Charlottesville Regional Capsule

No.
1 Virginia (46-13)
Sixth
appearance, at-large, Atlantic Coast

No.
2 South Carolina (37-22)
22nd
appearance, at-large, Southeastern

No.
3 Evansville (40-20)
Third
appearance, automatic, won Missouri Valley regular season and
tournament

No.
4 Lehigh (28-26)
First
appearance, automatic, won Patriot regular season and tournament

Virginia
had made three NCAA appearances in its history before hiring Brian
O’Connor before the 2004 season. The former Notre Dame assistant has
led the Cavaliers to three tournaments in his first three seasons,
and this marks the second time they’ve played host to regionals under
O’Connor. This freshman- and sophomore-dominated club might even be a
year ahead of schedule. Ironically-named sophomore Sean Doolitte does
it all for Virginia. The lefthander/first baseman (11-1, 1.87;
.308-4-53) was named ACC player of the year and fronts a pitching
staff that ranked second nationally with a 2.81 ERA, taking full
advantage of spacious Davenport Field, where the Cavaliers were 31-3.
Sophomores Brandon Guyer (.329-7-53) and Brandon Marsh (.386-3-30)
highlight a batting order that features five underclassmen among its
first six batters. Three freshmen start alongside Doolittle in the
infield, and Virginia still led the ACC in fielding despite that
youth.

Like
Virginia, South Carolina starts three freshmen in its infield
and still ranked second nationally in fielding. But injuries, not
youth, have proven troublesome for the Gamecocks. They lost Friday
starter Arik Hempy to Tommy John surgery midway through the season
and leading hitter Michael Campbell (.364) to a broken hand in the
final week of the regular season. Chris Brown (.366 in 37 games) has
also missed time with injury. Shortstop Reese Havens was pulled from
South Carolina’s final SEC tournament game with an arm injury, but
expects to play in Charlottesville. Freshman first baseman Justin
Smoak led the team with 16 homers and 57 RBIs, while another
first-year player, righthander Mike Cisco (6-4, 3.87), emerged as the
team’s ace after Hempy went down.

Evansville
knocked off top-seeded Arizona State in 1988 behind first-round pick
Andy Benes. While no member of this year’s staff boasts that
pedigree, the Purple Aces still ranked ninth nationally with 3.33
ERA. They allowed more than four runs 18 times in 60 games, and just
twice over their final 15 games–14 of which were wins. The staff
doesn’t boast a singular star (only Ben Norton’s 3.07 ERA ranked
among the Valley’s top 10), but each of the top eight pitchers own
ERAs of 3.61 or lower. That should play well in spacious Davenport
Stadium. Missouri Valley tournament MVP Kasey Wahl, a junior first
baseman, ranked second in the league with a .386 average and added 18
doubles.

Army,
the 2005 Patriot representative, made Florida State very nervous in a
3-2 loss and eliminated South Alabama in last year’s tournament.
Lehigh could savor one game as a spoiler with big games from
righthander Kyle Collina and catcher Matt McBride. Collina, the 2005
New England Collegiate League pitcher of the year, struggled through
mononucleosis early in the year before getting his velocity back to
90 and retiring 18 straight batters in the Patriot League
championship game. McBride won the Patriot triple crown (.421-10-53,
adding 21 steals) and should be a top-five rounds pick because of his
bat and excellent defense.

College | #2006 #Postseason #Regional

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