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NCAA Baseball Tournament: Fayetteville Regional Preview

A look at what awaits the Horned Frogs on the first stop on the Road to Omaha

FloSports: FloBaseball College Baseball Showdown
TCU & Arkansas played earlier this season in Globe Life Field in Arlington, TX
Dustin Safranek-USA TODAY Sports

For the second consecutive season the TCU Horned Frogs are headed to an SEC ballpark as the 2-seed in the Regional of the NCAA Tournament. In 2022 it was College Station and former coach Jim Schlossnagle’s Texas A&M Aggies; this season it’ll be a trip east to Fayetteville, Arkansas and a Razorbacks squad that TCU smashed 18-6 in Arlington to open the 2023 season. Joining the Frogs & Hogs in the Regional will be 3-seed Arizona Wildcats and 4-seed Santa Clara Broncos. Let’s take a look at all the teams in the Fayetteville Regional and how the Frogs stack up.

All game lines and futures odds are per DraftKings Sportsbook as of May 30 and are subject to change

1) Arkansas Razorbacks (#3 National Seed)

  • CWS Championship Odds: +1000
  • Game 1 vs. Santa Clara Odds: -290 Favorites
  • Season Record: 41-16 (20-10 SEC)
  • Home Record: 30-4
  • Route to Regional: At-large; eliminated in SEC Semifinal (4-5 vs. Texas A&M)

At Bat: The Hogs are a curious case of accumulating wins - including lopsided big wins over top competition - while not having any field players on First or Second Team All-SEC and no batters in SEC top-20 in any hitting statistical category outside of DH Kendall Diggs, whose 57 RBI and 42 Walks each rank 15th in the conference. While Arkansas may not have one standout, the entire lineup is dangerous, with six players blasting at least 7 HRs and eight players with an on-base percentage of .400 or better while taking advantage of 63 opponent fielding errors on the season.

On the Mound: Where Arkansas has been able to grind out wins throughout its difficult schedule is a with a deep pitching staff with some elite arms in the rotation. The top-line ace is Hagen Smith, a First Team All-SEC honoree with a 2.69 ERA (25th nationally) and an absurd 13.70 K/9 (or 1.52 K/IP, 3rd best in the country). He’s joined in the starting rotation by Will McEntire & Hunter Hollan, each in the top 5 in the SEC in Wins and top 20 in the SEC in ERA. McEntire started the game vs. TCU in February, surrendering 4 runs on 5 hits and a walk in 1.1 IP. Out of the bullpen, Arkansas has a deep arsenal led by SEC All-Freshman honoree Gage Wood and his 41 Ks in 22 appearances, allowing a .184 opponent batting average.

Summary: Led by SEC Coach of the Year Dave Van Horn, the Razorbacks are looking to return to Omaha again following a deep run to the Semifinals in 2022 after emerging from a thrilling Stillwater Regional as the 2-seed. Arkansas has been elite all season and especially so in Baum-Walker Stadium, dropping just four home contests while earning home series sweeps over Texas A&M, Auburn, and Tennessee

2) TCU Horned Frogs

  • CWS Championship Odds: +7500
  • Game 1 vs. Arizona: -130 Favorites
  • Season Record: 37-22 (13-11 Big 12)
  • Away Record: 8-9
  • Route to Regional: Big 12 Tournament Champion (12-5 vs. Oklahoma St.)

At Bat: The Frogs are powered at the plate by Brayden Taylor, TCU’s top MLB prospect and First Team All-Conference third baseman. He’s the program’s all-time leader in home runs, smashing 21 this season, and is leading TCU in OPS, runs-scored, RBI, slugging, and walks in 2023 with a perfect 12-12 on stolen-base attempts. Taylor is not on an island in the lineup, as TCU has eight regular starters batting over .275 including superstar Freshmen Anthony Silva and Karson Bowen tied atop the team rankings with a .346 average. The entire TCU lineup can be a menace on the basepaths, ranking eighth nationally with 129 stolen bases while caught stealing just 17 times, the sixth fewest in college baseball. TCU has the bats and the wheels to put up crooked numbers at any time.

On the Mound: Contrary to the consistency at the plate, the Horned Frogs have struggled to find a groove defensively this season with a regular rotation. Freshman Kole Klecker has been the closest thing to a lead starter for TCU this season, he’s pitched the most innings and earned nine wins in 13 starts, but has struggled with command (25 walks, 6 HBP, and 2 wild pitches) and surrendered 28 extra-base hits, including 14 home runs. Klecker did pitch 4.1 innings in his collegiate debut against Arkansas in February, striking out six Razorbacks with no walks and only one earned run. Fellow Freshman Louis Rodriguez moved into the starting rotation in April, with at least 4 Ks in each outing as a starter, but he missed the Big 12 Tournament with an injury and may not be available for the Regional. The rotation is rounded out by Cam Brown and Sam Stoutenborough, neither of which have surrendered more than 3 runs in an outing over the last month. The arms out of the bullpen have been much improved from mid-season woes: Freshman Ben Abeldt hasn’t surrendered a run in his last 10 outings and has a team-leading 57 Ks on the season; old reliables like Luke Savage and Garrett Wright have not been perfect but are capable of closing the door on an opponent rally.

Summary: Can the Horned Frogs’ blazing hot May continue into June and into hostile territory? TCU spent the last month dominating opponents for a 14-2 record, with both losses each coming by a single run, as the Frogs outscored opponents 140-52 in those 16 games. However only two of those wins came in a true road environment: taking the series over Kansas State in Manhattan, where the fans have taken to Twitter to crow about how little they care about baseball; the atmosphere will be decidedly more intense in Fayetteville. The Frogs are looking to advance out of the Regional round for the first time since the 2017 run to Omaha, which would give TCU a road Regional win for the first time since the 2012 College Station Regional. TCU showed the form to take down any opponent to start the season and finish the season, at neutral sites and in Lupton Stadium, but the mid-season and road contests had TCU on shaky ground. Which version of Frogball will show up in Fayetteville?

3) Arizona Wildcats

  • CWS Championship Odds: +15000
  • Game 1 vs. TCU: +100 Underdogs
  • Season Record: 33-24 (12-18 Pac 12)
  • Away Record: 4-14
  • Route to Regional: At-large; eliminated in Pac 12 Final (4-5 vs. Oregon)

At Bat: Folks, the Wildcats can mash. Top-10 nationally in Slugging %, with 5 players having double digit dingers on the season. The Wildcats lineup also features four of the Pac 12’s top 20 batting averages, with little respite for opposing pitchers. All-Conference honoree Outfielders Chase Davis (.369 BA, 21 HRs, 74 RBI), Mac Bingham (.369 BA, 10 HRs, 51 RBI), and Kiko Romero (.347 BA, 19 HRs, 86 RBI) lead the charge for the Wildcats and provide as powerful a combo as you’ll find in college baseball. TCU pitching has taken on strong rosters throughout the season, but this one will certainly challenge the Frogs in Game 1

On the Mound: The pitching staff for Arizona has had a decidedly less impressive than its offense, being fully omitted from the All-Conference teams. The Wildcat starter with the best ERA is Bradon Zastrow at 5.28 and just 0.73 K/IP in 15 starts for the season. As a staff, Arizona ranks 163rd nationally at just 0.91 K/IP; however despite the low strikeout total UA is in the top 40 overall in walk-to-strikeout ratio at 2.41. With the lack of free passes, the Wildcats do often give opponents something at which to swing, but will the opponents in Fayetteville be able to take advantage?

Summary: Despite an abysmal 12-18 conference record, the worst ever for an at-large squad, these Wildcats sneak into the Tournament looking to prove they belong. With a top-40 national defensive fielding percentage (,978) led by Pac 12 Defensive Player of the Year Nik McClaughry at Shortstop and a top-20 lowest Walks per 9 Innings (3.39), Arizona will not give away any cheap bases that lead to cheap runs. While its pitching staff may give up some runs via balls-in-play, Arizona will always be a threat for a massive inning to overcome any deficit. Be ready for some fireworks each time the Wildcats take the field.

4) Santa Clara Broncos

  • CWS Championship Odds: +50000
  • Game 1 vs. Arkansas: +230 Underdogs
  • Season Record: 35-18
  • Away Record: 13-10
  • Route to Regional: WCC Tournament Champion (6-0 vs. Portland)

At Bat: Hitting .300 as a team for the season, Santa Clara does rate as one of the top hitting teams in the country, albeit against a lower-tier strength of schedule. Six regulars of the starting lineup hit above .300 for the season, five of which ranked in the Top-20 of WCC in batting average. Although not hitting for the highest average, the top bat of concern is likely Efrain Manzo who has 38 extra-base hits (17 homers) and team leading 52 RBI. The Broncos had no batters named to the WCC First Team and only one on the Second Team, Outfielder Michael O’Hara who hit .323 on the season with six stolen bases. Santa Clara can set opponents up for death by a thousand paper cuts: with singles machines throughout the lineup and a timely long-ball from Manzo or fellow double-digit HR teammates Robert Hipwell or Coleman Brigman, opposing pitchers escaping unscathed will be a challenge.

On the Mound: Santa Clara has done its best pitching work out of the bullpen, as relievers Blake Hammond and Skylar Hales each earned Second Team All-Conference honors as each threw up 64 Ks on the season to each earn six wins with a sub-3.0 ERA. However to earn those wins the bullpen has taken over from some shaky starting efforts. Perhaps the most accomplished starter on the season is Sophomore Brandon Gomez, with just under one strikeout per inning pitched on the season he earned the win in the WCC Championship with 6 Ks across 8 scoreless innings. Gomez also pitched a complete game shutout with 9 Ks at Saint Mary’s in March.

Summary: The Broncos enter the Regional on a hot streak as well, winning its last eight games including a dominant 4 game sweep through the WCC Tournament as the conference’s 3-seed, outscoring opponents 42-8 to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Although the Broncos come in with an RPI down at 81, having only two games against NCAA Tournament squads (splitting a mid-week series with #8-overall seed Stanford), Santa Clara has some metrics working in its favor. Ranking in the top-45 nationally in batting average and on-base percentage, Santa Clara will look to keep pace with the other heavy hitters in Fayetteville and may prove to be a pesky 4-seed capable of causing some trouble to the Regional favorites.

Fayetteville Regional Schedule:

  • Game 1: #1 Arkansas vs. #4 Santa Clara | Friday June 2, 2:00 PM | ESPN+
  • Game 2: #2 TCU vs. #3 Arizona | Friday June 2, 8:00 PM | ESPNU / ESPN+
  • Game 3: Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2 | Saturday June 3, 2:00 PM | ESPN+
  • Game 4: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2 | Saturday June 3, 8:00 PM | ESPN+
  • Game 5: Winner Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4 | Sunday June 4, 2:00 PM | ESPN+
  • Game 6: Winner Game 4 vs. Winner Game 5 | Sunday June 4, 8:00 PM | ESPN+
  • Game 7 (if necessary): Winner Game 4 vs. Winner Game 5 | Monday June 5, 11:05 AM | ESPN+

The winner of the Fayetteville Regional will advance to the Super Regional to take on the winner of the Terre Haute Regional hosted by #14 National Seed Indiana State and also featuring Wright State, Iowa, and North Carolina.