Charlottesville Regional Capsule

Charlottesville Regional Capsule
Davenport Field at UVa. Baseball Stadium, Charlottesville, Va.

No. 1 Virginia (43-14)
Seventh appearance, at-large, Atlantic Coast

No. 2 Rutgers (41-19)
15th appearance, automatic, won Big East tournament

No. 3 Oregon State (38-17)
Eighth appearance, at-large, Pacific-10

No. 4 Lafayette (33-18)
10th appearance, automatic, won Patriot regular season and tournament

Virginia entered the season ranked No. 9 in the nation and has been remarkably consistent, staying in the top 10 all year long. The Cavaliers hosted a regional a year ago and were knocked off by second-seeded South Carolina, but that young team probably overachieved and arrived a year ahead of schedule. This more experienced team is right on schedule. The one-two pitching punch of sophomore righthander Jacob Thompson (11-0, 1.35) and junior lefty Sean Doolittle (7-3, 2.57) is one of the nation’s best, and senior lefty Casey Lambert (2-2, 1.51) has stabilized the back of the rotation after moving from the closer role when freshman lefty Matt Packer faltered. The entire staff ranks third nationally with a 2.76 ERA. Doolittle doubles as a slick-fielding first baseman and leader of Virginia’s offense, batting .318 with seven homers and 52 RBIs this spring. That offense got a boost from the late-April return of power-hitting sophomore third baseman Jeremy Farrell (.394/.500/.563 in 71 at-bats) from a forearm strain, but it took a hit when sparkplug infielder Greg Miclat (.376/.476/.488 with 32 stolen bases in 37 attempts) was lost for the year to arm surgery a few weeks later.

Rutgers slugged its way through the Big East tournament to earn its sixth trip to regionals in the last 10 years. The Scarlet Knights are an offensive team–they rank 13th in the nation in scoring (7.7 runs per game) and led the Big East in home runs. Leading the way is junior shortstop Todd Frazier (.379/.505/.762 with 22 homers and 64 RBIs), who became the first player ever to hit a home run over the scoreboard at short-season Brooklyn’s KeySpan Park in the Big East tournament last week. Junior outfielder Ryan Hill (.348/.470/.554 with 11 homers and 55 RBIs) and senior outfielder Dave Williams (.408/.488/.546) give Frazier plenty of insurance in the lineup. Rutgers lacks power arms, but its good defense (.976 fielding percentage, fifth in the nation) helps its pitching staff (3.47 ERA, 13th in the nation). Still, Rutgers is a power-hitting team, and its offense could be suppressed at Davenport Field, one of the nation’s most notorious pitcher’s parks.

Oregon State won a regional that also included Virginia in 2005 on its way to the College World Series, but that regional was in Corvallis, and the Beavers and Cavaliers didn’t face each other. Chances are, Oregon State’s path to its third straight CWS will have to go through the host Cavaliers. The Beavers seem well suited for spacious Davenport Field, as their calling card is their defense and pitching. OSU’s .979 fielding percentage is the second-best mark in the nation, and its 3.58 ERA ranks 23rd. Juniors Darwin Barney (.293/.365/.428) and Mitch Canham (.346/.473/.581) provide vital leadership and experience, and they’ll need to carry the offense as well. Barney has slumped down the stretch. Junior righthander Daniel Turpen (9-1, 3.79) started the year in the rotation before moving to the pen, but he has been pitching very well of late and could end up making a start this weekend.

Lafayette won its first Patriot League title since the league’s inception in 1991, thereby clinching its first trip to the NCAA tournament since 1990. Speed makes the Leopards dangerous, especially in a place like Davenport Field. They ranked second in the nation with 2.6 stolen bases per game, led by the school’s all-time steals leader, senior outfielder James Conrad (.351 with 48 stolen bases in 52 attempts). The lineup is filled with tough outs–Conrad, sophomore first baseman Chris Luick and junior second baseman Tom Hayes all rank among nation’s 83 most difficult players to strike out. Junior righty Kevin Reese (7-1, 2.70) and senior lefty Matt Kamine (7-4, 2.72) give Lafayette an experienced duo atop the rotation.