Bart Kaufman Field, Bloomington, Ind. (Host: Indiana)
No. 1 Indiana (43-14, 17-7 in Big Ten)
Third appearance (last in 2009), automatic, Big Ten regular-season and tournament champion
Top 500 Prospects: RHP Aaron Slegers (No. 220), 3B Dustin DeMuth (No. 278)
No. 2 Austin Peay State (45-13, 22-7 in OVC)
Sixth appearance (third straight), automatic, Ohio Valley Conference tournament champion
No. 3 Florida (29-28, 14-16 in SEC)
29th appearance (sixth straight), at-large, third place in SEC East
Top 500 Prospects: RHP Jonathon Crawford (No. 24), LHP Daniel Gibson (No. 100), RHP Johnny Magliozzi (No. 439)
No. 4 Valparaiso (31-26, 13-11 in Horizon)
Seventh appearance (second straight), automatic, Horizon League tournament champion
Indiana opened sparkling new Bart Kaufman Field with a bang, winning the Big Ten regular-season title outright for the first time since 1932, then winning the conference tournament and earning a trip to regionals for the third time ever. The Hoosiers broke into the BA Top 25 for the first time ever after taking two of three at Florida in Week Four, and they have been ranked ever since, entering the NCAA tournament ranked No. 8. The Hoosiers stand out most for their physical lineup, ranking 21st in the nation in batting (.305), 28th in scoring (6.7 runs per game), 19th in homers (47) and 21st in slugging (.447). The lineup is built around a pair of sophomore sluggers with massive power, catcher Kyle Schwarber (.374/.459/.670, 16 HR, 46 RBI) and first baseman Sam Travis (.308/.371/.450, 8 HR, 48 RBI). Travis snapped out of a second-half funk with a power surge in the Big Ten tournament, and the Hoosiers need him to carry that into the postseason for the offense to run at peak performance. Leading hitter Dustin DeMuth (.399/.455/.568, 5 HR, 38 RBI, 19 2B, 11 SB) squares up hard line drives all over the field and brings excellent speed to the second half of the lineup. Senior shortstop Michael Basil (.310/.401/.432) and redshirt sophomore DH Scott Donley (.352/.398/.493, 52 RBI) provide even more physicality, while platoonmates Will Nolden and Chris Sujka plus senior center fielder Justin Cureton offer more speed. There is no letup in the Indiana lineup, but the Hoosiers are a slightly below-average defensive team, fielding .966. Lost in all the offense is a pitching staff that ranks seventh nationally with a 2.57 ERA. Big Ten pitcher of the year Aaron Slegers (9-1, 1.93) threw just eight innings over his first two collegiate seasons before busting out in 2013; he pitches downhill from a 6-foot-10 frame, making his 86-93 mph fastball play up. The other two starters are polished command-and-control lefties—junior Joey DeNato (8-2, 2.52) and sophomore Kyle Hart (8-2, 3.02). The bullpen has a pair of stoppers in righties Scott Halstead (3-4, 2.27, 10 SV) and Scott Effross (6-1, 2.13, 5 SV), who both work in the 89-92 range and have quality curveballs.
Austin Peay State made noise as a No. 4 seed in regionals over the last two years, making them experienced and confident heading into this postseason. A No. 26 RPI ranking helped the Governors earn a No. 2 seed in this regional, and nobody will be taking them lightly. Austin Peay’s stellar group of upperclassmen are the backbone of the team, led by junior second baseman Jordan Hankins (.351/.455/.548, 11 HR, 52 RBI), whom coach Gary McClure calls “the best hitter I’ve ever coached.” Senior shortstop Reed Harper (.345/.415/.498, 6 HR, 55 RBI, 13 SB) has been a rock for his entire APSU career, and he excels in the cleanup spot and at shortstop. Senior Cody Hudson (.365/.404/.504, 30 SB) is a speed merchant in the outfield who ranks second on the team in hitting. And catcher P.J. Torres (.268/.377/.464, 7 HR, 35 RBI) and right fielder Rolando Gautier (..329/.440/.467 out of the leadoff spot) give APSU two more rock-solid veterans. Junior-college transfer Craig Massoni (.388/.479/.683, 16 HR, 68 RBI) gave the Governors yet another dangerous bat this year, emerging as the team’s top hitter and power plant. Offense is APSU’s calling card, but the Governors also have one of college baseball’s most proven closers in submariner Tyler Rogers (7-2, 1.83, 21 SV), the national leader in saves. JC transfer Lee Ridenhour (7-1, 2.22) missed the end of the regular season with an injury but returned to action with a strong relief stint in the conference tournament, and when he’s at full strength, he can beat anybody. McClure said Ridenhour always sits in the 90-93 range and bumps the mid-90s when he needs to, his slider is a wipeout pitch, and his spike curveball and changeup are also solid offerings. Competitive senior Casey Delgado (9-2, 4.83) works around 88-91 and knows how to pitch with his breaking ball and changeup. And lefthander Zach Hall (8-2, 4.68) works in the high 80s and has solid secondary stuff.
Florida had to rebuild this year after losing a slew of All-Americans who led the Gators to three straight College World Series appearances. The Gators also had to overcome key injuries to righthanders Karsten Whitson and Keenan Kish, plus a finger injury that sidelined shortstop Richie Martin for a spell and relegated him to outfield duties upon his return. After starting the season 3-7, the Gators recovered with a strong middle of the season, then slumped again at the end, losing nine of their final 12 games to finish just one game over .500 overall. This Florida team is dramatically less offensive than its last three entries, hitting just .268 as a team, and no Gator has more than five home runs. But they are well coached and well stocked with skilled bat handlers who can put the ball in play and hit situationally, like Casey Turgeon, Harrison Bader and Martin. The lineup also features a trio of quality line-drive hitters with some pop in Justin Shafer (.293/.337/.432, 4 HR), Taylor Gushue (.279/.358/.433, 5 HR, 33 RBI) and Vickash Ramjit (.286/.345/.379, 4 HR). Florida’s strength is its experienced, talented bullpen, anchored by power righties Johnny Magliozzi (4-2, 2.49, 12 SV) and Ryan Harris (5-3, 2.75), plus power lefty Daniel Gibson (2-0, 4.26), all of whom can reach the mid-90s. So can ace Jonathon Crawford (3-6, 4.03), but he has struggled to repeat last year’s success due to spotty command. The other starters lack overpowering stuff and are tasked with keeping the game close until the middle innings, when the bullpen can take over.
Valparaiso broke a 44-year postseason drought last year to earn a spot in Purdue’s regional, then caught fire down the stretch for the second year in a row to get back into an in-state regional this spring. The Crusaders won their final seven games and 17 of their last 20, capped by a sweep through the Horizon League tournament. This team is loaded with experience, with four seniors leading the everyday lineup: Tanner Vavra (.333/.416/.390), Andrew Bain (.306/.378/.351), John Loeffler (.288/.414/.359) and Billy Cribbs (.276/.345/.309). Add in three juniors—Chris Manning (.320/.397/.433, a team-leading three homers), Andrew Bynum (.318/.405/.485) and Bryce Hara (.251/.330/.305)—and this lineup is composed almost entirely of upperclassmen. Manning, the team’s best overall player, is also a standout defender in center field. The Crusaders don’t have a lot of power, but there are tough outs up and down the lineup, and they excel at executing small ball, ranking 12th in the nation with 70 sacrifice bunts. The other thing Valparaiso does exceptionally well is pound the strike zone, ranking seventh in the country in fewest walks issued per nine innings (2.4). Valpo lost its top two starters and its closer from last year, but Karch Kowalczyk (1-0, 0.36, 12 SV) returned from injury to anchor the deep bullpen. Fifth-year senior Chris DeBoo (5-7, 4.52) and junior Cole Webb (5-7, 3.59) emerged as workhorse starters this season, but they’ll have their work cut out for them in this offensive regional.