Ole Miss 41-18
After being picked 6th in the SEC West in pre-season polls, the Rebels exceeded all expectations, winning the division with a 19-11 record and being in the discussion of a national seed. Their hopes of being one of the top eight fell short, but Ole Miss is hosting a regional and have a team that’s very reliable on both sides of the ball. Despite a very strong pitching staff featuring Chris Ellis (2.17 ERA) and Christian Trent (2.44 ERA) who combined to go 15-1 on the season, what the Rebels do offensively is what is so impressive.
Ole Miss is near the top of the SEC in just about every hitting category you can find, a conference that sent a record 10 teams to the NCAA tournament, re-breaking their previous record of 9. A .303 batting average was good for tops in the SEC and their .370 OBP tied them with rivals Mississippi State for second in the league. Always a threat to go deep, first team All-SEC selection Sikes Orvis belted 12 home runs to lead the team. Catcher Will Allen, a second team All-SEC in his own right hit 7 home runs and a team-leading 58 RBI.
Winning just three of their first eight games of the season, Washington got off to a very sluggish start. The Huskies, picked 10th of 11 teams in the PAC-12 pre-season poll, proceeded to catch fire and never looked back. Their 21-9 PAC-12 record and a second place finish showed once again why pre-season polls are completely meaningless. It has been a banner year for the Huskies, as head coach Lindsay Meggs took home PAC-12 Coach of the Year honors and rock-solid shortstop Erik Forgione was named Defensive Player of the Year. But they don’t want to stop there.
Washington enters the Oxford regional as a very dangerous two seed, a team that was certainly in the mix to potentially be a host but fell just short. In addition to Forgione, they added Austin Rei, Andrew Ely and Braden Bishop to the conference’s All-Defensive Team. The Huskies exemplify the team concept in all phases of the game. Offensively no player has more than five home runs, but five regulars are hitting .300 or better. Tyler Davis leads a quality pitching staff with a 10-2 record and stingy ERA of just 1.75. If this team continues to play like they have all season, watch out.
Georgia Tech 36-25
Playing in the post-season is all about getting hot, and the Yellow Jackets have done just that in recent weeks. Coming off an ACC tournament championship, they are winners of seven of the last nine and hope to continue their hot streak after a regular season of inconsistent baseball that saw them post losing streaks of 3+ games four different times. Having taken series from Florida State, Miami and North Carolina this season, Georgia Tech no doubt has the talent to beat anyone on a given day, but they aren’t looked at by many to be the team to come out of the Oxford regional.
Daniel Spingola is a the major key to the offense, leading the team in batting average at .328, RBI with 36, triples with 8 and stolen bases with 15. A team with 21 total homers and just three players hitting over .300, they must get quality starting pitching first and foremost to continue their recent success.
Jacksonville State 36-25
An improbable Ohio Valley tournament run led Jacksonville State to the post-season for the first time since 2010 as they claimed the program’s fourth NCAA tournament bid in school history. Despite losing their opening game to Eastern Illinois, they made history by winning an impressive six consecutive games to bring home the title. Having finished third in the conference during the regular season, the Gamecocks are looking to make even more history and win their first ever NCAA tournament game. Previously JSU is 0-6 all time.
It’s an uphill battle for the Gamecocks, who are likely going to have to outslug opponents in Oxford. The lowest ERA of JSU starters is that of Zachary Fowler at 3.58. On the other hand, Jacksonville State does have six regulars who have OBP’s of .350 or higher, and they’re going to need all hands on deck facing a very tough Ole Miss pitching staff in their opening game.