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Arizona baseball opens NCAA tourney vs. GCU; ASU heads to Austin Regional

Photo via Facebook (Mike Mattina/Arizona Athletics)

The state of Arizona will be well represented in college baseball’s 2021 NCAA Tournament.

Arizona, Arizona State and Grand Canyon all make the cut in the 64 teams that were selected on Monday.

Arizona Wildcats vs. Grand Canyon Antelopes – Friday, 7 p.m. (ESPN3)

Arizona Wildcats

After securing their first outright conference title since 1992, the Wildcats (40-15, 21-9 Pac-12) enter the postseason as the No. 5 overall seed and are hosts of the Tucson Regional at Hi Corbett Field. Oklahoma State, GCU and UC Santa Barbara are the other teams that will play in the regional.

Arizona is the favorite to advance to the super regionals and for good reason. The last time the Wildcats hosted a regional, they won the College World Series (2012).

This season Arizona led the Pac-12 in runs, hits, doubles, triples, RBIs, walks, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, total bases and extra-base hits. The Wildcats also rank fourth nationally in batting average (.325) and runs per game (8.7).

Player to watch:Β One reason why Arizona has done so well is because of freshman Jacob Berry. The designated hitter has one the program’s great regular season performances, breaking multiple freshman records. He also leads the team in batting average (.371), home runs (15), runners batted in (64) and slugging percentage (.710).

Grand Canyon Antelopes

After winning its first ever WAC title, GCU (39-19-1, 29-7 WAC) will play against the Wildcats in its first NCAA Tournament as a Division I team. The two teams look to claim bragging rights after splitting the regular season series.

The Lopes likely won’t be able to stop Arizona’s highly potent offense, but they might be able to minimize it.

Pierson Ohl (2.36) and Carter Young (2.69) led the conference in ERA. GCU also ranked 29th nationally with an ERA of 3.85. Ohl also led the WAC in wins (10).

Player to watch: Freshman Elijah Buries leads the team in batting average (.365) and slugging percentage (.553). He also is second in RBIs (38) and tied for second in home runs (6).

Arizona State Sun Devils vs. Fairfield Stags – Friday, 4 p.m. MST (ESPN3)

Arizona State Sun Devils

About 900 miles east, the Sun Devils (32-20, 16-14 Pac-12) find themselves back in the Austin Regional at UFCU Disch-Falk Field for the first time since 2011.

ASU will open the regional against Fairfield and its ace Jake Noviello. Finishing with an impressive 8-0 record, the Stags pitcher leads the team in innings pitched (62.1) and is No. 5 nationally in earned run average (1.44).

Fairfield will, however, be without its star catcher Mike Caruso. The MAAC Player of the Year suffered a broken jaw after being hit by a pitch in practice.

Entering the postseason winning five out of its last six weekend series, the Sun Devils will be the youngest team in the tournament with two-thirds of its batting lineup being freshmen.

Player to watch: Despite lack experience, ASU has been just fine with relying upon one of its freshmen, Ethan Long. Long caught the eyes of the college baseball world when he had a ridiculous streak of hitting 15 home runs in 15 games. He ended the regular season leading the team in batting average (.340), home runs (16) and RBIs (53); he also led the Pac-12 in slugging percentage (.725).

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