NCAA Baseball Regional Capsules: Charlottesville Regional

Joseph HealyCorrespondent IJune 1, 2011

NCAA Baseball Regional Capsules: Charlottesville Regional

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    OMAHA, NE - JUNE 29:  General view of Rosenblatt Stadium following game 2 of the men's 2010 NCAA College Baseball World Series between the UCLA Bruins and the South Carolina Gamecocks on June 29, 2010 in Omaha, Nebraska. The Gamecocks defeated the Bruins
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    The Charlottesville regional is home to the overall No. 1 seed in the entire tournament, the Virginia Cavaliers. The Cavaliers have personified the perfect team in this new era of college baseball. They pitch well, field the ball well and get timely hits.

    Their path through this regional won't be easy, though. East Carolina has several pitchers who stack up well against anyone the Cavaliers will throw out there.

    St. John's boasts a solid offense led by super sophomore Jeremy Baltz and do-it-all Joe Panik.

    Navy is the four seed and likely won't pose much of a threat to anyone, but with a solid record of 33-23, they show that they can give a team a scare if they don't come to play.

1. Virginia

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    Virginia (49-9) ACC at-large

    The Cavaliers are the consensus No. 1 team in the nation and it's easy to see why. They have two or three starting pitchers who you can trust in big games and numerous bullpen arms that can bridge the gap from the starting pitcher to the end of the game.

    Offensively, they are set up perfectly for college baseball with the new bats. They rely on timely hitting and good at-bats and not home runs. They have guys like Steven Proscia and John Hicks who can still get the ball out, but it's certainly not something they rely on.

    They also refuse to beat themselves. They field the ball at a .980 clip, putting them among the elite defenses in the nation. You have to truly play a complete game to beat Virginia.

    Best Case Scenario: Virginia sweeps through the regional with relative ease when their opponents can't handle their aces and the timely hit parade continues for the Cavaliers.

    Worst Case Scenario: Their luck with timely hits runs out and they struggle to score enough runs. East Carolina's pitching proves to be strong enough to match that of Virginia and they end up unseating the top seed to win the spot in the next round.

    Offensive Players to Watch: Steven Proscia (.333 BA, 7 HR, 53 RBI), John Hicks (.338 BA, 6 HR, 50 RBI), David Coleman (.374 BA, .438 OBP, 35 RBI)

    Pitchers to Watch: Danny Hultzen (10-3, 1.59 ERA), Will Roberts (10-1, 1.78 ERA), Tyler Wilson (7-0, 2.41 ERA), Branden Kline (1.85 ERA, 17 saves)

2. East Carolina

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    East Carolina (39-19) Conference USA at-large

    The Pirates of East Carolina provide a stiff challenge as a two seed. With a few more breaks their way, they could be hosting a regional of their own.

    The Pirates have the pitching to really stand up to Virginia in this series. They have a 2.58 ERA and eight different pitchers with at least 14 appearances with ERAs under 3.32. This group is led by their ace, Seth Maness.

    On offense, the Pirates are not nearly as powerful as they have been in previous years, but they still have a few bats that can do some damage. Zach Wright, Trent Whitehead and Corey Thompson are all guys who can make a pitcher pay for leaving a ball up.

    Best Case Scenario: The Pirates deep and talented pitching staff stifles the bats of opposing teams. and they sweep their way through the regional by beating overall No. 1 seed Virginia twice.

    Worst Case Scenario: The Pirates get a bad start out of one of their top starters and are forced into the loser's bracket. Once there, the Pirates aren't able to fight their way back against a more rested Virginia team.

    Offensive Players to Watch: Trent Whitehead (.332 BA, 4 HR, 29 RBI, 16 steals), Corey Thompson (.330 BA, 5 HR, 45 RBI), Zach Wright (.278 BA, 13 HR, 39 RBI)

    Pitchers to Watch: Seth Maness (9-3, 1.88 ERA), Kevin Brandt (7-3, 2.26 ERA), Seth Simmons (6-2, 2.56 ERA, 6 saves), Brad Mincey (30 appearances, 1.55 ERA)

3. St. John's

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    St. John's (35-20) Big East at-large

    The Red Storm were the consensus last team in the field. Most figured they had little chance of getting into the tournament after they lost the Big East Tournament final to Seton Hall. I'm sure they were all pleasantly surprised when they heard their name called as a part of the Charlottesville regional.

    St. John's will undoubtedly be chomping at the bit to prove that they belong. They are led by two of the more talented offensive players in the country in Joe Panik and the 2010 Big East Freshman of the Year Jeremy Baltz.

    Their pitching is a little shakier, but they do have one go-to starter in sophomore Kyle Hansen. The bullpen is anchored by two solid closer options in Matt Carasiti and Stephen Rivera.

    Best Case Scenario: Joe Panik runs roughshod at the plate and on the bases, and the Red Storm get unexpected great starts from starting pitchers other than Hansen and advance to the regional final round.

    Worst Case Scenario: Panik, Baltz and the rest of the St. John's offense are shut down by the great staffs in this regional and find themselves at 0-2 and out of the tournament quickly.

    Offensive Players to Watch: Joe Panik (.402 BA, 9 HR, 56 RBI, 21 steals), Paul Karmas (.319 BA, 5 HR, 40 RBI), Jeremy Baltz (.312, 6 HR, 58 RBI)

    Pitchers to Watch: Kyle Hansen (8-6, 2.70 ERA), Matt Carasiti (2.52 ERA, 7 saves), Stephen Rivera (2.68 ERA, 4 saves)

4. Navy

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    Navy (33-23) Patriot League automatic bid

    Navy finished one full game ahead of Army for the Patriot League regular season championship and continued their success all the way through the Patriot League tournament.

    Like most service academy schools, the rub is that they don't have the talent to stack up against the big boys. That might largely be true, but if a team comes into a game against this Navy squad thinking they are a bunch of talentless hacks, they have another thing coming.

    At the plate, Navy is led by plucky contact hitters like Taylor Cato and Alex Azor. Slugger Greg Dupell provides ample power. On the bump, Navy doesn't have a true ace in the starting rotation, but they do boast a strong back end of the bullpen led by Joel Rinehart, Preston Gainey and Wes Olson.

    Best Case Scenario: Navy catches a team flat-footed, gets out to an early lead and is able to salt away a surprise victory in the loser's bracket game against either ECU or St. John's thanks to their solid bullpen.

    Worst Case Scenario: Navy gets horrid starts from their pitchers and their offense isn't able to keep up. Their bullpen doesn't even get a chance to protect a lead as the Midshipmen go two and out.

    Offensive Players to Watch: Taylor Cato (.342 BA, .459 OBP, 17/22 strikeout/walk ratio), Alex Azor (.332 BA, 14 doubles, 33 RBI), Greg Dupell (.322 BA, 7 HR, 35 RBI)

    Pitchers to Watch: Joel Rinehart (1.88 ERA, 6 saves), Preston Gainey (2.40 ERA, 4 saves), Wes Olson (7-1, 2.51 ERA, 2 saves)

Regional Prediction

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    The Charlottesville regional promises to be one of the more competitive regionals in the entire field. Virginia has been the best team in the nation just about all season. They have just been given a tough regional.

    East Carolina is a team very similar to the Cavaliers, and as such, they will be a tough matchup for them.

    St. John's has several power bats that can neutralize even the best of pitching staffs, including Joe Panik, who may be the best player in all of college baseball.

    Navy is also tougher than your average four seed. They have pitching depth better than many four seeds and two or three hitters who are really tough outs.

    I think the overall depth and talent of Virginia will win out, but this regional is one that is likely to come down to the final day in a winner-take-all game.

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