NCAA Regionals Primer

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The Hokies will begin NCAA Regional play on Thursday for the first time since
2000. They play The Citadel in their opening game, with other possible matchups
against South Carolina and Bucknell. Here’s a quick look at the teams involved
in the Columbia Regional, including information on the stadium, top hitters and
pitchers, and also some Columbia Hokie Club information in case you are planning
to make the trip.

The Regional

The NCAA Tournament features 64 teams split into 16 different Regionals. The
16 winners of each Regional will advance to Super Regionals, which is a best of
three series. The eight winners from Super Regionals will head to Omaha to play
in the College World Series.

NCAA Regionals are played in a double elimination format. The #1 seed plays
the #4 seed on the first day, with the #2 seed playing the #3 seed. The winners
will play the next day, as will the losers. When teams lose their second game,
they are eliminated from competition.

The Setting

This regional will be played in Columbia, SC on the home field of the South
Carolina Gamecocks, Carolina Stadium. This beautiful new stadium opened on
February 21, 2009. It features a home team locker room, four indoor batting
tunnels, a weight room, team clubhouse, coaches offices and a training room.
There are also five luxury suites, two club levels, as well as a 28 X 16 video
board in leftfield.

The stadium cost $35.6 million, features Bermuda Grass, seats 6,600 people
with a standing room capacity of 9,000, and sits next to the Congaree River in
Columbia. The dimensions are 325 feet down the left and right field lines, and
390 feet to dead center.

For more information on this impressive facility, see the following link
(opens in a PDF document). You can also take a 360 tour of the facility here.

The Teams

#1 South Carolina (43-15)

Top Hitters:

  • Jackie Bradley, Jr. (.372 avg, 9 HR, 43 RBI’s)
  • Brady Thomas (.333 avg, 8 HR, 28 RBI’s)
  • Whit Merrifield (.329 avg, 12 HR, 36 RBI’s)

Top Pitchers:

  • Blake Cooper (10-1, 2.92 ERA, 29 BB, 88 K’s)
  • Sam Dyson (5-5, 3.92 ERA, 17 BB, 86 K’s)

The Gamecocks are the #1 seed and will host the regional in beautiful
Carolina Stadium, which has the edge on a lot of minor league stadiums out
there. The Gamecocks are a first class SEC program, with appearances in the NCAA
Tournament in each of the last 12 years.

South Carolina has a very good pitching staff, led by Blake Cooper and his
10-1 record. Out of 292 teams, the Gamecocks are 10th in the NCAA in ERA, fifth
in strikeouts per nine innings, third in hits allowed per nine innings and 57th
in walks per nine innings. Their good pitchers also get plenty of help from
their fielders. The Gamecocks are 13th nationally in fielding percentage this

Hitting isn’t their strength, however. With rankings of 180th in batting
average, 129th in hits, 190th in doubles and 229th in stolen bases, South
Carolina is an average team offensively. However, they are capable of striking
quickly, as they are 25th in the country with a total of 82 home runs.

The Gamecocks will be a tough out on their own home field, where they lost
just six games all season.

#2 Virginia Tech (38-20)

Top Hitters:

  • Austin Wates (.373 avg, 8 HR, 51 RBI’s)
  • Steve Domecus (.371 avg, 12 HR, 58 RBI’s)
  • Ronnie Shaban (.355 avg, 8 HR, 63 RBI’s)

Top Pitchers:

  • Justin Wright (8-4, 3.59 ERA, 32 BB, 95 K’s)
  • Matthew Price (7-3, 4.59 ERA, 25 BB, 95 K’s)
  • Jesse Hahn (5-4, 3.86 ERA, 20 BB, 74 K’s)

Virginia Tech is in an NCAA Regional for the first time since 2000 when they
earned an automatic bid by winning the A-10 tournament. This year the Hokies are
an at-large team after finishing the season ranked in the top 25 in nearly every
major poll.

The Hokies have had very good hitting and solid pitching this year. The
Hokies rank 59th in batting average, 41st in hits, 35th in doubles, 52nd in
triples, 42nd in home runs and 32nd in slugging percentage. Their pitching has
also been good, ranking 47th in ERA, ninth in strikeouts per nine innings, 24th
in hits allowed per nine innings and 42nd in walks allowed per nine innings.

Tech’s fielding hasn’t been as sharp, ranking just 111th in the country in
fielding percentage. We saw fielding cost the Hokies a shot at the ACC
Championship last weekend, when they committed four errors and allowed three
unearned runs against NC State. In their 10-9 win over Clemson, Tech made five
errors and gave up four unearned runs.

The Hokies can’t afford to have those fielding mistakes on the road in an
NCAA Regional, particularly against a team like South Carolina who is very good
at home. Tech will face a tough opening game opponent in The Citadel as well.

Winning the first game of the regional will be important for Tech, so Pete
Hughes will use #1 starter Justin Wright against The Citadel. Last year, all 16
Regional winners won their first game.

#3 The Citadel (42-20)

Top Hitters:

  • Nick Orvin (.341 avg, 7 HR, 29 RBI’s)
  • Justin Mackert (.338 avg, 5 HR, 37 RBI’s)
  • Bryan Altman (.329 avg, 13 HR, 66 RBI’s)

Top Pitchers:

  • Asher Wojciechowski (12-2, 3.25 ERA, 31 BB, 144 K’s)
  • Matt Talley (7-3, 3.79 ERA, 32 BB, 82 K’s)
  • Michael Clevinger (5-2, 5.19 ERA, 34 BB, 73 K’s)

The Citadel had a great season, winning their last 12 games. That’s the
second longest active winning streak in college baseball. They went 42-20 and
are ranked #32 in the RPI, which is two spots higher than Virginia Tech. This is
a very good team that is used to winning games.

They are used to winning mostly because of their ace pitcher, Asher
Wojociechowski. He is a likely first round selection in next week’s MLB Draft.
However, since he pitched on just three days of rest in last weekend’s Southern
Conference Tournament, Wojociechowski will not start against the Hokies on
Friday. Tech will face Matt Talley, a good #2 pitcher for the Bulldogs.

Whoever is pitching for The Citadel, they will still be a competitive team.
They faced seven NCAA Tournament teams during the regular season and had a 6-9
record. They’ve faced quality competition and will not be intimidated by the

Justin Wright will get the start against The Citadel, and he will face a
lineup that is 179th in batting average, 107th in runs, 238th in doubles, 133rd
in home runs and 171st in slugging percentage. Wright shot down a very good
hitting Georgia Tech team last Thursday in the ACC Tournament. The left-hander
will have to watch out for Bulldog runners, as The Citadel is ninth nationally
in stolen bases with 127.

#4 Bucknell (25-33)

Top Hitters:

  • Ben Yoder (.393 avg, 10 HR, 46 RBI’s)
  • Andrew Brouse (.374 avg, 17 HR, 52 RBI’s)
  • Doug Shribman (.364 avg, 20 HR, 60 RBI’s)

Top Pitchers:

  • Dylan Seeley (5-3, 4.03 ERA, 20 BB, 48 K’s)
  • Jack Boehm (4-3, 6.22 ERA, 15 BB, 24 K’s)
  • Trey Frahler (4-6, 6.53 ERA, 34 BB, 55 K’s)

Bucknell won the Patriot League Championship this year. It was the second
time in the last three years that they won the tournament championship as the #4
seed. They are an extreme longshot to win this regional, though they have put up
some very impressive hitting numbers this year.

Bucknell isn’t a great team, but they can hit some home runs. They are 49th
nationally in home runs, and their top three hitters have combined for 47 of
their 72 home runs on the season. They are also 94th in batting average, and
have a very good fielding percentage rank of 31st.

However, their pitching has not been good. They rank 165th in ERA, 245th in
strikeouts per nine innings, 165th in hits allowed per nine innings and 158th in
walks allowed per nine innings. Bucknell will get #1 seed South Carolina in
their opening game, and they will likely be an early exit from Regionals thanks
to their unreliable pitching staff.

Note: For those making the trip, the Columbia Hokie Club is
throwing a tailgate party for all Tech fans in attendance.  See this link
for more information.  Also, click here
for a great link for more information on the Regional.

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