No. 2 seed Florida Atlantic
The Owls bring a dynamic offense to Gainesville that played a big role in their 40-17 record during the 2015 regular season. FAU was in the hosting conversation a few weeks ago but fell out of that and ended up being sent to Gainesville.
FAU is tied for 19th in the country with 7.0 runs per game. The team is tied for 16th nationally in batting average (.302), tied for 25th in doubles (218) and eighth in walks (286). Despite all of those numbers being impressive, the Owls do it without many home runs. Their 39 home runs are tied for 74th in the country.
The Owls have five regulars batting over .300 and five players have at least six home runs. Right fielder Brendon Sanger leads FAU with a .372 batting average, adding six home runs, 45 RBI and 52 runs scored. Shortstop CJ Chatham has hit near the bottom of the lineup, but his .344 average is second on the team.
Chatham and third baseman Ricky Santiago have combined to make 33 errors on the left side of the infield. Santiago, the team’s cleanup hitter, has a team-high eight home runs while hitting .317.
On the mound, FAU’s 3.55 ERA is tied for 61st in the country. It’ll be interesting to see how head coach John McCormack manages his starting pitchers this weekend. The Owls have used Kyle Miller as their ace to end the regular season, but his numbers aren’t close to Drew Jackson. Miller is 6-3 with a 3.77 ERA, giving up 89 hits and 17 walks in 76.1 innings pitched with 59 strikeouts. Jackson, however, is 6-3 with a 2.10 ERA, giving up 52 hits and 15 walks in 68.2 innings pitched with 52 strikeouts.
Brandon Rhodes (4-1, 3.50 ERA) is the third starter on the team, but he has allowed 93 hits in 74.2 innings pitched with only 39 strikeouts. Rhodes started in the midweek loss to Florida and allowed 10 hits and four runs in five innings pitched.
The most impressive part about the trio of starters is that they have combined to allow just eight home runs in 219.2 innings.
No. 3 seed South Florida
The Gators faced the Bulls twice during midweek games, and Florida won both fairly easily. The first meeting was Florida’s fourth game of the year, beating USF 13-3 in Tampa and 5-1 in Gainesville on May 5.
The Bulls’ offensive numbers aren’t overly impressive. They’re 210th in the country with a .263 team batting average and tied for 176th with 5.1 runs per game. USF is tied for 119th with 32 home runs on the season and tied for 61st nationally with 72 stolen bases, one more than Florida.
Second baseman Kevin Merrell leads the USF offense, hitting .348 but with just six extra-base hits, all doubles. The power comes from right fielder Luke Maglich and catcher Levi Borders, who have combined for 17 of the team’s 32 home runs. Maglich is hitting .305 with 38 RBI while Borders, the son of former Major League catcher Pat Borders, is hitting .295 with a team-high 44 RBI.
The USF pitching staff has a clear ace. Jimmy Herget is 9-3 this year with a 2.95 ERA. In 94.2 innings, Herget has allowed 79 hits and 33 walks while striking out 109 hitters. Herget makes sense to get the ball on Friday when the Bulls face FAU.
Behind him, No. 2 starter Ryan Valdes is 5-3 with a 3.16 ERA. In 77 innings pitched, Valdes has allowed 70 hits, 36 walks and struck out 70 hitters. The Bulls do have a dominant closer in Tommy Peterson, who has 15 saves this year with a 2.06 ERA. Peterson has allowed 31 hits and 15 walks in 43.2 innings, striking out 50 hitters.
No. 4 seed Florida A&M
The Rattlers have turned this into a historical season, making the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history despite a 23-23 record. FAMU won the MEAC Tournament to earn the automatic bid and was placed in the Gainesville Regional. The Rattlers will be confident this Friday after pulling off a 4-3 win at McKethan Stadium last year in a midweek game.
Leadoff hitter Jared Walker leads the way with a .324 batting average, and left fielder Marlon Gibbs (.311 average, 15-16 SB) brings a threat in the middle of the order. Michael Birdsong, Ryan Kennedy and Alec Wong have combined for 15 of the team’s 20 home runs.
On the mound, Chase Jerrell has pitched game one recently for the Rattlers, but he is 2-4 with a 6.00 ERA. In 63 innings, Jerrell has allowed 91 hits and 12 walks while striking out 35 hitters. Opponents are batting .353 against him. The best numbers for a starter on the team go to Ricky Page, who is 2-0 with a 1.32 ERA in 34 innings. Page has started in recent weeks and allowed 26 hits, 19 walks and recorded 28 strikeouts.