The Starkville Regional Preview

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Finally after ten long years, Mississippi State is hosting it’s first Regional since 2003.  And now the other participants were made known today and they include South Alabama, Mercer, and Central Arkansas.  I am a little bit surprised that there isn’t a team from a major conference other than MSU in the Regional, and I’m also really surprised that they placed teams that have all played MSU within the past two seasons including two that the Bulldogs played this year.  It’s not an easy draw for Mississippi State, but I’m also not sure that I can say it’s a bad draw either.  One thing I can say about the Regional is it is an interesting draw because you have a lot of different styles of play and each team is drastically different.

MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS (1 SEED SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE)

The host team, Mississippi State, is a team that likes to put pressure on other teams offensively with the running game and bunting and also tries to blend in some power with potential first round pick Hunter Renfroe and Wes Rea.  The Bulldogs have had some issues with their starting pitching, but the bullpen is one of, if not the best in the SEC.  The Bulldogs head coach likes to use match ups on both offense and also with his pitchers and State has a lot of different types of players that they can use including speed guys such as Jacob Robson and pitchers with a variety of different arm angles such as Myles Gentry and Chad Girodo.  They also have one of the top closers in the country in Jonathan Holder, who can pitch up to three to four innings and help take the burden off of the starting pitchers.  Mississippi State is also extremely athletic on defense and that helps them in spacious Dudy-Noble Field and with their starting staff who is mostly made up of pitchers that like to pitch to contact.   Starting shortstop Adam Frazier played on the US National Team last summer and is also a player to watch as is second baseman Brett Pirtle.  Also of note, Mississippi State is 30-7 at home this year.

POTENTIAL STARTERS

C- Nick Ammirati (1 HR, 23 RBI’s, .280 AVG) and Mitch Slauter (1 HR, 15 RBI, .242 AVG)

1B- Wes Rea (6 HR, 32 RBI, .282 AVG)

2B- Brett Pirtle (2 HR, 28 RBI, .310 AVG, 9 SB)

3B- Alex Detz (1 HR, 30 RBI, .312 AVG), Sam Frost (8 RBI, .324 AVG, 6 SB)

SS- Adam Frazier (30 RBI, .352 AVG, 7 SB)

LF- Demarcus Henderson (19 RBI’s, .265 AVG, 3 SB)

CF- CT Bradford (1 HR, 22 RBI’s, .300 AVG, 7 SB)

RF- Hunter Renfroe (15 HR, 54 RBI’s, .354 AVG, 9 SB)

DH- Derrick Armstrong (8 RBI’s, .273 AVG, 4 SB)

TOP PITCHERS

LHP- Luis Pollorena (6-3, 4.30 ERA)

RHP/ACE- Kendall Graveman (5-5, 3.04 ERA)

LHP- Jacob Lindgren (4-3, 4.18 ERA)

LHRP- Ross Mitchell (11-0, 1.51 ERA)

RHRP- Ben Bracewell (1-1, 1 save, 1.61 ERA)

RHRP/CLOSER- Jonathan Holder (2-0 16 saves, 1.00 ERA)

SOUTH ALABAMA JAGUARS (2 SEED SUN BELT CONFERENCE)

South Alabama is a team that most MSU fans are familiar with as the Bulldogs and Jaguars play each other almost every season.  The Jaguars are one of the top mid major programs in college baseball and they have a very rich tradition of consistent winning and putting players into the Big Leagues.  Their alumni include Luis Gonzalez, David Freese, Adam Lind, and Juan Pierre.  Their current team has a lot of seniors on it and they have a lot of experience, which has paid off for them because they have won a lot of close games throughout the year and that experience has also helped them win the Sun Belt regular season title.  They have 5-6 starters that are hitting over .300 and they have two hitters with more than 7 home runs.  As a team, they are only 28-50 in stolen bases, so they pretty much rely on their hitters to drive their runners in more often than not.  Being a veteran squad, they are also very solid defensively as well.  Their starting pitching staff is very similar to Mississippi State’s in that their starters in general do not go more than 4-5 innings on average but they have a very strong bullpen.

POTENTIAL STARTERS

C- Whitt Dorsey (1 HR, 19 RBI, .309 AVG) and Drew Cofield (14 RBI, .289 AVG, 2 SB)

1B- Jordan Patterson (4 HR, 49 RBI. .360 AVG 4 SB)

2B- Robby Campbell (1 HR, 21 RBI, .291 AVG, 4 SB)

3B- Bud Collura (23 RBI, .261 AVG, 2 SB)

SS- Graham Odom (25 RBI. .256 AVG, 1 SB)

LF- Nick Zaharion (7 HR, 45 RBI, .289 AVG)

CF- Jeff DeBlieux (3 HR, 37 RBI, .326 AVG, 6 SB)

RF- Nolan Early (3 HR, 58 RBI, .323 AVG)

DH- Cole Billingsley (22 RBI, .304 AVG, 3 SB) and Hayden Jones (1 HR, 13 RBI, .271 AVG and 2 SB)

TOP PITCHERS

RHP/ACE- Matt Bell (6-1, 3.52 ERA)

LHP- Jacob Noble (5-3, 3.70 ERA)

RHP- Jarron Cito (4-3, 5.65 ERA)

RHRP- Dylan Starney (5-2, 2.23 ERA, 4 saves)

LHRP/CLOSER- Kyle Barstch (2-0, 2.52 ERA, 12 saves)

MERCER BEARS (3 SEED ATLANTIC SUN CONFERENCE)

Mercer is a team that has taken full advantage of the growth of baseball in the state of Georgia.  Their entire roster is almost entirely made up of Georgians except for a few players.  The first thing that stands out to me is the fact that they have good balance throughout the lineup in terms of power- Nick Backlund has 13 home runs, and then they have Derrick Workman with 9 and Sasha LaGarde with 7 homers- but they also have good team speed with 70 stolen bases and they also like to bunt as well with 62 on the year.  In particular, their outfield has a lot of speed and that should serve them well at Dudy-Noble Field.  Their top two starters are typically going to give them at least 5-6 innings per game, but finding a third starter has been an issue for them this year as they have tried several pitchers and have not had a lot of success.  Their closer from last year also lost his job having an ERA over 5, but Dmitri Kourtis has taken over and stabilized the end of the game for the Bears.  Like South Alabama, Mercer won their conference regular season title.  Many experts expected Mercer to be a two seed, and they definitely have the potential to be a Cinderella in the NCAA tournament this year.

POTENTIAL STARTERS

C- Austin Barrett (6 HR, 45 RBI, .298 AVG) and David Reid-Foley (3 HR, 24 RBI, .254 AVG)

1B- Travis Benn (4 HR, 27 RBI, .237 AVG)

2B- Michael Massi (2 HR, 29 RBI, .275 AVG, 19 SB)

3B- Chesny Young (4 HR, 61 RBI, .394 AVG, 9 SB)

SS- Evan Boyd (1 HR, 26 RBI, .244 AVG, 3 SB)

LF- Logan Gaines (4 HR, 32 RBI, .286 AVG, 7 SB)

CF- Sasha LaGarde (7 HR, 33 RBI, .306 AVG, 15 SB)

RF- Derrick Workman (9 HR, 48 RBI, .345 AVG, 3 SB)

DH- Nick Backlund (13 HR, 65 RBI, .322 AVG)

TOP PITCHERS

RHP/ACE- Brandon Barker (7-1, 2.35 ERA)

RHP- D J Johnson (6-2, 2.80 ERA)

RHRP- David Teasley (8-2, 5.57 ERA, 4 saves)

RHRP/CLOSER- Dmitri Kourtis (5-2, 3.21 ERA, 9 saves)

CENTRAL ARKANSAS BEARS (4 SEED SOUTHLAND CONFERENCE)

The Bears are a four seed in large part because they have been streaky this year and they actually had a losing record in conference.  However, they were able to win the Southland Conference Tournament which allowed them to secure an automatic bid.  The Bears are your classic small ball type team as they have only 21 home runs as a team, but they have 90 steals in 111 attempts and they have bunted 92 times as a team as well. Forrest Allday, Jonathan Davis, and Blake Marchal are their biggest thiefs.  Also of note, their batters have been hit 117 times this year, so they have no problem leaning in to take one for the team.  That said, they only have two starters hitting over .300 and are hitting .261 as a team.  Their starting pitching staff is also very strong and they have two starters that average seven innings an appearance and they have 14 complete games as a team and their team ERA is a miniscule 2.78.  They have a very big staff- all of their starters are over 6’2″ and they have some 6’4″, 6’5″ guys on their staff which is rare for a mid major. The Bears are the type of team you have to be really careful because they thrive on capitalizing on their opponents mistakes.  With a pitching staff like they have, they are more than capable of making a deep run and potentially being the Cinderella team in the NCAA tournament- especially if they are hot at the plate.

POTENTIAL STARTERS

C- Michael Marrieta (4 HR, 56 RBI, .315 AVG, 6 SB)

1B- Scott Zimmerlee (1 HR, 26 RBI, .247 AVG)

2B- Blake Marchal (3 HR, 48 RBI, .269 AVG, 29 SB)

3B- Garrett Brown (2 HR, 25 RBI, .230 AVG)

SS- Justin Treece (25 RBI, .235 AVG, 3 SB)

LF- Ethan Harris (3 HR, 36 RBI, .274 AVG, 8 SB)

CF- Jonathan Davis (3 HR, 48 RBI, .276 AVG, 23 SB)

RF- Forrest Allday (3 HR, 35 RBI, .385 AVG, 15 SB)

DH- Chris Townsend (10 RBI, .238 AVG, 2 SB)

TOP PITCHERS

RHP/ACE- Caleb McClanahan (10-5, 2.17 ERA)

RHP- Bryce Biggerstaff (5-4, 2.91 ERA)

LHP- Jeffrey Enloe (7-5, 3.28 ERA)

RHRP- Clint Green (4-2, 3.25 ERA, 2 saves)

RHRP/CLOSER- Ethan McKenzie (3-2, 2.11 ERA, 5 saves)

Footnotes- LHP= left handed starting pitcher, RHP= right handed starting pitcher, LHRP= left handed relief pitcher, RHRP= right handed relief pitcher.  The ACE designation was chosen by me based off of stats, although fans and the coaches may disagree with me based on intangibles that I am not privy to, and the CLOSER designation was based off of the saves leader of each team.