This weekend the NCAA Baseball Tournament will begin, and out of the field of 64 only eight will make their way to Omaha for the College World Series. This year, Indiana has been placed in the Lexington regional, hosted by the University of Kentucky, and there’s the potential for some really good baseball games this weekend.
Tournament Format and Schedule
The NCAA Regional is a double-elimination tournament, similar to the Big Ten Conference Tournament. The tournament starts Friday, June 2 with the two opening games. The two second round games will take place on Saturday and the championship game will be played on Sunday, with a possible game on Monday if it is needed. Here is the official schedule for the weekend:
Let’s take a look at each of the teams that will be competing this weekend in Lexington.
1. Kentucky (39-20, 19-11 SEC, #9 RPI)
The Wildcats had a great season, finishing third in the SEC behind only Florida and LSU and earning the right to host this regional tournament. They won three games against LSU and also chalked up wins against Florida, South Carolina, Louisville, and Indiana. They opened the SEC Tournament with a win over South Carolina and made it to the quarterfinals, but lost consecutive games to LSU and South Carolina.
0-3 record vs North Carolina
3-0 record vs Texas A&M
2-1 record vs Ole Miss
2-1 record vs Vanderbilt
1-1 record vs Louisville
1-2 record vs Mississippi State
3-1 record vs LSU
3-2 record vs South Carolina
1-2 record vs Florida
5-2 W vs Indiana
Kentucky’s offense is among the best in the country. They had a batting average of .317 as a team, hit 66 home runs, and scored 7.4 runs per game. The Wildcats’ bats could easily carry them all the way to Omaha, and the other teams in the regional should watch out if Kentucky gets hot at the plate.
The Wildcat pitching staff gave up the most home runs in the SEC, which might not bode well for them this weekend. They will have to deal with some great offensive teams, and the long ball can be a deciding factor in any game.
Kentucky could also improve in the field. They tied for the third most errors in the SEC with 63, and had the fourth worst fielding percentage with a .971 mark.
The Wildcats earned many honors after the regular season. 6-11 sophomore Sean Hjelle, which is apparently pronounced “Jelly”, was named the SEC Pitcher of the Year. Head Coach Nick Mingione was named the SEC Coach of the Year. Hjelle, Tristan Pompey, and Logan Salow were named to the All-SEC first team, Troy Squires, Evan White, and Riley Mahan were named to the All-SEC second team, and White was also named to the All-SEC defensive team.
Player to Watch
One Wildcat to watch will be Hjelle. Kentucky’s Friday starter has averaged almost nine strikeouts per nine innings and opponents have hit a measly .241 against him. With the Wildcats having the “easier” matchup against Ohio in the first round, it’s possible that Hjelle won’t take the mound until the second round, possibly against Indiana.
Another key player for Kentucky will be freshman outfielder Tristan Pompey. Pompey led the team with a .369 average this season. He also hit nine home runs, drove in 40 runs, and racked up an OPS of 1.021. The Twins drafted Pompey in the 31st round out of high school, and he comes from good bloodlines, as his brother Dalton is a centerfielder for the Blue Jays.
2. Indiana (33-22-2, 14-9-1 B1G, #26 RPI)
The Hoosiers had a good season, finishing sixth in a packed Big Ten Conference despite being only two games behind the leaders. The Hoosiers played one of the toughest schedules in the country and tout wins over Michigan, Minnesota, Maryland, and Louisville. They also played against Kentucky in Lexington earlier this season, losing 5-2. They were competitive as the hosts of the Big Ten Tournament, eliminating Michigan and advancing to the quarterfinals before being eliminated themselves by third seeded Minnesota by a single run.
0-2 record vs Oregon State
2-0 record vs Gonzaga
0-2-1 record vs Nebraska
2-3 record vs Minnesota
3-1 record vs Michigan
2-1 record vs Maryland
5-2 L @ Kentucky
4-3 W vs Louisville
The Hoosier offense is one of the best in the country when it is firing on all cylinders. They’re capable of scoring however they need to, whether it’s the long ball, they led the Big Ten with 67 for the season, or the small ball that they showed off a couple of times during the Big Ten Tournament. If the Hoosiers get hot at the plate, they will be a force to be reckoned with this weekend.
Indiana has had a pretty prevalent Achilles Heel for the majority of this season: their bullpen. The bullpen was especially Bad during the Big Ten Tournament, when they gave up nine runs and three leads in their three games. In the Hoosiers’ most recent game, the 9-8 loss to Minnesota, the bullpen had what some may consider a meltdown, giving up a 6-1 lead and what appeared to be an easy win for Indiana. The Hoosier bullpen will really have to step up its game for the team to make a run in this tournament.
There were several Hoosiers who received regular season honors, with Matt Lloyd and Logan Sowers being named to the All-B1G second team, Craig Dedelow and Pauly Milto being named to the All-B1G third team, and Matt Gorski, Jeremy Houston, and Cal Krueger being named to the All-B1G freshman team, with Gorski being a unanimous selection. Following the Big Ten Tournament, Matt Lloyd was the only Hoosier named to the All-Big Ten Tournament team.
Player to Watch
The player to watch for Indiana is designated hitter Matt Lloyd. He led the team with a .317 batting average. He was also in the top three of RBI’s, walks, and home runs with 46, 27, and 11 respectively. He’s been hitting second in the lineup recently, so he should be in for plenty of at bats this weekend. Lloyd is one of the Hoosiers’ best hitters, but he can also have an impact on the mound, as he is also the team’s closer. Lloyd’s performance should be a key for Indiana in this tournament.
3. NC State (34-23, 16-14 ACC, #30 RPI)
The Wolfpack finished seventh in the ACC this season, but that isn’t necessarily bad considering that the conference has five regional hosts and almost had six. NC State beat all five of those regional hosts, Wake Forest, Louisville, Florida State, North Carolina, and Clemson at least once. The Wolfpack made it to the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament before getting ousted by second seeded North Carolina 12-4.
1-2 record vs Wake Forest
2-1 record vs Miami
1-2 record vs Louisville
2-1 record vs Florida State
1-3 record vs North Carolina
2-1 record vs Clemson
9-2 L @ Maryland
This NC State roster is battle tested, as they played the 22nd toughest schedule in the country. They faced plenty of quality teams during conference play, including those five regional hosts, as well as Maryland during their non-conference slate. The Wolfpack know what kind of teams they will be facing in this tournament, and their experience against such teams will certainly be beneficial for them.
NC State was the fourth best fielding team in the ACC with a .975 fielding percentage, or just 54 errors in 2172 chances.
The Wolfpack pitching staff walked 249 batters this season, which was good for the second highest number in the ACC. Games between teams of this caliber usually come down to which team makes fewer mistakes, and walks can be rather costly in crunch time.
NC State was pretty good at home this season, with a record of 20-11, but it was a different story when they traveled away from Raleigh as they had a record of 14-12 between their road and neutral games. This isn’t the Raleigh regional, so the Wolfpack will have to get over whatever has been causing their road woes if they want to make a run in this tournament.
NC State had a couple of players receive All-ACC honors following the regular season. Joe Dunand was named to the All-ACC second team, Brad Debo was named to the All-ACC third team, and Michael Bienlien, Debo, and Will Wilson were all named to the All-ACC freshman team.
Player to Watch
One member of the Wolfpack to watch out for will be junior shortstop Joe Dunand. Dunand, the nephew of Alex Rodriguez, yes that Alex Rodriguez, is the only NC State player to reach double digits in the home run category with 16. He also led the team in RBIs with 47 and slugging percentage with a .619 mark.
4. Ohio (31-26, 13-11 MAC, #185 RPI)
The Bobcats finished fifth in the MAC this season and they only played seven games against top 100 RPI teams, but that didn’t stop them from making the tournament. Ohio won four straight games to win the MAC Tournament championship and earn the conference’s automatic bid.
1-4 record vs Butler
4-0 record vs Ball State
4-1 record vs Kent State
1-1 record vs Wright State
Lost 3-0 @ Ohio State
This team is hot. They’ve lost a single game in their last 10, and they have scored more than five runs in eight of those contests. Ohio also has the best fielding team in the MAC, only committing 43 errors in their 2140 chances for a fielding percentage of .980.
As mentioned above, this team only played seven games against top 100 RPI opponents, which is Bad. Those games came against Wright State, the 98th ranked team, and Kent State, the 91st ranked team. Kentucky will easily be the best team Ohio has played against, and whichever team they play between NC State and Indiana will be the second best team they’ve played all year, which isn’t a good sign.
The Bobcats had several players win both All-MAC and All-Tournament honors this season. Shortstop Tyler Finkler was named the MAC Defensive Player of the Year. Spencer Ibarra, Michael Klein, and Jake Roehn were named first team All-MAC, Connor Callery was named second team All-MAC, and Ibarra and Rudy Rott were named to the All-MAC defensive team. Ty Black, Ibarra, Klein, Tom Colletti, and Anthony Mrosla were named to the All-Tournament team last week after Ohio’s championship run.
Player to Watch
Spencer Ibarra is the player to watch for Ohio. He led the team with a .330 batting average this season. He also clubbed 12 homers and had an OPS of .962, both of which were also team bests. He was named the player of the tournament following Ohio’s MAC Tournament championship and has made one error on the entire season. Also, he bears a resemblance to Ted Cruz. Don’t believe me, check it out: