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College : : Story
Preview: Gainesville Regional
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. Florida SEC 45-16 Auto bid 2010
2. Miami ACC 36-21 At-large 2010
3. Jacksonville Atlantic Sun 36-22 At-large 2009
4. Manhattan Metro Atlantic 34-17 Auto bid 2006
THE BREAKDOWN
The favorite: Florida
1. Florida

2. Miami

3. Jacksonville

4. Manhattan
The Gators seldom have deviated from their expected path this season. Florida was the top-ranked team in America entering the season, and it continues to be one of the national title favorites entering the NCAA tournament. The Gators have a solid offense with a .306 average. Catcher Mike Zunino leads the way with a .367 average, 15 home runs and 59 RBIs, while Josh Adams, Daniel Pigott, Brian Johnson, Nolan Fontana and Preston Tucker each are hitting over .300, with Tucker a big-time power producer with 10 home runs and 54 RBIs. While the Gators' offense is solid, the pitching staff is their strongest suit. The Gators have a 2.99 ERA and have arguably the nation's deepest pitching staff with weekend starters Hudson Randall, Brian Johnson and Karsten Whitson leading the way. They also have a plethora of quality bullpen arms in Greg Larson, Nick Maronde, Tommy Toledo and Anthony DeSclafani. It would be a huge surprise if the Gators can't escape this NCAA Regional.
The dark-horse contender: Miami
The Hurricanes played an inconsistent brand of baseball down the stretch, keeping them from seriously getting back into the NCAA Regional hosting mix. But with the postseason essentially a new seasons, the 'Canes have a chance to redeem themselves The 'Canes must rise to the occasion at the plate this weekend with just a .275 average. Interestingly, they have just four consistently used hitters with batting averages over .300. Should the offense step up, the 'Canes could experience some success this weekend. After al, they have a very solid pitching staff that possesses a 3.28 ERA. Starting pitchers Bryan Radziewski, Eric Whaley and E.J. Encinosa each have had solid campaigns, while relievers sam Robinson (1.95) and Daniel Miranda (2.79) are quality arms out of the bullpen.
Best hitter: 1B Adam Brett Walker, Jacksonville
Brett Walker is one of the most versatile players in the country with his ability to also play in the outfield. But what sets him apart from everyone else is his consistency at the plate. Brett Walker has put together an amazing offensive campaign for the Dolphins. He's hitting a team-best .416 with 22 doubles, two triples, 13 home runs and 72 RBIs. He's also slugging .697 with a fabulous .495 OBP. The only strike against Brett Walker is the fact he has struck out on 62 occasions with just 34 walks. Still, he'll be a force to deal with this weekend.
Best pitcher: RHP Hudson Randall, Florida
The Gators have a plethora of solid arms on their pitching staff, but the starter and talented right-hander, who mimics former Braves star pitcher Greg Maddux, is their most consistent arm. Randall is having a great year for UF, having started 15 games, compiled a 9-3 record and tallied a 2.25 ERA in 96 innings. Randall also has struck out 49 and walked just eight, while teams are hitting him at a .235 clip. Though he doesn't rack up the amazing strikeout totals of some of the nation's other top arms, he does a tremendous job of keeping the ball down in the strike zone and inducing grounders.
Best prospect: RHP Karsten Whitson, Florida
He still has a couple of campaigns before he's draft-eligible again, but Whitson definitely is the top prospect in the Gainesville Regional. The talented freshman turned down some serious money to attend college and hasn't disappointed in his first season with the program. Whitson has started 15 games, is 7-0 and has an impressive 2.53 ERA in 78 1/3 innings. He also has struck out 74 and walked 24 and teams are hitting him at a .240 clip. Additionally, we saw Whitson against LSU earlier this season and he topped 96 mph, was 93-95 with his fastball, 87 with the slider and 82 with an improved changeup. You can view our scouting video of Whitson, here.
The buzz
Florida has high hopes for the postseason, but isn't sure if starting pitcher Brian Johnson will be available this weekend. Johnson suffered a freak injury last weekend at the SEC tournament when catcher Mike Zunino hit him in the back of the head throwing to second base, causing a mild concussion. UF coach Kevin O'Sullivan said Johnson will continue to be evaluated throughout the week and is day-to-day. While some relievers have earned more headlines than him this season, keep an eye on two-way player Austin Maddox. Maddox has increased his role on the mound this season and has a 0.74 ERA in 19 appearances with a fastball that tops 95 mph … There has been perhaps no player affected more by the bats this season than Miami's Harold Martinez. Martinez was one of the nation's premier power producers last season. But this season he's hitting .303 with just three home runs and 38 RBIs. Martinez and others must rise to the occasion this weekend. That includes Rony Rodriguez, who's hitting .308 with 12 home runs and 39 RBIs. Miami's offense will determine its success this weekend … While Adam Brett Walker, rightfully so, gets most of Jacksonville's headlines, Dan Gulbransen also is having a mammoth campaign. He's hitting .360 with 18 doubles, two triples, six home runs and 49 RBIs. He also has a .541 slugging percentage and a .475 OBP. Pitching-wise, the Dolphins lack high quality depth, but have a couple of arms to watch in starting pitchers Matthew Tomshaw, Steve Eagerton and Tony Mollica, while closer Chris Anderson has recorded 11 saves in 33 appearances … The last time Manhattan made an NCAA Regional it caused a world of hurt at the Lincoln Regional. The Jaspers hope to do the same in Gainesville, Fla., this weekend. The Jaspers have a trio of hitters to watch in Mike McCann (.365,6,38), Chad Salem (.340,9,50) and Mark Onorati (.337,6,26) while starting pitcher John Soldinger must start the postseason on a positive note for Manhattan to have a chance to upset some teams. Soldinger has started 13 games and has a 2.34 ERA in 104 innings. He also has limited teams to a .219 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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