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May 29, 2007

Regional Insider: Tempe Regional

The Road to Omaha has begun and this week 64 teams at 16 Regional host sites fight for the right to compete in one of the eight Super Regionals.

As the top seed, Vanderbilt is the favorite to win the national title. However, other teams such as Arizona State and Texas might have something else in mind. Perhaps a new program will jump to the forefront of college baseball.

Rivals.com takes you inside the action with the Regional Insider.

MORE: Regional schedule | Regional seed breakdown | Printable bracket

Tempe Regional | Tempe, Ariz.
The Favorite: Arizona State
With an impressive one-two punch of Josh Satow and Mike Leake in the weekend rotation and the nation's top offensive lineup, the Sun Devils are expected to go the distance this postseason. The Sun Devils have received consistent starts from Satow and Leake, while the bullpen should be in okay shape in this Regional. Even with some questions on the mound, the Devils have more than enough offense to compensate for any potential problems. ASU enters the week hitting .349 as a team. In addition, they have seven consistent contributors hitting .350 or better this spring.
Dark horse candidate: UC Riverside
Before the season began, UC Riverside was a team that many including myself thought would be vastly improved. Not only did the Highlanders return right-hander James Simmons, they also welcomed back other key players such as Jaime Pedroza and Aaron Wible. While Simmons continues to mystify opposing hitters, Pedroza and Wible have each put together impressive offensive campaigns. The arm of Matt Montgomery might be the difference between a Regional title and a trip home. Montgomery has started the last three weeks and has a 2.50 ERA in 39 2/3 innings.
Best hitter: Arizona State 1B Brett Wallace
There are several talented sophomores around the country, but the best pure hitter calls the Arizona desert his home. Not only is Wallace a team guy off the field, he's also a consistent contributor at the plate. Wallace is having a phenomenal offensive campaign, hitting a team-leading .426 with 15 home runs and 73 RBIs. He's also slugging .735 and has a .505 on-base percentage. In addition, Wallace is one of the nation's top defensive first basemen with a .992 fielding percentage.
Best pitcher: UC Riverside RHP James Simmons
Cal State Fullerton's Wes Roemer took the reins of the Big West with a dominant sophomore campaign last season. But this year, UC Riverside junior right-hander James Simmons has the top arm in the Big West. Simmons has had nothing short of an amazing season. The right-hander is 10-3 with a 2.32 ERA in 116 1/3 innings. He has also struck out 113 and walked 13, while opponents are hitting him at a .219 clip. In 16 total starts, Simmons has thrown five complete games.
Regional review
Monmouth put together an impressive run through the Northeast Conference Tournament, but the Hawks will likely be in for a rude awakening against a hard-hitting Arizona State lineup Friday night. If the Hawks lose the opener, their tournament won't get much easier with having to face the loser of UC Riverside and Nebraska Speaking of the Huskers, if talented left-hander Tony Watson pitches to his ability, the Huskers could surprise James Simmons and Riverside in the opener. If they don't, Simmons will likely make easy work of the Huskers and the Highlander offense will score just enough runs to win the game When the dust settles, Arizona State should be king with a good weekend rotation and a great lineup leading the way.