After capturing the Mountain West's lone berth to the NCAA baseball tournament, the road to the College World Series only gets tougher for the slugging New Mexico Lobos.
The Texas Tech Red Raiders will play host within Dan Law Field at Rip Griffin Park to UNM, Dallas Baptist and Fairfield for their regional, which begins Friday. At 41-16, the Red Raiders won the Big 12 regular season title but failed to win any games in the conference's postseason tournament. In spite of the disappointing finish, however, Texas Tech earned the NCAA's fifth seed nationally among the field's 64 teams and must be considered the favorite.
TTU is led by senior first baseman Eric Gutierrez, who has not only earned all-Big 12 honors three times in his collegiate career, but capped his last campaign by winning Player of the Year. He hit .376/.471/.729 in conference action, with seven home runs in 24 games. Sophomore outfielder Tanner Gardner also figures to be a force, as he slugged .376/.487/.562 with 25 extra-base hits on the season.
They draw the Fairfield Stags (32-24), who clinched the the first NCAA bid in program history by winning both the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular and conference tournament titles. On offense, Fairfield led the MAAC in team batting average and on-base percentage, was second in stolen bases (stealing at a 71.9% clip) and third in home runs. They also finished second in team ERA (4.14) and allowed the fewest walks despite a .291 opponents' batting average, which could frustrated TTU if things break their way.
Meanwhile, the Lobos landed the 3-seed in this regional and will open against the Dallas Baptist Patriots (41-18), who've been a recent NCAA mainstay out of the Missouri Valley Conference. They're a team that does pretty much everything well, finishing second in conference play in overall batting average, ERA and fielding percentage. On offense, Darick Hall finished eighth in the nation with 68 RBI and has an OPS of 1.046. The Patriots are also efficient on the basepaths, stealing bases at a 73.9% rate, which could pose a challenge to UNM.