It’s time for the most stressful weekend in college baseball! That’s right, for the second time in as many years to kick off the Jim Schlossnagle era of Fightin’ Texas Aggie Baseball, the Eggs have the privilege of taking part in college baseball’s most beautifully unique events: the regional. This year’s destination is the NCAA Stanford Regional (yes, Stanford, not Palo Alto), marking the second time in program history that the Cardinal will host A&M in their regional (the first coming in 1997), and the first time since the introduction of the super regional format in 1999.
This is also the second time the Ags will head out west since joining the SEC in 2013, when they took part in the Corvallis Regional hosted by Oregon State. Including this season (and obviously ignoring the lost 2020 season), the committee has now sent an SEC team to a west coast regional in six of the last 10 tournaments. Unfortunately for the Aggies’ prospects, only one of the previous five (2021 LSU in Eugene, OR) advanced to the supers.
As for this year’s tournament, here’s how the 2023 Stanford Regional lines up:
- No. 8 Stanford (38-16, 23-7 PAC-12, #14 RPI)
- Texas A&M (36-25, 14-16 SEC, #29 RPI)
- Cal State Fullerton (31-22, 20-10 Big West, #65 RPI)
- San Jose State (31-25, 18-11 Mountain West, #109 RPI)
Stanford garners most of the attention in this group, and rightfully so, as the No. 8 national seeded Cardinal won their conference by five whole games over Oregon State. The Trees boast an almost SEC-like slugging offense, which they used to win a seemingly weaker-than-usual PAC-12.
Cal State Fullerton, who finished second in the Big West Conference, got the auto-bid thanks in part to UC San Diego being ineligible for the postseason (transitioning from D2). The Titans are at their best when they pitch and play solid defense (duh), which they did when they beat Stanford on opening day, and when took a series from Texas at the beginning of March.
San Jose State is making its first regional appearance since the 2002 Palo Alto Regional (sounds familiar) just two years removed from winning only six (6) games in 2021. That team started the season 3-3, before losing 27 of 30 the rest of the season, including a brutal 17-game losing streak. And after dropping a late-season non-conference series in Austin, the Spartans sat 24-24 heading into the final week of the season. They’ve won seven of their last eight, during a stretch in which they won both the Mountain West regular season and tournament titles.
Here’s how all four teams rank nationally in some of the statistical categories officially tracked by the NCAA:
2023 Stanford Regional Offense
2023 Stanford Regional Pitching
* - the NCAA does not track total home runs allowed, so this column reflects the total number of homers allowed by each staff.
As you can see, that Stanford offense stacks up there with the likes of LSU, South Carolina, and Florida. So at the very least, should the Eggs get a crack at the hosts, it won’t be anything they haven’t seen before. The biggest surprise, honestly, is just how similar the much-maligned Aggie pitching staff rates on paper to that of Stanford. Given only one PAC-12 offense (Arizona) that’s put up numbers even in the same ballpark as the Cardinal, I definitely wouldn’t have expected that. In reality, the difference between any of these four pitching staffs is probably marginal, with Fullerton slightly edging Stanford for the best of this group.
So, even though the PAC-12 guy at D1Baseball put his confidence at 7/10 for Stanford, I’d say this one’s a bit more wide open than that. There have been people all over with varying opinions on Stanford’s draw for this weekend, and there isn’t much consensus. If my experience with this year’s Eggies has taught me anything, it’s that they’ll either sputter right out of the gate, or they’ll hang on to win a one-run regional championship game seven on Monday against the hosts, refusing to die for one more week. But because it’s illegal for them to sweep anyone (NKU not included), they definitely won’t win this regional in the minimum three games. *eyes emoji*
BTHO Cal State Fullerton!
- Game 1: Will Johnston (3-3, 5.16 ERA) vs. Tyler Stultz (7-4, 4.53 ERA)