Sizing up the Bloomington Regional

Though the NCAA selection committee did not give Indiana a national seed, it did give the Hoosiers a path to Omaha that appears navigable. Still, baseball is a game that is very much susceptible to chance occurrences and the Hoosiers are fully aware they need to focus on each game and each opponent as it comes. Here’s a somewhat closer look at the three other teams in Indiana’s region, all of which they could meet in the tournament’s first weekend.

No. 4 Seed Valparaiso

First Game: vs. No. 1 Indiana, 7 p.m.

Record: 31-26

Berth: Automatic — Horizon League Tournament Champion

RPI: 178

Team Batting Average: .277

Team Earned Run Average: 3.67

Run Differential: 275-243

Per game Run Differential: 4.8-4.3

Top Hitters: Tanner Vavra, 2b, .333, 42 runs, 17 RBI, .806 OPS

Chris Manning, rf, .320, 3 HR, 32 RBI, .830 OPS

Top Pitchers: SP — Cole Webb, rhp, 5-7, 3.59 ERA, 54 K’s in 90 1/3 IP

RP– Karch Kowalczyk, rhp, 1-0, 0.36 ERA, 12 saves, 17 K’s in 25 IP

Outlook: The Crusaders went 2-10 against RPI Top 100 teams this season and had a 13-11 record in the Horizon League going into the tournament, which made them the No. 3 seed. However, they survived a first-round scare against Illinois-Chicago, upset No. 1 seed Milwaukee, then shutout Wright State to win the Horizon League crown and they come in with a seven-game winning streak and wins in 16 of their last 19 games.

The statistics suggest they are very much a small-ball offensive club. Their eight home runs are exactly half the number IU catcher Kyle Schwarber hit by himself this season and the Hoosiers team slugging percentage of .446 bested Valpo’s (.345) by over 100 points. The Crusaders do have decent starting pitching, however, and an excellent bullpen led by Kowalczyk.

No. 2 seed Austin Peay

First Game: vs. No. 3 Florida, 1 p.m. Friday

Record: 45-13

Berth: Automatic — Ohio Valley Conference Tournament Champions

RPI: No. 27

Team Batting Average: .315

Team ERA: 4.26

Run Differential: 402-290

Per Game Run Differential: 6.9-5.0

Top Hitters: Craig Massoni, 1B, .388, 16 HR, 68 RBI, 1.162 OPS

Cory Hudson, LF, .365, 3 HR, 38 RBI, .908 OPS

Jordan Hankins, 3B, .351, 11 HR, 52 RBI, 1.003 OPS

Top Pitchers: SP– Lee Ridenhour, rhp, 7-1, 2.22 ERA, 64 K’s in 77 IP

RP-Tyler Rogers, rhp, 7-2, 1.83 ERA, 21 saves, 38 K’s in 44 1/3 IP

OUTLOOK: The Governors haven’t lost in more than a month, entering the NCAA Tournament with a 15-game winning streak. The Ohio Valley isn’t the most highly-thought of conference, but Austin Peay still managed a top 30 RPI by obliterating it all season long, notching a 22-7 conference mark. They don’t have a long list of big non-conference wins, but they did take two out of three against Michigan State. The Spartans didn’t reach the NCAA Tournament, but they did sweep Indiana earlier this season.

Massoni and Hankins give the Governors a lot of power. There isn’t as much in the rest of the order, but they still slugged .458 as a team, a mark that bests even powerhouse Indiana’s. Austin Peay’s hitters reached base in 40.2 percent of their plate appearances. The pitching staff isn’t as strong, but Ridenhour gives them an ace and the offense has been enough to give fellow starters ZAch Hall and Casey Delgado 15 wins between them even though opponents are hitting .270 or better against both of them.

No. 3 Seed Florida

First Game: vs. No. 2 Austin Peay, 1 p.m. Friday

Record: 29-28

Berth: At-Large (Eighth in SEC)

RPI: No. 35

Team Batting Average: .268

Team ERA: 3.91

Run Differential: 279-252

Per Game Run Differential: 4.9-4.4

Top Hitters: Harrison Bader, LF, .304, 35 runs, 1 HR, 22 RBI, .735 OPS

Taylor Gushe, C, .279, 5 HR, 33 RBI, .791 OPS

Top Pitchers: SP-Jonathon Crawford, rhp, 3-6, 4.03 ERA, 64 K’s in 80 1/3 IP

RP-Johnny Magliozzi, rhp, 4-2, 2.49 ERA, 51 K’s in 61 1/3 IP

OUTLOOK: The Gators are one of the SEC’s traditional powers, but this year they didn’t make the NCAA Tournament by much, getting in less because of what they accomplished than because of what they faced. Theirs was rated the second strongest schedule in the nation, including road series at No. 2 overall seed Vanderbilt and No. 4 Louisiana State, three spread-out games against No. 7 Florida State and series with regional hosts Indiana, South Carolina and Mississippi State. They were 7-11 in those games with a three-game sweep of South Carolina being the saving grace and probably what got them in the tournament.

Nothing about the Gators stands out on paper. They barely outscored their opponents, they slugged just .357 as a team and no one on the squad hit more than five home runs. Magliozzi anchors a bullpen that is the strength of the squad, but there isn’t a starter with jaw-dropping numbers. However, the Gators are still the Gators and they have been steeled through a season in what is at worst the nation’s second-best conference.

 

3 comments

  1. I just confirmed that IU’s game on Friday will be streamed online at ESPN3. Hopefully, Jeremy will also do a live chat on the scoop during the game.

  2. Nice article. The best review of the teams that I have seen on the web. Thanks so much.

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