As sixty-four schools get set to participate in the NCAA World Series tournament, the players are preparing for the games of their lives. This season has been a whirlwind of excitement and if it is any indication of what is to come, the World Series tournament will be nothing short of exhilarating.
The Baton Rouge Regionals are hosted by number one seed LSU, who are coming into the tournament with an 8-game winning steak. SEC pitcher of the year Aaron Nole (10-1, 1.49, 127-26 K-BB in 109 IP) has helped the Tigers come roaring back during the second half of the season. Southern Eastern Louisiana will be looking to upset their in-state rival. Lead by Jameson Fisher, Andrew Godbold, and Brett Hoffman, the Big 3 near the Big Easy have been the key players in the batting line-up. The Lions are heading into the tournament in a slump, with Andrew Godbold has hit eight of the teams’ eleven home runs, which may affect their pitching match-up against LSU. Bryant has been a mainstream name since breaking into the playoffs last year and are now looking for an improved performance. The Bulldogs have four pitchers who can all throw over 90 mph. Craig Schiltter, Kevin McAvoy, Vaughn Hayward, and Kyle Wilcox will be looking to lift Bryant into a new plateau of success. The University of Houston ranks fourth in the nation in ERA with a 2.20 and second in WHIP with a 1.02. The Cougars will be needing a team effort if they hope to advance far in the tournament.
The Bloomington Regionals, this year hosted in Indiana, will be not only intense, but also very competitive. Indiana has been the weaker link of all the number one seeds since it was announced. With key injuries to closer Ryan Halstead, the team’s single-season saves leader, who after four games was lost for the season to knee surgery and left-handed pitcher Kyle Hart who was lost for the season for Tommy John surgery, the Hooisers were able to capture first place in the Big Ten. Hart and Halstead will be missed in the NCAA tournament as Indiana face against the regions most offensive hitters. Youngstown State are entering the tournament with the fewest numbers of wins in the season out of all the teams with a 16-36 record. While the Penguins might have twenty more loses than victories, Youngstown State won the Horizon League Tournament with an impressive four in a row. Stanford has had one of the toughest non-conference NCAA schedule from games with Rice, Washington, and Kansas. With freshman phenom Cal Quantrill Hochstatter at the helm of the Cardinal’s, it would not be a surprise to see Stanford advance deep into the tournament. Indiana State has shown they can compete with many of the elite teams as they earn an at-large bid. The Sycamore are prepared for any offensive game with their senior shortstop Tyler Wampler, who was rewarded the MVC defensive player of the year.
The NCAA World Series tournament has always had a rich history of clean competition and exciting breath-taking moments. This year is looking to be no exception.
Commentary by Hector Carrion