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| Story | 6/2/2023
NCAA Regional Preview
1. Wake Forest
4. George Mason
The Wake Forest Demon Deacons took over the No.1 spot in the land with two weeks left in the regular season and haven’t flinched. The winners of the ACC Regular Season Championship earned the No.1 National Seed and do indeed look like the most complete club in the Field of 64. They lead the nation with 47 wins, are first in team ERA with a 2.82 and are 10th in the nation with 110 home runs. Beyond that, their season has invigorated the fan base and “the Couch” has now become quite the home field advantage. The Maryland Terrapins dominated the Big-10 this year by winning the regular season and conference tournament titles. They are a road-tested team and spent most of their non-conference segment away from College Park. This is yet another stacked offensive unit that has a .312 team BA and are 2nd in the nation with 123 home runs on the year. Don’t forget that the Deacs and Terrapins matched up in the College Park Regional last year with Maryland taking home the 10-5 victory. The Northeastern Huskies earned the at-large bid out of the Colonial Conference and are regarded as one of the toughest, blue-collar teams around. They put together an impressive 15-9 record against RPI top-100 teams, which is difficult to do being a mid-major from the northeast. The Huskies are known for grinding out at-bats, have stolen 123 bags on the year and have a sparkling 3.57 team ERA. Finally, the George Mason Patriots went on a magical ride to finish the season, winning the A-10 Conference tournament as the 6-seed. First year head coach, Shawn Camp leads his club to the programs 8th NCAA tournament appearance but its first since 2014. They pressure teams with an aggressive offensive style and have swiped 103 bags on the year. This team could be dangerous as they probably feel like they are playing with house money.
Don’t Sleep On:
Many of the players on the Northeastern Huskies roster have played at “The Couch” as they opened the 2021 season against Wake Forest and took Game 3 of the series. This club simply doesn’t back down from anyone and play clean enough on the defensive side of things, not giving away free bases. Being able to limit and minimize opponents’ scoring opportunities in this ballpark is a must and that is exactly Northeastern’s style. The Huskies are a tough matchup for any club across the country.
Brock Wilken holds down the hot corner for the Demon Deacons and he has put together one of the greatest single season and careers with the stick in program history. At 6-4/225 he looks every bit the part of a Big-League middle of the order bat and has the power to back it up. For the season, the All-ACC Second Team member is slashing .351/.832/.515 with 14 doubles, 27 home runs and 74 RBIs and impressively has walked 11 more times than he has struck out. Wilken holds the freshman, single season, and career record for home runs at Wake and is sure to go off the board in the first couple rounds of this year’s MLB Draft.
2. Boston College
The Alabama Crimson Tide has been through a roller coaster of emotions in the last month after their longtime head coach Brad Bohannon was relieved of his duties due to a gambling investigation. From that point on, Bama has been their best version of themselves, and a massive amount of credit must go to interim head coach Jason Jackson. Since that time, they have gone 10-4, elevated their RPI to 11th in the country and find themselves hosting a regional for the first time since 2006. Their pitching has led the way in the last 14 games, surrendering 2 runs or fewer 9 times over that stretch. It would be hard for a club to have much more momentum than Alabama does right now. Boston College always plays the game with confidence and aggression, but they will have a chip on their shoulder in Tuscaloosa as they very easily could be hosting a regional of their own. Being the 6-seed in the ACC Tournament and going 1-1 didn’t help their cause but the Eagles have put together the best season in program history. Bird Ball as they call it, is a fundamentally sound version of the way the game was meant to be played. This club has tremendous balance, defend at a .982 clip, can hit the long ball, and go ten plus arms deep on the mound. Coming out of the Sun Belt Conference with their first at-large bid since 2018, the Troy Trojans put together a quality resume with 39 wins and played the 15th toughest non-conference schedule in the nation. They finished 3rd in the “Fun Belt” regular season and have a scary offense with 102 home runs and 72 stolen bases. The question will be if they can pitch at the level they have for the last month. After claiming the Southland Conference Regular Season and Tournament Championship, Nichols State returns to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1998. The Colonels aren’t known for slugging their way to victory, but they can handle the glove and have a legitimate Friday night ace. They shouldn’t be taken lightly regardless of the matchup.
Don’ Sleep On:
The Troy Trojans roster, as you would expect, is heavily represented by players from the Panhandle region. Anytime you get a quality mid-major team matched up against a perennial power, with players that grew up playing against each other, all bets are off. Not to say that Troy’s roster is inferior to Alabama or Boston College, but they may be a touch more motivated than usual. They will be familiar with their surroundings having played in Tuscaloosa back in April, so anticipate the Trojans being there at the end.
If there was ever a player that represents the way the game is to be played in a baseball rich town like Boston, it would be Joe Vetrano. The 6-3/220 lefthanded hitting, junior is the cornerstone in the middle of the Eagles lineup. He is barrel chested and strong, seemingly coming up with big hit after big hit whenever his club needs it. The All-ACC Third Team first baseman is batting .305 with 11 doubles, 18 home runs and 55 RBIs and won the triple-crown within the team. Lefthanded power is always in demand, so Vetrano should be a quality pick in the coming MLB Draft.
If you would have seen the Miami Hurricanes play at times this year, hosting the first round of the NCAA regional may have seemed like a pipe dream. But, down the stretch this team was one of the best teams in the country. They were in contention for winning the ACC Coastal before finishing 2nd and ended up as the 4-seed in the ACC tournament. As the 12th ranked team in the RPI and accumulating 25 wins against RPI top-100 teams the Canes are battle tested. They are scary at the plate as 6 of their 9 starters have double digit jacks on the year and they have hit 112 total round trippers. Oh, by the way, they also have the best closer in the nation to lock down the last third of a game when necessary. They Texas Longhorns are a tremendous example of perseverance and self-belief as some will remember that they left February with a 3-6 record. But David Pierce and staff circled the wagons and got this club clicking on all cylinders heading into the Big-12 tournament as they shared the Regular Season Championship with WVU and OSU. It all revolves around the defensive side of things for the Longhorns who are elite with the leather and have developed one of their best pitching staffs in recent history. In a banner year for the Sun Belt, the Louisiana Ragin Cajuns earned their 18th NCAA tournament appearance and first at-large bid since 2013. Matt Deggs kept his team on the upward swing throughout the year as they reached the 40-win plateau and tied for 3rd in the Sun Belt Regular Season standings. This club has a knack for finding ways to win and finished 3rd in the nation in stolen bases with an eye-popping 161 bags. Putting pressure on opponents is their style. The Maine Black Bears ran away with the America East Conference on their way to 32 wins and are making their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2011. This club knows how to score with 87 doubles, 83 home runs and 98 stolen bases as a team. The question will be how they handle the high-powered offenses in the other dugout.
Don’t Sleep On:
The Texas Longhorns as we talked about, struggle mightily to start the season and then reeled off a 16-game win streak to put the Big-12 on notice. They built their resume by going 23-9 in their non-conference games against the 24th toughest schedule in the nation. The Big-12 was as unpredictable a conference there was in 2023 but this club kept grinding out wins and earned the at-large bid when it seemed like this may be a down year in Austin. This teams balance will keep them in most games and the stress of the season has hardened this roster full of new faces.
The Miami Hurricanes have one of the most explosive offenses in college baseball and the focus of every opponent is junior Yohandy Morales. The 6-4/225 corner infielder has added significant muscle mass since his sophomore campaign and the refined offensive approach is notable. Batting an amazing .405 with 13 doubles, 16 home runs the All-ACC First Team honoree has also collected 61 RBIs and 7 stolen bases. With elite bat to ball skills and even more projection to his game, it won’t take long for Morales to hear his name called in the July MLB Draft.
2. Texas A&M
3. Cal State Fullerton
4. San Jose State
With things as wild an unpredictable as they were on the West Coast this year, the constant was the Stanford Cardinal being ranked in the top-10. Dave Esquer’s club ran away from the rest of the league winning the Pac-12 Regular Season Championship by 5 games. With 28 wins against top-100 RPI opponents and finishing 15th in that metric, the Cardinal secured the hosting opportunity for the 21st time in program history. This will also be their 35th overall NCAA tournament appearance. With one of their most prolific offenses ever, they have collected 125 doubles and 102 home runs on the season. Their talented junior class has been to Omaha in back-to-back years and this year looks like a strong bet as well. Another club from the state of Texas that looked like it was in a rebuilding phase early on was the Texas A&M Aggies. But to no one’s surprise, Jim Schlossnagle pushed the right buttons, righted the ship, and delivered his club to another NCAA tournament berth. After making an impressive run to the SEC Championship game in Hoover, the Aggies landed their 37th post season appearance. Their young offense found its power in the second half of the year, and they stole 90 bags as well. With the rotation intact, the Aggies will be very competitive on the mound as well. For college baseball purists, seeing the Cal State Fullerton Titans back in NCAA tournament play was a sight for sore eyes. For the first time since 2018, they won the Big West going 20-9 in league play to secure the automatic bid. The Titans are uncharacteristically light with the sticks, but head coach Jason Dietrich has rejuvenated the pitching system and restored their hardnosed mentality. As hard as it might be to believe, the San Jose State Spartans are making their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2002. After winning their first ever Mountain West Regular Season Title, they would go on to win the automatic bid with their first Mountain West Tournament Championship as well. The Spartans can score, and while they play station to station for the most part, they pepper the gaps with doubles and are 25th in the nation in that category. They won 31 games for a reason and have shown they can play well on the road.
Don’t Sleep On:
The Texas A&M Aggies are playing their best ball of the season coming off their appearance in the SEC Tournament Championship game. While this is only Jim Schlossnagle has only been in College Station for two years, his team seems to have the flare for the dramatic and win games when it matters most. They bullied their way to Omaha in 2022, so don’t be surprised if they find that postseason magic once again and win this regional too.
Tommy Troy has been a well-known name for the Stanford Cardinal since the moment he stepped foot on campus. But the 5-10/197 junior has taken his game to new heights in 2023 and has pushed his way into top-half of the 1st round consideration in this years MLB Draft. The uber athletic infielder/outfielder is showing some of the best 5-tool skills in the nation and is one of the most electric players you are likely to see. For the year, he is batting .394 with 15 doubles, 14 home runs, 46 RBIs and has added in 17 stolen bases for good measure.
2. Oregon State
3. Sam Houston State
The LSU Tigers will be hosting the NCAA tournament for an impressive 27th time. However, it may be a surprise to those who don’t follow the game closely, that the team that was the consensus No.1 team in the nation for 90% of the season neither won the SEC Regular Season or Conference Tournament Championship. Beyond their enormous talent, the Tigers should be particularly dangerous in the post season because they quite honestly still have a lot to prove. Arguably more than any club in recent history, this year’s version of the Bengal Tigers is supposed to win a national championship. They have the top pitcher and hitter in the nation that will likely go No.1 and No.2 in the draft and have one of the most feared offenses in the game with 106 double and 117 home runs. The pitching has been a bit of a wild card and if they get that figured out, they should cruise to the Super Regional round. The Oregon State Beavers are making their 6th straight and 22nd overall appearance in the NCAA tournament. After finishing the regular season as the runners up in the Pac-12, the Beavers made an early exit going 0-2 in the conference tourney. For a club that is used to hosting the first round, they should be up for the challenge in Baton Rouge. They are one of the best defensive corps in the nation fielding .980 and if they can get hot offensively, they will be hard to deal with. The whole key will be getting some quality starts to allow them to set their bullpen for the weekend. Sam Houston State had to win 5 games in the WAC Conference Tournament to secure their first postseason berth since 2014. In what will be their 13th appearance and 2nd in Baton Rouge, the Bearkats will bring a high-octane offense into the loaded field. They are batting .319 as a team, are 5th in the nation with 143 doubles, and have stolen 98 bags. If they can get to the bullpen with the lead, they have a real shot. Lastly, the Tulane Green Wave are this year’s most amazing Cinderella story as they enter the NCAA tournament with a 19-40 record after finishing the regular season in the 7th place in the American Athletic Conference. This club has nothing to lose and a riding pure emotional high after going 4-1 in the conference tournament to secure the automatic bid. This will be their first appearance since 2016 and are only batting .250 as a team with a 7.00 ERA but that’s why you play the game, you never know what you’re going to get.
Don’t Sleep On:
Sam Houston State has long been known for their toughness and grit on the diamond. This year’s version is no different as they hardened themselves with a tough non-conference schedule and played .500 against RPI top-100 teams. They will put up runs in bunches as seen in the WAC Conference Tournament where they averaged 15 runs per game. They have one of the best bullpens in the nation, if they can get to it.
Very few players are as electric as Travis Bazanna on the diamond. The 6-0/200 Sydney, Australia native is just dynamic in every aspect of the game and should be another 1st round pick for the Beavers. With a slash line of .379/.635/.512 he can be a one-man wrecking crew. His legs are a huge weapon with 36 stolen bases to go with his 20 doubles, 10 home runs and 53 RBIs. Metrically he is elite when it comes to bat to ball skills as he walks way more than he strikes out.
2. West Virginia
4. Ball State
The fans in Lexington have been on quite the roller coaster ride with their beloved Wildcats this year. Opening Day, they got shutout 2-0 by Elon and then proceeded to win 21 out of their next 22 games and launched themselves into the top-10 in the nation. After that they started SEC play at 8-1 and looked like they were contenders to win the SEC East. Unfortunately, they finished SEC play by losing 6 of their last 7 series and it looked like their hosting chances may be in jeopardy. However, with the No.1 strength of schedule and non-conference RPI Kentucky will be hosting the NCAA tournament for the first time ever at Kentucky Proud Park. Now that this team can relax and get back to what they do best, they should be very dangerous and the favorite to advance. West Virginia had a record-breaking regular season for the Mountaineer program as the took home a share of the Big-12 Regular Season Championship for the first time ever. But it feels like they kind of backed their way in after getting swept by Texas to end the regular season and went 0-2 in the Big-12 Tournament. Don’t be mistaken, this is a quality club with power and speed as seen with their 76 home runs and 122 stolen bags. The key is their pitching staff with the best depth and quality they have fielded in years. The Indiana Hoosiers won 40 games for the 6th time in program history and received an at-large bid for their 10th NCAA tournament appearance all time. This team scheduled tough, played on the road a lot, and finished the season with the 12th ranked non-conference RPI. Beyond that, they went 16-16 against top-100 RPI opponents and finished just 1 game behind Maryland in the regular season standings. They have a top-heavy lineup with a ton of juice to deal with and can mix and match out of the bullpen. They don’t give games away and make you beat them if you’re going to walk away with the win. Ball State won the MAC Conference Tournament in dramatic fashion after entering the top of the 9th down 9-8 before hitting a grand slam to take the lead and secure their first NCAA tournament bid since 2006. The Cardinals finished the regular season 5 game behind Kent State but rode their hot bats and timely pitching to the title. This is one of the best offenses during Rich Maloney’s tenure at Ball State, so they could make some noise.
Don’t Sleep On:
The West Virginia Mountaineers looked like one of the best teams in the country during their run through April and the beginning of May. But the 5-game losing streak to finish the season has people scratching their heads a bit. If Randy Mazey can get his club back on track, they could very easily run through this region undefeated. This is one of the most well-rounded and dangerous offensive clubs in the country. If they catch fire with the sticks, watch out, the runs will come early and often.
To even say that a player would challenge LSU’s Dylan Crews for the Golden Spikes Award would have been unfathomable 40 games into the season. Enter West Virginia’s JJ Wetherholt and we now have a real conversation. The 5-10/190 lefthanded hitting infielder has only gotten better as the season has moved along and there are some real decisions for the Golden Spikes Committee to make. Wetherhholt is a slashing type of player that can dominate a game in many aspects. For the season, he is batting .443 with a .778 SLG% as he has accumulated 22 doubles, 15 home runs and 35 stolen bases on top of 56 RBIs. He has 1st round pick written all over him.
2. Southern Miss
The Auburn Tigers made a statement to the nation in the first weekend of May when they became the first team in 2023 to take a series from the LSU Tigers. That was on the heels of taking 2 out of 3 in Columbia against the Gamecocks and then they swept the final two SEC series of the regular season. This took them from being on the bubble, to hosting consecutive NCAA tournaments for the first time in program history at Plainsman Park. This will be the 26th overall appearance and the Tigers look primed to make another run to Omaha. They have gotten contributions from players up and down their roster, from veterans to freshman alike. They have had to mix and match all year long with pitchers in the starting rotation, but this has developed depth for the staff, and they are the key to Auburn’s run because they will score. Arguably the toughest 2-seed in the tournament, Southern Miss very easily could be hosting their own regional but instead head to the familiar grounds in Auburn. In what has turned out to be head coach Scott Berry’s swansong, the Golden Eagles are playing their best ball of the year and there is talent on both sides of the ball. The Sun Belt Conference Tournament champs are making their 7th consecutive appearance and 19th overall in program history. They can really pitch it, and this makes them a legitimate contender. The Samford Bulldogs made an amazing run in the Southern Conference Tournament to secure the leagues automatic bid after winning the regular season by 2 games. The Bulldogs had to win a tripleheader on Saturday due to impending weather to take home the crown. They have an offense that can really slug as seen by their 109 doubles and 101 home runs on the season. The question will be if they can find enough outs carrying a team ERA of exactly 6.00 for the year. The Penn Quakers punched their ticket to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1995 by going 3-0 in the inaugural Ivy League Conference Tournament. The Quakers dominated the league with a 16-5 record and thrive on the pitching and defensive side carrying a 4.00 team ERA while fielding .976. They won’t be an easy target but will need to have some timely hitting to hang around.
Don’t Sleep On:
This is the easiest call of any of the regions since Southern Miss should probably be hosting as a 1-seed. Auburn has the Golden Eagles when it comes to strength of schedule but there is very little to separate them in the other criteria such as non-conference RPI and record against RPI top-100 teams. Regardless, this team is experienced and deep in all the areas that matter. Plus, they are playing to honor head coach Scott Berry who announced his retirement about a month ago. This is a proud and traditional mid-major program that did make a run to Omaha back in 2009.
Tanner Hall is the clear-cut ace of the Southern Miss pitching staff and heartbeat of the team. The 6-1/186 junior RHP just eats up innings and wins ball games with his deep-seated competitive drive and advanced arsenal. In 15 starts this season, Hall is 12-3 with a 2.23 ERA and he is an elite strike thrower. In 97.0 IP he has only surrendered 30 free passes while punching out 109 batters and holding opponents to a .194 OBA. He is a proven workhorse over his career and will demand a quality pick in this year’s MLB Draft.
The hottest team in the country, that’s all that really needs to be said about the Clemson Tigers. The Erik Bakich era got off to a rough start, especially in ACC play when the Tigers started 2-8 and it looked like the Clemson faithful would be forced to look towards 2024. Well, the team had other ideas, caught fire, and earned themselves the No.4 National Seed. The Tigers are No.4 in RPI, won the ACC Tournament Championship and haven’t lost since April 28th on their way to 16-straight wins. This team has deep-seated belief in themselves, they are one of the best offenses in the nation in the last month and the pitching staff has turned the corner and have been downright dominant during the streak. Doug Kingsmore Stadium will be bursting at the seams as this rabid fanbase has been waiting for this opportunity for quite a while. To add to the drama of postseason play in Clemson, the Tennessee Vols come to town as a brutally good 2-seed. After limping along much of the first half of the season and starting SEC play at 5-10, the Vols came alive with a resounding series sweep of arch-rival Vanderbilt. From there they never looked back and finished SEC play with an 11-4 record. They still have arguably the best starting rotation in the country, and they have been pitching that way down the stretch. The whole question for them is whether they can shake the road blues where they are a shocking 4-12 on the year. Head coach Robert Woodard has been methodically rebuilding the Charlotte 49ers program for this precise moment and they finally cashed it in. Just hanging around all year and finishing 3rd in the competitive Conference USA, they caught fire in the CUSA Tournament and took home the automatic bid. That was the first CUSA Tournament title in program history securing their 7th NCAA appearance overall and second in the last three years. Their offense plays an all or nothing style with 104 doubles and 97 home runs on the season, but they have also struck out 525 times. Their pitching staff is full of power arms, and they punch out opponents in droves. Out of the ASUN the Lipscomb Bison punched their ticket by winning the regular season and conference tournament. This team started the year 5-13 but finished in a flurry on the strength of their ability to slug the ball with a .471 team SLG%. This is the third league title for the Bison and with their front-line arm well rested they could cause some trouble in this region.
Don’t Sleep On:
The Charlotte 49ers are playing relaxed and full of confidence right now and with the way they put up runs, they could ambush their unsuspecting opponents. They play the analytics game with conviction and would rather strikeout than compromise bat speed. However, this club can match up with the likes of Tennessee on the mound with the quality of their starting rotation. This team is physical, experienced and relish the opportunity to matchup against SEC and ACC powers. Don’t be surprised to see the 49ers playing on Sunday.
Who leads the nation in home runs you may ask? Oh, the irony here as it is none other than Cam Fisher, the lefthanded slugging sophomore from Knoxville, Tennessee. At 6-2/210 he is densely muscled and possesses monster power that has played more as the season wears on. Fisher leads the team in the triple crown categories with a batting average of .352, a nation leading 30 home runs and 64 RBIs. It’s lefthanded power to spare, he is draft eligible and should be a coveted bat for most MLB clubs in July.
3. Texas Tech
The Gators have looked like a dominant team all season long and won the SEC regular season crown before falling to Vanderbilt in the final of the SEC Tournament. This is arguable Kevin O’Sullivan’s deepest offense he’s had in Gainesville as the Gators finished third nationally in home runs. Brandon Sproat and Hurston Waldrep are 1A and 1B in terms of staff ace’s while it will be sophomore sensation Jac Caglianone who gets the ball in game one. Cags, coincidentally, led the team in home runs with 28 and star outfielder Wyatt Langford hasn’t missed a beat since missing some time early in the season. Josh Rivera’s resurgence should be noted as well as he is a Brooks Wallace award finalist. Another year and another Regional for the UConn Huskies who won 43 games and were in the hosting conversation until the very end. This is a very deep offense and a very deep bullpen with a lot of different options of play style. Ben Huber and Luke Broadhurst are the power bats while David Smith swiped 38 bags this season. Zach Fogell has been terrific as the emergency fireman out of the bullpen while Justin Willis has swing-and-miss stuff to go along with eleven saves. Texas Tech wasn’t sure where they were going to find themselves a few weeks ago, but a late-season surge and a strong showing in the conference tournament earned the Red Raiders and at-large bid. Gavin Kash has been the offensive story for the Red Raiders, slugging 24 home runs and hitting .333. There have been contributions from a lot of newcomers such as Kevin Bazzell, Gage Harrelson, and Tracer Lopez that have helped buoy the team at times. Mason Molina has transformed into an ace as well and he’s likely to start the first game against UConn. Florida A&M won the automatic qualifier after taking home the SWAC tournament championship. The Rattlers finished with six starters hitting above .300 and showed a good mix of power and speed. Hunter Viets is the staff ace but he won’t be starting against Florida so keep an eye out for when he makes an appearance.
Don’t Sleep On:
The Huskies. Jim Penders has built one of the most successful mid major programs across the country and came a win away from defeating Stanford and advancing to Omaha a season ago. This offense is super well-balanced and there’s a lot of pieces to go to in the bullpen. They’ll need a couple of strong starts this weekend but it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see the Huskies win this Regional.
Wyatt Langford is in the mix for the No. 1 overall pick while Hurston Waldrep is looking like a first rounder with Brandon Sproat not following too far behind. David Smith is a speedy up-the-middle type who should find a home on Day 2 of the draft while Texas Tech has some older, veteran pieces who should be selected. Looking toward the 2024 draft, Jac Caglianone is the top prospect in the nation in that regard and should go very well a year from now.
1. South Carolina
3. NC State
4. Central Connecticut State
The Gamecocks were one of the more surprising host sites announced before selection Monday, but the body of work that South Carolina had put forth up to now certainly speaks for itself. There was a time when it looked like South Carolina was the No. 1 team in the country, but injuries and ineffective play down the stretch has really hampered the Gamecocks. True freshman Ethan Petry is likely your leader in the National Freshman of the Year race and finished the season hitting .376 with 22 home runs. Cole Messina was another big piece of this team as were veterans Braylen Wimmer and Gavin Casas. James Hicks will get the ball in game one and pitching is where the injuries have affected the Gamecocks the most; Will Sanders’ availability and health is a big factor to watch here. Campbell is one of the toughest two seeds in the country and the Camels are fresh off winning the Big South tournament. Campbell led the nation in scoring, averaging 9.8 runs per game with big seasons from the trio of Lawson Harrill, Jarrod Belbin, and Bryce Arnold. The offense is explosive with big home run power but also had three starters in double digits for stolen bases. The staff ace is Cade Kuehler, a potential first rounder come July, with a very reliable and deep bullpen. Many assumed that Campbell was going to host and they’re likely to be playing with a chip on their shoulder this weekend as they’re forced to go on the road. NC State was one of the last teams in the tournament largely thanks to their top 25 RPI. The Wolfpack finished just 13-16 in conference play but this can be a dangerous team. True freshman Cannon Peebles led the team in hitting while LuJames Groover is one of the best hitters in the country. Sophomore Jacob Cozart had double digit home runs behind the plate while Matt Willadsen and Dom Fritton were their two most reliable starters on the mound. Central Connecticut State won the automatic qualifier from the Northeast Conference Tournament but also dominated the league in the regular season, going 25-5. Ramon Jimenez is their top hitter, hitting .347 on the season and leading the team with eleven home runs and a slug north of .600. Dominic Niman tossed 97.2 innings on the season going 12-2 with a 2.76 ERA while closer Luke Garofalo earned eleven saves.
Don’t Sleep On:
The Camels. As I mentioned earlier, the Camels are coming into the Columbia Regional angry and have been a consensus Top 25 team for the majority of the season. They certainly pass the eye test and pass when looking at the metrics that this team is certainly capable of an Omaha run. This is the fifth straight Regional appearance for Justin Haire and these Camels certainly look ready to advance to the school’s first Super Regional.
Will Sanders looked like a potential first rounder at times this season before injuries have bogged him down while Cade Kuehler is another arm that has first round upside. LuJames Groover looks to be a Day 1 selection for the Wolfpack while there’s a flurry of 2024 and 2025 prospects led by Jacob Cozart for 2024 and Ethan Petry for 2025.
1. Coastal Carolina
Head coach Gary Gilmore announced this week that 2024 will be his last ride and longtime assistant Kevin Schnall will take over the program after next season. The 2023 Chants were a dominant team early on and finished the season as the regular season champs of a very contested Sun Belt. It’s a very deep offense for the Chants with Derek Bender leading the way with 18 home runs on the season. Nick Lucky achieved double digit homers and steals while Payton Eeles stole 40 bases as well. They had to mix and match starting pitching at times but also have one of the best closers in the country in Teddy Sharkey as he pitched to a 2.68 ERA with ten saves and 69 strikeouts in 47 innings pitched. Duke is another team that looked like a potential host a few weeks ago but had been playing poorly to close the season out. Jay Beshears has been very good for the Blue Devils this season, leading the team in hitting and knocking twelve home runs. Alex Mooney is the emotional leader of the team, playing with a ton of energy hitting well over .300 with 17 steals. Alex Stone is another dangerous hitter as he hit 16 doubles and 14 home runs. The young arms have been getting it done for Duke on the mound with Andrew Healy and James Tallon being very effective relievers. Fran Oschell has been a dominant reliever with a 0.80 ERA and 58 strikeouts over 33.2 innings pitched. UNC-Wilmington swept the CAA tournament, earning the automatic qualifier but likely would have been in even as an at-large. Jac Croom led the team in hitting with a .363 mark and more walks than strikeouts while two true freshmen in Brock Wills and Tanner Thach were also very good on the offensive side. Zane Taylor and Jacob Shafer were two uber-reliable starters for the Seahawks as both reached the 80 inning mark. Closer Brett Banks has really good stuff and is nails in the backend. Rider won the MAAC Tournament and thus the automatic qualifier from the conference. The Broncs had just one player hit above .300 on the season, Brian Skettini, and Brendan O’Donnell is their biggest power threat as he hit 14 home runs. Frank Doelling was the Broncs’ best starting pitcher while closer Danny Kirwin was excellent out of the bullpen, pitching to a 2.12 ERA with fourteen saves over 46.2 innings pitched.
Don’t Sleep On:
The Seahawks. UNC-Wilmington won the conference outright and has beaten Northeastern, a team that has been in or around the top 25 at various points this season, four out of five times this year. This is a veteran offensive club with legit firepower out of the bullpen, and if they play it close and compete they’re going to have the arms to stave off rallies late.
Teddy Sharkey is likely one of the first college relievers off the board in July while Alex Mooney has late Day 1 potential for the Blue Devils. Jay Beshears and Derek Bender are going to slug themselves into the top ten rounds while Brett Banks and Ethan Chenault are two other appealing college reliever options for the Seahawks. Jonathan Santucci is a likely first rounder in 2024 but he won’t be pitching this weekend for Duke.
2. East Carolina
Virginia finished the season as one of the top eight national seeds, meaning that their road to Omaha is through Charlottesville. It was another very good year for the Cavaliers, winning 45 games and finishing near the top of the ACC. The offense can be a little top-heavy but they’re going to have two of the most talented players in the Regional in Kyle Teel and Jake Gelof. Teel looks like he’s a slam dunk top ten pick in July as an uber-athletic catcher who hit over .400 this season while Gelof has solid power and a third base profile as he hit 22 home runs this season. Ethan Anderson and Ethan O’Donnell had very balanced offensive years while Griff O’Ferrall is a very good defensive shortstop and has wheels. The worst ERA out of all four of Virginia’s regular starting pitchers was 4.06 so they’re very good at keeping runners off the bases. Brian Edgington will get the ball in game one against Army and there’s no shortage of arms to relieve him including closer Jay Woolfolk. It was another ho-hum season for East Carolina as Cliff Godwin and the Pirates are in their fifth straight Regional, hoping to make it a fourth straight Super Regional. Josh Moylan had a huge season with 15 home runs and 19 doubles while Jacob Jenkins-Cowart is a very balanced player with good skill. Lane Hoover and Jacob Starling are their do-everything types coming off good seasons and the Pirates on a whole stole 81 bags this year. The Pirates have a true ace in sophomore Trey Yesavage who pitched to a 2.80 ERA on the year with a sub-1.00 WHIP. Yesavage looks like a potential first rounder next year but the Pirates have a plethora of relief options like Danny Beal, Wyatt Lunsford-Shenkman, and Garrett Saylor. Oklahoma was one of the last teams in after reaching the CWS Finals a year ago. Regression is going to happen after losing two first rounders from last year’s team but the Sooners finished just 11-13 in Big 12 play this season. There’s not a ton of power offensively but the Sooners can scoot as four everyday starters reached double digit stolen bases led by John Spikerman with 24. Braden Carmichael was very efficient for the Sooners on the mound with a 3.15 ERA and a strike-throwing mentality. Army won the Patriot League Tournament and the automatic qualifier that comes with it. The Black Knights went 21-4 in conference play and their leading hitter Kevin Dubrule hit .411 with nine home runs and just eleven strikeouts on the year. Their pitching is very deep with Robbie Buecker, Mike Ruggieri, and Tanner Gresham both finishing with ERAs south of 3.00 and at least 60 innings.
Don’t Sleep On:
ECU’s hunt for Omaha. I joked that this was another ho-hum year for the Pirates but what Cliff Godwin has built in Greenville is no joke. His name always comes up in big name coaching searches but he’s stayed in Greenville up to this point and you can tell that getting the Pirates to Omaha would be special for him. This isn’t the deepest ECU team in recent memory but this still looks like a damn good one and one that could definitely win the Charlottesville Regional.
4. Eastern Illinois
The Commodores went through the 2023 season with barely any struggles, culminating with an SEC Tournament championship and a top eight national seed. This is a team that is built upon their pitching and defense but they’ve had some of the injury bug lately so exactly who will be throwing when is a bit of an unknown. Devin Futrell will get the ball game one for the ‘Dores and the sophomore has been their most consistent starter all year long. Carter Holton is likely out for the Regional while it looks like Hunter Owen will be available. Holton is a potential first rounder in 2024 while Owen looks like he’ll be one of the first college lefties taken in the draft. RJ Schreck is Vandy’s most consistent hitter as he hit over .300 with thirteen home runs. Enrique Bradfield Jr. is a likely first rounder come July with 80 grade speed and 80 grade defense in centerfield. Oregon had a bit of an up-and-down year but still finished 16-14 in the Pac 12 to earn a two seed. It’s a very good offense for the Ducks with a breakout from Sabin Ceballos who hit .342 with fifteen home runs. Rikuu Nishida is one of the most fun players in the country and also keep an eye on true freshman Drew Smith who finished the year on a 17-game hitting streak and really came into his own with regular at-bats. The starting pitching is a bit of a mixed bag but there are options out of the bullpen, so Oregon’s formula for success this weekend will be mixing and matching arms each game. Xavier won the Big East Tournament and the automatic qualifier that comes with it but the Muskateers had a very compelling at-large case as well. The pitching was very consistent for the Muskateers this year with Brant Alazaus tossing 100 innings and Ethan Bosacker not far behind him at 89 himself. Justin Loer is the wild card though as he threw 55 innings out of the ‘pen with an ERA of just 1.96. Four regulars got to double digit home runs while Andrew Walker led the team in hitting with a clip of .329 with 29 stolen bases. Eastern Illinois won the Ohio Valley tourney and were a team with very consistent pitching all season long. Relievers Zane Robbins and Jackson Nichols both had sub-2.00 ERAs with at least 30 innings while Nick Laxner and Ky Hampton both pounded strikes as starters. Ryan Ignoffo slugged a team-high 15 home runs while also stealing 29 bases so he’s the name to watch on this offense.
Don’t Sleep On:
Tim Corbin. We were a bit lower than most other publications on Vanderbilt heading into this season than other outlets but Vanderbilt has certainly answered the bell and then some. This is another national seed and Regional host for the Commodores who’s offense is a bit on the lighter side but Corbin pushed all the right buttons this year to make it happen. I wouldn’t call Vandy the sexiest team in the field but this is a team that knows how to play its game and how to win, and teams like that typically see their seasons finish in Omaha.
Enrique Bradfield Jr. will be a first rounder in July it’s more about where in the first round does he end up and Oregon’s Sabin Ceballos has vaulted himself into likely top five rounds consideration at this point. Hunter Owen’s health is a bit of a wild card but he should go well in July along with closer Nick Maldonado. Xavier’s Nick Boyle has big stuff but hasn’t been very reliable in terms of strike throwing this season.
1. Oklahoma State
2. Dallas Baptist
4. Oral Roberts
Oklahoma State made it to the finals of the Big 12 tournament and that coupled with its share of the regular season title made sure we’d see another Regional in Stillwater. Roc Riggio was fantastic for the Cowboys this season, leading the team in hitting at .344 to go along with 17 doubles and 17 home runs. True freshman Nolan Schubart was also a sensation, hitting 20 doubles and sixteen home runs while Carson Benge is a super-athletic hitter and had a strong season himself. Juaron Watts-Brown is the team’s ace and figures to go in the first couple of rounds in July’s draft. Watts-Brown is an athletic pitcher with a full mix. Nolan McLean has monstrous raw power to go along with a power heater on the mound and should affect this Regional in one way or another. Dallas Baptist had another strong year, winning the regular season Conference USA crown in its first season in the conference. This marks the ninth straight Regional for Dan Heefner and company while the Patriots have been ranked for a majority of the season as well. Jace Grady is a sparkplug at the top of the lineup as he hit over .300 with 12 bombs and 23 stolen bases. True freshman Grant Jay exploded for 21 home runs while Miguel Santos takes daddy hacks. Nate Romback looks like he’ll be back in time for the Regional and is another big bat. Ryan Johnson is the staff ace with big stuff and he struck out 109 batters in 81.1 innings this season. Kyle Amendt and Zane Russell put up video game numbers in relief and Bryson Hammer has big stuff is he gets called upon. Washington made their first Regional since 2018 and in the first season under new head coach Jason Kelly. AJ Guerrero and Will Simpson both had resurgent years form an offensive perspective while Cam Clayton and Coby Morales also both had double digit home run campaigns. The wild card for the Huskies here is Kiefer Lord, whose numbers are inflated from some bad starts to close the year but is their most talented arm. Oral Roberts won the Summit League automatic qualifier and the Golden Eagles put together their best season in 15 years. Jonah Cox was outstanding this season, hitting .422 with nine home runs and 26 stolen bases while Matt Hogan went deep 16 times of his own. Cade Denton is going to strike fear into the hearts of Oklahoma State fans as their super reliever pitched to a 1.60 ERA across 50.2 innings with a 68-8 strikeout to walk ratio. Whenever Oral Roberts deploys Cade Denton watch out.
Don’t Sleep On:
Oral Roberts. Likely the most dangerous No. 4 seed in the entire field, Oral Roberts capped off an excellent season and has legitimate talent on both sides of the ball. Jonah Cox is a toolsed up athlete while Cade Denton will likely be a game-decider in terms of his effectiveness. Oral Roberts finished third in the country in team ERA and their pitching is dangerous. We haven’t seen a 4 seed win a Regional since USF in 2021 but all the pieces are here for Oral Roberts to make a run.
Juaron Watts-Brown and Roc Riggio should both be early selections for the Cowboys in the draft while Nolan McLean will be one of the first college relievers off the board. Jace Grady will likely be a top ten rounder while DBU ace Kyle Johnson looks like a potential first rounder for 2024. Washington’s Kiefer Lord looks like an early selection this year while Oral Roberts’ Jonah Cox and Cade Denton will get attention too.
1. Indiana State
3. North Carolina
4. Wright State
The Sycamores return to the field of 64 for the first time since 2021 and will be hosting their first ever Regional after a fantastic season. Indiana State has been ranked for a number of weeks now and went an absurd 24-3 in the Missouri Valley en route to a conference tournament victory and the automatic qualifier. The Sycamores can pitch and finished fifth in the country in terms of team ERA. Connor Fenlong tossed 100 innings to an ERA of 3.24 while Matt Jachec had an ERA of 3.90 in 92.1 innings himself. There’s a number of swing relievers who can go extended outings as Cameron Holycross had an ERA of 2.00 and Zach Davidson has swing-and-miss stuff with 50 strikeouts in 30.2 innings pitched. It’s not a one man show for the Sycamores as they’re going to have a ton of options on the mound to turn to. Rick Heller and the Hawkeyes return to a Regional for the first time since 2017 and Iowa has perhaps the biggest weapon in the whole Regional. Marcus Morgan will get the ball against UNC on Friday and has been outstanding recently but every team in the Regional will be watching for when Heller and company decide to deploy Brody Brecht. The star sophomore has some of the best stuff in the nation, routinely sitting in the 97-101 mph range with a hellacious low-90s slider and very good changeup. Keaton Anthony was fantastic this year, hitting .389 but with him likely remaining unavailable this weekend, Iowa will continue to rely on bats like Brennen Dorighi and Sam Petersen who have also had strong season and a lineup that can contribute 1-9. North Carolina enters as a three seed after a 14-14 finish in ACC play. The big news from the Tar Heels is that star sophomore Vance Honeycutt will not play in the Regional after tweaking his back. This is certainly not good news for the Tar Heels but they do still have a resurgent Mac Horvath who hit 20 doubles, 22 home runs, and stole 24 bases. The pitching will need to step up if North Carolina is to advance but it helps when you have a player like Horvath in the lineup everyday. Wright State advances to their third straight Regional appearance after once again earning the automatic big from the Horizon League. This is another very offensive club, led by Andrew Patrick who hit .333 with 19 home runs, 21 doubles, and stole 29 bags. Sebastian Gongora was the Horizon League Pitcher of the Year and will be dangerous on the mound; he gives the Radiers a very good chance at upsetting the host Indiana State.
Don’t Sleep On:
Iowa. Having Brody Brecht in your back pocket is like having a get out of jail free card and it will be fascinating to see how he’s used. Will Brecht start a win-or-go-home game? Will he be used in relief of a close game? We’re not sure how it’s going to look but when Brecht is on the mound Iowa is a team that no one wants to face.
Mac Horvath has been seeing his stock climb all season and this Regional is no different. Keaton Anthony and Brennen Dorighi will likely both be solid draft picks while Ty Langenberg will also be drafted. Sebastian Gongora will likely be a Day 2 selection while Brody Brecht and Wright State’s Andrew Patrick lead the way for the 2024 crop.
4. Santa Clara
Arkansas, similarly to Vanderbilt, had a very solid year that was a little bit quiet on the outside but this might have been Dave Van Horn’s best coaching job to date. The Razorbacks were struck with a litany of injuries, primarily to the pitching staff, but Van Horn was able to still bring home a top five national seed and another chance at Omaha. Jace Bohrofen finally put the pieces together culminating in a very strong season while transfer Caleb Cali was one of the best hitters on the team once he got every day playing time. Tavian Josenberger is another impactful piece that can run and defend as well as make a lot of contact offensively. Hagen Smith is a star as the sophomore punched out 102 batters in just 67 innings. Dave Van Horn has used Smith as a fireman reliever at points this season so that wouldn’t be unexpected to see this weekend. Hunter Hollan will get the ball in game one for the Razorbacks and he’s been super consistent this year. TCU earns their No. 2 seed after running through the Big 12 tournament to capture the title and automatic qualifier. It’s been an up-and-down season for the Frogs but they’re peaking at the right time. True freshman Anthony Silva was fantastic this year and led the team in hitting while Brayden Taylor hit 21 home runs and will be a first rounder this July. Cole Fontenelle also put together a strong season as did their other true freshman regular Karson Bowen. The starting pitching was not great this season but guys like Cam Brown are still uber-talented and head coach Kirk Saarloos has a lot of options to turn to as far as relievers go. Arizona was one of the last teams in the tournament as they made a run to the finals of the Pac 12 tournament despite finishing 12-18 in conference play. Chase Davis looks like a superstar and hit 21 home runs this year while leading the team in hitting. Mac Bingham had a resurgent year while the offense on the whole was a strong spot for the Wildcats. They had a staff ERA of 5.87 on the year so they’ll need to get some strong innings on the mound if they’re to advance past the Regional. Santa Clara won the West Coast Conference and has been a very solid team all season long. This is another dangerous 4 seed in my opinion, as they’ll give the ball to Cole Kitchen in game one who has solid stuff. Reliever Skylar Hales has huge stuff too as he’ll flirt with triple digits while Blake Hammond is another very good starter for Santa Clara.
Don’t Sleep On:
Arizona bats. Not a ton of publications had Arizona included in their final fields of 64, we had Arizona as one of the first four out, but that shouldn’t lead teams to underestimate the Wildcats. Pitching against them is going to be hell and their offense can run through bullpens. Even if you come out with a win against Arizona they may have shortened your bullpen in the process.
Jace Bohrofen and Hunter Hollan should both be strong selections for the Razorbacks as will outfielder Jered Wegner. Hagen Smith looks like a first rounder next year. Brayden Taylor will likely be a first rounder in July while Anthony Silva is a big name as a draft eligible sophomore in 2024. Chase Davis is trending towards the first round while TJ Nichols has big stuff but struggled to end the year. Cole Kitchen and Skylar Hales are draftable arms for Satna Clara while Blake Hammond will be a name in 2024.
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