Vanderbilt wasn’t overly impressive last weekend at the SEC tournament, but it’s a new week and it has a chance to erase that from its memory this weekend at home. The Commodores have a dangerous offensive lineup despite their woes last weekend. Second baseman Dansby Swanson is athletic and a spark plug with 17 stolen bases and a .336 batting average, while freshman outfielder Bryan Reynolds is a given for Freshman All-American honors, hitting .323 with four homers, 44 RBIs and 12 stolen bases. Vanderbilt four other hitters with double-digit stolen bases totals, including shortstop Vince Conde, who’s electric and has four homers and 43 RBIs, while third baseman Xavier Turner and Zander Wiel both are guys with some gap power … While the Commodores are scary at the plate at times, the pitching staff is what I think could propel this team to Omaha. Righthanded pitcher Tyler Beede needs to be able to command his pitches this weekend, but sits low-to-mid 90s with his fastball, along with a cutting changeup and plus curveball, while Carson Fulmer is a mid-90s fastball guy with a funky, deceptive, motion. Meanwhile, Walker Buehler and Tyler Ferguson are both premium arms who can start, while relievers Adam Ravenelle (1.35, 33.1 IP), Hayden Stone (1.87, 43.1 IP) and Brian Miller (1.97, 32 IP), are talented arms to watch, with Miller hoping to rebound from a lackluster showing in Hoover last week.
It has been a rather interesting season for the Oregon Ducks. Sure, the Ducks haven’t exactly racked up marquee series win this season, but on the same token, head coach George Horton and his staff have done a terrific job when you considering they lost starting pitchers Matt Krook and Cole Irvin, both ultra-talented arms, for the year because of injuries. With that said, Oregon will start the weekend with Jeff Gold, who has been consistently good this season, tallying a 3.14 ERA in 94 2/3 innings. Meanwhile, lefthanded pitcher Tommy Thorpe is an 87-91 fastball pitcher with a good curveball. He has a 2.20 ERA in 98 innings, along with 86 strikeouts and 29 walks. Meanwhile, Jake Reed (2.08, 29 IP, 13 saves) is a power arm with a 2.08 ERA in 34 2/3 innings, and Garrett Cleavinger (2.76, 29.1 IP), Jordan Spencer (2.27, 35.2 IP) and Trent Paddon (3.26, 49.2 IP) lead the bullpen … Offensively, it’s important to take things with a grain of salt given how PK Park in Eugene, Ore., plays. In other words, it’s anything but a hitter’s park. Still, the Ducks have really relied on Mitchell Tolman (.315/2/46) to lead the way, while Aaron Payne (.258) provides some speed in the lineup and catcher Shaun Case can chip in some power production with 12 homers and 30 RBIs in just 128 at bats.
Clemson will be an interesting team to watch this weekend. I get the feeling the Tigers either go out without a whimper or they make some serious noise in this NCAA Regional. Clemson has the potential to cause some headaches offensively. Tyler Krieger is a consistent, versatile, hitter, who leads the team with a .330 average and has 19 stolen bases, while Steve Wilkerson and Garrett Boulware are gap hitters who can cause some issues. Steven Duggar (25 stolen bases) and Tyler Slaton (three homers, 11 stolen bases) are other key hitters to watch … On the mound, the Tigers have some quality starting pitching with righthanded pitcher Daniel Gossett leading the way. Gossett sits 92-95 with his fastball, and has touched 96 this season, along with very good overall stuff. He also has a 1.78 ERA in 101 1/3 innings of work. Meanwhile, the Tigers will go with Matthew Crownover in the opening game against Oregon, and he’s another premium arm with a 2.26 ERA in 95 2/3 innings. The big key to the weekend for the Tigers is the bullpen, which has been a mess at times this spring. Should the bullpen step up, the Tigers absolutely can make some noise.
Xavier finished the regular season strong by beating Creighton to earn the Big East’s automatic bid. Now, it’ll be interesting to see how the Musketeers do in the Nashville Regional. XU doesn’t have a particularly scary offensive lineup, but Derek Hasenbeck is a table-setter with a .307 average, six homers and 27 RBIs, while versatile Daniel Rizzie is hitting .301 with four homers and 33 RBIs, along with nine stolen bases. Brian Bruening (.274, 11 stolen bases) and Andrew Jernigan (.257/5/38) are other talented hitters to watch, while Patrick Jones is hitting .367 in a limited number of at bats … On the mound, the Musketeers have a good one in ace pitcher and righthander Vinny Nittoli, who sits low-90s with his fastball with good secondary offerings, while Scott Klever is another quality arm and possesses a good changeup. Eric Stiene (2.37) is someone the Musketeers rely heavily on, too, while out of the bullpen, watch for Sean Campbell (3.74, 33.2 IP) and Brad Kirschner (4.21).