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2019 NCAA Baseball Tournament: Athens Regional Preview

To view the full bracket, click here. You can also find our bracket analysis here.

Friday Schedule

No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 4 Mercer (7 p.m. ET, SEC Network)
No. 2 Florida Atlantic vs. No. 3 Florida State (12 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 1 Georgia (44-15)

BA 500 Prospects:
3B Aaron Schunk (117), RHP Tony Locey (196), RHP Tim Elliot (244), SS Cam Shepherd (247), INF L.J. Talley (343), RHP Zac Kristofak (437), OF Tucker Maxwell (488)

Season In A Sentence: With the fifth-best team ERA in the nation (3.10), the Bulldogs pitched their way to a 44-15 overall record, a 21-9 mark in the SEC and the No. 4 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Best Pitcher: RHP Emerson Hancock, So. — With a record of 8-2, 1.56, Hancock has been phenomenal this year and established himself as a candidate to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 draft. The sophomore has dealt 94 strikeouts and 18 walks through 86.1 innings in route to a .167 opponents’ batting average.

Best Hitter: 3B/RHP Aaron Schunk, Jr. — Schunk has been great for the Bulldogs this season. Schunk is batting .336 to go along with 72 hits and 11 home runs, both of which are team-highs. He also serves as Georgia’s closer.

Outlook: The Bulldogs’ talented pitching staff is fronted by sophomore ace Emerson Hancock, who is a candidate to be the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s draft. That pitching staff and their premium defense—they rank No. 13 in the nation with a .981 fielding percentage—have made them difficult to beat all year long. Pitching and defense tend to play up in the postseason, and if Georgia continues to make its opponents work hard for any runs they get, it should be in good shape to advance to super regionals for the first time since 2008.

No. 2 Florida Atlantic (40-19)

BA 500 Prospects
: C Pedro Pages (368)

Season In A Sentence: The Owls’ postseason hopes were in real trouble in late April, but they rallied to win three of their last four Conference USA series to capture the league’s regular season title and then made a run to the conference tournament final to secure a regional bid for the sixth time in the John McCormack era.

Best Pitcher: RHP Blake Sanderson, R-Sr. — Through 15 starts and 91.2 innings, Sanderson is 8-2, 3.93. The redshirt senior currently owns a strikeout-to-walk ratio of just over three.

Best Hitter: OF/INF Eric Rivera, Jr. — Rivera has a team-high .340 batting average to go along with six homers and 59 runs this season. One of Rivera’s most impressive stats is that he’s walked 38 times and only struck out 21 times.

Outlook: The Owls are no stranger to regionals, but they’ve never actually broken through to win a regional. If that’s going to change this year, they’re going to need their pitchers to step up. Florida Atlantic has a 4.80 team ERA this year and that makes for a bad matchup in Athens, where Georgia has an elite pitching staff and Florida State has a lineup capable of outslugging opponents. Still, FAU is always a tough out in the postseason as McCormack always seems to find a way to make his team competitive.

No. 3 Florida State (36-21)

BA 500 Prospects
: 3B Drew Mendoza (75), OF/RHP J.C. Flowers (205), LHP Drew Parrish (361)

Season In A Sentence: It wasn’t always easy for the Seminoles in head coach Mike Martin’s 40th and final season at the helm, but they secured a 40th regional trip for “11” by finishing 36-21 with a 17-13 record in the ACC.

Best Pitcher: RHP C.J. Van Eyk, So. — Van Eyk has become the leader of the Florida State pitching staff. Through 79.1 innings and 15 starts, Van Eyk has a 3.74 ERA with 106 strikeouts and an opponents’ batting average of .215.

Best Hitter: INF Mike Salvatore, Sr. — Salvatore is leading Florida State in several offense categories. He is second on the team in batting average (.323), second on the team in runs (45), first in hits (75), first in doubles (21), first in triples (4) and has more walks than strikeouts.

Outlook: They don’t need any extra motivation, but the Seminoles are trying to send off Martin in style while also needing four more wins to extend their streak of consecutive 40-win seasons to 41. If Florida State is going to win this regional and set off on a sentimental postseason run, it needs to get a couple big starts out of lefthander Drew Parrish and righthander C.J. Van Eyk. It’ll also need its young lineup to respond well to the high-pressure environment of regionals.

No. 4 Mercer (35-27)

BA 500 Prospects
: None

Season In A Sentence: Mercer continues to quietly establish itself as one of the most consistent mid-major programs in the country, as Craig Gibson’s club went 35-27 and won the Southern Conference Tournament by beating Wofford twice on the event’s final day.

Best Pitcher: LHP Tanner Hall, Jr. — Hall doesn’t have the best ERA at 4.67, but the junior has struck out more batters and given up less hits than teammate Kevin Coulter. The junior also has a .255 opponent average, the best among Mercer’s starters.

Best Hitter: OF Kel Johnson, Sr. — Johnson, who joined Mercer as a graduate transfer from Georgia Tech this year, has hit 22 home runs, tied for sixth-most in the country. He also leads the team in runs, RBIs and total bases.

Outlook: The Bears won five-straight elimination games to win the Southern Conference Tournament and are bringing momentum into regionals. They’re a very offensive group, led by slugger Kel Johnson, who ranks sixth in the nation with 22 home runs. Mercer has a tough matchup with Georgia’s pitching staff in the opener, but it matches up better with Florida Atlantic and Florida State.


2019 College Baseball All-Americans

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