The 2011 NCAA Baseball tournament kicks off on Friday with the first day of regional play. Sixteen regional mini-tournaments will feature four teams apiece in a double elimination bracket, with the winner advancing into the sixteen-team super regionals. eight teams will then advance from the super regionals into the 2011 College World Series tournament.
Stanford gets a relatively simply travel schedule as they head down to Fullerton, California to take part in the Fullerton Regional. This region is hosted by Cal State Fullerton and also includes Illinois and Kansas State. Stanford has a lot of experience against the CS-Fullerton Titans, but very little experience against the Illinois and K-State. The Cardinal have never faced Illinois and are 0-1 against the Wildcats, with the lone game coming in 1971.
On the other hand, Stanford and Fullerton have faced each other 96 times all-time. Stanford leads the all-time series 54-42 and their postseason contests 10-4. Stanford defeated Fullerton in a Super Regional in 2008, a 2002 NCAA Regional, and in the 1999, 2001, and 2003 College World Series. Fullerton beat Stanford in a 2010 regional game, once in a three-game series in 2003, and also once in the 1995 College World Series.
The Stanford Cardinal enter the 2011 NCAA Tournament at 32-20 and finished fifth in the Pac-10 conference. This marks Stanford's first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2008 as the Cardinal look to get to their 17th College World Series. The Cardinal are led by leading hitter Stephen Piscotty (.361) and Tyler Gaffney, who leads the team in slugging percentage and walks. The Cardinal pitchers are led by Mark Appel (5-6, 3.02 ERA, 75 Ks) and Jordan Pries (5-5, 3.53 ERA, 68 Ks).
The Cal State Fullerton Titans enter the tournament as 2011 Big West champions, finishing 40-15 overall. This marks their 20th consecutive postseason appearance as they are looking for their fifth national championship. The Titans are led on offense by infielder Nick Ramirez (led the team in hits) and outfielder Michael Lorenzen (led the team in batting average). Pitcher Noe Ramirez was dominant for them, going 8-3 with a 1.74 ERA and 91 K.
The Kansas State Wildcats earned an at-large bid after losing in the semifinals of the Big 12 tournament. They are making their third straight regional appearance and will look to rebound from a tough 9-5 month of May. The Wildcats are led on offense by Jason King, who leads the team in hitting (.333), hits (74) and doubles (19), and Nick Martini, who leads the team in runs (48), BB (37), SB (24), and OBP (.446). The Wildcats pitching is led by LHP Kyle Hunter (5-4, 4.26 ERA, 86.2 IP, 78 K) and Matt Applegate (5-4, 4.31 ERA, 85.2 IP, 76 K).
The University of Illinois Illini earned an automatic bid after winning the conference championship with a 9-1 win over Michigan State. The Illini are making their tenth postseason appearance, but the first since 2000. They are led on offense by Justin Parr, who leads the team in hitting (.333) and hits (64), Willie Argo, who leads the team in runs (45), BB (26), and SB (25). Their pitching is led by RHP John Anderson (7-6, 4.40 ERA, 90.0 IP, 52 K), RHP Chris Pack (7-1, 4.99 ERA, 3 SV), and RHP Wes Braun (0.49 ERA, 2-0, 18 app, 6 SV).