College : : Story
Thursday, May 30, 2013

Columbia Regional preview

Kendall Rogers        


Team Conference Record Berth Last NCAA appearance
1. South Carolina Southeastern 39-18 At-large 2012
2. Clemson Atlantic Coast 39-20 At-large 2012
3. Liberty Big South 34-27 Automatic 2000
4. Saint Louis Atlantic 10 41-19 Automatic 2010
South Carolina
1. South Carolina
2. Clemson

3. Liberty

4. Saint Louis
South Carolina certainly had a short trip to the SEC tournament last week, but is expected to be ready to go this weekend, especially with rival Clemson coming to town. The Gamecocks have a trio of very solid starting pitchers in left-handers Nolan Belcher, Jordan Montgomery and Jack Wynkoop. Belcher has started 15 games and has a 2.30 ERA in 105 2/3 innings. Meanwhile, Montgomery impressed me last weekend at the SEC tournament with a fastball up to 91. He has a 1.86 ERA in 63 innings, along with 46 strikeouts and 17 walks. Meanwhile, Wynkoop is a very talented freshman to watch with a fastball in the upper-80s and a 2.81 ERA in 57 2/3 innings of work. Also keep an eye on big left-handed pitchers Tyler Webb and Adam Westmoreland, who are stalwarts out of the bullpen. Webb has made 28 appearances and has a 1.24 ERA and 16 saves in 36 1/3 innings of work, while Westmoreland isn't an overpowering guy, but is consistent with a 2.05 ERA in 57 innings. From an offensive standpoint, the Gamecocks aren't a team that will blow past anyone, but they're also not bad. First baseman LB Dantzler leads the charge at the plate with a .332 average, 15 homers and 48 RBIs, while Joey Pankake and Grayson Greiner also are consistent bats. Some good news for the Gamecocks, too, as freshman Max Schrock will indeed play this weekend after suffering a concussion last weekend in the SEC tournament.
For the second-straight season, the Clemson Tigers will have to escape the Columbia Regional to advance to an NCAA Super Regional. Jack Leggett's club knows the task at hand, and has the personnel to make some special things happen. Clemson has a solid one-two punch on the mound with right-handed pitcher Daniel Gossett and young freshman Matthew Crownover leading the way. Gossett has a 2.53 ERA in 92 1/3 innings, along with 89 strikeouts and 33 walks, while Crownover has good stuff and a 2.05 ERA in 66 innings of work. The third spot in the rotation was occupied by Clate Schmidt until a few weeks ago when he sustained an injury, allowing Zack Erwin to move in there. Erwin has a 3.30 ERA in 57 1/3 innings, along with 30 strikeouts. Offensively, the Tigers have a physical offensive lineup with Shane Kennedy, Garrett Boulware and Steve Wilkerson leading the charge. Kennedy leads the club with a .317 average, four homers and 33 RBIs, while Boulware is stocky and has a .310 average, eight homers and 44 RBIs. Also keep an eye on Wilkerson, who's hitting .294 with two homers and 32 RBIs and Steven Duggar, who has a .291 batting average. Jon McGibbon, Tyler Krieger and Thomas Brittle are all guys also capable of having big weekends at the plate.
Jim Toman's Flames got hot at the right time and took care of business in the Big South tournament. The Flames leave something to be desired entering the weekend with just a .266 team batting average, but keep an eye on Bryan Aanderud, who's hitting .321 with a home run and 37 RBIs, Ryan Cordell, who's hitting .262 with six homers and 39 RBIs and Ryan Cordell, who's a complete player with a .262 average, six homers, 39 RBIs and 26 stolen bases. From a pitching standpoint, Toman's team is filled with plenty of talented arms. For instance, Josh Richardson (2.45), Brooks Roy (3.39) and Trey Lambert (3.76) all have had solid campaigns, but the bullpen is what makes this team so dangerous. Richardson is particularly nasty with a mid-90s fastball, while in the bullpen, Ashton Perritt earned plenty of recognition during last weekend's Big South tournament with a mid-90s fastball, along with his 1.35 ERA in 33 1/3 innings. Liberty has the arms to make a run in this tournament, but offense might be another story.
Saint Louis
Much like Central Arkansas headed to Starkville, Saint Louis headed to Columbia doesn't exactly make things a cakewalk. In other words, the Billikens are a very solid club playing a good brand of baseball at exactly the right time. The Billikens have one of the better offenses, statistically speaking, in this field with a .307 average and Mike Vigliarolo and Alex Kelly leading the charge. Vigliarolo is hitting an impressive .347 with 19 doubles, two triples, eight homers and 40 RBIs, while Kelly is hitting .340 with 16 doubles, 11 homers and 60 RBIs. Also keep an eye on Braxton Martinez, who's hitting .323 with seven homers and 29 RBIs. Meanwhile, on the mound, the Billikens have a very good ace pitcher in Alex Alemann, who has a 3.36 ERA in 93 2/3 innings, while Clay Smith and Nick bates, both starting pitchers, have ERAs of 3.76 and 4.05, respectively. Also keep an eye on relievers Jon Levin (1.25, 28 apps), Matt Eckelman (1.79, 26 apps), Marco Mejia (2.81, 26 apps) and Joe Powell (3.15, 21 apps). I'm intrigued to see how this Saint Louis club does against this talented field of teams.
Unlike some other top seeds out there, I don't think it's a slam dunk South Carolina escapes the Columbia Regional. The Gamecocks looked bad last week in the SEC tournament, and interestingly, left-handed pitcher Nolan Belcher wasn't great. He and the Gamecocks must return to normal this weekend or it might be a quick postseason. Clemson will be out looking to spoil the Gamecocks' home NCAA Regional, and there's no doubt this team is very talented. However, until the Tigers beat the Gamecocks in a big-time situation, it's hard to take them -- especially in Columbia. Liberty has the arms to make some noise, while Saint Louis is a balanced club who likely will give South Carolina all it can handle on the first day. We're going with the Gamecocks in this one.


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