Miami Ventures To Louisville Regional

No. 1 Louisville (46-12, 20-4 Big East, RPI 16)

The Cardinals were riding high on a 16-game winning streak before the Big East Tournament, where they lost to Connecticut and Rutgers for an early exit. Nonetheless, their strong regular season performance was enough to earn a regional host.

Louisville designated hitter Jeff Gardner was a first team All-Big East selection. The junior is batting .329 with nine home runs and 40 runs batted in. Had he qualified for league leaders (Gardner started 38 games this season), his .636 slugging percentage would lead the conference.

The Cardinals lead the Big East and are third in the nation in stolen bases (142). Junior outfielder Adam Engel has 40 of those steals, which also places him third in Division I for individual base stealing. Behind him, three Louisville players have at least 20 steals. Ty Young, batting .357 for the Cardinals, has 26 stolen bases, followed by Sutton Whiting (22) and Coco Johnson (20).

Golden Spikes semifinalist and Big East Pitcher of the Year Jeff Thompson has dominated hitters this season. The junior has a 2.09 earned run average, with 97 strikeouts and a .174 opposing batting average. Fellow junior Chad Green had a matching 2.09 ERA, while sophomore Nick Burdi anchored the bullpen with 14 saves and 56 strikeouts in 30 2/3 innings.

No. 4 Bowling Green (24-29, 13-14 Mid-American, RPI 202)

Bowling Green was seventh in the 12-team MAC during the regular season, but their run to the conference championship earned the Falcons an automatic bid. BGSU is 1-10 against teams in the RPI Top 100, which does not bode well for their chances this weekend in the Bluegrass State.

Sophomore catcher TJ Losby finished the regular season third in the MAC in batting average, hitting at a .346 clip. Meanwhile, Jeremy Shay was second in the conference in slugging percentage (.512). The duo have combined for 11 of the Falcons’ 14 home runs. Bowling Green is tied for 205th in the nation in homers.

The team’s greatest weakness is its defense. The Falcons’ .951 fielding percentage is 278th in Division I, and the team has committed 104 errors in 53 games.

On the mound, the Falcons have a respectable 3.87 team ERA (although that probably has a lot to do with the defense’s propensity for errors behind them). Mike Frank (5-7, 3.61 ERA) leads the team in strikeouts (77) and opposing batting average (.225). Nick Bruns anchors the bullpen, striking out 42 batters in 50 innings and posting a 2.32 ERA.

No. 3 Oklahoma State (38-17, 13-10 Big 12, RPI 52)

The Cowboys have a series win against regional host Kansas State and are 6-2 against RPI Top 50 squads. However, their 0-3 run in the Big 12 Tournament dropped their RPI from 33rd to 52nd in the nation.

Oklahoma State is solid offensively, if not among the nation’s elite with the bats. The Cowboys’ 116 doubles led the Big 12, and they also hit 31 home runs while batting .285 (both second in the conference). Junior Tanner Krietemeier is batting .321 with 14 doubles and 43 RBI. Sophomore Zach Fish has seven home runs, while Randy McCurry (.311 average) has 20 doubles on the year.

OSU also has a very strong rotation. Starters Tyler Nurdin, Jason Hursh, and Mark Robinette have combined for a .244 opposing batting average. Nurdin boasts a 1.83 ERA, while Hursh has three complete games and 84 strikeouts.

If Oklahoma State can snap out of its funk, there is enough pitching to make a deep postseason run and support a balanced lineup. Otherwise, they could be bounced early.

No. 2 Miami (34-23, 14-16 ACC, RPI 19)

The Hurricanes struggled in Durham, suffering blowout losses to North Carolina and NC State, but avoided a sweep with a convincing win over Clemson. They can beat anyone with Bryan Radziewski on the mound, but their offense has plenty of question marks entering the NCAA Tournament.

Miami is now batting .260 on the season after the performance in the ACC Tournament, without a single starter batting at least .300. Their 4.5 runs per game average places them 229th in the nation. With only 13 homers, the Hurricanes slugging percentage is at .332. Outside of David Thompson (.285 average, 471 slugging, six home runs), it’s hard to find anyone in the lineup you could trust to bring home a run in a big situation.

However, Bryan Radziewski has been one of the best (and perhaps one of the most underrated) pitchers in the conference. The junior southpaw has the best earned run average among ACC starting pitchers (1.49), as well as the conference’s lowest opposing batting average (.174). Radziewski’s five strikeouts against Clemson pushed him to 101 on the season, third in the ACC.

The Hurricanes will likely be without head coach Jim Morris this weekend. The long-time skipper was hospitalized with pneumonia before the Miami-Clemson game and has remained at Duke hospital since. Assistant Gino DiMare will handle coaching duties this weekend, which could be a glance at the program’s future when Morris, 63, decides to retire.

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.


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