Defending champs returning to super regionals

Updated: June 7, 2005, 1:44 AM ET
By Will Kimmey | Baseball America

Fullerton Regional
1. Cal State Fullerton (41-15) -- automatic berth, won Big West regular season, 27th NCAA tournament, 13th consecutive appearance
2. Arizona (37-19) -- at-large berth, second in Pac-10, 28th NCAA tournament, third consecutive appearance
3. Missouri (39-21) -- at-large berth, fourth in Big 12, 17th NCAA tournament, third consecutive appearance
4. Harvard (29-15) -- automatic berth, won Ivy regular season and tournament, 14th NCAA tournament

Fullerton Regional schedule
At Goodwin Field
Fullerton, Calif.
Friday, June 3

Game 1 -- Arizona 5, Missouri 3
Game 2 -- Cal State Fullerton 19, Harvard 0
Saturday, June 4
Game 3 -- Missouri 14, Harvard 6, Harvard eliminated
Game 4 -- Arizona 6, Cal State Fullerton 5
Sunday, June 5
Game 5 -- Cal State Fullerton 8, Missouri 6, Missouri eliminated
Game 6 -- Cal State Fullerton 9, Arizona 2
Monday, June 6
Game 7 -- Cal State Fullerton 6, Arizona 3, Arizona eliminated
Cal State Fullerton (45-16) advances to super regionals

Player To Watch
Missouri sophomore right-hander Max Scherzer holds the key to this regional bracket of death, which features three teams ranked No. 4, No. 7 and No. 16 in the season-ending Top 25. Scherzer's 1.53 ERA ranks sixth nationally, his 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings rank 12th and he allows opponents but a .152 average. His mid-90s fastball/power slider combo could hold Arizona and its fifth-ranked scoring offense to the loser's bracket from the start.

The Favorite
Cal State Fullerton isn't the favorite to win the College World Series because it's the defending champ, but because this team is deeper, more experienced and better all-around than the 2004 edition. The Titans' 50 home runs, led by 13 from Sergio Pedroza, have already surpassed the 47 hit a year ago despite the loss of Kurt Suzuki's 16 jacks. The 3.51 team ERA is thinner than last year's 3.72 figure. Eleven position players have started at least 21 games, while the Ricky Romero-led pitching staff features four strong starters and a bullpen presence (Vinnie Pestano, 2.62, 11 saves) that was missing a year ago.

On The Other Hand
When a lack of local interest forced Arizona to pull its regional host bid, coach Andy Lopez said his team, one that reached Omaha as a No. 3 seed in 2004, was talented and experienced enough that it could make it back without home-field advantage. He couldn't have drawn a more difficult test. Left fielder Trevor Crowe (.421/.495/.745 and 26 steals) leads an offense that ranked fifth nationally with 8.6 runs per game, fourth in slugging (.537) and fifth in batting (.332). Veterans John Meloan and Kevin Guyette should provide solid starts, but the question comes in how the remainder of a pitching staff with a 4.92 conference ERA will stand up over multiple games after having played but three games a week on a regular basis.

Bracket Buster
Missouri ranks 11th nationally with a 3.08 ERA, and that figure dipped to 2.94 in Big 12 play. The Tigers proved their strength by taking a series at Baylor after Scherzer had been defeated in the opener. The rest of the staff doesn't boast Scherzer's power, but it throws strikes and avoids walks. The offensive game plan works in just the opposite manner, with the Tigers' on-base happy crew led by outfielders James Boone (.473 OBP, 67 RBI), Hunter Mense (.455 OBP, 59 runs) and Jacob Priday (.411, 62 RBI), who has recently switched to catching.

Don't Forget About Us
Poor Harvard looks overmatched in the tournament's strongest regional, a place where the only stat the club has on its opponents might be grade-point average. The Crimson like to run, stealing 84 bases in 44 games. Junior Zak Farkes, the school's career home runs leader with 27, batted .359-6-30 overall, including a .429 mark in Ivy play.

Will Kimmey covers college baseball for Baseball America.

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