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Mike Rooney | D1baseball.com | June 3, 2021

2021 NCAA baseball tournament preview: Lubbock Regional

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

Big 12 powerhouse Texas Tech is hosting a regional as usual, but the Red Raiders will face a stiff test in Lubbock. UCLA was the preseason No. 2 club and has started to play up to its talent level down the stretch. North Carolina was one of the last teams in the field of 64, but that program knows its way to Omaha. Patriot League champion Army rounds out the field.

1. Texas Tech: Regular Season Results | Team Stats and Leaders
2. UCLA: Regular Season Results | Team Stats and Leaders
3. North Carolina: Regular Season Results | Team Stats and Leaders
4. Army: Regular Season Results | Team Stats and Leaders

Lubbock Regional Superlatives

Most Exciting Player: Jace Jung, 2B, Texas Tech. Jung’s older brother Josh became a Texas Tech legend and went eighth overall to the Rangers in 2019. Dare we say that this Jung is a scarier version of his older sibling? Like his brother before him, Jace Jung earned Big 12 Player of the Year honors, and the lefthanded hitter enters regional play with 20 home runs. 

Best Hitter: JT Schwartz, 1B, UCLA. Schwartz is a 6-foot-4 lefthanded hitter with an elite approach and the slugging percentage (.635) you would expect from someone of his size and skill. He has more walks than strikeouts (35 to 22) and an outrageous on-base percentage (.528). If Schwartz hadn’t missed 13 games due to injury, the Bruins are most likely a one-seed. 

MORE: Complete coverage of the DI baseball championship | Bracket 

Best Defensive Player: Danny Serretti, SS, North Carolina. Serretti has been the everyday shortstop for the Tar Heels for three years, and that includes a 2019 team that hosted a Super Regional. Serretti is long and rangy, and his .973 fielding percentage stands out. 

Best Pitcher: Austin Love, RHP, North Carolina. Love began his UNC career as a high-leverage reliever but has blossomed into a bona fide ace. His heavy fastball runs into the mid-90s and he has maintained the aggressive demeanor of a game-finishing closer. 

X-Factor: Zach Pettway, RHP, UCLA. Pettway entered 2021 as a prime candidate for Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year, but his season has gone in the other direction. Pettway’s numbers are career worsts but his signature competitiveness remains. In a regional that looks to be very offensive, can the senior righthander muster up one big start?

WHAT TO KNOW: 1 thing about each team in the 2021 DI baseball tournament field

Best Starting Rotation: Texas Tech. With no disrespect intended, starting pitching is not a carrying strength for this Regional. That said, the trio of Patrick Monteverde, Micah Dallas, and Mason Montgomery represents the best in class in here. Monteverde’s career path to Lubbock is a fascinating study in persistence, and when accounting for the very high standards set by Tim Tadlock’s program, his emergence may have saved Tech’s season. Montgomery is a low-to-mid 90s lefthander on the right day, and Dallas is a proven performer whose fastball-slider mix also plays up in the bullpen. 

Best Bullpen: UCLA. While the answer is UCLA, it is not for the reasons we would have though in January. Proven commodities Kyle Mora and Michael Townsend have struggled and power-armed righthander Sean Mullen did not fare well as the closer. But John Savage always seems to have pitching depth and the emergence of Adrian Chaidez (1.03, 27 appearances) and Max Rajcic (1.55, 22 appearances, 7 saves) allowed Mullen to move into the rotation where he has thrived. Townsend leads the club with 33 appearances and even an off year for him has been plenty good (3.55 ERA).

Best Offensive Team: Texas Tech. The Red Raiders might be the best offense in any regional outside of Tucson. Jung is a star and he can take over a game. Dru Baker and Cal Conley have also posted monster numbers. Tech is in the Top 25 nationally in runs scored and they are particularly lethal at home. 

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

Best Defensive Team: UCLA. This has not been a vintage UCLA defensive club but they may be growing into that. Noah Cardenas is an elite defender at catcher and Schwartz is a former shortstop who has turned into an outstanding first baseman. McLain brings top shelf pedigree and athleticism but he has looked overmatched at shortstop at times. Overall, this club fits the west coast stereotype of high-level run prevention.

No. 1 Seed Win Probability (1-10): 6. Texas Tech shows offensive firepower capable of overwhelming this regional. However, the Red Raiders have sustained multiple and significant injuries (especially on the mound) and it is miraculous that they were still able to earn a Top 8 national seed in spite of those losses. The main threat here is the presence of UCLA. The Bruins were the No. 2 ranked team in the preseason and while their season has been choppy at times, 18 wins in the Pac-12 indicates what they are capable of. Love’s start versus UCLA in game one will shape the direction of this regional.

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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