NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament Regionals Preview Part 3by Alex Kielar June 2, 2022 0 comments
Selection Monday went down Monday 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. Make sure to check out the first and second parts of the preview. For the third part, let’s look at the Stanford, College Park, Chapel Hill, and Stillwater Regionals. The winner of the Stanford Regional will face the winner of the College Park Regional and the winner of the Chapel Hill Regional will face the winner of the Stillwater Regional in the Super Regionals.
The Cardinal took down Oregon State, 9-5, in the Pac-12 Championship and scored 35 runs total in the conference tournament to earn the second overall seed. The Pac-12 Freshman of the Year was two-way player Braden Montgomery who launched a 468-foot three-run bomb in the championship game. Third baseman Drew Bowser was a unanimous selection to the All-Tournament Team after going 8-for-18 with four homers for Stanford. This season is the 20th time in Stanford’s history they are hosting a regional and are coming in on a 16-game winning streak. Stanford is 153-82 overall in 36 postseason appearances including 72-20 at home. They advanced to the College World Series in 2021 and our hosting a regional for the fifth straight season.
Texas State Bobcats
Texas State is heading to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 11 years and the sixth time overall. They had been vying to host a regional but fell to Louisiana in the Sun Belt Tournament semifinals. The Bobcats went 18-5 on the road this season, including 15-0 against non-conference opponents and wins at Texas and Arizona. Senior shortstop Dalton Shuffield was named the Sun Belt Player of the Year while leading the conference with 84 hits, 74 runs scored, 20 doubles, and five triples. The 23-year-old is also a Dick Howser Trophy semifinalist after hitting .393 and slugging .701. The award is bestowed annually to the national college baseball player of the year. Head Coach Steven Trout was also named the Ron Maestri Coach of the Year after leading the Bobcats to a program-record 44 wins and a 26-4 conference record.
UC Santa Barbara Gauchos
UC Santa Barbara exceeded all expectations by running away with the West Coast Conference championship after sweeping UC Riverside to end the season. The Gauchos were the only team in the country to not lose a single series all season. They finished five games ahead of second-place Cal Poly. They scored 32 runs against UC Riverside in the three-game sweep and ended the season with a 27-3 conference record. That makes for a .900 winning percentage, ranking third in the Big West record books. They are three wins away from the program record of 46 wins set in 1984.
After top pitchers Michael McGreevy and Rodney Boone were drafted last year, the Gauchos had a question mark in their rotation. But their top three starters dominated this season. Sophomore Cory Lewis went 9-0 with a 3.35 ERA, sophomore Mike Gutierrez went 8-1 with a 3.02 ERA, and freshman Ryan Gallagher went 8-0 with a 3.00 ERA.
Binghamton claimed the Ameria East Conference title for their fifth conference championship. The Bearcats now get the lofty chore of facing Stanford in the regionals. They bounced back from a 1-7 start in conference play to win the conference. Senior shortstop Jake Evans was named the America East Most Outstanding Player after hitting .386 with an .881 OPS. Catcher Evin Sullivan was named the conference Rookie of the Year after hitting .350 with a .965 OPS and seven homers. Binghamton has won six of seven games but will have a tough time winning against Stanford.
#1 Stanford (41 – 14) vs. #4 Binghamton (22 – 28), 4 p.m., ESPN+
#3 UC Santa Barbara (43 – 12) vs. #2 Texas State (45 – 12), 9 p.m., ESPN+
Regional prediction: Stanford
College Park Regional
Maryland earned the number 15 national seed and is hosting its first regional after winning the Big Ten regular-season title. Head coach Rob Vaughn was tabbed the Big Ten Coach of the Year after leading the Terps to a school-record 45 wins. Fifth year outfielder Chris Alleyne was named Big Ten Player of the Year, the program’s first since 1992 after he hit .346 with 22 home runs and 76 RBIs to go with 23 stolen bases. Alleyne is also a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award, which goes to the top amateur baseball player. Junior left-hander Ryan Ramsey was a selection to the All-Big Ten Team and he became the first Maryland pitcher since 1959 to pitch a perfect game while striking out 10 in April.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Wake Forest has been led by ACC Pitcher of the Year Rhett Lowder, who recorded a 2.61 ERA and 98 strikeouts. The right-hander is the first-ever Demon Deacon to win the award. Wake Forest is in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2017 and it is the seventh time they have won at least 40 games. Redshirt junior Brendan Tinsman has led the Deacon offense with a .349 average and 23 homers. Wake Forest trounced Miami, 16-3, in the ACC Tournament as they ten-run ruled them.
UConn is looking to make their first super regional since 2011 despite making five of the past six NCAA Regionals. The Huskies won the Big East Conference title to repeat as champions behind solid pitching performances from Austin Peterson, Pat Gallagher, Enzo Stefanoni, and Garrett Coe. They tied a program record for wins with 43 victories and had eight players receiving all-conference honors. Matt Donlan, Gallagher, Korey Morton, Peterson, and Erik Stock made First Team. Stock and Peterson anchored the lineup and rotation, respectively. Stock recorded a .390 average, nine home runs, and a team-high 89 hits, along with a 1.088 OPS and three more walks than strikeouts. Peterson struck out 121 batters while walking just 13 and posted a 3.46 ERA in 93 2/3 innings as the team’s ace.
Long Island won the Northeast Conference title and earned an automatic bid for the regionals, their third NCAA Tournament appearance. Graduate outfielder Michael Edelman has led the offense with a .326 average, .915 OPS, and 27 stolen bases in 31 attempts. Junior infielder EJ Exposito mashed 13 homers to lead the team. Senior right-hander Joshua Loeschorn is the ace of the Sharks’ staff. He recorded a 3.02 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and 102 strikeouts to just 26 walks in 95 1/3 innings.
#2 Wake Forest (40-17-1) vs. #3 UConn (46-13), 1 p.m., ESPNU
#1 Maryland (45-12) vs. #4 LIU (37-19), 7 p.m., ESPN+
Regional prediction: UConn
Chapel Hill Regionals
North Carolina Diamond Heels
North Carolina won the ACC Championship title game over NC State and will host their 11th regional since 1999. The last time they were regional hosts in 2019, the Diamond Heels swept their way past UNCW, Liberty, and Tennessee. They have won 15 of their last 17 games and are ranked third in RPI. They also have a 20-16 record against quad one opponents. The Heels are 29-7 all-time in home regional games and have reached the College World Series 11 times. Outfielder Vance Honeycutt made the All-Freshman Team and Third Team All-ACC as well as winning the ACC Tournament MVP. Honeycutt hit .400 with four home runs and 10 RBI over the four-day tournament. He smashed two homers in the title game for his 20th and 21st bombs to become the first 20-20 player in Tar Heels history after he stole 28 bags.
Georgia was a surprising team this year. They still made the NCAA Tournament despite losing the first game of the SEC Tournament. They come in as one of the coldest teams in the country as the Bulldogs have lost six of their last nine games. The squad missed out on the tournament last season but now make their third trip to the regionals in five years under head coach Scott Stricklin. The Bulldogs enter the regionals with just two of their regular starters. That would be Jonathan Cannon and Liam Sullivan, as they will have to rely on sophomore lefty Luke Wagner to pick up some slack. Cannon made First Team All-SEC as he posted a 3.62 ERA, 0.938 WHIP, and 65 strikeouts to just 10 walks in 74 2/3 innings.
VCU won the Atlantic 10 Tournament title for their second straight conference crown and is on a 15-game winning streak. They were on a run last year as well but fell in the regionals after losing to Mississippi State and Campbell. The Rams upset one-seed Dayton in the conference semifinal before taking out Richmond in the final. First baseman Tyler Locklear and second baseman Ben Nippolt made the All-Conference First Team while Marcus O’Malley made the All-Freshman Team.
For the first time in its history, Hofstra won the Colonial Athletic Association Baseball Championship as they took out Northeastern on a walk-off hit by pitch. It was the Pride’s ninth straight win and they will face the Tar Heels to begin their first NCAA Tournament appearance. Senior right-hander Brad Camarda made the all-tournament team and was the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. Camarda left it all out on the field as he threw 118 pitches in seven innings in the title game while giving up four runs and striking out four.
#1 North Carolina (38-19) vs. #4 Hofstra (30-21), 2 p.m., ESPN+
#2 Georgia (35-21) vs. #3 VCU (40-18), 7 p.m., ESPN+
Regional prediction: North Carolina
Oklahoma State Cowboys
Oklahoma State makes their 47th NCAA Regionals appearance, the fourth most in history, as a host. They look to advance to their sixth Super Regional in program history after making it in 1999, 2007, 2014, 2016, and 2019. Justin Campbell is the ace of the pitching staff and is a Golden Spikes Award semifinalist. The right-hander is 9-2 with a 3.43 ERA and 1.02 WHIP in 15 starts this season, while his 123 strikeouts rank seventh nationally. The Cowboys had five selections to First Team All-Big 12, outfielder Jake Thompson, DH Griffin Doersching, utility Nolan McLean, Campbell, and reliever Roman Phansalkar.
Arkansas lost both of their games in the SEC Tournament, to Alabama and Florida, but are still a two seed in the regionals. It is the first time the Razorbacks will not be a host since 2015 and it is their 33rd appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Dave Van Horn has now led his squad to 18 NCAA Tournaments in his 20 seasons as head coach. He looks to lead Arkansas to its seventh trip to the College World Series under him. Usual reliable right-hander Connor Noland struggled in his last three starts as he surrendered five runs and failed to make it past five innings in each. The senior will have to pick it up if the Razorbacks are to make it out of the regionals.
Grand Canyon Antelopes
Grand Canyon has made the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season as an at-large after losing the WAC Tournament Championship to Abilene Christian. At 41-19 and 25-5 in the conference, the Antelopes were regular-season Western Athletic Conference champions. After missing the NCAA Tournament last season, fifth-year utility man Juan Colato has been the Lopes’ best hitter this season. He has a team-best .384 average along with a 1.008 OPS, 16 doubles, and 50 RBI. Colato was injured in last year’s WAC Tournament and had to watch GCU lose their two regional games from the bench. This year, he could be a big factor in their quest to shock the Stillwater Regional
Missouri State Bears
As improbable Missouri Valley Conference Tournament champions, Missouri earned an automatic bid. The Bears defeated Southern Illinois 13-3 for the title on Sunday for their first regionals trip since 2018. It is their fourth conference tournament championship and they reached one College World Series, in 2003. Perhaps they will be able to go on another improbable run in the regionals as the fourth seed here. Catcher Drake Baldwin and outfielder Spencer Nivens made All-MVC Second Team.
#3 Grand Canyon (41 – 19) vs. #2 Arkansas (38 – 18), 1 p.m., SECN
#1 Oklahoma State (39 – 20) vs. #4 Missouri State (30 – 27), 7 p.m., ESPN+
Regional prediction: Oklahoma State
Follow Alex Kielar on Twitter @AlexPTST
Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images