Baylor wins College “TAPPS” title, hosts Arkansas in Waco Baseball Super Regional
Baylor Wins “TAPPS” Waco Regional; Hosts Arkansas Friday-Sunday
WACO, Texas – Some punsters dubbed the 2012 NCAA Waco Baseball Regional the “TAPPS Special” last week when Texas-Arlington was the first team to be eliminated.
That left private schools host Baylor, 2011 NCAA Super Regional competitor Dallas Baptist and Oral Roberts in the field after last Saturday’s competition and set up a familiar paradigm for the 16 four-team postseason tourneys.
Coach Steve Smith’s homestanding Bears lost 4-2 to Oral Roberts in Game 2 and were left with the unenviable task of winning four games over three days to advance to the Super Regionals as one of the Top Eight seeds in the NCAA joust.
That they did.
Baylor downed Dallas Baptist’s nationally-renowned program twice and 8-2 in the Monday finale to advance to Saturday-Monday’s (if necessary) NCAA Waco Super Regional against Southeastern Conference powerhouse and longtime Southwest Conference rival Arkansas. Game times (all televised on the ESPN family of networks) are set for 4 p.m. (CDT) Saturday and 3 p.m. both Sunday and Monday – literally in the heat of the action for these two Southwest area schools – with the winner advancing to the 66th annual NCAA World Series in Omaha, Neb., June 15-26/27.
This is not unfamiliar territory for Smith and his crew after Baylor advanced to the 2005 NCAA World Series and finished fourth nationally – its highest ranking in school annals. The 48-15 Bears are on the verge of possibly breaking the school record of 50 victories (50-15) under the 18-year head coach during the 1999 season when Baylor first hosted a NCAA Super meet against Big 12 Conference foe Oklahoma State.
The veteran BU mentor takes it all in stride as he did when the Bears were in a 0-1 hole in the Waco Regional.
“You just have to hang in and know if you win, you keep playing,” Smith explained. “At this point, it is just grind it out and hope to use the home crowd to our advantage. Getting Logan Vick back (injured in the Big 12 tournament last month) and having Josh Ludy just being Josh Ludy have been big for us. Now we face a very talented Arkansas (42-19 overall) team with a really deep pitching staff.”
The mound work of its staff and the savvy of multi-World Series appearance head coach Dave Van Horn (who has guided both Nebraska for the first time in 2001 and now Arkansas to the College World Series and is 721-377 in 18 seasons at Northwestern State, NU and UA) make the incoming Razorbacks a tougher-than-usual competitor.
Smith, 667-430 overall and who started his head coaching career the same year – 1995 – as Van Horn and BU’s winningest head coach in any sport after passing the late Mickey Sullivan earlier this spring – looks to Ludy (.368-15 homers-69 RBI) and Vick (.344-2-39) to help propel the offense against an Arkansas mound staff with a 2.86 team earned run average against a heavy-hitting SEC lineup and a 3-0 run in the NCAA Houston Regional. The Razorback’s probable starters are DJ Baxendale (7-4, 2.83 ERA, 85 strikeouts in 92-plus innings), Ryne Stanek (7-4, identical 2.83 ERA) and Randall Fant (3-2 mark in 12 starts and almost a “setup” man for a solid bullpen). Leading the sturdy relief corps for UA are Barrett Astin (2.22 ERA, 10 saves) and Brandon Moore (5-2, 2.23 ERA).
The Bears, who set a Big 12 mark with 18 consecutive league wins and finished 20-4 to win the always-tough circuit, are no slouches in the pitching department, either. Two of the Division I victories’ leaders are the 1-2 starting punch for the host crew,
Senior righty Trent Blank (10-1, 2.23 ERA) and Josh Turley (9-1, 1.83 ERA) are among the best control pitchers in the country and head the staff while Max Garner (3-2, 10 saves after taking over the closer’s role in midseason) had key innings in doe-or-die situations in the initial regional.
BU’s confidence level and momentum from four consecutive wins appear solid entering Saturday’s first rounds, and Vick certainly is pumped.
“We feel good going into the Super Regional,” Vick stated. “We’re seeing the ball very well, and it was nice to get more hits as the regional continued. We know Arkansas’ pitching is exceptional, and we need to have good bat discipline and look for pitches to hit.”
That seems to be the winning formula for a possible trip: clutch hitting, standout starting pitching and just a little bit of luck for the likes of two-time defending South Carolina and coaching mastermind Ray Tanner (hosting another Super Regional this weekend).
The NCAA Division I Super Regional lineup and schedules:
Friday, June 8 – (NCAA tourney seeds denoted, all times CDT and televised on ESPN networks, please check local listings for availability and replays) – Stony Brook (50-12) at No. 7 LSU (46-16), 11 a.m., 11 a.m. (Sat.), noon (Sun. – if necessary); St. John’s (40-21) at Arizona (41-17), 1 p.m., 1 p.m. (Sat.,), 2 p.m. (Sun. – if necessary); Stanford (41-16) at No. 3 Florida St. (46-15), 6 p.m., 5 p.m. (Sat.), 6 p.m. (Sun. – if necessary); TCU (40-20) at No. 2 UCLA (45-14), 8 p.m., 8 p.m. (Sat.), 9 p.m. (Sun. – if necessary).
Saturday, June 9 – NC State (43-18) at No. 1 Florida (45-18), 1 p.m., noon (Sun.), noon (Mon. – if necessary); Arkansas (42-19) at No. 4 Baylor (48-15), 4 p.m., 3 p.m. (Sun.), 3 p.m. (Mon. – if necessary);
Oklahoma (42-23) at No. 8 South Carolina (43-17), 7 p.m., 6 p.m. (Sun.), 6 p.m. (Mon. – if necessary); Kent State (44-17) at No. 5 Oregon (45-17), 10 p.m., 9 p.m. (Sun.), 6 p.m. (Mon. – if necessary). The determination of the Men’s College World Series order of first-round games both Friday, June 15, and Saturday, June 16, will be announced Monday, June 11. For more information, please access NCAA.com/cws.