The whole collegiate baseball season has led us to this moment. One more weekend series win will send eight teams to Omaha, Nebraska to compete in "The Greatest Show On Dirt."
With the draft a month away, here is everything you need to know about each of the super regional match-ups taking place on Friday and what Royals fans should watch for.
No. 1 Arkansas Razorbacks vs. North Carolina State Wolfpack
The Arkansas Razorbacks (49-11) were the overwhelming top seed entering the tournament after winning the SEC regular-season and conference tournament. Arkansas was tested in the regional by the Big Ten regular-season champion, Nebraska Cornhuskers, but used a dramatic eighth inning to win game seven of the regional final. The Razorbacks did what they had done all season, using the depth of their lineup and the dominance of Kevin Kopps to put opponents away. A strong lineup, top to bottom, nine different Hogs hit a home run in their four games in the regional. Meanwhile, Collegiate Baseball Player of the Year Kevin Kopps lived up to the billing in his regional. Kopps pitched in all three Arkansas wins and tallied 13 1/3 innings pitched with no earned runs and 15 strikeouts with no walks.
Arkansas' 2021 MLB.com Top 200 Draft Prospects
46th ranked prospect: OF Christian Franklin: 59 GP, .281 AVG, 13 HR, 54 RBI
North Carolina State
The Wolfpack (33-17) nabbed the two seed in the Ruston Regional and finished the year ranked at 16 in the AP Poll. While missing out on the opportunity to host by just one spot, the Wolfpack would go on to sweep the regional with three convincing wins. The Wolfpack offense was on full display last weekend, averaging 10 runs per game including a 14 spot in the close-out game over host Louisiana Tech. While they enter the Fayetteville Super Regional as a heavy underdog, the Wolfpack have the type of talent that could give Arkansas fits. They send four guys to the plate with a batting average of over .320 on the year and five guys in the lineup have hit double figures in the home run column.
North Carolina State's 2021 MLB.com Top 200 Draft Prospects
69th ranked prospect: C Luca Tresh - 50 GP, .236 AVG, 14 HR, 41 RBI
72nd ranked prospect: SS Jose Torres - 47 GP, .294 AVG, 7 HR, 40 RBI
111th ranked prospect: OF Tyler McDonough - 50 GP, .351 AVG, 15 HR, 43 RBI
No. 8 Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. No. 9 Stanford Cardinal
The Red Raiders (39-15) rolled through a talent-packed Lubbock Regional to reach the Super Regional for the fifth time in the last seven tournaments. The Raiders took down all three of the teams in their region with dominant pitching and allowed just over two runs per game in the regional. Starters combined to go 16 1/3 innings with four earned runs and 22 strikeouts to six walks. The bullpen combined for 10 2/3 innings with one earned run and 14 strikeouts to three walks. The Raiders also have the Big 12 Player of the Year, Jace Jung, who hit 21 home runs and 67 RBIs on the season. Jung is complimented by a strong top half of the order with bats like Cal Conley, Dru Baker and Bryce Fulford in the lineup. The Raiders have yet to lose a super-regional series under head coach Tim Tadlock.
Texas Tech's 2021 MLB.com Top 200 Draft Prospects
161st ranked prospect: SS Cal Conley - 54 GP, .330 AVG, 15 HR, 55 RBI
184th ranked prospect: OF Dru Baker - 49 GP, .356 AVG, 4 HR, 32 RBI
The Cardinal (36-15) advanced through their own regional by staving off a very good UC Irvine Anteaters game in game seven of the regional. Stanford, a team known mostly for their pitching and defense, got tons of offensive production over the weekend. The big moment of the weekend came on Saturday when catcher Kody Huff hit two grand slams in the game after having just three homers on the season entering regional play. The Cardinal have a proven formula to help win. Their defense ranks tenth nationally in fielding percentage at .980 and has a loaded bullpen with five relievers with an ERA of under 3.80 on the season. With two elite bullpen units going in this region, the key will be to score early and let the pen go to work.
Stanford's 2021 MLB.com Top 200 Draft Prospects
163rd ranked prospect: RHP Brendan Beck - 8-1, 3.00 ERA, 115 K, 22 BB
No. 5 Arizona Wildcats vs. No. 12 Mississippi Rebels
The Pac-12 champion Wildcats (43-15) were the only non-Big 12 and SEC team to hold a top-eight seed in the country. The Wildcats rocked their own region, sweeping through it with just eight runs allowed in three games. Left-handed pitcher Garrett Irvin delivered the performance of the regional; tossing a complete game, three-hit shutout in a win over the UCSB Gauchos. On top of their stellar starting pitching, Arizona is an unbelievably efficient lineup. The Cats have nine players who have played at least 40 games this season who bat over .300 on the year. From top to bottom, the lineup forces pitchers to get tough outs. Although the Wildcats do not pose a huge threat in terms of power, the Wildcats still out-homered opponents 62 to 23 on the season.
Arizona's 2021 MLB.com Top 200 Draft Prospects
97th ranked prospect: OF Ryan Holgate - 58 GP, .353 AVG, 9 HR, 50 RBI
146th ranked prospect: RHP Chase Silseth - 8-1, 5.53 ERA, 93 K, 24 BB
151st ranked prospect: 1B Branden Boissiere - 58 GP, .355 AVG, 5 HR, 56 RBI
The Rebels (44-20) were privileged enough to host (and advance) from a regional played in front of arguably the best atmosphere in all of college baseball. Aside from the wild fans in the stands like “two-liter guy,” the other big story of the weekend remained designated hitter Tim Elko. Elko, who has been playing on a torn ACL all season, hit three home runs and drove in 10 runs in the four games Ole Miss played in the regional. Fellow Rebel star left-handed pitcher Doug Nikhazy made waves in the baseball world with a 16 strikeout outing in seven innings against Florida State. With a rotation limited due to the injury of projected first-round draft pick right-handed pitcher Gunnar Hoglund, the biggest question facing Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco is who will get the starting nod on the non-Nikhazy game day(s). But the power-packing Rebels remain a scary force, as shown in the two regional final games where they tallied 19 total runs.
Mississippi's 2021 MLB.com Top 200 Draft Prospects
23rd ranked prospect RHP Gunnar Hoglund - 4-2, 2.87 ERA, 96 K, 17 BB
67th ranked prospect: LHP Doug Nikhazy - 11-2, 2.39 ERA, 132 K, 28 BB
No. 4 Vanderbilt Commodores vs. No. 13 East Carolina Pirates
The reigning champion Commodores (43-15) are back and just two wins away from another trip to Omaha to defend the crown. As expected, Vandy’s two studs at the top of the rotation dominated the regional. RHP Kumar Rocker went seven innings with two hits of shutout ball against Presbyterian. He was followed by right-handed pitcher Jack Leiter’s six-inning, one earned run outing against Georgia Tech. When the pitching wasn’t exactly lights out in their clinching game against Georgia Tech, the big boppers stepped up big time. Outfielder Isaiah Thomas hit the shot of the series, an extra-inning grand slam to bust the game open. There were valuable contributions all weekend from other studs around the lineup like first baseman Dominic Keegan (5-for-11, 2 HR, 7 RBI) and centerfielder Enrique Bradfield Jr. (3-for-12, 4 Runs).
Vanderbilt's 2021 MLB.com Top 200 Draft Prospects
3rd ranked prospect: RHP Jack Leiter - 9-3, 2.22 ERA, 146 K, 38 BB
5th ranked prospect: RHP Kumar Rocker - 12-3, 2.65 ERA, 144 K, 33 BB
95th ranked prospect: OF Isaiah Thomas - 50 GP, .339 AVG, 13 HR, 39 RBI
181st ranked prospect: 1B Dominic Keegan - 51 GP, .374 AVG, 14 HR, 53 RBI
194th ranked prospect: C C.J. Rodriguez - 49 GP, .250 AVG, 4 HR, 32 RBI
The Pirates (43-15) won the American Athletic Conference championship and are looking to break what is starting to feel like a super-regional curse. The Pirates will be playing in their sixth ever super regional, but have yet to make a single appearance in Omaha. The Pirates advanced with three straight close wins over each of the teams in their region. The Pirates will roll out right handed-pitcher Gavin Williams to give fans, perhaps, the best pitching duel the NCAA Tournament has to offer. Williams, a borderline late first/early second-round projected pick, has a 10-0 record with a 1.82 ERA on the season. We will also get to see one of the best hitters in the nation face the best duo of starters in the nation when Pirates second baseman Connor Norby (.418 AVG, 15 HR) steps into the box.
East Carolina's 2021 MLB.com Top 200 Draft Prospects
42nd ranked prospect: RHP Gavin Williams - 10-0, 1.82 ERA, 117 K, 19 BB
84th ranked prospect: 2B Connor Norby - 59 GP, .418 AVG, 15 HR, 51 RBI