2009 NCAA Regional Preview: Atlanta

Georgia Tech’s Russ Chandler Stadium plays host to the Atlanta regional, its 9th NCAA regional since 1987.

The #1 seed Georgia Tech faces Colonial Athletic Association champion and cross-town rival Georgia State at 7pm Friday. The two teams have met twice this season with the road team winning each game: Georgia State defeating Georgia Tech 10-1 at Russ Chandler Stadium and Georgia Tech winning 18-2 at Panthersville.

The #2 seed Elon was the Southern Conference regular season champion and will face #3 seed Southern Miss at 3pm Friday. The only prior meetings between the two schools came in 1978 in a 4-game series which Elon won 3-1.

This regional should have no shortage of runs. Elon averaged 10.4 runs per game this season; Georgia Tech averaged 8.7; Georgia State average 8.1; and Southern Miss averaged 7.6. Elon and Georgia Tech are ranked #1 and #2 respectively in Division 1 baseball for home runs per game.

#1 GEORGIA TECH (35-17-1, 17-10-1 ACC)

The Yellow Jackets started off the season hot, winning 15 of their first 16 games. They also had impressive series victories over Miami and Florida State, but lately they’ve been cold, losing 5 of their final 7 games entering the NCAA tournament. Georgia Tech is ranked as high as #13 in the various college baseball polls.

Georgia Tech’s offense, featuring 8 starters batting over .300, is led by senior right fielder Luke Murton (.363, 18 HR, 57 RBI), junior first baseman Tony Plagman (.357, 16 HR, 67 RBI), and sophomore center fielder Jeff Rowland (.348, 8 HR, 35 RBI, 18 SB). No one on the team has a hotter bat than sophomore designated hitter Chase Burnette, who is batting .500 and slugging 1.176 in his last 11 games.

The Yellow Jackets are led on the mound by sophomore righty Deck McGuire (10-1, 3.15 ERA). Tech’s bullpen is led by sophomore lefty Zach Brewster (1-3, 3.19 ERA), freshman lefty Jake Davies (2-0, 3.33 ERA), junior right-handed third baseman-turned-pitcher Patrick Long (0-1, 3.38 ERA), and junior righty Andrew Robinson (0-0, 3.52 ERA).

Probable Starters:
Soph. RHP Deck McGuire (10-1, 3.15)
Soph. RHP Brandon Cumpton (4-2, 4.83)
Jr. RHP Zach Von Tersch (6-2, 5.62)
Fr. LHP Jed Bradley (2-3, 6.59)

#2 ELON (40-16, 23-4 SoCon)

The Elon Phoenix finished their regular season with 17 straight conference victories, racking up an impressive 23-4 record in regular season Southern Conference play plus 3 more victories in the SoCon tournament before losing in the championship game to Georgia Southern. Elon is ranked as high as #22 in the various college baseball polls.

Elon’s offense features 7 batters with 13 or more home runs on the season; as a team, they average 2.3 home runs per game. The offense is led by senior left fielder Pat Irvine (.414, 17 HR, 55 RBI, 18 SB), junior third baseman Chase Austin (.369, 22 HR, 77 RBI, 18 SB), junior catcher Mike Melillo (.343, 18 HR, 59 RBI), senior center fielder Cory Harrilchak (.339, 15 HR, 59 RBI, 10 SB), and senior second baseman Bennett Davis (.330, 14 HR, 56 RBI, 11 SB).

On the mound, Elon is led by a trio of sophomores: lefty Jimmy Reyes (7-0, 4.93 ERA), righty Ken Ferrer (8-1, 4.99 ERA), and righty Thomas Girdwood (0-2, 4.01 ERA, 17 saves).

Probable Starters:
Soph. LHP Jimmy Reyes (7-0, 4.93)
Jr. RHP Daniel Britt (8-0, 5.34)
Sr. RHP Tom Porter (2-4, 5.19)
Soph. RHP Ken Ferrer (8-1, 4.99)

#3 SOUTHERN MISS (35-23, 12-12 CUSA)

Southern Miss made it to the championship game of the Conference USA tournament before losing 8-6 to the Rice Owls. They enter the NCAA tournament winning 7 of their last 9 games.

Southern Miss is led at the plate by senior outfielder Bo Davis, hitting at a .363 clip with 10 home runs. The Golden Eagles were plagued by injuries all season long, including the late-season loss of senior shortstop Brian Dozier, who was hitting .394 when a broken collarbone sidelined him 35 games into the schedule. Freshman outfielder Kameron Brunty, hitting .352, came on strong at the end of the season, as did fellow freshman B.A. Vollmuth, who moved into Dozier’s spot at short.

On the mound, Todd McInnis – a redshirt sophomore  Mississippi’s Mr. Baseball in 2006, 2009 Conference USA Pitcher of the Year – has been the go-to man. Coming into the Atlanta Regional with a 2.76 ERA, McInnis knocked off C-USA regular season champion East Carolina late in the season and shut down Tulane in the first round of the conference tournament. J.R. Ballinger, with a 3.88 ERA, has also come on strong at the end, knocking off East Carolina in the second round of the conference tournament in his last start.

Probable Starters:
Jr. RHP J.R. Ballinger (5-3, 3.88)
Soph. RHP Todd McInnis (8-4, 2.76)
Jr. LHP Jeff Stanley (4-1, 3.92)

#4 GEORGIA STATE (39-20, 12-9 Colonial)

The Panthers finished their season with 8 consecutive victories, including 4 straight wins in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament in Wilmington, NC to win the conference championship.

Georgia State is a veteran squad, with an offense led by several seniors: catcher Marc Mimeault (.394, 14 HR, 58 RBI), right fielder Matt Van Horn (.358, 6 HR, 38 RBI, 12 SB), designated hitter Derek Simmons (.321, 12 HR, 52 RBI), and shortstop Chase Childers (.312, 7 HR, 53 RBI, 12 SB). Junior first baseman Bradley Logan has the hot bat, hitting 4 home runs in Georgia State’s four games at the CAA tournament.

Freshman relief pitcher Justin Malone has been spectacular for the Panthers with a 1-0 record, 7 saves, and a 1.46 ERA in 17 appearances. Junior RHP Ryan Moore leads the team with a 7-1 record and a 4.35 ERA in 12 starts; he threw a complete game in his last outing, a 9-3 victory over George Mason.

Probable Starters:
Soph. LHP Aidan Francis (5-1, 4.02)
Sr. LHP Will Palmer (5-5, 5.25)
Jr. RHP Ryan Moore (7-1, 4.35)
Sr. RHP Adam Knight (3-4, 5.60)

Special thanks to Southern Miss Alum who also contributed to this Atlanta regional preview.