No. 1 Kansas State
Regional appearances: 4
How qualified: At-large
Coach: Brad Hill (10th season)
NCAA highlight: The 2009 Wildcats, seeded second, upset top-seeded Rice 7-6 in Houston with pitcher A.J. Morris earning a complete-game victory. K-State finished as regional runner-up, losing twice to Rice.
Big-leaguers sample: Elden Auker, Bobby Randall, Craig Wilson
How to advance: The Wildcats are the Big 12’s top hitting team, presenting a lineup with no easy outs. Hill shook up his weekend rotation late in the season and the Wildcats posted a 3.48 earned run average over their past 16 games. K-State’s bullpen, which relies heavily on freshmen, is a strong point. Closer Jake Matthys, the Big 12 Freshman of the Year, is 8-1 with seven saves and a 2.13 ERA.
No. 2 Arkansas
Regional appearances: 26
How qualified: At-large
Coach: Dave Van Horn (11th season)
NCAA highlight: The 1979 Razorbacks finished second in the College World Series, losing 2-1 to Cal State Fullerton in the title game. They defeated Pepperdine, Arizona and Texas before losing twice to Fullerton.
Big-leaguers sample: Cliff Lee, Eric Hinske, Tom Pagnozzi, Kevin McReynolds
How to advance: The regional turns on pitching for the Razorbacks, who lead the nation with an ERA of 1.87 and allow a nation-low 6.78 hits. Starter Ryne Stanek is a Golden Spikes semifinalist and an All-SEC pick. Closer Colby Suggs has 12 saves and a 1.93 ERA.
No. 3 Bryant
Regional appearances: 1
How qualified: Automatic (Northeast Conference)
Coach: Steve Owens (third season)
NCAA highlight: Bryant is in the Division I regional in its first season of eligibility. In 2004, it went 1-2 in the NCAA Division II CWS.
Big-leaguers sample: Keith MacWhorter
How to advance: The Bulldogs must handle their first time in the NCAA spotlight, facing one of the SEC’s best. They went five deep into their pitching staff to win the conference tournament, allowing a total of five runs in four elimination games. A similar effort could make life tough on the higher-profile teams.
No. 4 Wichita State
Regional appearances: 28
How qualified: Automatic (Missouri Valley Conference)
Coach: Gene Stephenson (36th season)
NCAA highlight: The Shockers defeated Texas 5-3 to win the 1989 College World Series, one of four appearances in the championship round in Omaha.
Big-leaguers sample: Joe Carter, Darren Dreifort, Mike Pelfrey
How to advance: First baseman Casey Gillaspie and designated hitter Johnny Coy provided much-needed pop in the middle of the order last week in the MVC Tournament. They need to keep that up for the Shockers to exceed expectations.
— Paul Suellentrop