Even though they haven’t taken part in the NCAA Tournament since 1974, the Cincinnati Bearcats don’t have to worry about that anymore. An American Athletic Conference championship ensured them a spot in this year’s field. On Monday, they found out exactly where and who they will be playing in the first stages of the event. However, just knowing the name of the teams they will face isn’t enough, so let’s take a deeper look at the opponents the Bearcats will contend with as they attempt to make it out of the Corvallis Regional.
Oregon State Beavers
Hitting line: .264/.369/.394
Team ERA: 2.98
The host of this regional, the defending national champions were named the No. 16 overall seed in the tournament. A 36-win team out of the Pac-12, they are most known for having a shutdown pitching staff, ranking second in the country in ERA (2.98) and sixth in WHIP (1.19). Senior right-hander Bryce Fehmel has been the arm the Beavers lean on the most, as he has logged a team-high 94 1⁄3 innings and made 15 starts while going 7-3 with a 3.34 ERA. However, Grant Gambrell (2.74 ERA, 76 strikeouts in 65 2⁄3 innings) and Brandon Eisert (2.03 ERA, 74 strikeouts in 62 innings) may be the more effective starters, while Eisert also contributed as a reliever this season. Speaking of relievers, the Beavers also have some lockdown arms in the bullpen in Jake Mulholland (1.81 ERA in 26 appearances) and Dylan Pearce (3.59 ERA, 49 strikeouts in 52 2⁄3 innings), who can also start when needed.
While the pitching does most of the heavy lifting for the Beavers, they would not be hosting a regional without the incredible hitting work of junior Adley Rutschman, who is slashing a blistering .419/.580/.765 with 17 home runs and 57 RBI this season.
Conference: Big East
Hitting line: .293/.396/.480
Team ERA: 4.23
Creighton was likely going to earn an at-large bid to this tournament but they decided to win the Big East Tournament all the same. With a league championship in tow, the Bluejays are making their 11th trip to the NCAA Tournament and first since 2012. A team with an offense that can be difficult to stop, the Bluejays, who averaged 12 runs per game during the Big East Tournament, feature four players batting above .300 this season, led by Jake Holton (.405/.502/.726). The Big East Player of the Year led the conference in batting average, hit 14 home runs and walked nearly as many times (29) as he struck out (34).
The lineup also got plenty of help from Parker Upton (.327/.495/.597), Will Robertson (.309/.402/.583) and Isaac Collins (.303/.377/.482), as the Bluejays ranked among the top 25 teams in the country in on-base percentage entering this past weekend.
On the mound, the Bluejays have a solid one-two punch in the rotation with Mitch Ragan (3.97 ERA, 86 strikeouts in 90 2⁄3 innings) and Evan Johnson (3.14 ERA, 70 strikeouts in 71 2⁄3 innings), while John Sakowski (2.36 ERA, 40 strikeouts in 42 innings) is a lights out reliever who finished off the Bluejays’ win in the Big East title game against Xavier after Johnson struggled as the starter.
Conference: Big Ten
Hitting line: .283/.384/.448
Team ERA: 3.50
They may have the most wins of any team in the regional, but the Wolverines were named the No. 3 seed after earning an at-large bid. This will mark the 24th time Michigan has been included in the NCAA Tournament, although they haven’t made it to the College World Series since 1984. With a starting rotation that features three pitchers with sub-4.00 ERAs, the Wolverines have been able to out-pitch plenty of opponents this season. Jeff Criswell has the lowest ERA (2.76) among Michigan’s three primary starters and has struck out 87 batters in 81 2⁄3 innings, but Karl Kauffmann (2.86 ERA, 86 strikeouts) and Tommy Henry (3.61 ERA, 104 strikeouts) have both logged more innings and have still walked fewer batters.
On offense, the Wolverines should be able to keep up with UC on the base paths, as they have accumulated 88 steals this season, with five different players reaching double digits. Both Big Ten Player of the Year Jordan Brewer (.342/.402/.609, 30 extra base hits) and Jordan Nwogu (.338/.456/.590) are among those five while also bringing a great deal of power to the plate.