It’s regional time again, and for the third time in as many years under the tutelage of Monte Lee, Clemson will host a regional. The Tigers earned themselves the #10 overall seed for the tournament, and will be the #1 seed and host of the four team Clemson regional. Vanderbilt will be the 2 seed, St Johns the 3, and Morehead State the 4 seed. Sound familiar? That’s because we basically saw the same regional, at the same site, in the 2017 regional round. How that happens I would love to know, but I digress.
#2 Vanderbilt and #3 St Johns will kick off the double elimination regional Fri at noon. #1 Clemson will face #4 Morehead St Fri at 6pm. The losers of each game will square off Sat at 1pm in an elimination game, and the two winners will meet Sat at 7pm. There will be another elimination game Sun at 1pm, and the 2 remaining teams will play each other Sun at 6pm. If necessary, a winner take all game will be played Mon at 4pm. I think we are fairly familiar with the Tigers and what they like to do, but let’s take a quick look at the other three teams involved this weekend.
#2 Vanderbilt Commodres
Tim Corbin brings his team back to Clemson, after having won a regional here last season. The former Clemson assistant was hired in 2003 and has turned Vandy into a perennial power, winning the CWS in 2014. The Commodores finished the season at 31-25 and 16-14 in the SEC. They have an RPI of 38 and a SOS of 8. They have not faired well away from home this season, going 7-11 on the road and only 2-5 in neutral site games. Against Top 25 RPI teams they are 6-12, but are 12-5 vs RPI teams 26-50.
Offensively they are hitting .264 as a team, with 51 HR. Guys to watch are JJ Bleday, who is hitting .374 and Austin Martin who is hitting .332. Martin is a speedster, having swiped 21 bases in 29 attempts. Stephen Scott leads the team in HR with 12 and is also amongst the team leaders in RBI with 36.
Unlike last year, the Commodores don’t have that top flight starter like Kyle Wright at the top of the rotation. Overall, the staffs ERA sits at 4.17, but opponents are hitting only .243 against them overall. SP Drake Fellows, a right handed sophomore, leads the way. He is 6-4 with a 3.81 ERA, and opponents are hitting only .217 off of him.He averages more than 1 K per inning pitched, having struck out 94 in 85 IP. They can also run Patrick Raby out there. The Jr right hander is 4-5 with a very respectable ERA of 3.47. He has given up 63 H in 62.1 IP, more than a hit an inning, and has 52 Ks. This staff does not walk a ton of guys
#3 St John’s Red Storm
The Johnnies are coached by Ed Blankmeyer, the winningest coach in school history and come in fresh off of winning the Big East Conference Tournament, while having also been the conferences best team in the regular season. They finished up with a 39-15(15-3) record, a RPI of 27, and a SOS of 101. Against the better competition they faced however, going 3-5 against Top 25 RPI. They score 6.4 runs per game while giving up only 3.3 runs per game, and come in having won 7 of their last 10.
This might be the best starting rotation in the regional, ranking fouth nationally with a team ERA of 2.95. Sean Mooney, a preseason All American, heads up the rotation. The right handed sophomore was just named as a finalist for the National Pitcher of the Year award after posting an 11-2 record and a 2.52 ERA. Opponents are only hitting .209 against him and he has 100 Ks in 89.1 IP, and has only walked 25. Kevin Magee is the #2 guy and has been really good himself. The lefty is 6-3 with a 2.48 ERA and opponents are hitting .245 against him. He has 90 Ks in 72.2 IP, walking only 13.
On the offensive side, the Red Storm are hitting .297 as a team. Not a lot of power however, as they have 40 HR as a team. John Valente is one name to remember, as he is hitting .356 with 5 HR and 40 RBI. He’s also 11-14 in the stolen base dept. OF Anthony Brocato is their main power threat, having hit 10 HR with 35 RBI, but only has an avg of .247 and has struck out 49 times in 182 AB.
I think this is a dangerous team. A 3 seed that probably should have been a 2 seed, and with the type of frontline starting pitching that is capable of shutting teams down over consecutive days.
#4 Morehead St
The Eagles, winners of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament, are 37-24(19-12) and led by head coach Mike McGuire, now in his 6th season. Coincidentally, McGuire played a couple of seasons for our feathered friends down the road back in the early 90’s. They finished up with an RPI of 96 and a non-con RPI of 126. They had an SOS of 167. They have only played 12 games vs Top 100 RPI teams, with 7 of those 12 coming against Top 25 RPI teams, going 3-4 in those games. They were 14-8 at home, 15-13 on the road, and 7-3 at neutral sites.
Looking at the offensive numbers on paper, this team can rake. They hit .318 as a team and average a whopping 8.5 runs a game. They don’t just hit well, but they hit can hit for power too, as evidenced by the 83 long balls they have hit. 7 of the 9 regulars in the lineup are hitting over .319, 4 hitting over .340. Yeah, they can rake. The one thing they don’t seem to have on the offensive side is speed, having only 33 stolen bases on the season. Some guys to keep an eye on at the plate are Trevor Snyder (.337 BA/18 HR/69 RBI/.380 OBP), Niko Hulsizer (.327 BA/12 HR/38 RBI/.439 OBP}, and Jake Hammon (.364 BA/ 9 HR/ 51 RBI/ .478 OBP). That’s some pretty impressive numbers in there, regardless of competition.
Looking at some of the pitching numbers, they’re pretty gaudy too, well gaudy if your an opponent. In other words, they’ve not been that good. Their team ERA is 5.89, with opponents scoring over 6.5 runs per game and hitting .281 against them. This staff has given up a whopping 94 long balls (Clemson hitters must be salivating). They also give up 4.6 BBs per game. Their most reliable pitcher looks to be Cory Conway, a guy they rely heavily on out of the pen. He is 8-3 with a 3.70 ERA in 34 appearances. No official word on Friday’s starting pitcher but one possibility is lefty Dalton Stambaugh. The sophomore has started 14 games this season and is 7-3 with a 6.17 ERA. He has given up 102 H in 84.2 IP and opponents are hitting .298 against him.
One caveat to Morehead State’s statistics is their oddly shaped home park, Allen Field, which is very short down right field and could skew some of the power numbers.
Clemson vs Morehead St(Fri 6pm)
The Tigers announced today that they will send RHP Brooks Crawford to the mound. He is 8-2 with a 3.35 ERA and has been Clemson’s most reliable starter in recent weeks. The Eagles will counter with LHP Dalton Stambaugh, who is 7-3, but with an ERA of 6.17, while opponents are hitting .298 against him.
The Tigers are 5-0 all time vs the Eagles, last seeing them in 2013, sweeping 2 midweek games. Clemson will be the designated home, and will be in the 1st base dugout. Chris Burke and Taylor Zarzour will call the game as it will be televised on WatchESPN. As usual you can catch the radio broadcast on WCCP, TigerCast, and through the Tune In Radio App.
Keep checking back in with STS throughout the weekend for results and commentary.