LAS CRUCES – New Mexico State head baseball coach Brian Green has always wanted to see how his Aggies starting pitching staff would measure up against regional powers for a weekend series.
Green and the Aggies have that opportunity against Texas Tech in the NCAA Regional. The Aggies (40-20) will play No. 9 national seed Texas Tech (39-17) today at Rip Griffin Park in Lubbock, Texas. Kent State will play Louisville on the other side of the bracket, and the winner of the four-team, double elimination format with the winner advancing to Super Regionals.
“It’s a great opportunity for us in a sense that we have played in the midweek, so we have seen them,” Green, whose club went 40-20 and won the school’s first Western Athletic Conference tournament to earn its first NCAA berth since 2012, told the Las Cruces Sun-News. “We have always wanted to take a crack at these teams on a weekend, but they have faced our midweek pitching. We have a little chip on our shoulder. We are the little man coming out of the WAC. We are excited about the opportunity.”
NMSU has played Texas Tech each year since 2012. The Aggies are 1-8 against Texas Tech under Green in the past four years, including 0-2 this season. Texas Tech beat NMSU 12-0 in Lubbock in February and 2-1 in April in Midland, Texas.
“We know their stadium, know their fans and what to expect,” said Aggie junior right-hander Kyle Bradish.
Green said this week that either Bradish (9-3, 2.79 ERA) or left-hander Jonathan Groff (11-2, 2.49) would draw today’s assignment against Tech. “We know that Tech is pretty left-handed, so that’s going to play a part in that,” he said.
Texas Tech and NMSU are in the Top 5 nationally in several offensive categories. Texas Tech is third in runs per game with 8.4 (NMSU is fourth with 8.2) and on base percentage, where Texas Tech is second (.423) and NMSU is fourth (.412).
“We have seen their guys,” Green said. “(Grant Little) is an All-American, (Big 12 Freshman of the Year Josh Jung) is one of the best players in the country. They have great team speed, great athleticism and power in the middle of the lineup. They are good.”
Texas Tech leads the all-time series against the Aggies 50-18. The Aggies are in their fourth regional ever and have gone 1-6 in their previous three.
Some other things to know, heading into this weekend’s pNCAA lay:
REGAL IN REGIONALS: No one in the 64-team field has had more success in recent regionals than Louisville, which has hosted regionals each of the last five years and has gone 15-0. Their five straight appearances in super regionals mark the longest active streak. Four other teams have won three straight regionals.
WHO’S HOT: Stetson is a host for the first time and owns the nation’s longest active winning streak at 15 games. .
WHO’S NOT: No team is colder than Oklahoma State, which was in first place in the Big 12 after sweeping rival Oklahoma in late April. Since then the Cowboys have lost 10 of 12, including the last six. Defending national champion Florida has lost six of seven.
FEELING A DRAFT: Nineteen of D1Baseball.com’s projected first-round picks in the Major League Baseball draft are in the tournament. Some of the top prospects are Auburn pitcher and possible No. 1 overall pick Casey Mize, Florida third baseman Jonathan India, Oregon State second baseman Nick Madrigal; pitchers Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar of Florida, Ryan Rolison of Mississippi, Shane McClanahan of South Florida and Logan Gilbert of Stetson; and outfielders Trevor Larnach of Oregon State, Jameson Hannah of Dallas Baptist and Steele Walker of Oklahoma.
MAKING THEIR PITCH: The top six ERA teams in the nation are in regionals: Stetson (2.58), Stanford (2.85), UCLA (2.94), St. John’s (2.95), Indiana (2.95) and Gonzaga (2.96). Nick Sandlin of Southern Miss brings in a 1.13 ERA, Oregon State’s Luke Heimlich has 14 wins against one loss and USF’s McClanahan averages 14.76 strikeouts per nine innings — all nation-leading numbers.
DOUBLE PLAY: Oklahoma center fielder and cleanup hitter Kyler Murray is favored to win the Sooners’ starting quarterback job after backing up Baker Mayfield. Murray is batting .296 with 10 homers, 47 RBIs, a .556 slugging percentage and 10 stolen bases. He missed most of the Big 12 Tournament with a left hamstring injury. About the only thing that would keep Murray from playing football this fall would be if he’s drafted in baseball and decides to take the immediate money.
MARTIN’S YEAR? Florida State is making its 41st straight appearance, and Mike Martin has been head coach for 39 of them. With each one comes the question: Will this be the year Martin and the Seminoles win their first national championship? Martin, 74, became the NCAA
‘s all-time wins leader on May 5, and the Seminoles are hot after sweeping through the ACC Tournament.
But the path to Omaha is treacherous. The No. 2 seed in the Tallahassee Regional, Mississippi State, has had a knack for knocking off heavyweights. If seeds hold, the Seminoles would host a super regional against a Clemson team they split four games with in the ACC.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.