|CORAL GABLES REGIONAL|
Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field, Coral Gables, Fla. (Host: Miami)
No. 3 Columbia (29-18, 15-5 in Ivy League) Roster | Statistics
Fourth appearance (second straight), automatic, first place in Ivy League Gehrig Division and Ivy League tournament champion
Top 200 Prospects: None
No. 4 Bethune-Cookman (26-31, 14-10 in MEAC South) Roster | Statistics
14th appearance (second straight), automatic, tied for first in MEAC South Division, MEAC tournament champion
Top 200 Prospects: None
Miami is a staple of the NCAA tournament, not missing the postseason since 1972. Senior outfielders Dale Carey (.313/.402/.478) and Tyler Palmer (.294/.371/.422) have put together their best seasons, giving Miami a pair of speedy, disruptive forces in the top two spots in the lineup. Freshmen Zack Collins (.300/.421/.542) and Willie Abreu (.291/.386/.354) have given Miami two physical run producers in the middle of the lineup. Collins, the ACC freshman of the year, hit nine of the team’s 23 homers and had 49 RBIs, by far the best total. The best news was that the ‘Canes got back for the final two weeks of the season third baseman David Thompson, who had been out since mid-March with thoracic outlet syndrome, a condition that caused a blood clot in his right arm. Thompson slashed .322/.412/.402 in 25 games. Coinciding with Thompson’s absence, the Canes won 27 of 30 until they went 2-2 in the ACC tournament. Coach Jim Morris’ team has solid athleticism and decent speed; Palmer led the way with 18 steals, while Carey had 16. It is also a sound defensive team, built around a pair of slick playmakers in middle infielders Brandon Lopez and On the Alex Hernandez. On the mound, Miami has gotten rock-solid work from its trio of veteran lefthanders in the weekend rotation, Chris Diaz (9-0, 2.31), Andrew Suarez (5-3, 3.22) and Bryan Radziewski (7-2, 3.14). All three can spin very good breaking balls and can bump 91 mph; Suarez pitches in the low 90s and tops out in the mid-90s. Morris has also given credit to three underclassmen in the bullpen: freshman closer Bryan Garcia (6-4, 1.86, 15 SV), freshman sidewinder Cooper Hammond (5-1, 2.51), and sophomore lefthander Thomas Woodrey (4-0, 2.45). Morris said Garcia reminds him of former Miami star and big leaguer Chris Perez for his ability to pitch out of trouble. Not to be forgotten is righthander Javi Salas (4-3, 3.04), who pitched a perfect game against Villanova in March and is an invaluable swingman.
Texas Tech is in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004, thanks largely to a stellar home mark (31-4). Sophomore Tyler Neslony paces the team’s offense (.412/.487/.656), but he missed 20 games after having surgery on his right hand early in the season. He appears to be fully healthy now. Eric Gutierrez (.313/.416/.567) led the club with 12 homers and 56 RBIs, while senior Adam Kirsch (.300/.381/.550), an FIU transfer, tied for the team lead with 19 doubles and had nine homers and 48 RBIs. The Red Raiders hit 29 homers as a team, a top-heavy total with 21 coming from Gutierrez and Kirsch. They did have a .385 team OBP, evidence of their ability to grind out at-bats up and down the lineup. It’s not a power-laden club, but it is a hard-nosed one, much like second-year coach Tim Tadlock. On the mound, Chris Sadberry will start Friday's game. The lefthander, a redshirt junior who attended Louisiana Tech and Grayson County College before joining Texas Tech, was 4-2, 3.45 in 14 starts, and he has power stuff along with solid command. Another surprise was freshman Dylan Dusek (6-0, 2.35), who moved from midweek starter to the weekend during the season as Matt Withrow struggled and moved to the bullpen. Dominic Moreno (4-5, 3.17) also moved from the rotation to the bullpen, where he has provided stability, attacking hitters with an 86-91 fastball with good arm-side run, a solid slider and changeup. Veteran lefthanders Cameron Smith (7-2, 3.32) and Johnny Drozd (6-0, 2.14) join Moreno to make TTU’s bullpen perhaps its greatest strength.
Columbia won 21 of its final 24 games, including 15 in a row, becoming the first Ivy League team to earn a No. 3 seed. This is a battle-tested group that eliminated powerful New Mexico at the Fullerton Regional last year and returned a number of key pieces. The Lions are a deep club with 11 all-league picks and four first-team Ivy League selections: senior lefthander David Speer (7-2, 1.86), freshman second baseman Will Savage (.338/.401/.428), junior third baseman David Vandercook (.255/.344/.444) and junior outfielder Gus Craig (.276/.339/.493). Speer was the league’s pitcher of the year and Savage the rookie of the year. The Lions are built on pitching and athleticism. Speer’s 10.7-1 SO-BB ratio was the second-best in the nation, behind just Cal State Fullerton’s Thomas Eshelman (13.43). A savvy mid-80s lefty who throws four pitches for strikes, Speer struck out 75 against only seven walks. Sophomore Kevin Roy has been good as well, if not as pinpoint as Speer. Roy (6-4, 3.02), allowed just 5.74 hits per nine, the 10th-best mark in the nation, and limited hitters to a .183 average. He did walk 21 in 63 innings, however. Sophomore George Thanopoulos moved into the starting rotation at midseason and went 5-2, 2.81 in six starts. On offense, the Lions hit only .265 as a team, so manufacturing runs is a must. Columbia stole 64 bases, 25 from second-team All-Ivy choice Jordan Serena, who was caught only four times. Savage stole 14 of 16 and the speedy duo formed a solid 1-2 punch at the top of the lineup. Craig supplied the power with six of the Lions’ 20 homers, while Vandercook and hometown sophomore Robb Paller (Brooklyn) each had 34 RBIs.
Most teams would not be looking forward to a regionals match against Miami in Coral Gables. But for Bethune-Cookman, it’s just about the best scenario a No. 4 seed could expect. The Wildcats have beaten the Hurricanes in each of the past two seasons at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field, which was not lost on coach Jason Beverlin, a former major league pitcher drafted by Oakland in the fourth round in 1994 out of Western Carolina. Beverlin recently told the Daytona Beach News-Journal that his players won’t be overwhelmed by the attention and spectacle and that the familiarity with the Canes could work to B-CU’s favor. The Wildcats were just 26-31, but won four in a row in the MEAC tournament, including knocking off Norfolk State to win the title. The Wildcats have another factor in their favor in ace righthander Montana Durapau, who beat the Hurricanes in March. Durapau (11–1, 1.71) doesn't overpower hitters—his fastball tops out at 88—but he uses his four other pitches to keep hitters off-balance. Miami coach Jim Morris said Durapau locates well and mixes his pitches well. Joining Durapau in the rotation is Keith Zuniga (7-4, 2.59) who pitched three complete games and is likely to pitch in the second regional game. With only eight homers as a team, the Wildcats are not a power club. Senior infielder Eric Sams leads the offense (.321/.401/.414) with a team-leading 15 doubles, while redshirt junior Jordan Robinson leads the club with 31 RBIs. Senior outfielder Eros Modena (.291/.365/.383) was second on the team with 25 RBIs.