College : : Story
Thursday, May 30, 2013

Blacksburg Regional preview

Kendall Rogers        


Team Conference Record Berth Last NCAA appearance
1. Virginia Tech Atlantic Coast 38-20 At-large 2010
2. Oklahoma Big 12 40-19 Automatic 2012
3. Coastal Carolina Big South 37-21 At-large 2012
4. Connecticut Big East 34-26 Automatic 2011
Virginia Tech
1. Virginia Tech
2. Oklahoma  

3. C. Carolina

Virginia Tech has been very good the past couple of weeks and could be one of those surprise teams that competes for the national title . The Hokies have gotten some clutch pitching performances in the last week, with senior left-handed pitcher Joe Mantiply leading the charge with a 2.92 ERA in 71 innings, along with 48 strikeouts and 24 walks. Mantiply sits in the upper-80s, and into the 90s, while right-hander Brad Markey can be erratic at times, but has a 5.12 ERA in 95 innings, along with 74 strikeouts. Also keep an eye on talented righty Devin Burke, who has a 3.30 ERA in 95 1/3 innings, while the bullpen is loaded with plenty of very good options. Clark Labitan has an unorthodox motion with filthy stuff. He has 10 saves and a 2.83 ERA in 41 1/3 innings, while Jake Joyce has appeared in 28 games and has a 3.58 ERA in 55 1/3 innings. Hard-throwing left-hander Eddie Campbell has been inconsistent this spring, but was fantastic in the ACC tournament. Offensively, the Hokies are a lot like Georgia Tech in the sense they pack a powerful punch with Tyler Horan, Mark Zagunis, Chad Pinder and Andrew Rash leading the way. Horan has plus raw power with a .349 average, 11 homers and 50 RBIs, Zagunis has nine homers and 48 RBIs, Pinder is hitting .327 with 13 doubles, seven homers and 48 RBIs, and versatile outfielder Andrew Rash is hitting .312 with nine homers and 57 RBIs.
Oklahoma is going to get a lot of love in this NCAA Regional for a good reason, starting pitchers Jonathan Gray and Dillon Overton. Those two can beat absolutely anyone and have been fantastic much of the spring. Gray started against Baylor in a game I saw earlier this season, using a mid-80s plus slider and fastball, that was still touching 98 in the eighth inning, to mow down the Bears. When you watch the Sooners, it's certainly easy to see why Gray could very well be the top overall pick in the MLB draft. Overton's stock has slipped a bit since before the season, but he's still an elite prospect with good overall stuff and pitchability. Though on the skinny side, Overton has very good numbers with a 2.89 ERA in 81 innings, along with 74 strikeouts and 21 walks. It'll be interesting to see what the Sooners do in a potential third game. Jake Fisher struck out six last week, but that only was in 3 1/3 innings of work. Bullpen-wise, the Sooners have a pair of solid relievers in Jacob Evans and Ralph Garza. Evans has appeared in 27 games and has a 1.75 ERA in 46 1/3 innings, while Garza has appeared in 22 games and has a 3.00 ERA in 54 innings. OU has certainly left something to be desired offensively at times this season with just a .283 batting average entering the weekend, but keep a close eye on hard-hitting first baseman Matt Oberste and athletic Max White. Oberste is hitting .382 with 18 doubles, 10 homers and 54 RBIs, while White's hitting .306 with three homers and 28 RBIs. Also keep an eye on Craig Aikin. In addition to being a good defender, Aikin has also shown some impressive signs at the plate, hitting .289 with 23 RBIs.
Coastal Carolina
Though the Chanticleers have had plenty of premium arms over the past few seasons, this is a program that primarily has always been known for its potent offenses. Well, the tables have kind of flipped this season. The Chants enter the weekend hitting just .271, while the pitching staff has an impressive 3.16 ERA. Offensively, it doesn't get much better than ultra-athletic outfielder Jacob May. May has taken the next step forward offensively this season and has a .321 average to go with 11 doubles, six homers and 29 RBIs, as well as 16 stolen bases in 26 attempts, while Ted Blackman is the second-leading hitter on the club with a .303 average, five homers and 24 RBIs. I'd also keep an eye on unorthodox slugger Alex Buccilli. He might not have a great batting average (.287), but the talented hitter does a nice job of finding ways to get on base with a .429 OBP. Pitching-wise, it's hard to make CCU pay if a starting pitcher has a bad game, as it has several talented arms to rely on this weekend. CCU starting pitchers Ben Smith and Tyler Poole are having solid campaigns. Smith has a 2.19 ERA in 86 1/3 innings of work, along with 78 strikeouts and 39 walks (command can be an issue), while Poole has a 3.86 ERA in 58 1/3 innings, along with 40 strikeouts and 17 walks. Seth Lamando is another talented arm to watch with a 3.43 ERA in 60 1/3 innings. The bullpen is stout as Ryan Connolly leads the way with 30 appearances and a 2.10 ERA with 11 saves in 77 innings. Meanwhile, keep an eye on Patrick Corbett (2.47, 23 apps), Austin Kerr (2.60, 27 apps) and Aaron Burke (3.86, 23 apps), among others.
Connecticut was a national headline a couple of seasons ago when it reached the Columbia Super Regional. Now, Penders' Huskies hope to once again make a statement on the national stage. UCONN has one of the nation's premier hitters in LJ Mazzilli, who's hitting a team-best .364 with 16 doubles, four triples, six homers and 49 RBIs, while Vinny Siena is hitting .302 with a home run and 33 RBIs. Billy Ferriter may not have a great batting average, sitting at just .285 entering the weekend, but he has a tendency to get some big hits. Ferriter has 15 doubles on the season, which ranks second behind Mazzilli. On the mound, it seems like every time we look at box scores during the regular season, sophomore right-handed pitcher Carson Cross was doing something special. Cross has a 2.50 ERA in 104 1/3 innings, along with 83 strikeouts and 21 walks, while fellow starting pitcher Anthony Marzi has tallied some solid numbers this season, sitting with a 3.87 ERA in 93 innings. Bullpen-wise, Pat Butler (2.23, 22 apps), David Mahoney (2.53, 32 apps) and Dan Feehan (3.62, 23 apps) lead the way, while Jordan Tabakman, who has a 2.50 ERA in 57 2/3 innings, can help the Huskies both as a starting pitcher and reliever. UCONN certainly is going to be well-coached, and it'll be interesting to see if Coach Penders has a few tricks up his sleeve.
The sexy pick here would be to go with Jonathan Gray and Dillon Overton and Oklahoma, but we're going to stick with the host Virginia Tech Hokies. Sure, Gray and Overton provide a stiff test, but the Hokies have pitched much better the past couple of weeks and have a lot of upside in that department. Also, the Hokies clearly have the better offense. Though Matt Oberste packs a powerful punch for the Sooners, he very seldom gets a lot of help at the plate. Meanwhile, Coastal Carolina has the arms to get through an NCAA Regional like this, but we're questioning whether that offense has what it takes to not only get past OU, but also a hard-hitting Tech club. We're still liking VT's chances this weekend.


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