Clemson Regional Preview

by Steve Hamel on June 1, 2011

in UConn Baseball

The University of Connecticut baseball team is making its second straight appearance in an NCAA tournament regional this weekend. The regional, being held in Clemson, S.C., also includes South Carolina powers Clemson and Coastal Carolina as well as in-state rival Sacred Heart.

The games begin Friday when UConn will face Coastal Carolina at 3:00 p.m. in a tantalizing pitching matchup between UConn’s Matt Barnes and Coastal Carolina’s Anthony Meo. Both pitchers are potential first round MLB draft picks with fastballs that reach the high 90s and power breaking balls.

The full schedule for the Clemson Regional is available at this link.

Here is a closer look at the four teams participating in the Clemson Regional:

#1 Clemson Tigers (41-18, 17-13 ACC)

Star Watch: Brad Miller, SS- The recipient of ACC player of the year honors, Brad Miller leads the Tigers with a .419 batting average and 21 stolen bases. He is getting on-base at an impressive .523 clip and has homered five times.

The Tigers finished the regular season in sixth place in a tough ACC conference and are looking to advance to the College World Series for the second straight year. Clemson’s offense ranks sixth in the nation with a .319 batting average and has six regulars hitting over .300. Richie Shaffer and Chris Epps lead the Tigers in the power department with 11 and 10 home runs respectively.

Justin Sarratt (7-2, 2.40) leads the Tigers pitching staff with seven wins and 75.0 innings pitched. Dominic Leone (6-2, 3.38) has a team-leading 68 strikeouts.

#2 Connecticut Huskies (41-17-1, 22-5 Big East)

Star Watch: Matt Barnes, RHP- Big East pitcher of the year Matt Barnes (1.12 ERA) leads the Huskies with 11 wins, 112.1 innings pitched and 105 strikeouts. The 6-foot-4 right-hander’s fastball reaches 97 mph and his performance to this point has matched his impressive stuff.

The Big East regular season champion Huskies have speed to burn as they currently rank fifth in the nation with 122 stolen bases. Center fielder George Springer leads the team in most offensive categories including batting average (.361), home runs (12), runs batted in (74) and stolen bases (31).

The pitching staff has a solid number two starter in senior left-hander Greg Nappo (9-2, 2.71). Closer Kevin Vance (0-0, 0.98) has a school-record 13 saves so far this season.

#3 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (41-18, 20-7 Big South)

Star Watch: Tommy La Stella, 2B- Big South player of the year Tommy La Stella leads the Chanticleers with a .391 batting average, 63 runs batted in and 141 total bases. He also provides power, ranking second on the team with 11 home runs.

Coastal Carolina dominated the Big South this season, winning the conference’s regular season and tournament titles. The Chanticleers only have two regulars hitting over .300, so it’s important for leadoff man Scott Woodward to get on-base. Woodward is a sparkplug atop the batting order, hitting .363 with 30 stolen bases in 34 attempts. Daniel Bowman is a powerful middle of the order hitter who has a team-leading 12 home runs.

Ace pitcher Anthony Meo (9-3, 2.21), a potential first round draft pick, leads the Chanticleer pitching staff.  His power stuff has helped him rack up 108 strikeouts in 102.0 innings pitched. Matt Rein (9-2, 1.78) and Josh Conway (8-1, 2.49) give the Chanticleers two more quality starting pitchers.

#4 Sacred Heart Pioneers (34-21, 23-9 NEC)

Star Watch: J.J. Edwards, INF- Edwards leads the pioneers with a .380 batting average and a .419 on-base percentage.

Sacred Heart earned an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament after winning the NEC tournament title. The Pioneers will be familiar with second-seeded UConn, as they defeated the Huskies in 5-4 earlier this season.

Sacred Heart’s hitters are hitting .311 as a group, but they have just 15 home runs and rely on a contact-oriented approach. Six players have a batting average north of .300. Steve Tedesco’s 13 doubles and 16 stolen bases are team-leading totals.

Nick Leinigen (7-3, 3.68) and Troy Scribner (9-2, 3.69) lead the Sacred Heart pitching staff. Neither is a big strikeout guy, as Leinigan has 38 strikeouts in 80.2 innings pitched while Scribner has 44 in 92.2 innings pitched.

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