No. 1 Clemson (47-14)
32nd appearance, automatic, won Atlantic Coast regular season and tournament, No. 1 national seed
No. 2 Elon (44-16)
Second appearance, at-large, won Southern Conference regular season
No. 3 Mississippi State (35-21)
27th appearance, at-large, Southeastern
No. 4 UNC Asheville (28-33)
First appearance, automatic, won Big South tournament
Clemson makes its 20th straight appearance as a heavy favorite with wins in 19 of its last 20 games. It ranks fifth in the nation with a 3.19 team ERA thanks to a rotation of veteran righthanders Josh Cribb, Stephen Faris and Jason Berken. All three have ERAs under 3.00. First baseman Andy D’Alessio’s 20 homers and left fielder Tyler Colvin’s .360 average and 21 doubles lead a deep lineup that’s made deeper by the ascendance of junior college transfer Marquez Smith (.302-10-44) to the No. 3 spot in the order. Senior right fielder Travis Storrer (.321-9-45) will missed the ACC tournament with a sprained left ankle and won’t play this weekend either.
Elon set a record for the most wins in school history as it captured its first conference championship as a Division I program. It won a game at South Carolina and two of three at Auburn, so its 3-3 SEC record actually is better than Mississippi State’s 12-17 mark in the conference. Elon has the artillery to bang with Clemson with four hitters combining for 46 homers and eight men reaching double figures in doubles, led by junior DH Robert Rodebaugh (.347-10-58 with 21 doubles). The Phoenix scored 480 runs, stole 76 bases (in 100 tries) and drew 305 walks.
Mississippi State backed into the tournament with losses in seven of its last eight series and needs a strong showing to validate its selection. The Bulldogs have pitching depth (4.19 ERA), but it’s more in quantity than quality. That still could help if MSU can force Clemson to play four or five games. The offense doesn’t feature a player who reached double figures in homers, though the middle infield combination of Thomas Berkery (SEC-best .393) and Jeffrey Rea (.360) both ranked among the SEC’s top five hitters.
UNC Asheville, whose most famous baseball alumnus is Ty Wigginton, set a school record for wins and makes its first NCAA appearance after winning the Big South tournament as a No. 6 seed. The Bulldogs likely used up all their magic in rallying from a 10-0 deficit to beat Liberty 16-11 in the tournament clincher. No Asheville player earned first- or second-team all conference honors. Sophomore first baseman Elliott Arrington led the team with a .349 average, 23 doubles and 46 RBIs (six coming in the Liberty comeback), but no regular pitcher posted an ERA below 4.26.