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Kendall Rogers | D1Baseball.com | June 3, 2021

2021 NCAA baseball tournament preview: Austin Regional

The college baseball freshmen who've made the biggest impact in 2021

The Field

1. Texas: Regular Season Results | Team Stats and Leaders
2. Arizona State: Regular Season Results | Team Stats and Leaders
3. Fairfield: Regular Season Results | Team Stats and Leaders
4. Southern: Regular Season Results | Team Stats and Leaders

Austin Regional Superlatives

Most Exciting Player: Drew Swift, Arizona State

The Sun Devils have the total package in Swift at the shortstop position. The Pac 12 Defensive Player of the Year is obviously, well, a premier defender. But his contributions to this team don’t stop in the field. He’s also a high-quality hitter, entering the weekend with a .313 average, nine doubles, three triples, six home runs and 36 RBIs. Swift has some speed and power and can help his club in a variety of ways.

Best Hitter: Ethan Long, Arizona State

What a terrific freshman campaign Long has had for the Sun Devils. Following in the footsteps of former top overall pick Spencer Torkelson, Long isn’t as gifted, but might be as powerful at this stage in his career. Long is hitting an impressive .340 with a 1.133 OPS, along with 16 homers and 53 RBIs. ASU needs the powerful Long to have a strong weekend to advance out of this regional.

Best Defensive Player: Trey Faltine, Texas

It’s a tough call between Arizona State shortstop Drew Swift and Texas shortstop Trey Faltine, but on the carpet in Austin, let’s give the slightest of edges to Faltine. The talented middle infielder is silky smooth in the field, athletic, and typically makes strong and accurate throws to first base. Faltine is the total package for the Longhorns.

TOURNAMENT FAQ: Conference champ tracker | Regional sites | How the CWS works

Best Pitcher: Who else? Ty Madden.

Madden has had a terrific season for the Longhorns — an All-American season to be exact. The hard-throwing righthanded pitcher has a 2.66 ERA in 88 innings, along with 103 strikeouts and 31 walks, and teams are hitting him at a ridiculously low .195 clip. Madden attacks hitters with a big-time fastball, along with a slider/changeup combo.

X-Factor: Ivan Melendez, Texas

Melendez was one of the hottest hitters in college baseball during the month of May. But there’s no doubt he struggled at the Big 12 tournament, and that’s a source of caution around Austin. Melendez has a strong offensive approach and absolutely destroys the ball when he makes contact, hitting .331 with 11 homers and 45 RBIs this spring. If Melendez has a big weekend, it’s probably game over for opponents. If he struggles again? The door is cracked open.

Best Starting Rotation: Texas

The Longhorns already had a solid weekend rotation with Ty Madden, Tristan Stevens and Kolby Kubichek leading the charge. But when lefthander Pete Hansen got fully healthy and reentered the weekend rotation … and oh by the way, started to dominate again, it was icing on the cake to this rotation. Hansen is a No. 1 starter who occupies the three-hole for the Longhorns. UT has four high-quality options that could start in the Austin Regional this weekend.

Best Bullpen: Texas

We give the Longhorns the edge in this category as well. UT has a trio of excellent options out of the bullpen with Cole Quintanilla, Tanner Witt and Aaron Nixon leading the charge. Quintanilla has had an impressive bounce back campaign and will run his fastball up to 94-95 mph, while Witt has a nasty breaking ball with a 2.42 ERA in 44.2 innings of work, and Nixon has some velocity with a 2.51 ERA in 28.2 innings of work. Those aren’t the only quality options, either. 

MORE: Complete coverage of the DI baseball championship | Bracket 

Best Offensive Team: Texas

For the most part, the Longhorns have been much better offensively than their numbers indicate. UT is hitting .278 as a team, while someone such as Fairfield is hitting just a hair over .300. However, the Stags played a conference-only schedule and stud slugger Mike Caruso is out for the rest of the season. Zach Zubia is a terrific role hitter for the ‘Horns, Mitchell Daly is Mr. Consistent and Ivan Melendez is hitting .331 and could very well heat up this weekend. Doug Hodo and Eric Kennedy are both guys who can make things happen, while Cam Williams has a penchant for the big power hit. There’s also Mike Antico, who has been much better since an early-season slump.

Best Defensive Team: Texas

The Longhorns are one of the nation’s premier defensive clubs. As a matter of fact, they rank 15th nationally in fielding percentage at a .980 clip. Of course, some of that is because they play on a slow field in Austin, but this is still a very good defensive team. Up the middle, the ‘Horns have a pair of premier defenders in Faltine and second baseman Mitchell Daly, while Silas Ardoin is a steady rock behind the plate. In the outfield, UT has three strong options with Mike Antico, Doug Hodo and Eric Kennedy leading the way. The Longhorns aren’t going to beat themselves, and that’s half the battle in the postseason.

No. 1 Seed Win Probability (1-10): 8. The Longhorns have been ultra consistent at home this season, and we don’t expect things to change this weekend against what appears to be an overmatched field. UT has a better pitching staff than anyone else in the field, and it has gotten clutch hit after clutch hit throughout the spring. Never say never, but we don’t expect any different.

This article first appeared on D1Baseball.com and continues there with a team-by-team breakdown of every regional.

For more stories like this one, you can use coupon code NCAA2021 to get a 20 percent discount for an annual subscription to DIBaseball.com or D1Softball.com.

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Division I
Baseball Championship
June 19-30, 2021
TD Ameritrade Park | Omaha, NE

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