NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament Regionals Preview Part 1by Alex Kielar May 31, 2022 3 comments
Selection Monday went down yesterday at noon Eastern Daylight Time, with the field of 64 being announced for the NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament. The regionals will get underway on Friday and go through Monday in a double-elimination tournament. The 16 teams to win their portion of the regionals will advance to best-of-3 super regionals, taking place June 10 to June 13. The eight winners from there will advance to the College World Series beginning on June 17. The top 16 seeds and the regional hosts are Tennessee, Stanford, Oregon State, Virginia Tech, Texas A&M, Miami, Oklahoma State, East Carolina, Texas, North Carolina, Southern Mississippi, Louisville, Florida, Auburn, Maryland, and Georgia Southern.
For this preview, we will be splitting it up into four parts. For the first part, let’s take a look at the Knoxville, Statesboro, Austin, and Greenville Regionals. The winner of the Knoxville Regional will play the winner of the Statesboro Regional, while the winner of the Austin Regional will take on the winner of the Greenville Regional.
The Knoxville Regional is led by the top team in the country, Tennessee, which won its first SEC Championship since 1995. If they play like they have been all season, the regionals could be a cakewalk for them as they ran through the SEC Tournament with ease. The Volunteers beat Vanderbilt 10-1, LSU 5-2, and Kentucky 12-2, before taking out Florida 8-5 in the championship. They are led by their elite weekend pitching rotation in freshmen Chase Burns and Drew Beam, and sophomore Chase Dollander. Despite having a late start to the season, sophomore Blade Tidwell, a top MLB Draft prospect, is also a key piece to the team. The Vols have hit a nation-high 141 home runs this season.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Georgia Tech earned an outright bid after ending the regular season with series wins over Florida State, North Carolina, Miami, and Pitt, then beating Lousiville in the ACC Tournament. Sophomore catcher and top draft catching prospect Kevin Parada lead the Yellow Jackets’ offense. Parada broke the single-season program record for homers with 26 big flys. It is Georgia Tech’s 34th NCAA Tournament appearance and third straight.
Campbell Fighting Camels
Campbell closed out the regular season by winning 12 of their last 14 games to finish 20-3 in the Big South Conference. The Fighting Camels lost their Big South tournament opener to Charleston Southern but reeled off four straight wins to take the tournament championship and make their sixth NCAA regional appearance. Shortstop Zach Neto is the top hitter on the squad and has gotten attention from scouts ahead of the draft. A good performance in this regional will earn him even more hype. He has slashed .398/.506/.769 with 16 homers, and 15 stolen bases this season.
Alabama State Hornets
Alabama State earned an automatic bid by taking down Southern in the SWAC championship game and making their first NCAA tournament since 2016. The Hornets are led by SWAC Player of the Year Corey King who is batting .367 with 14 home runs, 64 RBIs, 16 doubles, and a 1.088 OPS. King smacked the go-ahead RBI double in the 14th inning of the SWAC championship game. Their pitching staff is led by right-hander Breon Pooler, who was named SWAC Tournament MVP after surrendering just two runs and nine hits in 13 innings.
#2 Georgia Tech (34-22) vs. #3 Campbell (40-17), 12 p.m., ESPN+
#1 Tennessee (53-7) vs. #4 Alabama St (34-23), 6 p.m., SECN
Regional prediction: Tennessee
Georgia Southern Eagles
Georgia Southern leads this regional as it will be their first time hosting a regional in their history. The Eagles lost to Lousiana in the Sun Belt Championship but still finished the season with a 23-7 conference record. Sophomore left-hander Ty Fisher has led the pitching staff with a 2.87 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, and 54 strikeouts to 22 walks in 12 starts on the season. Georgia Southern won their final three series to end the regular season before winning the first two games of the Sun Belt tournament.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Notre Dame missed out on being a regional host despite being the four-seed in the ACC and winning their first two games in the ACC Tournament against Florida State and Virginia. The Irish were ranked inside the top 16 in nearly all college baseball polls, including at number eight in ours to end the regular season. It is the program’s second straight tournament appearance, the first time since 2005-06 Notre Dame has made it in back-to-back seasons.
Texas Tech Red Raiders
Texas Tech makes its sixth straight regional appearance but misses out on hosting for the first time in five seasons. After being selected for the Coral Gables Regional in 2014, the Red Raiders hosted from 2016-21. They made their first College World Series appearance in 2014 and now look to make their fifth under coach Tim Tadlock. The ace of the pitching staff Brandon Birdsell was named the Big 12 Pitcher of the Year, the second Red Raider to win the award behind Steven Gingery in 2017. The right-hander held batters to a league-best .204 batting average while ranking second in strikeouts (96), ERA (2.55), and wins (8). Catcher/first baseman Hudson White was named Big 12 Freshman of the Year, while top draft prospect Jace Jung and Birdsell made First Team All-Big 12.
UNC Greensboro Spartans
UNC Greensboro defied all odds after starting conference play 0-7, as they fought their way through all the way to a SoCon Championship victory. It is their first conference championship since 2017 as the Spartans have won 20 of 26 games. For the final two games of the conference tournament, the Spartans saw both pitchers in Austin Parsley and Hunter Shuey record complete games.
#2 Notre Dame (35-14) vs. #3 Texas Tech (37-20), 2 p.m., ACCN
#1 Georgia Southern (40-18) vs. #4 UNC Greensboro (34-28), 7 p.m., ESPN+
Regional prediction: Texas Tech
The Texas Longhorns lead this regional after making a run to the Big 12 Championship, where they ultimately lost to Oklahoma. It is the second straight season the Longhorns are hosting a regional and the third time in the last five seasons they are in the regionals. Redshirt junior first baseman Ivan Melendez was named the Big 12 Player of the Year after leading the Big 12 in batting average (.421), home runs (28), runs batted in (85), on-base percentage (.531), slugging percentage (.941) and OPS (1.472). Southpaw Pete Hansen and Melendez were both unanimous All-Big 12 selections. Catcher Silas Ardoin and outfielder Murphy Stehly also made First Team.
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
Louisiana Tech won its first Conference USA tournament championship in program history after senior outfielder Steele Netterville hit a walk-off single to take down UTSA 9-8. Right-handed reliever Kyle Crigger has been dominant and will be a huge key to the Bulldogs’ super-regional hopes. The senior has recorded a 1.79 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and nine saves on the season. He has also struck out 74 hitters in 65 1/3 innings over 35 appearances.
Dallas Baptist Patriots
Dallas Baptist makes their eighth straight NCAA tournament appearance. They came up one win short in their first College World Series trip last season. Junior infielder Cole Moore has led the offense with a .356/.473/.606 slash line with 10 homers, 22 doubles, and 44 RBI. Sophomore outfielder Jace Grady has shown off the wheels with 25 stolen bases in 27 attempts.
Air Force Falcons
Air Force took home the Mountain West tournament title after taking down San Jose State, 8-3, in the championship game. It was the Falcons’ first tournament title and earns them their first NCAA regionals appearance since 1969. Sophomore two-way player and John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year semifinalist Paul Skenes leads the way, as he posted a .325 average with 10 doubles, 12 home runs, and 36 RBI in 48 games, and went 10-2 with a 2.42 ERA while striking out 92 in 81 2/3 innings and holding opponents to a .214 batting average on the mound.
#1 Texas (42-19) vs. #4 Air Force (30-27), 2 p.m., LHN
#2 Louisiana Tech (42-19) vs. #3 DBU (34-22-1), 7:30 p.m., ESPN+
Regional prediction: Texas
East Carolina Pirates
East Carolina won the American Athletic Conference tournament championship and will host this regional. The Pirates are in the midst of an 18-game winning streak and they hosted and won the regional last season. It is the fourth straight season that the program is hosting a regional. The tournament championship is the Pirates’ third after they won it in 2015 and 2018.
Virginia makes its second straight NCAA tournament appearance and 19th overall as they earn an at-large bid. They have lost three straight, including losses to Florida State and Notre Dame in the ACC Tournament. Sophomore Devin Ortiz is a John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year semifinalist after hitting .304 with five home runs and 41 RBI in 46 games while compiling a 5-1 record and 2.03 ERA with 37 strikeouts in 26.2 innings. Last season, the Cavaliers began as the three seed in the Columbia Regional and made an unlikely run to the College World Series.
Coastal Carolina Chanticleers
Coastal Carolina makes their 18th NCAA regionals overall after going 21-8-1 in the Sun Belt Conference and 15-10 in non-conference play against the number two ranked non-conference schedule in Division I. The Chanticleers won the 2016 National Championship after starting out as a two-seed in the Raliegh Regional. Senior Tyler Johnson smashed 17 homers while recording a team-best 1.242 OPS. Senior right-hander Michael Knorr recorded a 2.81 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and 84 strikeouts to 10 walks in 64 innings.
Coppin State Eagles
Coppin State makes a regional despite being under .500 after they won the MEAC tournament and earned the automatic bid. The Eagles are making their first NCAA Regional appearance after winning their first MEAC championship since 1995. They are led by the MEAC Pitcher of the Year and John Olerud Semifinalist Jordan Hamberg, MEAC Rookie of the Year Josh Hankins, and the MEAC Tournament Most Outstanding Performer Brian Nicolas.
#1 East Carolina (42 – 18) vs. #4 Coppin State (24 – 28), 1 p.m., ESPN+
#3 Coastal Carolina (36 – 18 – 1) vs. #2 Virginia (38 – 17), 6 p.m., ESPN+
Regional prediction: East Carolina
Stay tuned for part two of our regionals preview tomorrow, and parts three and four on Thursday.
Follow Alex Kielar on Twitter @AlexPTST
Main Image Credit: From Knox News