Texas' title defense begins in Austin Regional


Austin Regional

1. Texas (40-19) -- 50th appearance, at-large, won Big 12 regular season
2. North Carolina State (38-21) -- 20th appearance, at-large, ACC
3. Stanford (30-25) -- 27th appearance, at-large, Pacific-10
4. UT Arlington (29-34) -- Fourth appearance, automatic, won Southland tournament

Austin Regional schedule
At Disch-Falk Park
Austin, Texas
Friday, June 2
Game 1 -- Stanford 7, N.C. State 2
Game 2 -- Texas 9, Texas-Arlington 1
Saturday, June 3
Game 3 -- N.C. State 6, Texas-Arlington 5
Game 4 -- Stanford 12, Texas 8
Sunday, June 4
Game 5 -- N.C. State 6, Texas 3
Game 6 -- Stanford 17, N.C. State 7
Stanford (33-25) advances to the super regional round.

Austin Regional notes

Preseason No. 1 Texas started slowly, opening the year by getting swept at San Diego and dropping two of its next three series. The team's .967 fielding percentage echoed a youthful roster, and Adrian Alaniz and Kenn Kasparek struggled to follow up their freshman success as the team posted a 3.76 ERA. Plenty of things still went as planned: junior right-hander Kyle McCulloch (8-4, 2.98) won the Big 12 pitcher of the year award, junior center fielder Drew Stubbs (.356-12-55, with 24 steals) shared conference player of the year honors, the Longhorns beat Rice all three times the teams played and Texas won the conference title. Surprises included junior left fielder Carson Kainer, who banged out 23 doubles and drove in 61 runs, while freshman lefty Austin Wood saved seven games.

Just Troy and Georgia Tech rank ahead of North Carolina State in scoring among NCAA teams (8.8 runs per game). The Wolfpack offensive attack can eat through pitching staffs, a major danger in tournament play. Junior first baseman Aaron Bates (.338/.472/.542 with a team-best nine homers) and senior leadoff man Matt Camp (.387) led that attack. NC State has received less reliable performances out of its pitching staff. Would-be ace Andrew Brackman is out for the year with a hip injury, leaving control specialists Gib Hobson (9-1, 4.60) and Eryk McConnell (7-6, 4.20) atop the rotation. Both threw well in the ACC tournament, but after them, coach Elliott Avent will need to mix and match the rest of the staff.

Stanford has experienced as many highs and lows as any team in the field. It owns series victories against Cal State Fullerton, Texas and Arizona State, but also lost series to Washington State, UC Davis and two series to a sub-.500 USC team. At its best, Stanford's pitching staff can match the talent of anyone in the country. This showed through a year ago, when a Cardinal team with a similar resume got seeded third at Baylor and pushed the Bears into extra innings before falling in the bracket final. Right-hander Greg Reynolds (6-5, 3.47, 92 strikeouts) threw that game, going 11 innings, and could deliver a similar performance here. Offensively, it's been a struggle for the Cardinal, who ranked next-to-last in the Pac-10 in batting (.279) and runs (5.3 per game). But in one of those highs two weeks ago, Stanford touched up Washington ace Tim Lincecum for 10 hits and four runs.

UT Arlington won its first 10 Southland Conference games before finishing 6-12 and dropping into fifth place. UTA is 15-50 all-time against Texas, including 0-2 in NCAA play, but it did beat Texas 6-3 during a midweek game in April. Nebraska transfer Adam Moore earned all-SLC honors as a catcher by hitting .358-10-50 with 20 doubles, while the pitching staff will need more heroic efforts like the one put forth by freshman right-hander Brandon Endsley in the SLC championship game. Endsley held Northwestern State to one earned run over six innings in his first college start, which he entered with an 0-3 record and a 7.64 ERA.

Will Kimmey covers college baseball for Baseball America.