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College : : Story
Preview: Clemson 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. Clemson ACC 41-18 At-large 2010
2. Connecticut Big East 41-17 At-large 2010
3. Coastal Carolina Big South 41-18 At-large 2010
4. Sacred Heart Northeast 34-21 Auto bid 2006
THE BREAKDOWN
The favorite: Clemson
1. Clemson

2. Connecticut

3. Coastal Carolina

4. Sacred Heart
It wasn't long ago the Tigers were destined to be a No. 2 seed in an NCAA Regional somewhere away from Clemson, S.C. However, they finished the regular season on a high note and played well in the ACC tournament, thus earning a host site. The Tigers are one of the scarier teams in the tournament because they're finally close to their expectation level. Offensively, the Tigers enter the weekend hitting .319 with outstanding shortstop Brad Miller leading the way with a .419 average, five home runs and 46 RBIs. The Tigers have five other often-used hitters that are batting over .300 this season. Pitching-wise, the Tigers recently received a boost when Kevin Brady returning to the mound in a relief role. Also in relief, David Haselden has made 23 appearances and has a 2.12 ERA in 72 1/3 innings. In terms of starters, Dominic Leone has elevated his game this season and has a 3.38 ERA in 61 1/3 innings, while Justin Sarratt and Jonathan Meyer have ERAs of 2.40 and 3.31, respectively. Clemson is playing well at the right time.
The dark-horse contender: Connecticut
Northern teams haven't exactly earned a reputation for taking care of business in the postseason the past few years, but after hosting its own NCAA Regional last season, Connecticut hopes to impress this weekend. The Huskies have a solid .306 batting average with stud outfielder George Springer, Mike Nemeth and LJ Mazilli leading the way with batting averages of .361, .351 and .335, respectively. On the mound, the Huskies have one of the best in the business in right-hander Matt Barnes (1.12), while relievers Kevin Vance (0.98) and David Fischer (1.77) have been fantastic so far this season. The Huskies have the potential and talent to win this NCAA Regional, but it's all about putting the important puzzle pieces together.
Best hitter: SS Brad Miller, Clemson
There are plenty of elite hitters in this NCAA Regional, including Connecticut's George Springer and Coastal Carolina's Tommy La Stella. But Miller is having the most impressive offensive campaign of the three. Miller really has elevated his game this season. He's hitting a team-best .419 with 11 doubles, three triples, five home runs and 46 RBIs. He's also slugging .598 and has an impressive .523 on-base percentage. It's also worth noting that Miller has struck out 31 times and walked on 38 occasions.
Best pitcher: RHP Matt Barnes, Connecticut
Coastal Carolina starting pitcher Anthony Meo isn't too far behind, but Barnes definitely is the elite pitcher entering the weekend. Barnes is having an incredible campaign for the Huskies. He has started 15 games and has a 1.12 ERA in 112 1/3 innings. He also has struck out 105 and walked 28 and teams are hitting him at a .162 clip. It's also worth noting that Barnes has tossed three complete games.
Best prospect: Matt Barnes, Connecticut
There are plenty of great prospects in this tournament, including Barnes' teammate, outfielder George Springer, and Coastal Carolina starting pitcher Anthony Meo. But Barnes gets the nod over both. Expected to be a top 15 pick in the MLB draft next week, the talented right-handed pitcher was 91-93 mph when we saw him earlier this season. However, Huskies coach Jim Penders told us a couple of weeks ago the righty was up to 96 mph in a start against South Florida. The most impressive aspect of Barnes' game is his ability to craft his game to the hitters' weaknesses. For instance, if a hitter is ultra aggressive, he'll gravitate from a strikeout pitcher to one that pitches to contact. He has no issue changing his style in the middle of a start. You can view our scouting video of Barnes, here.
The buzz
We talked about shortstop Brad MIller earlier in the preview, but there are plenty of other Clemson hitters to watch this weekend, including Jeff Schaus, John Hinson, Richie Shaffer and Chris Epps. Schaus is hitting .326 with 42 RBIs, Hinson is hitting .320 with seven home runs and 35 RBIs, Shaffer is hitting .311 with 11 home runs and 50 RBIs and Epps is hitting .290 with 10 home runs and 39 RBIs. Clemson's offensive lineup is much better than it has been given credit for so far this season … Connecticut ace pitcher Matt Barnes has earned a plethora of headlines this season for obvious reasons. He's a tremendous prospect that has been extremely consistent. But the rest of the rotation also is in good shape. Greg Nappo has started 14 games and has a 2.71 ERA in 79 2/3 innings, while Brian Ward has a 3.27 ERA in 52 1/3 innings. Also keep an eye on relievers Dan Feehan and Will Jolin, who have ERAs of 2.64 and 3.53, respectively. At the plate, the Huskies finally have Nick Ahmed back in the mix, though he's still not playing in the field after suffering a collapsed lung. Ahmed is hitting .327 with two home runs and 31 RBIS … Coastal Carolina has a plethora of pitching with Meo and others leading the charge, but its success this weekend hinges on the offense. The Chanticleers have gone into offensive lulls this season and enter the NCAA tournament with a rough .277 batting average. La Stella is hitting .391 with 11 home runs and 63 RBIs, while Scott Woodward is hitting .363 with four home runs and 36 RBIs. However, the Chants don't have another hitter on the team batting over .300. That must change this weekend to have a chance to advance to the NCAA Super Regional round … Sacred Heart lacks high quality pitching depth, so its chances of making some serious noise this weekend are slim. However, the Pioneers have a legitimate offensive lineup. They're hitting .311 entering the weekend and have some solid hitters, including JJ Edwards, MJ Schifano, Steve Tedesco, Hunter Phillips and Rob Griffith. All five hitters are hitting over .330 this season, with Edwards and Tedesco leading the charge with .419 and .418 OBPs, respectively. The Pioneers could make things interesting in at least one game this weekend if they pitch at a high level.


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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