Image credit: Alec Makarewicz (ECU Athletics Communications)
No. 1 East Carolina vs. No. 4 Coppin State (1 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
No. 2 Virginia vs. No. 3 Coastal Carolina (6 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
No. 1 East Carolina (42-18)
All-Conference Team Honorees: RP Carter Spivey (1st), SS Zach Agnos (1st), OF Lane Hoover (1st), UTL Ryder Giles (1st), P CJ Mayhue (2nd), P Garrett Saylor (2nd), 2B Jacob Starling (2nd), 3B Alec Makarewicz (2nd), OF Bryson Worrell (2nd), DH Cam Clonch (2nd)
Season in a Sentence: After a pedestrian start that included being swept at home by Bryant to begin the season, East Carolina caught its stride in American Athletic Conference play, equaled its best conference record as a member of the league and finished as the hottest team in college baseball with 18 wins in a row, which was enough to earn the Pirates a spot as a top-eight seed.
Best Pitcher: Carter Spivey, RHP—ECU is no stranger to building is pitching staff from back to front and rarely has that been more the case than this year, when the Pirates’ top three pitchers in terms of innings pitched—Garrett Saylor, Spivey and CJ Mayhue—had most of their appearances come as a member of the bullpen. Spivey was the best of the bunch, as evidenced by his winning AAC pitcher of the year honors. He has a 2.42 ERA with 68 strikeouts in 67 innings.
Best Hitter: Bryson Worrell, OF—The strength of ECU’s offense is its depth more than its individual star power, but Worrell has been a productive hitter in this program for a long time and he’s in the midst of a career year. He’s hitting .316/.383/.560 with 11 doubles and 14 home runs—the only player in the ECU lineup to have double-digit doubles and homers—and he’s a perfect nine-for-nine in stolen bases.
Outlook: East Carolina is flying high going into regionals. Its pitching staff is nothing if not versatile, and that bodes well for its ability to navigate a regional setting that can often get pitching staffs off schedule. Its offense also got better as the season went on and ended up hitting nearly 20 points better in conference play than overall. In the big picture, the Pirates have to be buoyed by being a top-eight seed, which allows them a great chance to reach their first College World Series, but they will have to keep playing well to fend off Virginia and Coastal Carolina, which both have the talent to pull an upset.
No. 2 Virginia (38-17)
Season in a Sentence: After entering the season as a top-10 team, getting off to a 14-0 start and winning its first four ACC series, Virginia cooled down the stretch and won just two of its final six ACC series and went 0-2 in the ACC Tournament, which pushed it off of being in line to host a regional, but with as much raw talent as just about anyone, it goes into the postseason as a very tough out.
Best Pitcher: Nate Savino, LHP—Savino is enjoying the best season of his career. He has a 4.02 ERA and 75 strikeouts in 71.2 innings, which is a career high for him both in innings and strikeout rate. Perhaps most importantly, he’s taken the ball every week and typically gives the Cavaliers solid work.
Best Hitter: Jake Gelof, 3B—Gelof got hot late last year, hitting four home runs at the ACC Tournament or later, and that has carried over to a breakout sophomore season. He’s hitting .373/.474/.751 with 15 doubles, 19 home runs and 74 RBIs and is the centerpiece of a Virginia lineup that has been among the nation’s best this season.
Outlook: Virginia has the talent to make a run to win this regional. Its offense can strike quickly, led by Gelof and outfielders Casey Saucke and Alex Tappen, its pitchers have plenty of skill, with the bullpen in particular being able to give the opponent different looks and it has at times this season looked like an elite club. But in order to pull it off, the Cavaliers will have to recapture some of the magic they had in the first half of the campaign.
No. 3 Coastal Carolina (36-18-1)
All-Conference Team Honorees: P Reid Van Scoter (1st), P Michael Knorr (2nd), 3B Dale Thomas (2nd), DH Tyler Johnson (2nd)
Season in a Sentence: After a 16-13-1 start through April 10, Coastal Carolina really turned it on in the second half of the season, going 20-5 leading into regionals, along the way going from well outside the bubble to safely in on Selection Monday thanks to the balance of having a lineup that can score runs in bunches and a solid pitching staff led by a trio of workhorse starters.
Best Pitcher: Michael Knorr, RHP—Reid Van Scoter was the first team honoree on the Coastal pitching staff, but Knorr has actually been even better in some ways. He leads qualifying pitchers in ERA at 2.81 and has a team-leading 84 strikeouts and only 10 walks with a .216 opponent batting average in 64.1 innings.
Best Hitter: Eric Brown, SS—Others like Tyler Johnson, Austin White and Dale Thomas deserve consideration here, but Brown is the standout among standouts. He’s hitting .332/.456/.563 with 19 doubles, seven homers, 34 walks compared to 27 strikeouts and 12 stolen bases. His slash line also improves to .360/.450/.667 in conference play, which is no small thing in a year when the Sun Belt was a very good conference.
Outlook: Coastal Carolina is in very good shape going into regionals. It has the best one-two rotation punch in this regional with Van Scoter and Knorr and its lineup hit .298/.402/.507 in Sun Belt action. It also would be the hottest team in just about any other regional except this one because of how well ECU has played down the stretch. If the Chanticleers play anywhere close to as well as they’ve played for the last six or seven weeks, they will have a shot to get to their first super regional since 2016.
No. 4 Coppin State (24-28)
All-Conference Team Honorees: SP/UTL Jordan Hamberg (1st), RP Justin Johnson (1st), C Mike Dorcean (1st), 1B Sebastien Sarabia (1st), 2B Corey Miley (1st), 3B Brian Nicolas (1st), OF Marcos Castillo (1st), OF Wellington Balsley (1st)
Season in a Sentence: Coppin State didn’t win the MEAC regular-season title (although it might have had its season-ending series against Norfolk State not been canceled), but it did show the best individual talent in the conference, what with taking up nine of the 12 spots on the all-MEAC first team, and that propelled the team to a MEAC Tournament title for the first time since 1995.
Best Pitcher: Jordan Hamberg, LHP—Righthander Tyler Nichols is also in the conversation, but the nod goes to the lefthander Hamberg, who has been the steadiest starter on the staff this season. He has a 4.04 ERA, a team-leading 86 strikeouts and a .251 opponent batting average in 62.1 innings.
Best Hitter: Jordan Hamberg, DH—Hamberg is also Coppin State’s top hitter. He’s hitting .355/.464/.630 with more walks (22) than strikeouts (18) and 11 stolen bases. He also has eight of the Eagles’ 28 home runs as a team.
Outlook: The Eagles will look to be competitive throughout the weekend. East Carolina chooses to play the early game on the first day of regional play when it hosts, so Coppin State will play the Pirates at 1 p.m. Last season in that window, Norfolk State took an early lead on ECU before the Pirates righted the ship. Coppin will hope for a similar showing, or better, this time around.