Image credit: Jesse Sherrill (Danny Parker/Four Seam Images)
No. 1 Georgia Southern vs. No. 4 UNC-Greensboro (7 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
No. 2 Notre Dame vs. No. 3 Texas Tech (2 p.m. ET, ACCN)
No. 1 Georgia Southern (40-18)
All-Conference Team Honorees: 2B Jesse Sherrill (1st), DH Noah Ledford (1st), RP Jay Thompson (2nd), 1B Jason Swan (2nd)
Season in a Sentence: Georgia Southern lost its first two series of the season, but quickly got on track, piled up wins and saw its RPI rise to near the top of the board on the way to winning 40 games, going 23-7 in Sun Belt play—including a series win over conference champion Texas State—and hosting the first regional in program history.
Best Pitcher: Jay Thompson, LHP—Thompson is a versatile reliever in the mold of Nick Jones, who earned All-American honors for his performance last season. Across 35 appearances, which is tied for third in the country, the lefthander has a 3.66 ERA, six saves and a .247 opponent batting average in 71.1 innings.
Best Hitter: Noah Ledford, DH—No disrespect meant to second baseman Jesse Sherrill, who is a different kind of threat as a high on-base guy with good speed, but Ledford is the bat that opponents fear most in the order. He’s a .333/.423/.644 hitter with 18 doubles, 16 home runs and 69 RBIs. He’s also done an outstanding job this season of improving his plate discipline. Last season, he displayed the same kind of power but struck out 61 times and drew just 23 walks. This season, he’s walked 32 times and has just 42 strikeouts.
Outlook: It’s an amazing accomplishment for Georgia Southern to host a regional for the first time, but it did not get an easy draw, with a two seed in Notre Dame that many think should have hosted instead and a three seed in Texas Tech that has host-level talent. The Eagles have proven that they have it in them to win this regional, but they will have to play really clean, inspired baseball to do so.
No. 2 Notre Dame (35-14)
All-Conference Team Honorees: SP John Michael Bertrand (1st), OF Ryan Cole (3rd)
Season in a Sentence: Notre Dame is disappointed to have been snubbed for a spot as a regional host, but it still had a successful 16-11 season in ACC play that included sweeps of fellow postseason teams in Florida State and Wake Forest, and as a result, the Irish are in the postseason in back-to-back seasons for the first time since going to a regional for eight straight years from 1999 to 2006.
Best Pitcher: John Michael Bertrand, LHP—Just like last season, Bertrand is the steady hand around which the rest of the pitching staff operates. He has an 8-2 record, a 2.39 ERA, 94 strikeouts compared to 19 walks and a .214 opponent batting average. In the span of a few years, Bertrand has gone from an inconsistent pitcher on Furman’s staff to one of the very best in the country.
Best Hitter: Ryan Cole, OF—Without a power bat as good as Niko Kavadas in the middle of the order, Notre Dame has had to be a bit more multiple in how it scores runs this season, and Cole has been right in the middle of all of it. He’s hitting .303/.440/.520 with nine home runs, 43 combined walks and hit by pitches and 19 stolen bases in 19 tries. The Irish’s lineup depth is more impressive than any one player, but Cole is the standout for the varied skills he brings to the table.
Outlook: Notre Dame hasn’t dominated this season like it did last season, and rather, has been quite inconsistent, but it still has the pieces to win this regional and make a deep postseason run. The pitching staff has a sub-4.00 ERA and the lineup is hitting just a touch below .300 as a unit. In a college baseball environment in 2022 that features a ton of lopsided teams looking to win games one specific way, Notre Dame can win games in a variety of ways and that could pay dividends this time of year.
No. 3 Texas Tech (37-20)
Season in a Sentence: Texas Tech did a fantastic job of developing role players from previous years into stars in 2022, which helped the Red Raiders toy with winning the Big 12 late in the season before a 2-4 finish and RPI problems forced the program into the rare position of having to go on the road in the postseason.
Best Pitcher: Brandon Birdsell, RHP—If not for an injury that cost Birdsell a significant portion of the 2021 season, the righthander might have been drafted last year in a place that would have kept him from returning to campus. Instead, he came back to Lubbock and ended up winning Big 12 pitcher of the year honors. He has an 8-3 record, a 3.00 ERA and 102 strikeouts with just 27 walks in 78 innings and features an explosive fastball that sits in the high 90s.
Best Hitter: Jace Jung, 2B—Jace Jung’s numbers in his Texas Tech career have been so good that they’ve largely been on par with the stats put up by his older brother Josh, who was the eighth overall pick in 2019 after a decorated career at Texas Tech. This season, Jace is hitting .340/.487/.636 with 18 doubles, 14 home runs, 56 RBIs and 58 walks, which is fifth in the country. Like Josh, Jace is expected to hear his name called early in the first round of the draft this summer.
Outlook: This is not necessarily a vintage Texas Tech team, but talent-wise, it’s also much better than the average three seed in a regional. The one-two punch of righthander Andrew Morris and Birdsell is the best one-two rotation punch of any team in this regional, Jung is the most talented offensive player in the regional and the Red Raiders’ marquee wins this season, including a series win over Texas and a sweep of Oklahoma State stack up favorably with the other teams it will see in Statesboro.
No. 4 UNC-Greensboro (34-28)
Season in a Sentence: UNC-Greensboro didn’t have the smoothest regular season, and at one point it was 0-7 in Southern Conference play, but it got hot down the stretch, going 12-2 in its next 14 regular-season conference games and then winning five straight elimination games in the SoCon Tournament to win the automatic bid.
Best Pitcher: Austin Parsley, RHP—Parsley is a throwback ace. He threw three complete games this season, all April 30 or later, and will go into regionals with 110.1 innings pitched on the season. He’s 10-4 on the season with a 3.67 ERA and he’s an extremely effective strike thrower, as he’s walked just 14 and struck out 92. He shouldered a big load in the SoCon Tournament, throwing 16 combined innings against The Citadel and Wofford.
Best Hitter: Hogan Windish, 2B—At 6-foot-1 and 222 pounds, Windish looks the part of an imposing power hitter and the numbers back that up. He’s hitting .380/.496/.702 with 19 doubles, 16 home runs and 60 RBIs. He’s also a better athlete than you might expect given his stature and power profile, and he has eight stolen bases in nine tries.
Outlook: UNCG finds itself in one of the toughest regionals in the country, with an argument to be made that there are three host-quality teams to be found. That makes this a tough one for the Spartans, but few teams are playing as well as they are right now—19-5 in their last 24 games—and their offensive firepower has a chance to keep them competitive throughout the weekend.