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Nashville Regional Preview: Can Anybody Stop The ‘Dores?

Postseason

Regional Schedule/Results | Regional Scoreboard | Easton Bracket Challenge

Checking The Field

Vanderbilt is one of the favorites to win the national title, but its postseason road is no cakewalk, starting with a matchup against perhaps the best 4-seed in the tournament, Ohio State. Pitching-rich Indiana State and red-hot McNeese could also make some noise in Nashville.

1. Vanderbilt: Regular Season Results | Team Stats and Leaders
2. Indiana State: Regular Season Results | Team Stats and Leaders
3. McNeese: Regular Season Results | Team Stats and Leaders
4. Ohio State: Regular Season Results | Team Stats and Leaders

Nashville Regional Superlatives

Most Exciting Player: JJ Bleday, OF, Vanderbilt.

The national leader in home runs (26), Bleday is a likely top 10 overall pick in next week’s draft. Though teams were careful on how to approach the lefty slugger in the SEC tournament, he took what he was given, going 8-for-16 and punishing a few mistakes along the way.

Best Hitter: Austin Martin, 3B, Vanderbilt.

Ohio State outfielder Dominic Canzone gets an honorable mention here, as does Bleday. Ultimately, it’s tough to pick someone other than Martin, whose .412 batting average was more than 50 points higher than his closest challenger for the SEC batting title.

Best Defensive Player: Jake Means, 3B, Indiana State.

As the Missouri Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year, the senior made just four errors all season at the hot corner for the Sycamores.

Best Pitcher: Drake Fellows, RHP, Vanderbilt.

As the Friday starter for the Commodores two years running, Fellows has plenty of big-game experience. While he doesn’t overpower with velocity, he sets hitters up with low-90s sinkers before finishing them off with his slider.

X-Factor: Seth Lonsway, LHP, Ohio State.

The Big Ten leader in strikeouts (122) and walks (56), Lonsway flashes high-end stuff capable of shutting down lineups, but his ability to work within the strike zone varies significantly from game-to-game. If his command is sharp, he could be a major factor in this regional.

Best Starting Rotation: Vanderbilt.

Indiana State earns some consideration here, but the Commodores get the nod. Fellows (11-0, 4.05), Kumar Rocker (8-5, 4.14) and Patrick Raby (9-1, 2.90) comprise a formidable trio that could rival any rotation in the country.

Best Bullpen: Vanderbilt.

An All-SEC performer, sophomore righty Tyler Brown (2.01, 14 SV) hasn’t allowed a run in his last 10 appearances. Another righty, Ethan Smith (4-0, 3.30) is holding opponents to a .146 batting average against. Jake Eder (2.97, 2 SV) and Hugh Fisher (3.48, 4 SV) give coach Tim Corbin a pair of electric southpaw options to utilize. Mason Hickman (7-0, 2.20) has been exceptional, serving as both a midweek starter and weekend reliever.

Best Offensive Team: Vanderbilt.

The Commodores have a particularly potent offense, slashing .319/.417/.521, and leading the SEC in each of those categories. In addition, their 82 home runs and 8.5 runs per game are also best in the conference.

Best Defensive Team: McNeese.

The Cowboys led the Southland Conference in fielding percentage (.977). Up the middle, shortstop Reid Bourque and second baseman Nate Fisbeck are both capable of highlight reel plays. First baseman Jacob Stracner hasn’t made an error in 242 chances this season.

No. 1 Seed Win Probability (1-10): 8.

The No. 2 National Seed with a 28-5 record at Hawkins Field, Vanderbilt is the heavy favorite to advance, but its path is not without challenges. Coming off a hot run in the Big Ten Tournament, a case can be made that Ohio State is the best 4-seed in the tournament. Additionally, Indiana State’s deep pitching staff is conducive to a regional format.

Nashville Regional Team Breakdowns

Vanderbilt (49-10, 23-7 SEC)

Vandy’s Austin Martin (Kendall Rogers)

Vanderbilt started the season ranked No. 1 in the Preseason Top 25, and enters regional play No. 1 in RPI with very few hiccups along the way. The Commodores lost just two series this season, both of them on the road to Georgia and Texas A&M. While they’ve been consistently strong, they’re playing perhaps their best baseball right now, having rolled through the SEC tournament unscathed, outscoring their opponents 36-15 over four games. Since an early April series loss in Athens, the Commodores are an astonishing 25-2. …

 

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