have a load of trouble in Fayetteville with just a 8.51 ERA on the mound.