The NCAA Baseball Tournament gets underway with 16 regionals on Friday in the double elimination tournament. three of the sixteen regionals will take place in the sunshine state. lets take a look at each regional in the state.
Coral Gables Regional
1- Miami (36-21)- The Canes have been receiving alot of criticism for hosting and being a number one seed in a regional. The key player for Miami is catcher Peter O’Brein who hitting .348 with 10 home runs and 39 RBIs. O’Brein has had a sore wrist coming into regional which has cost him some playing time during the season. Miami as a team is hitting just .261 this season is a big question mark. The strength of Miami is pitching with Eric Erickson (2.84) leading the way. Eric Whaley has a 2.84 ERA in 92 innings, while Steven Ewing who from University High School in Orlando, has a 3.28 ERA in 90 2/3 innings.
2- UCF (43-15) – UCF plays for the first time at Coral Gables in a regional. The Knights have played at A-Rod park earlier this season beating Miami 4-1 in a midweek game. First Basemen D.J Hicks leads the Knights hitting 318with 11 home runs and 68 RBIs but the key will be the supporting cast around Hicks as many teams will pitch around Hicks. outfielder Alex Friedrich is hitting .327 with four homers and 38 RBIs, while Chris Taladay is hitting .309 with five homers and 47 RBIs and Ronnie Richardson is hitting .307 with eight homers and 33 RBIs.
Pitching-wise, the Knights have some solid starting pitchers with Ben Lively who will get the ball in the opener against Missouri State. Where Head Coach Terry Rooney goes after that will be interesting with options such as Chris Matulis , Ray Hanson, and Brian Adkins all options to start in regionals. UCF Bullpen is strong led by closer Joe Rogers who has an ERA of 1.60 ERA and 12 saves as well as set up man Roman Madrid who has an era of 0.64 era in 29 appearances.
3- Missouri State (39-20) – The Bears come from the Missouri Valley Conference which finished in the RPI higher then C-USA as 5th best conference in country. Pitching will carry Missouri State led by Nick Petree who won College Baseball Louisville Slugger Pitcher of the Year. Petree who will face the Knights on friday put together an amazing scoreless streak earlier this season and has a 10-3 record and a fabulous 0.92 ERA in 107 1/3 innings of work. Pierce Johnson has a 2.55 ERA in 91 2/3 innings. He also has struck out 112 and walked 26. Johnson according to many will be a high draft pick in MLB Draft. Can Missouri State get enough hitting to support the stellar pitching remains to be seen.
4- Stony Brook (46-11)- Stony Brook comes in hitting .337 as a team and is regarded as one of the better four seeds in the country. Can Stony Brook get enough pitching in regional and hit agaiinst the best pitching they will see all season long?
Prediction- One of Terry Rooney motto’s for the season expectations is go from ” Good to Great”. The Knights have a chance to do that this weekend and take that step by advancing to the program’s first ever super regional. I pick UCF to go from good to Great this weekend.
1- Florida (42-18)- The Gators come into postseason as the favorites to win the College World Series with the number one overall national seed. Catcher Mike Zunino leads the Gators offense with 16 home runs and is expected to be a top 10 pick at MLB Draft. Gators pitching is as good as anyone in the country led by Hudson Randall who has a 7-2 record with a 2.91 era. Big question is the health of preseason all-american Karsten Whitson who battled injuries all season long.
2- Georgia Tech (36-24)- The Yellow Jackets are coming in with great momentum winning the ACC Tournament and survived alot of injuries during the regular season which was one of main reasons why Georgia Tech finished 8th in ACC after a preseason ranking of 12th in the nation.
3- College of Charleston (37-20) – The So Con regular season champions bring in a powerful balance offense that ranks fifth in the country with 63 homeruns.
4- Bethune Cookman (34-25) – Under first year head coach Jason Beverlin pick up where former coach Mervyl Menendez left off in the MEAC Conference Tournament winning it for the seventh straight time.
Prediction- Florida pitching gets them past Georgia Tech and advance to Super Regional.
1- Florida State (43-15)- The Seminoles are coming off an 0-3 ACC Tournament and finished the regular season going 4-8 in last 12 games. Despite the recent struggles, Florida State earned the number three national seed for the tournament but got a tough draw with three conference champions in the regional. The Seminoles are led by two of the nation’s elite hitters in first baseman Jayce Boyd and outfielder James Ramsey, who are hitting .395 and .382, respectively, with Ramsey having 12 homers and 49 RBIs and is a strong candidate to win the Golden Spikes Award which is the Heisman Trophy of College Baseball. FSU has an improved but young pitching staff under first year pitching coach Mike Bell. Will the youth hurt FSU in a tough regional?
2- Mississippi State (39-22)- The Bulldogs won the SEC Tournament and are led by Ace right-handed pitcher Chris Stratton, who will be one of the top draft picks in next week’s MLB Draft. Fortunetely for the Seminoles, Stratton is scheduled to pitch on friday against Samford so the Noles will avoid him.
3- Samford (39-21)- The other Bulldogs in this regional is the Southern Conference Champions and come in hitting .307 as a team.
4- UAB (32-28) – The Blazers came in as a seven seed in C-USA Tournament and ended up winning the automatic bid by winning the tournament. They dont have alot of depth but are a very scrappy team which has a couple of quality of arms that can give teams trouble in Michael Busby and Dillon Napolean.
Prediction- Tough regional if Stratton was being saved for FSU , I go with Mississppi State but playing in front of Dick Howser Stadium and not facing Stratton is enough for FSU to advance but do not be suprised if it comes from loser’s bracket and or it goes all the way to the last game of a regional needed on Monday.