Miami Regional Preview




Miami Regional Capsule
Mark Light Field, Miami, Fla.
No. 1 Miami (47-8)
37th appearance, automatic, Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season and tournament champion, No. 1 national seed
No. 2 Missouri (38-19)
20th appearance, at-large, fourth place in Big 12 Conference
No. 3 Mississippi (37-24)
14th appearance, at-large, eighth place in Southeastern Conference
No. 4 Bethune Cookman (36-20)
Ninth appearance, automatic, Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament champion
 
Miami dominated from the start of the season to the finish, winning the ACC's regular-season and tournament titles to earn the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament. For their troubles, the Hurricanes were rewarded with the most difficult path to Omaha of any top seed, with a pair of preseason top-10 teams in their regional (Missouri and Mississippi) and two more potentially waiting in the super-regionals (Arizona and Michigan). And Miami draws a strong No. 4 seed in its first game in Bethune-Cookman, which played the 'Canes tough in two regular-season meetings. Still, Miami is strong in every facet of the game and enters the tournament as the favorite to win the national championship. The Hurricanes garners plenty of headlines for a deep, explosive lineup anchored by preseason All-Americans Yonder Alonso (.381 with 21 homers and 66 RBIs), Jemile Weeks (.374 with 11 steals, 55 RBIs and 19 steals in 20 tries), Dennis Raben (.314 with eight homers and 45 RBIs) and Blake Tekotte (.371 with 10 homers and 25 steals in 31 tries). But the last four national champions have ranked among the top 20 in the nation in fielding percentage, and the Hurricanes rank sixth (.975), with premium defenders up the middle in Tekotte, Weeks and shortstop Ryan Jackson. Miami's oft-overlooked pitching staff ranks 21st in the nation in ERA (3.96), led by competitive lefties Chris Hernandez (11-0, 2.44) and Eric Erickson (7-1, 4.31). The bullpen has a dynamite one-two punch in sidearmer Kyle Bellamy (5-0, 1.94) and sinkerballer Carlos Gutierrez (4-2, 2.92).
 
Missouri garnered a preseason No. 6 ranking on the strength of its bevy of power arms, but its pitching staff cooled down after a hot start and wound up with a 4.54 ERA (54th in the nation). Junior righthander Aaron Crow (12-0, 2.56 with 117 strikeouts in 98 innings) is one of the three or four best pitchers in the nation, with an explosive mid-90s fastball and vicious breaking ball, and sophomore righty Kyle Gibson (9-2, 3.40) could follow in his footsteps as a top-10 pick next June. Gibson spent most of the season in the rotation before shifting to relief late in the season to stabilize Missouri's disappointing bullpen, but the Tigers will surely be tempted to start him in a potential Game Two matchup against Miami, which would put pressure on power righties Nick Tepesch (1-3, 5.33 with four saves) and Ryan Allen (2-1, 3.67) and soft-tossing lefty Scooter Hicks (3-2, 4.32 with five saves) to hold down the bullpen. Missouri's other starters, righthander Ian Berger (4-5, 4.32) and lefty Rick Zagone (2-3, 4.91) have had their ups and downs this season but generally pitched well down the stretch. The offense has a West Coast flavor, relying heavily upon hit batsmen and sacrifices, but outfielders Aaron Senne (.358 with 13 homers and 63 RBIs) and Jacob Priday (.343 with 16 homers and 62 RBIs) do provide some power.
 
Like Missouri, Mississippi's gaudy preseason ranking (fourth) was largely predicated on its deep stable of big-time arms, but the Rebels were one of the nation's biggest disappointments for most of the season before rallying to reach the SEC tournament championship game. That late run contained several reasons for encouragement, notably a strong 12-strikeout performance from junior righthander Lance Lynn (7-3, 4.21) and hot hitting from outfielders Jordan Henry (.294 with 14 stolen bases) and Michael Guerrero (.303 with nine homers, including five in five games at the SEC tournament). Henry endured a mighty sophomore slump in the first half of the season but has re-emerged as an igniter atop the Ole Miss lineup down the stretch. The Rebels have a freshman lefthander with power stuff to potentially throw at Miami in Drew Pomeranz (4-3, 4.30), but they'll need junior righthander Cody Satterwhite (3-5, 5.40) to live up to his enormous potential if they're to reach their fourth straight super-regional. Mississippi's greatest weapon is bullpen ace Scott Bittle (6-1, 1.63 with eight saves), who used an exceptional cutter to lead the nation with 16.02 strikeouts per nine innings.
 
Bethune-Cookman dominated the MEAC as usual to reach regionals for the ninth time in 10 years, but the Wildcats have been stuck in the state of Florida for eight of those regionals, and this is their third appearance at a regional in Coral Gables. This year's edition might be the most dangerous B-CU club yet (its winning percentage was the second-best in school history), and the Wildcats have had two weeks to rest up since winning the MEAC tournament. Junior righthander Hiram Burgos (9-1, 1.20), who ranks second in the nation in ERA, gives the Wildcats better than a fighting chance against Miami, though his lone loss of the year came against Miami in March. Bethune-Cookman has two more quality starters behind him in Joseph Gautier (6-2, 2.00) and Eric Thomas (9-0, 2.04), who is slated to start B-CU's second game. The lineup isn't flashy but has a bona fide star in MEAC player of the year Jose Lozada (.414/.514/.660 with seven homers, 57 RBIs and 13 steals), a senior shortstop. Senior first baseman Osvaldo Torres (.339 with 12 homers and 72 RBIs) brings plenty of pop.