Some teams including Texas Tech opponent Abilene Christian did not have those dreams due to reclassification rules. Other squads watched their dreams die during the regular season. There are 64 teams left vying for eight spots in Omaha. One of these 64 clubs will be crowned the 2014 NCAA National Champions. Dreams will die for 48 of field's teams this weekend.
For the first time since 2004, Texas Tech keeps its dreams alive during the weekend of the NCAA regionals. Now we take an in-depth look at each team in the Coral Gables Regional hosted by the University of Miami in Florida.
1. Miami Hurricanes 41-17 (24-6 in the ACC)
Coral Gables Regional Schedule
(All Times CDT)
Game 1: Columbia vs. Texas Tech
1 p.m. Friday
Game 2: Bethune-Cookman vs. Miami (FL)
6 p.m. Friday
Game 3: Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2
1 p.m. Saturday
Game 4: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2
6 p.m. Saturday
Game 5: Winner Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4
1 p.m Sunday
Game 6: Winner Game 4 vs. Winner Game 5
6 p.m. Sunday
Game 7: *Game 6 Repeated if necessary
There are a few teams in college baseball experts automatically place into their pre-season regional projections without having a thought. The Hurricanes are one of those teams. Miami extended its streak of consecutive NCAA regionals selections to 42 when the regional host sites were announced Sunday. Not only is Miami a great baseball school, but head coach Jim Morris is one of the most stable coaches in the NCAA. In his 21 years at the helm of the Hurricanes, Morris is currently looking to take Miami to the College World Series for a twelfth time.
Recently, the regional success has not been there. The Hurricanes have failed to make it out of the regionals for the past three seasons with a 1-4 record in the past two appearances. The first victim of Stony Brook's 2012 cinderella run was Miami. The Canes, who hosted the regional in 2012, lost their first game to the four seed Sea Wolves 10-2. Miami was eliminated in two games after a 12-2 loss at the hands of Missouri State. The NCAA Regionals now return to Coral Gables where Miami looks to return to its usual success.
The Hurricanes are led by their offense which averages 5.5 runs per game. Their best offensive player statistically is senior Dale Carey who finished second in the ACC in runs scored (51) and leads the team's consistent starters in average at .322. Carey smacked seven home runs this season, but has some speed too. The senior leader stole 16 bases and grounded into one double play.
On his tail though, is ACC Freshman of the Year Zack Collins. In just his first season as a collegiate baseball player, Collins finished second in the ACC with nine home runs. Collins was strong in ACC play with a .320 average, five long balls and two triples. This freshman tied atop the leaderboard in RBIs with 49.
The Canes are not just an offensive team though. Miami has a good pitching staff too. Led by ACC Co-Pitcher of the Year Chris Diaz, all three rotation starters sported ERAs under 3.00 in ACC play. With seven teams in the field of 64, the ACC is a strong baseball conference. Diaz (9-0, 2.31 ERA) gave up one home run in 93.8 innings pitched in 15 appearances. The other starters are no slouches either. Bryan Radziewski (7-2, 3.14 ERA) is a strikeout machine with 102 and Andrew Suarez (5-3, 3.22 ERA) is an inning-eater after throwing 100.2 innings in 15 appearances. This rotation is very stable with all 45 appearances coming in the form of starts. Miami's weakness could be the mental aspect of the game.
The Hurricanes dropped a game to each of the NCAA's worst conferences. Bethune-Cookman, out of the MEAC, and Alabama State, out of the SWAC, each took games during the season against Miami. Exactly one week after senior RHP Javi Salas tossed a perfect game, he was jolted for six runs in the first inning of a 7-3 loss to Bethune-Cookman. Later in the season, Alabama State stole a 6-5 victory of Miami during a game which the Hurricanes committed four errors. The SWAC and MEAC are consistently two of the worst conferences in NCAA baseball and this year finished 30 and 31 in the RPI standings, only ahead of the independents according to Boyd's World. Now Miami will try to stay away from a repeat let down when it takes on Bethune-Cookman in the Friday nightcap.
Friday probable vs. Bethune-Cookman: Junior LHP Andrew Suarez (5-3, 3.22 ERA)
2. Texas Tech Red Raiders 40-18 (18-10 in the Big 12) At large
For the first time since 2004, the Red Raiders are in an NCAA regional. Texas Tech has experienced regular season and regional success in its history, but has never won a regional. The Red Raiders have hosted three regionals and dropped two straight regional championship games on more than one occasion in its history. Much of that is long forgotten since Tech has faced the misery of a decade long regional drought. Now the Red Raiders are under one of their own alums, Tim Tadlock. Tadlock's first season in Lubbock was miserable.
The Red Raiders had just fired Dan Spencer and lost nine members to the MLB First-Year Player Draft. The cupboard was virtually empty and the losing record showed. The pitching was depleted through injuries and the offense couldn't score. Fast forward one year later and Tadlock has completed a 180 with the Red Raiders. Tech isn't just scoring runs, they're pounding the ball. The Red Raiders average 6.4 runs per game and have outscored opponents 371-219. Tech hit double digits in the runs department in six conference games.
These Red Raiders played well against stout competition too. Tech outscored two nationally seeded teams (Indiana, TCU) 45-25 and regional hosts 67-42.
The Red Raiders also have a stout pitching staff. The team is led by LHP Chris Sadberry (4-2, 3.45 ERA) who sports eight no decisions. The amount of no decisions show the team's weakness: stability. Outside the program, no one knows who is going to pitch and when. Tadlock has consistently waited until just hours before game time to name starters. They also have short hooks with pitchers lasting just a couple of innings, if that. Perhaps, the long relief is a strong point for Texas Tech. LHP Jonny Drozd is 6-0 tossing 63 innings in 22 appearances, but has yet to make a start. Drozd also sports the team's best ERA at 2.14. LHP Cameron Smith and RHP Corey Taylor have also made lengthy relief appearances combining for a 12-5 record. No one knows what the pitching staff will bring, but it gets the job done and that is very fitting to the "West Texas Way".
Tech's offense is led by Big 12 Newcomer of the Year Adam Kirsch, who is on a 14-game hitting streak, ripping his way to a .420 average, two home runs, 14 RBIs and a .700 slugging percentage during the streak. Kirsch, who is a senior, transferred from Florida International and has blasted six home runs in Big 12 Conference play. In a road game against nationally seeded Oklahoma State, Kirsch went 3-for-5 while blasting two home runs and driving in six RBIs.
Other notable hitters include a pair of sophomores in Eric Gutierrez and Tyler Neslony. Prior to an injury, Neslony started off the season by blasting a grand slam in each of the first two Saturdays of the season. One of those came against national seed Indiana. During the Red Raiders short stint at the Big 12 Championships, Neslony batted .750 by going 6-for-8 with a double and two RBIs.
Gutierrez, was named Big 12 Player of the Year by the Waco Tribune-Herald. Although just 5-foot-10, Gutierrez is a giant at the plate leading the Big 12 Conference in homers, RBIs and slugging percentage. One could call him Mr. Clutch as the sophomore out of Mission, Texas, drove in 23 RBIs with two outs and 7 game-winning RBIs. Also, don't rule out sophomore Zach Davis. He may not play much or have the greatest stats in the world, but never count someone out who has stolen home plate when their team is down to its final strike in a one-run ball game.
Texas Tech is 3-0 against Ivy League opponents, but the Red Raiders are 0-6 in regional championship games. Tech could threaten Miami for a spot in the Super Regionals, but they'll have to get past their ghosts first.
Friday's probable vs. Columbia: Junior LHP Chris Sadberry (4-2, 3.45 ERA)
3. Columbia Lions 29-18 (15-5 in Ivy League) Ivy League Automatic Bid
For the first time since 1998, the Ivy League is sending its champion to the NCAA regionals without it being the worst seed in the regional. In 1998, 48 teams made the field and regionals hosted six teams. Harvard was a five seed in the South II Regional, hosted by LSU in Baton Rouge. After losing their first game 16-1 against Cal State Fullerton, the Crimson won two elimination games before being trounced a second time by the Titans. Columbia will look to produce similar results, but the Lions enter 2014 with an all-time regionals record of 1-6. The lone victory came in 2013 when Columbia beat New Mexico 6-5 to eliminate the Lobos.
Although known for academics, this Lions team can compete. Columbia went 2-6 against teams who made a regional, but forced 11 innings in a mid-week road game against Texas A&M. There is no doubt the Lions are not the best team in the Coral Gables Regional. This is a learning experience for these Ivy Leaguers. The Lions field five seniors. The rest should be back in 2015 for an experienced group of back-to-back Ivy League Championships.
This team thrives on its starting pitching. Senior LHP David Speer (7-2, 1.86 ERA) won the Ivy League Pitcher of the Year award. Speer tossed six complete games this season including four shutouts. In 87 innings, he allowed seven walks while recording 75 strikeouts. It is key to note, his only two losses came against teams in the field of 64.
Speer isn't the only pitcher who is capable of a good outing though. Sophomore RHP George Thanopoulos (5-2, 2.81 ERA) recorded exactly one strikeout per inning in Ivy League play.
Columbia features a good offense too. Although the Lions are 2-6 against the field of 64 with both victories coming against Kennesaw State, all players who have started 40 games or more are hitting above the Mendoza Line. The team is lead by Ivy League Rookie of the Year Will Savage.
Savage, a freshman, is hitting .339 with 14 stolen bases. The power hitter on the team is junior Gus Craig, who blasted six home runs. Look out for the speedster Jordan Serena. He will probably hit lead-off. Serena has three triples this season while swiping 25 bags on 29 attempts.
This Lions team will struggle in terms of advancing to the Super Regionals, but the more games they play, the more dangerous they'll be if they make the field of 64 in 2015.
Friday probable vs. Texas Tech: Sophomore RHP George Thanopoulos (5-2, 2.81 ERA)
4. Bethune-Cookman Wildcats 26-31 (14-10 in the MEAC) MEAC Automatic Bid
Four extra inning affairs against teams in the field of 64 is the difference between a winning record and a losing record. Not that it really matters to the Wildcats. After all, they are one of 64 teams who have a shot to win the 2014 NCAA Baseball National Championship.
This team has been here before though. Not only have they won 17 MEAC titles, but this is the Wildcats eighth trip to an NCAA regional in the past 10 seasons. This team also defeated its first opponent, the Miami Hurricanes, in Coral Gables March 11. The Wildcats must get past their ghosts first though. Bethune-Cookman has not won an NCAA regional game since 2002 when the Wildcats topped Florida International in an elimination game. There is hope the drought will end though.
Meet senior RHP Montana Durapau (11-1, 1.71 ERA), a pitcher with a history of success at Mark Light Field at Alex Rodriguez Park when playing Miami. Durapau is 2-0 against the Hurricanes. He's pitched in three games against them, all coming in Coral Gables. His first appearance came in relief in 2012 and he tossed three shutout innings while striking out four hitters. Now he faces the Hurricanes once more and this time, he has a chance to score the first NCAA regional victory by an MEAC team since 2002.
Of course, Durapau will need some help. He'll be looking to Eric Sams to help provide that support. Sams leads the Wildcats with a .321 average and 15 doubles. Eros Modena and Zach Olszewski can provide a charge to the offense as well. The pair recorded three triples each this season. Aside from the big date with the Hurricanes, the Wildcats will most likely look for a quality outing from junior RHP Keith Zuniga (7-4, 2.59 ERA).
If Durapau manages to hold onto his undefeated record against Miami, it will be interesting to see how this team handles a victory against a regional host.
Friday's probable vs. Miami (FL): Senior RHP Montana Durapau (11-1, 1.71 ERA)
The winner advances to the Super Regionals to face the winner of the Gainesville Regional consisting of Florida Gators (National Seed No. 2 seed), Long Beach State, North Carolina and the College of Charleston.