NCAA Baseball

NCAA baseball Eugene Regional preview

With the Oregon Ducks hosting the Eugene Regional as a part of the NCAA baseball tournament this weekend, The Oregonian/OregonLive previews the four teams competing at PK Park.


Record: 37-14, 20-10 in the Pac-12 (second).

Coach: Mark Wasikowski, 2nd season, 45-21.

Top hitters: Aaron Zavala (.398 batting average, seven home runs, 11 stolen bases, 58 runs), Josh Kasevich (.332 batting average, four home runs, 48 RBI), Gabe Matthews (.326 batting average, seven home runs), Tanner Smith (.324 batting average, five home runs, 34 RBI), Kenyon Yovan (.319 batting average, 14 home runs, 51 RBI).

Top pitchers: Robert Ahlstrom (8-3, 2.41 ERA, 82 innings, 86 strikeouts), Cullen Kafka (5-3, 2.66 ERA, 74.1 innings, 82 strikeouts), Brett Walker (6-2, 3.67 ERA, 76 innings).

What to know:

Wasikowski has made an immediate impact after taking over a program that suffered losing records in 2018 and 2019.

Wasikowski’s first year with the program was in 2020, when the Ducks held an 8-7 record before the remainder of the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But this season, in Wasikowski’s first full season managing the club, the Ducks have shined.

Oregon has been dominant since the beginning of the season behind an electric offense. Early on, the Ducks swept Top 25-ranked UC Santa Barbara and took two of three games from rival Oregon State. During a stretch in the middle of the season, Oregon won 11 of 13 games, including a three-game sweep in another matchup against Oregon State.

To close the season, the Ducks won three of their last four conference series, but still fell a game short of a Pac-12 regular-season title to Arizona.

The résumé earned Wasikowski and the Ducks an opportunity to host a regional in Eugene for the first time since 2013. Eventually, the Ducks are hoping to add to the program’s lone College World Series appearance in 1954.


Record: 33-17, 20-7 in the West Coast Conference (first).

Coach: Mark Machtolf, 18th season, 520-414-2.

Top hitters: Brett Harris (.358 batting average, six home runs, 42 RBI), Ernie Yake (.321 batting average, six stolen bases, 28 RBI), Andrew Orzel (.292 batting average, 30 runs, 34 RBI).

Top pitchers: Alek Jacob (7-1, 2.82 ERA, three saves, 76.2 innings, 103 strikeouts), Gabriel Hughes (4-3, 3.23 ERA, 61.1 innings), Michael Spellacy (3-2, 3.51 ERA, 48.2 innings, one save).

What to know:

There was no suspense for Gonzaga to punch its berth into the NCAA Tournament last weekend.

The Bulldogs secured their spot in postseason play by defeating the University of San Diego in the first game of their final series of the season, effectively clinching the top spot in the West Coast Conference. The WCC didn’t hold a conference tournament this season, so with the victory, Gonzaga seized its first regular-season conference title since 2017.

It’s yet another highlight for Machtolf, who has the Bulldogs in the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time and is one of the all-time winningest baseball coaches at Gonzaga.

It has been a complicated season for the Bulldogs as they struggled to navigate the COVID-19 challenges. They had won 10 of 11 games when their season came to a halt. During a stretch from the end of April to the beginning of May, Gonzaga had nine consecutive games canceled or postponed due to COVID-19 protocols.

The Bulldogs finished the season 6-4 after the hiatus, including a 10-3 loss to Oregon. Still, the Bulldogs were ranked in the Top 25 and did enough to earn a No. 2 seed in the regional, where they will square off against historical powerhouse LSU.


Record: 34-22, 13-17 Southeastern Conference (fourth in SEC West).

Coach: Paul Mainieri, 15th season, 637-282-3 record.

Top hitters: Tre’ Morgan (.370 batting average, 15 doubles, five home runs, 37 RBI, 14 stolen bases), Dylan Crews (.350 batting average, 56 runs, 13 home runs, 36 RBI, 11 stolen bases), Cade Doughty (.303 batting average, 12 home runs, 53 RBI), Gavin Dugas (.291 batting average, 12 doubles, 16 home runs, 60 RBI).

Top pitchers: Landon Marceaux (6-5, 2.26 ERA, 91.2 innings, 107 strikeouts), AJ Labas (3-2, 5.52 ERA, 75 innings), Ma’Khail Hilliard (6-0, 4.06 ERA, 44.1 innings).

What to know:

For a program like LSU with so much historical success, making the NCAA Tournament is expected every season. This year, however, the Tigers aren’t a favorite as they enter the Eugene Regional as a No. 3 seed.

It hasn’t been the smoothest campaign for longtime oach Mainieri and his team. LSU jumped out to a 15-3 record to start the season, mostly against low-tier competition.

But struggles began once the Tigers hit the conference schedule. LSU was swept in its first two SEC series. In May, though, LSU finished the regular season winning its final three conference series heading into postseason play. Then, in the first round of SEC Tournament action, LSU fell to No. 8 Georgia.

Regardless of their bumps throughout the season, the Tigers have the potential to be a dangerous team. They’ve already played some of the top competition in the always-talented SEC. Plus, they have capable power hitters, boasting three players who have blasted double-digit home runs this season.

Then there’s Mainieri, who’s in his last season before retirement. His list of accomplishments in Baton Rouge is extensive, including five trips to the College World Series and a 2009 national championship.

The Tigers fared much better at home (24-14) this season than on the road (10-7), which could play a factor in an unfamiliar ballpark this weekend. Regardless, the Tigers have talent, and there could be added motivation to win for Mainieri before he heads into retirement.


Record: 28-13, 21-9 in the Northeast Conference (second).

Coach: Charlie Hickey, 22nd season, 581-506-5 record.

Top hitters: Jay Devito (.333 batting average, 23 RBI, 39 runs, .500 OBP), Buddy Dewaine (.336 batting average, five home runs, 23 RBI), Dave Matthews (.297 batting average, 33 RBI, 13 doubles, 13 stolen bases), Noah Martinez (.306 batting average, six home runs, 34 RBI, 34 runs), Michael Torniero (.337 batting average, 18 runs, six stolen bases).

Top pitchers: Andrew Braun (9-1, 80 innings pitched, 13 starts, 71 strikeouts, 3.26 ERA), Brandon Fox (5-5, 80.2 innings pitched, 13 starts, 4.24 ERA), Jake Neuman (5-0, 30 innings pitched, eight saves, 1.50 ERA).

What to know:

Hickey is no stranger to the NCAA Tournament, with 2021 marking the seventh time his Blue Devils have punched a ticket to an NCAA regional.

Hickey led Central Connecticut to its first NCAA Tournament in 2002. He was part of history again in 2019, when the Blue Devils knocked off No. 24 California to earn its first win at an NCAA regional. Hickey has helped guide the Blue Devils to at least 25 wins in 16 seasons.

This season marks the seventh Northeastern Conference tournament title under Hickey. The Blue Devils fought their way through the losers’ bracket, winning their last three games to win the championship. After multiple rain delays in the final game, Central Connecticut beat top-seeded Bryant 5-2.

The Blue Devils were steady throughout the season, never dropping more than three games in a row. They finished the season winning nine of their last 11 contests. Ten Blue Devils earned all-Northeast Conference honors, including freshman Jake Neuman, who has been lights out from the bullpen and was named Rookie of the Year in the league.

Having an experienced coach in their corner will undoubtedly be an asset for the Blue Devils as they try to knock off top-seeded Oregon in the first-round game Friday. Plus, this is Central Connecticut’s third NCAA Tournament appearance in the last four draws. Between the players and Hickey, experience makes the Blue Devils nothing to take lightly, even as a No. 4 seed.


(All times Pacific; double elimination; x-if necessary)

Friday, June 4

Game 1: Oregon (37-14) vs. Central Connecticut (28-13), 2 p.m. (ESPN3)

Game 2: Gonzaga (33-17) vs. LSU (34-22), 7 p.m. (ESPN3)

Saturday, June 5

Game 3: Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 1 p.m.

Game 4: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 7 p.m.

Sunday, June 6

Game 5: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 loser, 3 p.m.

Game 6: Game 4 winner vs. Game 5 winner, 7 p.m.

Monday, June 7

x-Game 7: Game 4 winner vs. Game 5 winner, 7 p.m.

— Tyler Tachman

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