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College : : Story
Preview: Columbia Regional
Published: Tuesday, May 31, 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. South Carolina SEC 45-14 At-large 2010
2. Stetson Atlantic Sun 41-18 At-large 2007
3. N.C. State ACC 34-25 At-large 2010
4. Georgia Southern Southern 36-24 Auto bid 2009
THE BREAKDOWN
The favorite: South Carolina
1. South Carolina

2. Stetson

3. N.C. State

4. Georgia Southern
Not much has changed for the Gamecocks over the past few weeks. They're still one of the nation's premier clubs despite having stud outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. out with an injury, while Brady Thomas and Adam Matthews continued to be banged up, with Matthews possibly returning to the lineup in some capacity this weekend. Still, despite some setbacks, the Gamecocks have the pitching with Michael Roth, Forrest Koumas, Colby Holmes and Matt Price leading the way to make some serious noise in the postseason, and possibly even repeat as national champs. They just need to stay healthy, which is easier said than done.
The dark-horse contender: N.C. State
The Wolfpack have been inconsistent this season, but still is a team that swept North Carolina in a three-game series and also took a series from a very solid Clemson club. Offensively, Pratt Maynard and Chris Diaz spearhead a lineup that is good, but far from great. On the mound, Cory Mazzoni gives the Pack a shot in the opener against Stetson, while reliever Chris Overman has appeared in 27 games and has a 2.54 ERA in 46 innings.
Best hitter: 1B Christian Walker, South Carolina
Georgia Southern's Victor Roache may have 30 home runs and 83 RBIs this season, but Walker is the more pure hitter. The Gamecocks first baseman is hitting a team-high .357 with 18 doubles, a triple, nine home runs and 57 RBIs. He also is slugging .561 with an impressive .435 on-base percentage. When Walker goes, the Gamecocks' offensive lineup usually follows suit.
Best pitcher: LHP Michael Roth, South Carolina
There are few stories in college baseball better than that of Roth. He was a situational reliever until the College World Series last season. But after starring as a starter in Omaha, he was moved to the Friday role this spring. He hasn't skipped a beat for the Gamecocks and enters the postseason with a 1.17 ERA in 107 2/3 innings. He also has struck out 89 and walked 27 and teams are hitting .220 against him. Roth has tossed just one complete game this season.
Best prospect: Jackie Bradley Jr., South Carolina
The best prospect on any of the teams in the field is someone that likely won't touch the field this weekend, South Carolina outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. Bradley Jr. suffered a wrist injury earlier in the season. And though his cast is now off, he likely won't play this weekend in any role. Still, Bradley Jr. will be a first-round draft pick next week and is a guy that will be a productive player and good clubhouse guy at the next level. Even with the injury, Bradley Jr. is a slam dunk to be a first-round pick next week in the MLB draft. Don't be surprised if Bradley Jr. returns in some form at some point in the postseason.
The buzz
South Carolina has dealt with some injury issues, but there's at least some good news to report. Gamecocks catcher Brady Thomas, one of the club's key leaders, left a game in the SEC tournament because of foot issues. Thomas has been dealing with a stress fracture in his foot for much of the season. The Gamecocks expect Thomas to play this weekend. Another key cog, Adam Matthews, who's hitting .276 with two home runs and 14 RBIs, also is expected to return in some facet this weekend … Stetson hasn't been as crisp on the mound as it would've liked to have been down the stretch, but has a solid offensive lineup (.297) with stud catcher Nick Rickles leading the way. Rickles is one of the top players in this NCAA Regional and enters the tournament hitting a team-high .353 with 20 doubles, three triples, 12 home runs and 60 RBIs. Also keep an eye on hot hitter Ben Carhart, who's batting .328 with seven home runs and a team-best 62 RBIs. Stetson can make some noise this weekend if it pitches … N.C. State has shown some potential this season, but also has looked bad at times. So, the big question is what Wolfpack team shows up in Columbia, S.C., this weekend? The Wolfpack need a trio of strong starters from pitchers Cory Mazzoni, Ethan Ogburn and Rob Chamra. Mazzoni has a 3.38 ERA in 106 2/3 innings, Ogburn has a 4.06 ERA in 57 2/3 innings and Chamra, who is loaded with potential, has a 4.13 ERA in 65 1/3 innings … Georgia Southern has a legitimate chance to pull off some upsets this weekend. It's safe to say it is much better than its record indicates. Outfielder Victor Roache is the big bopper at the plate, hitting .327 with 30 home runs and 83 RBIs. He also is slugging .789 and has a .440 OBP. Also keep an eye on starting pitchers Chris Beck (3.21 ERA) and Andy Moye (2.54 ERA), while reliever Matt Murray (2.37 ERA) has silenced some very good teams this season. He has a 2.37 ERA in 64 2/3 innings and has recorded nine saves.


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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