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College : : Story
Preview: Charlottesville Regional
Kendall Rogers        
Published: Wednesday, June 01, 2011

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REGIONAL COVERAGE: SCHEDULE/RESULTS | REGIONAL BREAKDOWN | PAIRINGS MESSAGE BOARDS


The Road to Omaha has begun and 64 teams around the country are vying for the eight lucrative spots in the first College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb.

As part of our extensive NCAA postseason coverage, we take an in-depth look at each of the 16 NCAA Regionals.

THE TEAMS
Team Conference Record Berth Last NCAA appearance
1. Virginia ACC 49-9 Auto bid 2010
2. East Carolina Conference USA 39-19 At-large 2009
3. St. John's Big East 35-20 At-large 2010
4. Navy Patriot 33-23 Auto bid 2002
THE BREAKDOWN
The favorite: Virginia
1. Virginia

2. East Carolina

3. St. John's

4. Navy
Other than one bad weekend at North Carolina a few weekends ago, the Cavaliers have been flawless for the most part this spring. They enter the postseason with just a .303 batting average, but have several talented sluggers to watch, such as John Hicks (.338,6,50), Steven Proscia (.333,7,53) and Chris Taylor (.293,2,42). But while the offense is solid, the pitching staff is the most impressive aspect of the club, entering the tournament with a 2.34 ERA. Ace left-hander Danny Hultzen is having an amazing campaign with a 1.59 ERA in 96 1/3 innings. He also has struck out 136 and walked 16 while opponents are hitting just .193 against him. The rest of the rotation is solid, too, with Will Roberts, Tyler Wilson and Cody Winiarski leading the way. The Cavaliers will get through their NCAA Regional assuming the offense performs at a high level.
The dark-horse contender: East Carolina
Don't be surprised if the Pirates give Virginia and St. John's all they can handle this weekend. The Pirates aren't as good offensively as they have been in past years with just a .299 batting average, but they're infinitely better on the mound. Ace pitcher Seth Maness has an outstanding 1.88 ERA in 96 innings, while fellow starters Kevin Brandt and Mike Wright have ERAs of 2.26 and 2.84, respectively. Also, the Pirates have an outstanding bullpen with Brad Mincey and Seth Simmons leading the way. Mincey has made 30 appearances and has a 1.50 ERA and Simmons has made 27 appearances and has a 2.56 ERA. ECU will be a major factor this weekend if its offense rises to the occasion.
Best hitter: SS Joe Panik, St. John's
The Johnnies actually have several solid hitters including Paul Karmas and Jeremy Baltz, but Panik is the guy that makes this offense go. Panik is having an incredible season at the plate, hitting a team-high .402 with 19 doubles, three triples, nine home runs and 56 RBIs. He also is slugging .645 and has a .513 OBP. Additionally, Panik is an impressive 21-for-25 in stolen bases. Watch out for the Johnnies if Panik is on a tear this weekend.
Best pitcher: LHP Danny Hultzen, Virginia
There's a reason Hultzen is a hot topic in this preview. After all, he's only one of the nation's best three pitchers. The outstanding left-handed has put together a campaign like no other. Hultzen has started 14 games, has a 10-3 record and has a fantastic 1.59 ERA in 96 1/3 innings. In addition to striking out 136 and walking 16, Hultzen has allowed just three home runs the entire season. Hultzen typically only loses when the Cavaliers' offensive production lacks. Virginia coach Brian O'Connor hopes that isn't the case this weekend.
Best prospect: Danny Hultzen, Virginia
There are plenty of talented prospects in this NCAA Regional, but the discussion, at least this year, will always begin and end with Danny Hultzen. He was expected to be a top draft pick after having an amazing sophomore campaign last season. However, his stock has greatly increased as the season has progressed. In addition to his fabulous numbers on the bump, Hultzen has increased his velocity. We saw him against Georgia Tech earlier this season, where he was 93-95 fastball, 86-87 slider, 81-82 changeup and 77-78 curve. Hultzen also happens to be a hard-nosed guy. He could be the top pick in next week's draft. You can view our scouting video of Hultzen here.
The buzz
Virginia's weekend rotation, especially Hultzen, has received much of the fanfare and headlines so far this season, but it's also safe to say the Cavaliers have a stable bullpen, especially at the end of games, with Branden Kline leading the charge. Kline has put together a fantastic campaign. He has appeared in 27 games and recorded 17 saves, and has a 1.85 ERA in 34 innings. He also has struck out 46 and walked 17 and teams are hitting him at a .202 clip. Also keep an eye on Kyle Crockett, who has a 1.75 ERA in 25 2/3 innings … East Carolina isn't quite the offensive team it has been in the past, but the Pirates still have some talented hitters to watch this weekend. Veterans Trent Whitehead and Corey Thompson lead the offense with batting averages of .332 and .330, respectively, while Zach Wright is the team's to power producer. Wright only is hitting .278 in 216 at bats, but has slugged 13 home runs and knocked in 39 runs. As we said earlier, ECU will be incredibly dangerous if it hits with authority this weekend … St John's certainly has some key offensive cogs to watch with Panik, Karmas and Baltz leading the way, but its success this weekend hinges on the pitching staff. St. John's ace pitcher Kyle Hansen has a 2.70 ERA in 103 1/3 innings, but other weekend starters such as Brendan Lobban (4.04) and Kevin Kilpatrick (4.44) must rise to the occasion. The Johnnies will be fine if thy can turn things over to their bullpen late in games. Matt Carasiti has made 27 appearances and has a 2.52 ERA in 39 1/3 innings while Stephen Rivera has made 20 appearances and has a 2.68 ERA in 43 2/3 innings … Navy certainly lacks elite level starting pitching entering the weekend, but it has a couple of reliable relievers to deal with late in games. Joe Rinehart and Wes Olson are the arms to watch for the Midshipmen. Rinehart has appeared in 22 games and has a 1.88 ERA in 48 innings while Olson has appeared in 18 games and has a 2.51 ERA in 57 1/3 innings. Offensive production could be an issue for Navy, which has just a .276 batting average.


Kendall Rogers is the college baseball editor for Perfect Game USA and has covered the sport for over 10 seasons. He can be reached at kendall@perfectgame.org



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