Matt Jones is the editor of the Hawgs Sports Network. He is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has a bachelor's and master's degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas.
Get to know teams at the NCAA Fayetteville Regional
From left to right, Mac Bingham of Arizona, Skylar Hales of Santa Clara and Brayden Taylor of TCU are among the players to watch at the 2023 NCAA Fayetteville Regional. (AP Photos)
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas will host two conference tournament champions and a team that barely made the tournament for regional play this week.
TCU likely would have earned one of the final at-large bids had it not won its third consecutive Big 12 Tournament title Sunday. The Horned Frogs are looking to advance past the regional round for the first time since they made four consecutive College World Series from 2014-17.
Santa Clara tied for second in the West Coast Conference standings behind Loyola Marymount, but won the WCC Tournament to punch its first ticket to a regional in 26 years.
More from WholeHogSports: Razorbacks draw Santa Clara first
Arizona, which had a 23-19 record following a loss to Grand Canyon on May 2, was one of the last four teams to make the NCAA field, along with Louisiana-Lafayette, Oklahoma and Troy. The Wildcats are two years removed from playing at the College World Series, but like TCU are in their second year after a successful coach bolted for the greener pastures of the SEC West.
Jim Schlossnagle left TCU for Texas A&M, and Jay Johnson left Arizona for LSU following the 2021 season.
Here is more to know about the 2023 NCAA Fayetteville Regional:
Santa Clara brings the fourth-longest win streak in college baseball to Baum-Walker Stadium.
The Broncos have won eight consecutive games — all against West Coast Conference competition. The win streak began with a 21-10 victory over Portland in 10 innings on May 14.
Santa Clara followed with a three-game sweep of Gonzaga to close the regular season, then defeated Gonzaga once, Portland twice and Saint Mary’s once at the WCC Tournament in Las Vegas by a combined score of 42-8.
It is the second-longest winning streak this year for Santa Clara, which won nine in a row from April 23-May 7. That win streak was snapped with a 20-17 loss in the midweek at Stanford, the No. 8 overall seed in this year's postseason.
TCU also boasts a long win streak of six games. The Horned Frogs went 4-0 at the Big 12 Tournament in Arlington, Texas, with victories by a combined score of 48-15 over Kansas State (twice), Kansas and Oklahoma State.
TCU won twice at Kansas State to end the regular season. The Horned Frogs have won 15 of their last 17 games — a stretch that includes games against NCAA Tournament participants Texas, Cal State Fullerton and Oklahoma State.
Arizona had won seven of eight games prior to a 5-4 loss to Oregon in the championship game of the Pac-12 Tournament in Scottsdale, Ariz., last Saturday. That stretch included two wins over Stanford and a victory over Oregon State.
Santa Clara arms
As expected for a team that wins at a high clip on the West Coast, the Broncos have strong pitching numbers.
Santa Clara’s pitching staff ranks in the top 35 nationally in ERA (4.42), WHIP (1.31), hits allowed per nine innings (8.34) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.50).
Two Bronco pitchers were named All-WCC — right-handers Skylar Hales and Blake Hammond — and right-hander August Souza earned honorable mention all-conference honors.
Hales, a junior, is a flame thrower from the bullpen. He is one of seven Division I pitchers who have touched 100 mph on a radar gun in a game this year, according to D1Baseball, which ranks him the No. 85 college prospect in this year's MLB Draft.
Hales has 64 strikeouts and 14 walks in 51 1/3 innings that are mostly in relief. Hales has four saves. Souza leads the team with five saves.
Senior right-hander Cole Kitchen appears to be most likely to start against Arkansas on Friday, but pitching plans have not been announced. Kitchen was the Broncos’ primary Friday starter and has a 4.25 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in 78 1/3 innings.
Santa Clara head coach Rusty Filter doubles as the team’s pitching coach and has an accomplished resume. Two first overall picks in the MLB Draft were tutored by Filter — Stephen Strasburg at San Diego State from 2007-09 and Mark Appel at Stanford from 2011-13.
Arizona is one of the nation’s top offensive teams.
The Wildcats have five every-day starters who hit .335 or better, led by Mac Bingham and Chase Davis with .369 averages.
Bingham, Davis, Kiko Romero and Tony Bullard all have OPS numbers of better than 1.000, led by Davis’ 1.253.
Davis ranks 25th nationally with 21 home runs, just ahead of Romero with 19. Romero ranks fourth with 86 RBI and Davis is 17th with 74 RBI.
Davis ranks top-40 nationally in slugging (.757) and on-base percentage (.757).
Bingham leads the team with 20 doubles. Mason White’s seven triples are tied for fourth nationally.
Bingham, Davis and Romero were named All-Pac-12.
Bullard, the third baseman, and shortstop Nik McClaughry — who bats .336 and was named the Pac-12 defensive player of the year — were starters for the Wildcats’ College World Series team in 2021.
As a team, Arizona ranks in the top 10 of college baseball in batting average (.320), doubles (149), sacrifice flies (38) and slugging percentage (.552). The Wildcats’ 8.6 runs per game rank 12th.
Their scoring prowess was on display at the Pac-12 Tournament as they combined for 39 runs over the first three games against Arizona State, Oregon State and Stanford. The Wildcats had 12 double-digit scoring efforts against Pac-12 teams during the regular season, including 21 runs against Stanford on May 14 and 20 runs against Arizona State on April 19.
Arizona is led by long-time professional baseball coach Chip Hale, who is a former manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Hale played in parts of seven MLB seasons after starring for the Wildcats in the 1980s.
The last time Arkansas saw TCU, the Horned Frogs looked like one of college baseball’s best teams.
Following an 18-6 victory over the Razorbacks on Feb. 18 at the College Baseball Showdown, TCU was 2-0. The Horned Frogs defeated Vanderbilt 11-4 the day before they played Arkansas in Arlington, Texas.
The going got tougher from there. TCU blew a late lead and lost to Missouri on the final day in Arlington, which was the start to an 8-9 stretch that included only four games against teams that made the NCAA Tournament.
TCU was 23-20 following a 3-2 loss at Texas on April 30, but began to turn things around with a 15-7 victory over the Longhorns in the series finale. The Horned Frogs went 15-2 during the month of May.
Third baseman Brayden Taylor is TCU’s most dangerous bat. The junior has 21 home runs, 14 doubles and 59 RBI, and was named first-team All-Big 12. Taylor is the top draft prospect at the regional, according to D1Baseball, which ranks him 17th among college players.
Shortstop Anthony Silva was named to the All-Big 12 second team. Silva and freshman catcher Karson Bowen lead the Horned Frogs with .346 batting averages.
TCU is in its second season under Kirk Saarloos, who was the long-time pitching coach before his promotion.
Saarloos will be making his second trip to Fayetteville for a regional. He was in the dugout when the Horned Frogs lost twice to Arkansas at the 2019 Fayetteville Regional.
• Two teams from more than 1,000 miles away will be sent to Arkansas for the third consecutive time the Razorbacks have hosted a regional. Santa Clara’s campus in California is more than 1,800 miles from Fayetteville, and Arizona’s campus is nearly 1,200 miles away. TCU’s campus in Fort Worth, Texas, is about 360 miles away. Arkansas hosted Central Connecticut State and California in 2019, and hosted Northeastern (from Boston) and New Jersey Institute of Technology in 2021.
• In its 20 regionals since 2002, Arkansas has been in a four-team field that included a Big 12 team 14 times.
• Arkansas will play Santa Clara for the second time. The Razorbacks defeated the Broncos 10-3 on March 17, 1995, in San Jose, Calif.
• Arkansas has previously played TCU (2019 Fayetteville Regional) and Arizona (College World Series in 1979 and 2004) during the NCAA postseason.
• Arkansas has a 30-4 record at Baum-Walker Stadium — tied for the third-most home wins nationally. Santa Clara is 13-10 on the road and 4-0 at neutral sites; TCU is 8-9 on the road and 7-2 at neutral sites; and Arizona is 4-14 on the road and 6-2 at neutral sites.
• All regional games will be streamed through ESPN+, which is available through the ESPN app, but is separate from the streaming service, SEC Network+, that televises most of the Razorbacks’ regular-season home games on the same app. Some games might be flexed to network TV on a day-by-day basis. The Arkansas-Santa Clara game at 2 p.m. Friday will only be streamed, but the Arizona-TCU game at 8 p.m. will be televised by ESPNU.
• Arkansas was 3-0 and Arizona was 1-0 against their only common opponent in the regular season, Tennessee.
• Arkansas and TCU shared two common opponents, Vanderbilt and Oklahoma State. The Razorbacks went 1-0 and the Horned Frogs were 3-1 against Oklahoma State. Arkansas had a 1-2 record and TCU was 1-0 against Vanderbilt.
• Arkansas and Santa Clara do not have any common opponents.
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