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Eric Sorenson | D1Baseball.com | June 3, 2021

2021 NCAA baseball tournament preview: Eugene Regional

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

The Field

1. Oregon: Regular Season Results | Team Stats and Leaders
2. Gonzaga: Regular Season Results | Team Stats and Leaders
3. LSU: Regular Season Results | Team Stats and Leaders
4. Central Connecticut: Regular Season Results | Team Stats and Leaders

Eugene Regional Superlatives

Most Exciting Player: Tre’ Morgan, 1B, LSU

Talk about a do-it-all ball of energy. Morgan is a freshman who is a true five-tool talent. Where else can you find a dude who can hit (team-best .370), steal bases (team-high 14), can flash occasional power (five home runs, four triples, team-best 15 doubles) AND play a dashing first base? This guy can do it all.

Best Hitter: Aaron Zavala, Oregon

A.Z. has been hovering over .400 all season long until just recently finally dipping his average way down to .398. But his high average, seven home runs and even 11-of-13 stolen bases aren’t even the most impressive parts of his game. He is sixth in the country in base-on-balls with 49 free passes on the year. That’s the big reason Zavala is second nationally with a sparkling .538 on-base percentage. 

Best Defensive Player: Ernie Yake, SS, Gonzaga. 

I feel like I want to give this guy gloss for having the old-school first name of Ernie. He might be the only Ernie in all of college baseball. But Yake has been a firebrand since day one for the Zags, leading the team in hitting as a freshman back in 2018. For this year, as a junior, he has committed just six errors all season at shortstop. And talk about consistency, in his four seasons in Spokane, Yake has committed four, seven, two and six errors on defense while hitting .322, .302, .338 and now .321

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

Best Pitcher: Landon Marceaux, LSU

For as inconsistent as the Tiger pitching staff has been this year, Marceaux has been a rock. His 2.25 ERA and very impressive 107-to-22 strikeout to walk ratio has been a key factor in their winning five of their last seven game ones in SEC play. He is also holding opposing batters to a .229 average. The big question is, will the Tigers get one or two more solid pitching performances this weekend to win the Regional? 

X-Factor: Playin’ for Paulie.

With the announcement of Paul Mainieri’s retirement last week, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Florida State’s run to Omaha in 2019 in Mike Martin’s final season for the Seminoles. They had a No. 60 RPI but the selection committee put them in the tournament anyway, and then the Noles went on a huge run including eliminating LSU in the Supers. Now, will the Tigers do the same thing here and give Mainieri one last big ride? This could get interesting. 

Best Starting Rotation: Oregon

The Ducks barely edge out Gonzaga in the rotation department, but both are so good it’s a flip of the coin. LHP Robert Ahlstrom (8-3, 2.41) and RHP Cullen Kafka (5-3, 2.66) have been very consistent this season, giving the Nike Boys a chance to win every Friday and Saturday. Though he hasn’t been dominant, No. 3 starter Brett Walker has pitched into the sixth inning in his last four starts. All three starters are projected to be top 10 round draftees this summer. 

Best Bullpen: Oregon

One thing is for sure, when the starters have had their rare poor performances, the Ducks have been able to turn to Kolby Somers (2-1, 2.42), Andrew Mosiello (3-1, 3.74) and Rio Britton (0-0, 1.80) to steady the ship. Those three relievers have 50 appearances between them and hold opposing hitters to averages of .139, .231 and .160 respectively. 

MORE: Complete coverage of the DI baseball championship | Bracket 

Best Offensive Team: LSU

The Tigers have often found themselves in scorefests on Saturdays and Sundays this season, and that might not be all bad since their offense can get runs in droves. They *only* hit .273 (compared to Oregon’s .289, Gonzaga’s .280 and CCSU’s .282) but it’s the power that differentiates them from the rest of the field here as their 80 home runs rank 12th nationally. So the big key to holding those Tigers is to limit their baserunners, because a big blast can rear its ugly head anywhere in that batting order. 

Best Defensive Team: Oregon and Gonzaga (tie)

While we lauded Ernie Yake’s play at shortstop above, that honor could’ve easily gone to Duck freshman shortstop Josh Kasevich, who has committed just eight errors all season. He teams with third baseman Sam Novitske (just three errors) to form one of the best left-side infields in the country. (Not that 1B Gabe Matthews – four errors – and 2B Gavin Grant – seven errors – aren’t slouches either). UO ranks 11th nationally with 47 double plays on the season. 
No. 1 Seed Win Probability (1-10): 7.

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 17 - 26/27, 2022
TD Ameritrade Park | Omaha, NE

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