2019 NCAA Baseball Tournament: Baton Rouge Regional Preview
No. 1 Louisiana State vs. No. 4 Stony Brook (7 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
No. 2 Arizona State vs. No. 3 Southern Mississippi (1 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
No. 1 Louisiana State (37-24)
Season In A Sentence: The preseason No. 2 team, LSU stumbled at times over the course of the regular season but finished strong with a run to the semifinals of the SEC Tournament, earning a seventh home regional in the last eight years.
Best Pitcher: RHP Zack Hess, RHP Jr. — Hess started the year as the Tigers’ Friday starter but has since returned to the back of the bullpen, a role he played on LSU’s 2017 CWS runner-up team. His stuff plays up there, and he’s capable of being a multi-inning relief ace since he’s still stretched out after starting much of the year.
Best Hitter: SS Josh Smith, Jr. — Coming off of a sophomore year plagued by injuries, Smith has been fully healthy and starring for the Tigers this spring. He’s hitting .343 with 63 runs and eight home runs this season.
Outlook: This regional has the potential to get very offensive, and LSU certainly has the bats to turn any game into a slugfest. But it got some encouraging performances last week in the SEC Tournament from righthanders Zack Hess, Ma’Khail Hillard and Landon Marceaux. Carrying that momentum into the NCAA Tournament would be extremely beneficial for the Tigers. LSU also gets a significant home-field advantage at Alex Box Stadium, where it is 27-8, and if it can feed off that environment, it should be able to advance to super regionals.
No. 2 Arizona State (37-17)
Season In A Sentence: Arizona State is in a regional for the first time since 2016 after going 37-17 on the season with a 16-13 record in Pac-12 play, led by an offense that hit .307/.394/.521 with a nation-best 92 home runs.
Best Pitcher: RHP Alec Marsh, Jr. — Through 15 starts and 96.2 innings pitched, Marsh is 9-3, 3.17 with 92 strikeouts. His season was highlighted by a complete game win against Oregon State in which Marsh gave up just three hits and one earned run.
Best Hitter: OF Hunter Bishop, Jr. — Bishop has had an incredible breakout season, hitting .347 with 22 home runs. Teams and fans can’t solely focus on Bishop though. Sophomore Spencer Torkelson, the 2018 NCAA home run champion, is having a season that some could argue has been better offensively than Bishop’s.
Outlook: The Sun Devils have the best offense in the country, paced by Bishop and Torkelson, but the lineup also has impressive depth. If Arizona State can turn this weekend into a home run derby, you have to like its chances. But the key may lie with its pitching staff. If righthanders Alec Marsh and Boyd Vander Kooi deliver quality starts against some powerful offenses, the Sun Devils will be tough outs this weekend.
No. 3 Southern Mississippi (38-19)
Season In A Sentence: Coming into the Conference USA Tournament, the Golden Eagles were very much on the bubble, so they removed any doubt about their postseason prospects by winning the league’s automatic bid after sweeping through the field.
Best Pitcher: RHP Walker Powell, Jr. — With a record of 6-2, 2.78 through 94 innings pitched, Powell is having a solid season. He’s currently boasting a strikeout-to-walk ratio of just under six.
Best Hitter: OF Matt Wallner, Jr. — Wallner has been great for Southern Miss down the stretch this season, and he is now hitting .324 with a team-high 21 home runs. The junior also has almost as many walks (43) as strikeouts (45).
Outlook: The Golden Eagles scuffled down the stretch but built some much-needed momentum ahead of regionals with an impressive showing in their conference tournament. Outfielder Matt Wallner has gotten hot, and he has the ability to take over a game. Southern Miss’ pitching staff can’t match the pure talent that LSU and Arizona State will run out on the mound, but they can present some tricky matchups and bring plenty of postseason experience into regionals.
No. 4 Stony Brook (31-21)
BA 500 Prospects: None
Season In A Sentence: The Seawolves find themselves playing postseason baseball in Baton Rouge once again after winning the America East Tournament to secure the program’s sixth regional appearance since 2004.
Best Pitcher: RHP Bret Clarke, Sr. — Clarke hasn’t been outstanding this year, but he’s Stony Brook’s most reliable and consistent pitcher at 8-0, 3.76. The senior has thrown for six or more innings in seven of his 13 appearances, never giving up more than three earned runs in those longer performances.
Best Hitter: INF Nick Grande, Jr. — With a .342 batting average and 19 stolen bases, Grande is dangerous both at the plate and once he’s on base. The junior has scored or batted in 82 of Stony Brook’s 299 total runs.
Outlook: This is not the 2012 Stony Brook team that upset LSU in super regionals and produced multiple big leaguers, but the Seawolves are more than just a trolly No. 4 seed. Shortstop Nick Grande and outfielder Michael Wilson have legit pro tools. Stony Brook is short on the mound, however, and brings a 5.30 team ERA to Baton Rouge. If there’s going to be an upset this weekend, some pitchers are going to need to step up for the Seawolves.