Hattiesburg Regional BreakdownPostseason
Most Exciting Player: Dylan Burdeaux, Southern Miss. The first baseman is 6-foot-2, 230 pounds of baseball player. Need a home run? Burdeaux can do it. He has 11. Need a double? He has a team-best 24 of those. How about steal a base? Surely not at that size right? All he has done is swipe 20 bases in 22 attempts this year. He has also spent a good portion of the year hitting leadoff setting the tone for one of the country’s best lineups. Watch this guy and admire the renaissance man of Hattiesburg.
Best Hitter: Brent Rooker, Mississippi State. The first baseman has enjoyed a historic season. Hyperbole you say? Rooker has etched his name atop the SEC statistical leaders this season as he leads in batting, slugging, on base percentage, hits, RBIs, doubles, home runs, total bases and is tied for the lead in stolen bases. In a regional with a lot of offensive talent, Rooker sets the bar.
Best Defensive Player: Travis Swaggerty, South Alabama. The USA center fielder is one of those guys who opposing hitters cannot stand. The speedster runs down gappers and makes it look easy with a gliding gait. He also has four outfield assists.
Best Pitcher: Konnor Pilkington, Mississippi State. The sophomore is one of the most talented southpaws in the country. He has no-hit stuff (68 hits allowed in 95 innings) with his mid-90s fastball, outstanding changeup and improved breaking ball.
X-Factor: Spencer Price, Mississippi State. The Bulldog closer was leading the nation in saves for a while but has gone into a bit of a swoon of late as he battles through an injury. MSU needs Price at his best to pair with Riley Self for a double-barreled weapon to shorten games.
Best Starting Rotation: Southern Miss. UIC has the best numbers but Southern Miss has had the most success against high-level competition. Kirk McCarty may be the most effective pitcher in the regional, and he has some help depending on how USM coach Scott Berry wants to play it.
Best Bullpen: Illinois-Chicago. To say UIC closer Alex Padilla was dominant in conference play does not tell the story. The sophomore righty did not allow a run against a Horizon opponent all season and has not allowed a run since March 5 at Missouri. He amassed 10 saves this season in 27 appearances.
Best Offensive Team: Southern Miss. Both Southern Miss and South Alabama are extremely impressive offensive clubs and Mississippi State has enjoyed some great success as well. The best lineup has to belong to the Golden Eagles with Burdeaux, Matt Wallner, Taylor Braley, Mason Irby and the gang. They hit .311 as a team with 85 home runs.
Best Defensive Team: Illinois-Chicago. The Flames are atop the NCAA leaderboard in fielding percentage at .985.
No. 1 Seed Win Probability (1-10): 5. The Golden Eagles have a great chance to continue their incredible success with a regional title. The selection committee did them no favors as both Mississippi State and South Alabama are offensive clubs who know the USM personnel well. The Golden Eagles also drew a tough No. 4 seed in UIC. Can USM handle the pressure of the moment or will one of the other teams rise to the challenge?
Southern Mississippi (48-14, 25-5 Conference USA)
The locals are buzzed as Southern Mississippi is hosting its first regional since 2003. With a listed capacity of 6,600, the tickets were already sold out Tuesday. Undoubtedly they could have sold thousands more especially with local teams Mississippi State and South Alabama an easy drive away.
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