SMITHFIELD, R.I. – Making their second-straight appearance in the NCAA tournament, the Bryant University baseball team opens play in the Baton Rouge Regional against Houston at 8:05 p.m. EST on Friday evening at Alex Box Stadium, Skip Bertman Field.
Seeded third in the regional, the Bulldogs (42-14) will face the second-seeded Cougars (44-15) in the second game of the day. Top seed and host LSU takes on in-state rival Southeast Louisiana at 3:05 p.m. EST.
The Bulldogs make their return to the NCAA tournament after winning their second-straight Northeast Conference tournament last weekend in Norwich, Conn. Bryant defeated Wagner, Central Connecticut and Sacred Heart along the way, needing 12 innings to knock off the Pioneers last Saturday. Robby Rinn's (Warwick, R.I.) bases-clearing triple in the top of the 12th broke a 2-2 tie and sent the Bulldogs to victory.
Houston, ranked ninth in the NCBWA poll, is back in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2008 and the 19th time in school history. The American Athletic Conference champions, the Cougars have the nation's best out of conference strength of schedule and just missed out on earning the right to host a regional. Houston's strength lies in its pitching as it possesses the nation's fourth-best ERA at 2.20. Aaron Garza is 8-4 with a 2.65 ERA in 98.1 innings, but it will be freshman Andrew Lantrip (6-0, 1.40 ERA, 38.2) that gets the nod on Friday. In all, the Cougars' pitching staff has struck out 390 and issued just 103 walks.
Offensively, Houston is hitting .281 as a team with 86 doubles and just 17 home runs. Fifth-year senior Casey Grayson is an elite hitter that is batting .335 with 16 doubles, six home runs, 48 RBI, 35 runs scored and 46 walks. Kyle Survance is the Cougars' spark plug with 70 hits, 10 doubles, 46 runs scored and 30 stolen bases.
Bryant heads into the regional with one of the most dynamic offenses in the country. The Bulldogs are hitting .304 with 112 doubles, 39 home runs, a .440 slugging percentage, .395 OBP and 96 stolen bases. Junior Carl Anderson (Sudbury, Mass.) sparks the offense with 10 doubles, seven home runs, 40 RBI, 48 runs scored and 29 stolen bases. Five other Bulldogs have 10 doubles or more, 11 have 15 RBI or more and 12 have scored 15 or more runs on the year.
The Bulldogs will go with junior Kevin McAvoy (Syracuse, N.Y.) against the Cougars on Friday night. A First Team All-NEC and All-New England selection, McAvoy is 9-1 with a 2.81 ERA in a staff-high 93.0 innings. He has walked 25 and struck out 88, one shy of tying the single-season program record. McAvoy tossed a complete game in last week's NEC tournament and has three shutouts on the season.
Friday's game can be watched live on ESPN3.