Beware the Horned Frogs in the Norman Regional

Updated: June 6, 2006, 11:59 AM ET
By Will Kimmey | Baseball America

Norman Regional
1. Oklahoma (40-19) -- 29th appearance, at-large, Big 12
2. Houston (39-20) -- 16th appearance, at-large, Conference USA
3. Wichita State (44-20) -- 24th appearance, at-large, Missouri Valley
4. TCU (38-21) -- Fifth appearance, automatic, won Mountain West regular season and tournament

Norman Regional schedule
At L. Dale Mitchell Park
Norman, Okla.
Friday, June 2
Game 1 -- Wichita State 2, Houston 1
Game 2 -- TCU 6, Oklahoma 5
Saturday, June 3
Game 3 -- Oklahoma 8, Houston 6
Game 4 -- Wichita State 18, TCU 8
Sunday, June 4
Game 5 -- Oklahoma 15, TCU 6
Game 6 -- Oklahoma 12, Wichita State 7
Monday, June 5
Game 7 -- Oklahoma 7, Wichita State 6
Oklahoma (43-20) advances to the super regional round.

Norman Regional notes
Every out is vital in the postseason, and no team gave away fewer than Oklahoma, which led the nation with a .982 fielding percentage. That's the sign of a veteran team, and the Sooners certainly are that with four seniors starting in the infield. Another senior, Chuckie Caufield, starts in right field and sparks the lineup from the leadoff spot with a .364-7-43 line that includes 60 runs and 18 steals. The pitching staff also is flush with fourth-year players, including all three starters and closer Will Savage. Right-hander Daniel McCutchen (8-7, 3.73, 122 strikeouts) fronts the rotation. OU jumped out to a 35-10 start that included a 13-game win streak before finishing the year 5-9.

Houston isn't a one-man team, but junior Brad Lincoln did more than his share to help the Cougars into the postseason for the first time in his career. His mid-90s fastball helped him go 12-1, 1.64 with a 147-27 K-BB ratio in 121 innings, and he didn't suffer a loss after February. Meanwhile, he delivered 13 home runs as the regular DH and led the team with 52 RBI. Lincoln wasn't the only two-way star on the roster; freshman Luis Flores (.297, eight homers; 6-3, 3.00) routinely started the first two games of weekend series behind the plate before switching to the other end of the battery on Sunday. San Diego transfer Matt Weston led the team with 15 homers.

Wichita State won 44 games, but finished third in the MVC and felt relieved to sneak into the postseason for the 24th time in 27 years. The Shockers rely on pitching and speed, posting a 3.47 ERA behind right-hander Aaron Shafer (10-3, 2.73), who won MVC pitcher and freshman of the year honors. Wichita stole 129 bases, more than any team in regionals not named Prairie View, led by Kenny Waddell (35) and Josh Workman (33). That was a necessity for a team that hit just 28 homers. More than a third of those came from second baseman Damon Sublett, the Valley player of the year after batting .394-10-45 and saving seven games. But Sublett broke his hamate bone in early May. He tried to return during the conference tournament, but was forced to leave the game because he couldn't swing the bat.

If power pitching makes No. 4 seeds scary, consider TCU frightening. The Horned Frogs struck out 524 batters, trailing just Rice and Vanderbilt nationally. Sophomore right-hander Jake Arrieta (13-4, 2.45, 103 strikeouts) set regular season conference records with a 2.07 ERA and .220 opponents in the hyper-offensive Mountain West. He's not the only power arm on the TCU staff, as right-hander Sam Demel (96 strikeouts) and left-hander Brad Furnish (121 strikeouts) also averaged more than a punchout per inning. There's not a ton of depth behind this trio, but they're good enough to give TCU a strong chance to become the first team seeded fourth to win a regional if the Frogs can sweep through three games.

Will Kimmey covers college baseball for Baseball America.

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