Earlier in the week I shared some thoughts on the Pack's first-round pairing with Sacred Heart (read all about it here). Below is a brief look at the rest of the regional field.
It's been the tale of three seasons for the Vanderbilt Commodores: a butt-ugly beginning, a mediocre middle, and, no surprise to unlucky State fans everywhere, an electric ending that has seen them play as well as any team in the country over the last two weeks. They are a legitimate threat to follow up 2011's College World Series run with a return trip to Omaha, but after coming out of the gates 1-7, Vandy sat at 24-25 and most likely out of the NCAA picture until the last 10 games happened. The Commodores are 9-1 in that stretch with a pair of wins over national #1 seed Florida, two W's at LSU, and a win over defending national champion South Carolina.
(More after the jump.)
The Dores are led by junior all-SEC shortstop Anthony Gomez. He notched team highs with 51 RBI and a .354 batting average (those #s are eerily similar to another first team all-conference junior SS, State's Chris Diaz). The team is not blessed with a lot of power, but Connor Harrell dropped 7 bombs. A familiar name was second on the club with 5 round trippers: Mike Yastrzemski. Yes, he is the grandson of the Red Sox Hall of Famer.
State will likely see staff ace Sam Selman (9-3, 3.33 ERA) if both favored teams win their openers. Selman, a Texas lefty who was a 14th round pick out of high school, pitched just 12.1 innings over his first two seasons before emerging as the Dores go-to guy this season. He strikes out better than a batter per inning and has held opponents to a stingy .230 batting average. T.J. Pecoraro, who has just one win but a solid 3.57 ERA, has been tabbed to start in the Dores' first ever meeting with UNCW.
With wins over ECU, Coastal Carolina, TCU, and College of Charleston, the Seahawks have shown they can compete with upper-echelon clubs, but overall they are just 5-11 against the RPI top 50 (including a pair of losses to the Pack). Tyler McSwain (9-3, 3.12 ERA) will likely toe the rubber for a deep Seahawks staff. Mat Batts (6-4, 2.59 ERA) is also a capable starter, and Wilmington has a deep pen featuring 4 guys with 19 or more appearances and ERA's under 2.62.
For all their pitching depth, Wilmington's calling card is in the batter's box. They outhomered their opposition by better than 2-to-1 and hit over .300 as a team. Tyler Molinaro (15 bombs) and Andrew Cain (10) give the Seahawks the best 1-2 power punch in the regional, and Cain is one of 5 regulars hitting .312 or better. Senior Thomas Pope is the most impressive, posting a ridiculous .381/.452/.583 triple slash line. Oh, and they can swipe a bag, too; 5 Seahawks have posted double-digit SB's, and the team is successful nearly 80% of the time when the green light shines.
It remains to be seen whether or not Wilmington's impressive stats are a result of fattening up on middling CAA foes, but it is quite possible that the Dores will regret saving their #1 for a potential Saturday showdown with Carlos Rodon and the Pack. It's also possible that the weather wins Friday's round one, as severe storms, possibly tornadoes, are in the forecast. Saturday and Sunday look to be postcard days, with cooling temps and low humidity behind the approaching front.
Fun fact: Seahawks reliever Tom Timoney (2-1, 2.19 ERA) was born in Saudi Arabia and represented the Saudis in the Little League World Series.