Regional Preview 2: Pepperdine and Arkansas

Lefty Jeremy Bleich vs. the Hogs' righty batters?

No. 2 seed Pepperdine and No. 3 seed Arkansas kick off the Stanford Regional with a 1 p.m. Friday tip. Read on for the starting pitchers, a look at the rosters, and predicted final scores and odds of advancing to the Fullerton Super Regional.

Game preview:
Pepperdine vs. Arkansas

1 p.m. Friday, Sunken Diamond

Recent history:
None. The teams last played in 1979, a 5-4 Arkansas victory.
Matchups: Pepperdine's RHP Nathan Newman (7-4), 3.52 ERA vs. Arkansas' LHP Cliff Springston (5-2), 3.83 ERA. Newman has a slightly better ERA against slightly worse competition. What's more important is that he will have the luxury of facing eight right-handed Arkansas batters. Maybe the Hogs will find a lefty or two to sub in, but that's a major edge for the Waves.
Overview: Arkansas' better offensively; Pepperdine's better defensively. The Hogs can really hit for power, so Pepperdine's habit of giving up the long ball could be costly. Expect a close game, but I can't get past three factors: Pepperdine's ranked slightly higher, Pepperdine's a lot closer and Arkansas is really going to struggle against a right-handed pitcher.
Prediction: Pepperdine 6, Arkansas 4

No. 2 Pepperdine (36-19)

Road Record:
11-14
RPI: 29
Vs. RPI Top 50: 8-8
Last Ten: 7-3
Strength of Schedule: 39

Runs per game: 6.63
Batting average: .318
Home runs: 34

Runs allowed per game: 5.57
Opponents' batting average: .297
Home runs allowed: 46

Top Pitchers:
RHP Nathan Newman: 7-4, 3.52 ERA, 87.0 IP, 60 K, 37 BB
LHP Scott Alexander: 7-4, 4.44 ERA, 71.0 IP, 45 K, 51 BB
LHP Matt Bywater: 7-2, 4.97 ERA, 76.0 IP, 40 K, 41 BB
LHP Robert Dickmann: 3-5, 5.46 ERA, 62.2 IP, 35 K, 17 BB

Closer:
RHP Nick Gaudi: 5-1, 2.68 ERA, 40.1 IP, 33 K, 10 BB, 13 SV

Likely lineup:
1. 3B Bryce Mendonca, R, .335
2. DH Matt Aidem, L, .322
3. LF Eric Thames, L, .407 , 13 HR, SLG .769 (injured)
4. SS Chase d'Arnaud, R, .306, 8 HR
5. 1B Ryan Heroy, R, .316
6. CF Nate Simon, L, .307
7. C Trent Diedrich, R, .308
8. 2B Denny Duron, R, .285
9. RF Donald Brown, L, .252

Key reserves:
OF David Harris, R, .288
C Travis Tartamella, R, .202

The dirt:
Thames earns that bold face: he is a one-man offense. It almost makes you forget six of his teammates are also north of .300 and that the Waves' lineup is nicely split between righties and lefties. However, he was injured late in the season and will not play this weekend -- a major stroke of bad luck for the Waves.

Pepperdine's staff is lefty-dominant, a bit of a rarity in college baseball. That the righty Newman will pitch against Arkansas does little for Stanford: the Waves' next three pitchers are all lefties, exactly what you would want against the Cardinal. If the series plays out to form and it's Stanford and Pepperdine for all the marbles, Pepperdine has a deep stable of lefties to throw at the Card, who will need big games from right-handed guys like Brent Milleville, Toby Gerhart and Jeff Whitlow.

Daniel's Odds of Advancing:
25 percent. The Waves are in for a dogfight against Arkansas, who should have the support of smart Stanford fans. But if Pepperdine can solve Springston, if their staff can ward off the homers and if someone can fill Thames' shoes offensively, the host Cardinal better gear up for quite the battle.

No. 3 Arkansas (36-19)

Road Record:
8-13
RPI: 34
Vs. RPI Top 50: 11-16
Last Ten: 7-3
Strength of Schedule: 24

Runs per game: 7.52
Batting average: .293
Home runs: 77

Runs allowed per game: 6.09
Opponents' batting average: .274
Home runs allowed: 57

Top Pitchers:
LHP Cliff Springston: 5-2, 3.83 ERA, 82.1 IP, 59 K, 24 BB
LHP Dallas Keuchel: 4-2, 4.46 ERA, 70.2 IP, 58 K, 28 BB
RHP Justin Wells: 3-2, 6.05 ERA, 74.1 IP, 73 K, 23 BB

Closer:
RHP Travis Hill: 2-2, 5.94 ERA, 33.1 IP, 25 K, 13 BB, 4 SV

Likely lineup:
1. RF Chase Leavitt, R, .360, 11 HR
2. 2B Ben Tschepikow, L, .303
3. 3B Logan Forsythe, R, .352, 7 HR
4. 1B Andy Wilkins, R, .331
5. LF Casey Coon, R, .308
6. CF Brett Eibner, R, .303, 8 HR
7. DH Aaron Murphree, R, .310, 14 HR
8. C Jeff Nutt, L, .265
9. SS Tim Smalling, R, .259, 9 HR

Key reserves:
OF Andrew Darr, R, .344
IF Jacob House, L, .295
C Ryan Cisterna, R, .236, 9 HR

The dirt:
Few teams in the country can match the Razorbacks' ability to hit for power at the bottom of the lineup. The only problem with the batting order is rather obvious: eight of the likely starters hit righty.

Springston's numbers are legit, but luckily for Stanford he's starting against Pepperdine. If the Card and the Hogs meet in game two, figure the 'Backs will go with their top lefty, Keuchel, against Stanford's left-handed lineup.

After Keuchel and Springston, the pitching staff gets dicey, so if you're Stanford, I think you hope that you face Arkansas later in the weekend. The Razorbacks, meanwhile, need to improve upon an 8-13 road record if they want to face anyone later in the weekend.

Daniel's Odds of Advancing:
20 percent. Like the Pac-10, the SEC is one of the nation's top baseball conferences, and so Arkansas' stats should be viewed in a more favorable light than Pepperdine's or UC-Davis'. Still, the Razorbacks really need to ride their top two starters to wins. Catching other teams' left-handed pitchers wouldn't hurt either.


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