Myrtle Beach Regional Capsule

Myrtle Beach Regional Capsule
Coastal Federal Field, Myrtle Beach, S.C.

No. 1 Coastal Carolina (48-11)
Seventh appearance, automatic, won Big South regular season and tournament

No. 2 Clemson (38-21)
33rd appearance, at-large, Atlantic Coast

No. 3 St. John’s (40-17)
30th appearance, at-large, won Big East regular season

No. 4 Virginia Commonwealth (37-21)
Ninth appearance, automatic, won Colonial regular season (tie) and tournament

Coastal Carolina earned the right to host its first regional by dominating the Big South and playing well against a difficult non-conference schedule, including two wins against both Nebraska and Virginia. But the Chanticleers were shut out in their only meeting with fellow Myrtle Beach regional participant Clemson. Coastal has a veteran pitching staff anchored by sophomore righthander Bobby Gagg (11-2, 2.75) but supported by seniors Andy DeLaGarza and John Mariotti. The Chanticleers are well coached and seldom beat themselves, and their lineup contains good power in Chris Raber (17 homers), Tommy Baldridge (13 homers), David Sappelt (10 homers) and Dom Duggan (nine homers). But Myrtle Beach is one of the best pitcher’s parks in the minors, which could suppress some of Coastal Carolina’s power. The Chanticleers can win a variety of different ways, but the long ball is a bigger part of their success than it is for any of the other regional teams.

Clemson boasts one of the deepest collections of prized arms in the nation. Junior lefthander Daniel Moskos (3-5, 3.15) has continued to pitch mostly well in the rotation after moving from the closer spot, despite limited run support. He’ll pitch Friday against St. John’s, lining up righty David Kopp for a potential dalliance with the Chanticleers on Saturday. Kopp has great stuff and shut down Florida State in the ACC tournament, allowing just an unearned run over nine innings of work. Offense has been a problem for Clemson this year, but the recent return of leadoff man Brad Chalk from back troubles could provide a spark. The pitcher-friendly confines of Coastal Federal Field could play to the strengths of the pitching-rich Tigers.

St. John’s went 40-10 after starting the year 0-7 and won the Big East regular season title before submitting a 1-2 showing in the conference tournament. The Johnnies have a big gun of their own to combat Moskos in sophomore lefthander Scott Barnes (7-2, 3.08, 92 strikeouts in 88 innings), a potential late-first-round pick in 2008. Offense is actually the Red Storm’s forte–its .333 batting average is sixth-best in the nation. St. John’s has just two power hitters in Chris Joachim and Ryan Mahoney (whose brother Collin played at Clemson and whose career started at South Carolina). The duo combined for 24 home runs, but the lineup is chock full of tough outs, like scrappy senior second baseman Sam DeLuca (.352), the third-toughest hitter to strike out in the nation.

The Colonial Athletic Association was a dogfight this year, with four teams tying for first place in the final regular-season standings, but Virginia Commonwealth finally came out on top. The Rams tested themselves early by traveling across country to play a four-game series against San Diego, but they lost three of those games. The strength of the Rams is their bullpen, which is anchored by junior righthander Luke Pisker (9-1, 1.87, 11 saves). Righties Robbie Andrews (2-0, 1.50) and Mick Mattaliano (4-2, 1.81) have been dependable as well, and VCU coach Paul Keyes won’t hesitate to lean on his pen if his starters slip up. The Rams lack home run power, but they won’t need it at Coastal Federal Field, anyway. First baseman Jared Bolden (.393) and slick-fielding shortstop Sergio Miranda (.370) lead the offense.