After soundly defeating Southern California 6-1 in the early game, the Hoos turned their attention to the UC-Santa Barbara and San Diego State matchup to find out who they would play Saturday night in the winner's bracket.
While many expected Santa Barbara to win thanks to their top pitching rotation, SDSU's offensive firepower overwhelmed Dillon Tate to earn another date with UVa.
The Aztecs came into the weekend on a heater, and it appears they haven't cooled off. After losing their first game in the Mountain West Conference tournament last week, they rolled off five straight victories to earn their third straight NCAA appearance.
It appears SDSU will likely send junior right-hander Mark Seyler to the mound opposite Brandon Waddell. The junior has a 9-2 record in 16 starts this year with a 2.80 ERA. Like UVa's staff, it does not appear Seyler is a strikeout pitcher, but pitches more to his defense. He only has 78 strikeouts in 99.2 innings, but has only walked 30 batters in that time as well. He also leads the SDSU starters in batting average against with opposing hitters only hitting .221 off of him.
Even though Seyler's numbers are impressive, the rest of the Aztec staff does not intimidate too many. UVa will probably not see any pitcher, other than Seyler, that has a sub 3 ERA. As a whole, they have a 4.05 ERA and opponents are batting .269. If UVa can get to Seyler early and force the Aztecs to go to their rested bullpen, thanks to their starter Bubba Derby throwing a complete game yesterday, they could cruise.
Unfortunately, even if the Hoos do get to Seyler, Brandon Waddell and the UVa staff will have to deal with what might be the best, and hottest offense in Lake Elsinore. They're batting .291 as a team with a .422 slugging percentage and .378 on base percentage. They will feature six batters batting .300 or better. If UVa is to win, they need to target two players and force the rest of the lineup to win the game. Steven Pallares is leading the Aztecs with a .349 average and .448 on base percentage. He's also scored 67 runs, hit 9 home runs, and has 48 RBI. Hotter than the sun hitting catcher Seby Zavala is the other. Zavala was named MWC tournament MVP after hitting 5 home runs and 11 RBI over the course of the week. He's leading the Aztecs with 14 HRs and a .529 slugging percentage. Keeping the impact that those two have to a minimum will be key for a UVa victory.
Even though yesterday's game was important, the Saturday night winner's bracket game is likely the most important game in a regional. A win propels a team to the championship game and avoids having to play a doubleheader on Sunday.
First pitch is 10 PM tonight and the Hoos are the home team thanks to winning the coin flip last night.