UVa Hosts Fourth Consecutive Regional

Virginia will be without Branden Cogswell, but the Cavaliers have plenty of options to carry on in his absence.
Virginia will be without Branden Cogswell, but the Cavaliers have plenty of options to carry on in his absence.

No. 1 Virginia (47-10, 22-8 ACC, RPI 3)

Virginia bounced back from a 10-1 loss to Virginia Tech in the ACC Tournament, defeating Georgia Tech and Florida State. The Hokies’ undefeated run through pool play prevented an ACC title game appearance for the Cavaliers, but the positive momentum (not to mention winning two of three games against UNC the week prior) make Virginia a team to watch in the NCAA Tournament.

The Cavaliers have the ACC’s best batting average, hitting .314. Even with Branden Cogswell still sidelined with a broken finger, there are six regulars for Virginia batting above .300. Sophomore Mike Papi leads the conference in batting average (.400), on base percentage (.536), and slugging percentage (.645), with 54 runs batted in and six home runs.

Scott Silverstein had arguably the best game of his career during the ACC Tournament against Georgia Tech. The senior endured two Tommy John surgeries before returning to the mound in 2011 after being one of the top prospects in the 2008 recruiting class. He struggled at times as a junior, but has rebounded to post a 3.07 ERA this season, highlighted by his effort against Georgia Tech when he struck out six batters and was an out away from a complete game.

The Cavaliers have won ten straight games at home, the sixth-longest such streak in the nation. Certainly, UVa hopes to extend that streak to 13 by the end of this weekend.

No. 4 Army (27-21, 11-9 Patriot League, RPI 201)

The Black Knights have the fourth-longest active winning streak in Division I baseball, having won their last eight games. Of course, two of those wins came against Division II schools Nyack and Chestnut Hill (Yes, Chestnut Hill College, I’m not calling Boston College a D2 program based on this season).

Army is fourth in the six-team Patriot League and 167th in the nation in batting average (.267). With just 72 extra base hits this season, the Black Knights are also 244th in slugging percentage (.332). First baseman Patrick Mescher leads the team with a .345 average and 40 runs batted in.

Army boasts a 3.97 staff earned run average, with two starting pitchers carrying an ERA below 3.00. Senior Chris Rowley (9-3, 2.68 ERA) has 72 strikeouts on the season, while sophomore Alex Robinett (7-3, 2.96 ERA) has limited opposing batters to a .239 average.

The Black Knights were the best defensive team in the Patriot League. They boast a .968 fielding percentage with 62 errors and 36 double plays, all best in the conference. Whether that will translate to success against tougher teams remains to be seen.

No. 3 Elon (32-28, 18-11 Southern, RPI 70)

The Phoenix opened the SoCon Tournament with a loss to Furman, but rose from the ashes of the loser’s bracket to win five straight games and a conference championship.

Elon is 16th in the nation in walks (269) and have a couple of base stealing threats in Quinn Bower (20 steals) and Alex Swim (17). However, the spotlight of the offense is on junior Ryan Kinsella. The catcher is second in the country in RBI (75) behind North Carolina’s Colin Moran and second in home runs (20) behind San Diego’s Kris Bryant.

However, Elon’s pitching and defense is regrettable. Their fielding percentage is .956, 255th in the nation, thanks to 106 errors, while their earned run average of 5.35 is 242nd in Division I.

Senior Kyle Webb (7-3, 3.66 ERA) has 92 strikeouts on the season, which gives the Phoenix a solid pitching option. However, seven of Elon’s pitchers with at least 15 appearances have earned run averages above 5.00. That lack of depth, along with poor fielding, will make it difficult for the Southern Conference champions to advance.

No. 2 UNC Wilmington (37-21, 18-8 CAA, RPI 30)

Since winning six straight (including a road game against North Carolina), the Seahawks have lost 10 of their last 15. UNC Wilmington lasted just two games in their conference tournament, but their 14-13 record against Top 100 RPI teams makes them a team that can’t be ignored.

The Seahawks were second in the Colonial and 24th in the nation in home runs this season, with 45 blasts. Tyler Morinaro leads the team with 11 (and the CAA in strikeouts, 68), with Corey Dick adding eight of his own. UNC Wilmington can also hit for average, with three hitters sitting above .330. Senior Michael Bass is hitting .387 with 20 doubles and 24 stolen bases. Junior Ryan LaGrange is .372 with five home runs, while Luke Dunlap is .338 with 44 RBI and six bombs.

Junior Mat Batts (9-3, 3.07 ERA) has 110 strikeouts in 15 starts for the Seahawks, with six complete games on the season. UNCW’s rotation also boasts Jordan Ramsay (6-6, 2.36 ERA), with 82 strikeouts. Christian MacDonald (4-1, 4.02 ERA) may not be as dominant as Batts and Ramsay (26 strikeouts), but he’s a solid third option in the rotation.

In the bullpen, Kelly Secrest has seven saves and 52 strikeouts in 50 2/3 innings. Justin Livengood has limited batters to a .205 average, but after that is a bit of an adventure. Jack Lane has 30 appearances despite a 5.91 ERA, Ricky Holden and Blaze Tart have .294 and .325 opposing batting averages, respectively, and nobody else has more than 12 appearances.

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.


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