The 2022 DI baseball super regionals, previewed

The 2022 DI baseball super regionals, previewed

Here is a preview for each of the 2022 DI baseball super regionals from d1baseball.com’s Aaron Fitt and Kendall Rogers. You can read more on each super regional there, including scouting reports on each team from an opposing coach.

Blacksburg Super Regional Preview: Oklahoma at Virginia Tech

Oklahoma (40-21) at No. 4 Virginia Tech (44-12)

  • 3 p.m. Friday on ESPN2
  • Noon Saturday on ESPNU
  • TBD on Sunday, if necessary

Five things to watch

1. Gavin Cross and Tanner Schobel. In a Virginia Tech lineup loaded with serious firepower, Cross and Schobel stand out because of their all-around excellence — these are dynamic athletes who play outstanding defense at premium up-the-middle positions and also hit for power and average. At 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, Cross is a physical beast who moves like a freight train on the basepaths and in center field, and his lefthanded bat (.335/.419/.665, 16 HR, 12 SB) and all-around tool set makes him a slam-dunk first-round pick. Schobel is much smaller at 5-foot-10, 170 pounds, but he’s a quick-twitch athlete with lightning in his righthanded stroke, which has produced 18 home runs and 18 doubles along with a .374 average. He’s also a fluid shortstop with the range, actions and plus arm strength to stick at the position in pro ball, making him a very likely day one pick as an eligible sophomore this July.

2. Peyton Graham. If you like great shortstops, you’re going to love this series, which features two of college baseball’s very best in Schobel and Graham. A high-level performer since he showed up on campus, the wiry 6-foot-4, 171-pound Graham played third base his first two seasons and then made a seamless transition to short this spring, showing the ability to make plenty of highlight-reel plays as well as all the routine ones. He’s also put together his best offensive season, and one of the best all-around seasons in all of college baseball, hitting .339/.420/.661 with 19 homers, 68 RBIs and 32 stolen bases in 34 tries. He has serious whip in his righthanded swing and is a long strider who knows how to put his speed to excellent use.

3. Jake Bennett vs. Drue Hackenberg. Bennett, a physical and experienced veteran lefthander, is the best pitcher in this series, with an 8-3, 3.69 line along with 112 strikeouts against 20 walks in 97.2 innings. His matchup against Virginia Tech’s explosive offense should be fascinating to watch. Hackenberg is a strong-bodied freshman with an absurd athletic pedigree — he has one brother who starred as a quarterback for Penn State, another who played soccer for the Nittany Lions and was a first-round pick in the MLS draft, and a third who caught at Clemson. He attacks at 92-94 mph with a heavy fastball and mixes in a big, tight breaking ball in the low 80s as well as an effective 86-88 changeup — but he’s coming off rough starts in the ACC tournament and regionals, so the Hokies need a big bounceback performance from him.

4. Offensive fireworks and contrasting styles. Virginia Tech is simply one of the best offensive clubs in the country, ranking ninth nationally in scoring and batting, fourth in home runs per game, fifth in doubles per game, second in slugging and 15th in OBP. There are power threats up and down the lineup, with a good balance of righthanded and lefthanded threats and plenty of team speed. Oklahoma’s offense isn’t as potent statistically, ranking 43rd in in scoring, 45th in batting and 82nd in slugging, but the Sooners are extremely disciplined at the plate (ranking sixth in walks) and can really push the action with their running game (they rank fourth nationally with 140 stolen bases), so Virginia Tech’s talented catcher Cade Hunter will be a key player in this matchup.

5. Can the Hokies break through? Virginia Tech is making its first-ever appearance in super regionals and seeks its first trip to Omaha. The Hokie fan base has truly embraced this team over the last two years, creating a rowdy atmosphere and a great home-field advantage for Virginia Tech, which is 32-5 at English Field. Oklahoma deserved to host a regional after finishing the season on a tear and winning the Big 12 tournament, but instead the Sooners were shipped off to Gainesville, where they kept on winning. With road series wins in hostile environments at Texas Tech and TCU this spring, Oklahoma has shown it can handle a setting like this weekend, and the Sooners will try to spoil the party in Blacksburg. OU, playing its first super regional since 2013, is trying to reach Omaha for the first time since 2010, so this would be a significant breakthrough for the Sooners as well.

Chapel Hill Super Regional Preview: Arkansas at North Carolina

Arkansas (41-19) at No. 10 North Carolina (42-20)

  • 11 a.m. Saturday on ESPN
  • 1 p.m. Sunday on ESPN/ESPN2
  • TBD on Monday, if necessary

Five things to watch

1. Vance Honeycutt. The North Carolina freshman center fielder is simply one of the most dynamic, electrifying players in college baseball. A live-wire athlete with incredible twitch in his lithe 6-foot-3, 190 pound frame, Honeycutt has serious buggywhip in his righthanded stroke, which has produced 24 home runs this spring. He’s also a premium runner with 29 stolen bases in 34 tries, making him the first true freshman to post a 20-20 season at the Division I level in decades. And he might be the best defensive center fielder in the country even as a freshman, tracking down balls no mere mortal would approach. He helped save UNC’s season with a leaping catch to rob a home run in the ninth inning of an elimination game against Georgia last week.

2. Cayden Wallace. When it comes to pure excitement, Arkansas’ answer to Honeycutt is Wallace, a sophomore third baseman who will almost surely be drafted in the first round this summer. At 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, Wallace has a more compact and physical frame than Honeycutt, but he’s another live athlete who made a smooth transition from right field to the hot corner this year. His defensive displays at third base in the Stillwater Regional looked like the kind of stuff you might see from a major league Gold Glove winner — his agility, arm strength, and ability to throw accurately from a variety of slots on the run are all super impressive. So is his pretty righthanded swing, which has produced 15 homers and 17 doubles this spring.

3. Red-hot bats. Neither one of these clubs ranks among the national leaders in scoring over the course of the season — UNC is 101st, and Arkansas is 84th — but that doesn’t tell the real story. North Carolina has looked like a different team down the stretch, winning 19 of its last 22 games, and its outstanding, varied and balanced offense is a big reason. When the Tar Heels get rolling — especially at home, where they are 33-7 this year — they are very difficult to stop. And so is Arkansas, as it showed in Stillwater last weekend, scoring 44 runs in four games. That’s the kind of Arkansas scoring we expected to see heading into the year, but the Hogs were up and down offensively throughout the course of the season. But they are up right now, peaking at the perfect time.

4. Big stuff at the back end. Neither one of these teams has a vintage weekend rotation relative to the standards of these respective programs, which have been two of the nation’s elite over the past two decades. But each team has a major weapon with overpowering stuff at the back end. Freshman righthander Brady Tygart attacks with a mid-90s fastball with premium spin (above 2500 rpm) and one of the most devastating curveballs in the country, a 77-81 mph hammer with spin up into the 3100s. UNC’s closer is righthander Davis Palermo, who really came into his own as a fourth-year sophomore this spring (77 K in 55 IP), attacking at 94-97 mph with a high-spin heater into the 2500s, a solid power curve at 83-85 and a useful short slider at 86-88.

5. Excellence up the middle. As mentioned above, Honeycutt is a human highlight reel in center field, anchoring a very good up-the-middle quartet that also includes veteran shortstop Danny Serretti, gritty defensive specialist Colby Wilkerson at second, and rock-solid catcher Tomas Frick. But Arkansas might have the best up-the-middle defense in the country, led by the premier double-play tandem of Jalen Battles and Robert Moore, along with rangy Braydon Webb in center and fifth-year senior stalwart Michael Turner behind the plate. These two clubs both take care of the baseball and make plenty of web gems, which should make for high-quality, entertaining baseball this weekend in Chapel Hill.

College Station Supers Preview: Louisville vs. Texas A&M

No. 12 Louisville (42-19) at No. 5 Texas A&M (40-18)

  • 8:30 p.m. ET Friday on ESPNU
  • 3 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2
  • TBD on Sunday, if necessary

Five things to watch

1. Texas A&M’s Dylan Rock. Rock is approaching 1,000 at bats in his collegiate career, and it certainly shows each time he steps in the batter’s box. The UTSA transfer has made his presence felt in a massive way in his one and only season with the Aggies. The 6-foot-1, 210-pounder, had another strong showing at the College Station Regional, and enters the Louisville series hitting .340 with 13 doubles, 18 homers and 59 RBIs, along with 47 walks and a 1.163 OPS. If Rock gets rolling for the Aggies, that high-powered offense is almost impossible to keep at bay. Just ask TCU and plenty of other opponents from earlier this season.

2. Louisville’s Dan McDonnell vs. Texas A&M’s Jim Schlossnagle. The chess match between two of college baseball’s premier head coaches should be an absolute dandy to watch this weekend. McDonnell has had one of the more remarkable runs ever during his time at Louisville. Once a college baseball nobody, the Cardinals have evolved into one of the nation’s premier programs — all because of McDonnell and his staff. He has led the Cards to five College World Series appearances in his tenure as head man. As for Schlossnagle, he’s only in his first year with the Aggies, but he certainly has made a massive splash. If not for Tony Vitello and John Sfecz, Schlossnagle has made a strong pitch for National Coach of the Year honors, leading the Aggies, who were picked 13th in the SEC in the preseason, to the Super Regional round. Schlossnagle, of course, was terrific at TCU, where he guided the Frogs to all five of the school’s College World Series appearances. How will the chess match between two of the top active coaches in college baseball unfold? We’ll soon find out.

3. Louisville’s offensive firepower. Did you watch Louisville in Regional action over the weekend? If not, you missed some impressive hitting. For instance, in the final game of the weekend, sure the Cards got some help from the umps against Michigan, but boy, credit that offense for seizing the moment with Cam Masterman and others leading the charge. U of L is a tough, tough freight train to slow down once they get going, and they have some strong offensive approaches. For instance, catcher Dalton Rushing has had a terrific year with 22 homers and 60 RBIs to go with 50 walks, the aforementioned Masterman has hit 18 homers and knocked in 61 runs, Ben Metzinger has 19 homers and 68 RBIs and Jack Payton has knocked in more than 50 runs this season. Then, you have Christian Knapczyk and Isaac Humphrey, who have definite gap power and work the count – as evidenced by their 40-plus walk totals. This is very much a complete offense for the Cardinals.

4. The rest of A&M’s offense, especially late in games. If you really dig deep into Texas A&M’s offense, it’s really good, but it’s also one of those offenses that seizes the momentum a lot late in games. Look at the Aggies at the College Station Regional last weekend. They seized momentum in the middle-to-late innings against Louisiana, and they put up a seven-spot in the ninth inning to overwhelm TCU in a hard-fought contest. That’s the MO for the Aggies. Jack Moss has had an outstanding season, hitting .388 with 16 doubles, six homers and 47 RBIs, Austin Bost is one of the most improved players in college baseball with a .368 average, 31 walks, nine homers and 42 RBIs and Ryan Targac and Troy Claunch are both guys who have a knack for getting big hits in big situations. There’s also Trevor Werner, who has a huge presence atop the A&M lineup. He struggled for much of the weekend at the College Station Regional, but rose to the occasion when the Aggies needed him the most. A&M’s offense is very much momentum base, and Louisville will need to do what it can to slow it down.

5. Nathan Dettmer vs. Jared Poland. Both Dettmer and Poland have had their fair share of ups and downs this season, but both also have risen to the occasion when needed. Poland has been more consistent than Dettmer, but Dettmer has the better stuff. For Dettmer, he will sit anywhere from 91-94 and up to 95 mph with his fastball. And when he’s at his absolute best, he will attack hitters with a filthy breaking ball. With that said, his bunt defense must improve against a team like Louisville this weekend. As for Poland, he hopes to bounced back from a rough start against Michigan, where he allowed seven runs on nine hits in 4.2 innings of work. Poland sits anywhere from 91-93 and up to 94 mph with his fastball, along with an 81-85 mph changeup and a 78-82 mph breaking ball that tops out around 2700 RPM. These two ultra-talented arms against a pair of explosive offenses will be worth the hefty price of admission.

Corvallis Supers Preview: Auburn vs. Oregon State

No. 14 Auburn at No. 3 Oregon State

  • 10:30 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPNU
  • 7 p.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2/ESPNU
  • TBD on Monday, if necessary

Five things to watch

1. Sonny DiChiara. He’s one of the most entertaining players in college baseball for a myriad of reasons. Typically, when someone moves from the SoCon to the SEC, they don’t experience more success from an offensive standpoint. But let’s be honest, not everyone is Sonny D. DiChiara, a 6-foot-1, 265-pounder, has quite an unorthodox stature, but don’t let that fool you. Not only can Sonny D hit the long ball, but he’s actually a tremendous overall hitter. How so? Sonny is hitting .397 entering the weekend with 15 doubles, 20 home runs and 55 RBIs. He also has induced 66 walks and has struck out just 47 times this season. He possesses a .565 OBP to go with a ridiculously good 1.369 OPS. If Sonny D gets rolling at the plate this weekend, the Tigers become a very difficult team to slow down from an offensive standpoint. 

2. Cooper Hjerpe. The Oregon State lefthanded pitcher has had a season to remember. He’s a Golden Spikes Award finalist, and frankly, if it wasn’t for Texas slugger Ivan Melendez, he might just be the recipient. Hjerpe has been phenomenal the entire season, entering Super Regional play with a 2.40 ERA in 97.2 innings of work, along with 155 strikeouts and just 21 walks. Teams are hitting Hjerpe at a .182 clip. Stuff-wise, he will attack hitters with a fastball in the low-to-mid 90s, along with a quality changeup and slider combo. His competitiveness is off the charts, as we saw last weekend at the Corvallis Regional, where he started against New Mexico State and came back on Monday to throw with electricity out of the bullpen against Vanderbilt. Hjerpe is the heartbeat of Oregon State’s club. 

3. Wade Meckler and Jacob Melton. Here are two guys who have equally important roles with the Beavers, but who are very different type of players. Let’s start with Meckler. The former walk-on has been a true dirtbag/spark plug you name it type of guy for Oregon State this season. He’s a chip off the old block, and he enters the weekend with a .355 average, 22 doubles, three triples and 31 RBIs to go with a whopping 51 walks. Meckler also can steal some bases against the Tigers this weekend. As for Melton, an injury hampered him last season, but boy has he been impressive at the plate this season. The soon-to-be All-American is having a year to remember at the plate, hitting .360 with 21 doubles, four triples, 16 homers and 81 RBIs. He also has an OPS of 1.090. Both of these sluggers are ultra special to the Beavs for different reasons. 

4. Joseph Gonzalez. Speaking of old school type of players, how about Auburn starting pitcher and righthander Joseph Gonzalez? Gonzalez isn’t going to set spin rate records or wow scouts with the radar gun. But you know what he does do? He pitches at a very high level and commands the zone with precision. Gonzalez enters the weekend with a 2.90 ERA in 68.1 innings of work, along with 42 strikeouts and 14 walks. Teams are hitting him at a .265 clip, but he has recorded just two losses this season. Gonzalez will sit in the low-90s with his sinking fastball, which is his bread and butter. He’s about as sure thing as sure thing gets this weekend. 

5. The two bullpens. Both the Beavers and Tigers have some key pieces to watch out of the bullpen this weekend. Ben Ferrer is the bellow cow for this OSU bullpen with his off the charts competitiveness and nasty fastball and slider combo, while Verburg has pitched so many huge innings for the Beavers over the past few seasons. Ryan Brown, another hard-nosed reliever for the Beavs, pitches so much better than his ERA would indicate. It’s over five, but the times I’ve seen him pitch this spring, the stuff and results haven’t equaled what his ERA suggests, which is an average pitcher. As for the Tigers, Carson Skipper is a different look and a veteran, John Armstrong has thrown well in stints this season and Blake Burkhalter is the key cog at the backend of games. Burkhalter comes right at hitters with a mid-90s hitter, but what makes him so effective is a hard, 88-89 mph cutter that explodes on hitters as well. The lack of velocity difference makes it tough on hitters to distinguish the pitch from his fastball.

Greenville Super Regional Preview: Texas vs. East Carolina

No. 9 Texas (45-19) at No. 8 East Carolina (45-19)

  • Noon ET Friday on ESPN2
  • Noon ET Saturday on ESPN2
  • TBD on Sunday, if necessary

Five things to watch

1. Can East Carolina finally break down the door to Omaha? ECU is the undisputed “best program that has never been to Omaha,” with 32 regional appearances all-time, and seven trips to super regionals since the 64-team era began in 1999. But the Pirates have not hosted a super since 2001, when they lost to Tennessee in Kinston, before the completion of Clark-Leclair Stadium. This will be ECU’s first super regional in Greenville, where it has a mighty home-field advantage, with fans packing the seating bowl and the “Jungle” beyond the outfield wall, from foul pole to foul pole. Texas is used to playing in front of large, noisy crowds, but the home team still has the advantage of drawing extra energy from that crowd. It seems fitting that for ECU to make it to Omaha for the first time ever, it must go through a Texas program that has made that trip more than any other program (37 times).

2. Ivan Melendez. The Texas first baseman is the odds-on favorite to win the Golden Spikes Award, leading the country with a 1.417 OPS, 30 home runs and 90 RBIs. Only one other player has hit 30 homers since the BBCOR bat standard was implemented in 2011: San Diego’s Kris Bryant in 2013. Melendez is just one homer shy of Bryant’s BBCOR record — and Clark-Leclair is a hitter’s paradise.

3. Bryson Worrell and Jake Agnos. East Carolina’s two best players put on a show in regionals. The switch-hitting Worrell homered from both sides of the plate in the same inning against Coppin State, then went 4-for-4 in the regional clincher against Coastal Carolina with a homer, a triple and two gorgeous diving catches in center field. He’s a super-physical and athletic five-year senior with five real tools. Agnos is a marquee two-way player who makes this team go out of the leadoff spot, provides rock-solid defense at shortstop, and can pump 93 mph heat with a good changeup to close out games.

4. Pete Hansen vs. ECU’s pitching committee. Texas leans heavily upon its starting pitching, particularly ace lefthander Hansen (11-1, 3.08 with 112 strikeouts against 18 walks in 99.1 innings), one of the nation’s best starters. But the Longhorns are more vulnerable in the bullpen, so getting Hansen out of the game as early as possible will be a key for the Pirates. ECU does not get more than five innings from any starter, and often will go to the bullpen in the third, then mix and match the rest of the way. The approach has worked great for the Pirates down the stretch, helping them win 21 of their last 22 games.

5. The web gems. These are two of college baseball’s very best defensive teams, as Texas leads the nation with a .987 fielding percentage, and ECU ranks third at .983. UT’s Silas Ardoin is college baseball’s best defensive catcher, with a rocket arm that neutralizes an opponent’s running game, and Trey Faltine-Mitchell Daly duo is fun to watch in the middle infield. But ECU has plenty of playmakers too, led by human highlight reel Worrell in center field. And East Carolina has the advantage of playing on its own natural grass field, while Texas is accustomed to a much slower turf surface in Austin.

Hattiesburg Supers Preview: Ole Miss vs. Southern Miss

Ole Miss (35-22) at No. 11 Southern Miss (47-17)

  • 4 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPNU
  • 4 p.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2/ESPNU
  • Monday: TBD

Five things to watch

1. Southern Miss’ weekend rotation. The Golden Eagles have had one of the nation’s premier weekend rotations the entire season, and it’s a deep unit. Righthanded pitcher Tanner Hall pounds the zone and first made his presence known earlier this season with some strong showings in midweek games. He has a 2.61 ERA in 103.2 innings of work, along with a whopping 140 strikeouts and 13 walks. The big thing with Hall is that he has a turbo changeup that can go a variety of directions. It’s very difficult for hitters to pick that up. Hunter Riggins has a 2.59 ERA in 97.1 innings of work and has only walked 21 batters in 97.1 innings of work, while the bell cow of this rotation from a pure talent standpoint is righty Hurston Waldrep. Waldrep is up to 96-97 mph with his fastball and can absolutely dominate hitters. He has struck out 128 and walked 29 in 85 innings and teams are hitting him at a .208 clip. Outside of top-seeded Tennessee, you could make a strong argument that USM has the best remaining weekend rotation.

2. Tim Elko. The Rebels are red-hot offensively right now, and a big reason for that is the continued power production from Elko. The seasoned veteran had a multi-home run game at the Coral Gables Regional and continues to produce at a high level. He’s even doing it this season with two knees instead of one. Elko has smacked 22 home runs and knocked in 68 runs this season. He also has induced 40 walks and is hitting .306 with a 1.089 OPS. When Elko and others get rolling, the Rebels offense is tough to slow down. Elko is Mr. College Baseball.

3. Dylan DeLucia. Ole Miss’ success this weekend could hinge on the success of righthanded pitcher Dylan DeLucia. DeLucia began the season at the back end of the bullpen, but as the season progressed, head coach Mike Bianco decided to move him to the weekend rotation as they were looking for some answers with other arms struggling. DeLucia, a hard-nosed veteran, hasn’t disappointed in the rotation. He was terrific at the Coral Gables Regional last weekend, and when he’s right, it’s a legit 90-93 and up to 94 mph fastball with a solid slider. He has appeared in 18 games this season (nine starts) and has a 4.69 ERA in 73 innings, along with 79 strikeouts and 24 walks. DeLucia is a treat to watch when he’s right.

4. The Southern Miss bullpen. As good as the starting rotation has been for the Golden Eagles this spring, the bullpen has been equally good at times. Over the weekend at the Hattiesburg Regional, the bullpen came up huge in multiple games. Justin Storm threw five shutout innings out of the bullpen, and Dalton Rogers and Landon Harper were both huge in the final game against LSU. Tyler Stuart, who has appeared in four games and actually made four starts this season, has a 2.72 ERA in 39.2 innings of work. Isaiah Rhodes is another quality arm to watch — he has 21 appearances this season — and Chandler Best pitched well out of the bullpen last weekend, too. Best has appeared in 14 games this season. He’s down the list in terms of the most reliable bullpen arms, but he has the ability to enter a game and shut down a lineup.

5. The atmosphere at Pete Taylor Park. It’s almost like the roles are kind of reversed entering the weekend. Typically, Ole Miss would be hosting this type of series in Oxford. But now it shifts down to Hattiesburg, and boy, will Pete Taylor Park be an absolute zoo this weekend. The Pete is one of the better atmospheres in college baseball, and the arrival of the in-state foe Rebels will only increase the intensity around the ballpark. It will be must-see TV. The interesting thing about this Super is that Ole Miss enters the weekend playing with house money. No one expected the Rebels to be in the postseason in the first place, while the Golden Eagles were in the mix for a top eight seed. The pressure is on USM this weekend to advance to the College World Series.

Knoxville Super Regional Preview: Notre Dame vs. Tennessee

Notre Dame (38-14) at No. 1 Tennessee (56-7)

  • 6 p.m. Friday on ESPN2
  • 2 p.m. Saturday on ESPN
  • TBD on Sunday, if necessary

Five things to watch

1. A glimpse of greatness. At 56-7 overall, Tennessee is having one of the most dominant seasons in the history of college baseball. The Volunteers went 25-5 in the SEC to win the East Division by 10 games and the overall regular-season title by six games, then ran unbeaten through the SEC tournament and the Knoxville Regional. Tennessee has a chance to go down as one of the all-time great teams in college baseball if it can close the deal in Omaha and take home a national title — something that eluded other great regular season teams like 2021 Arkansas, 2017 Oregon State and 2013 Vanderbilt. Tennessee is elite in just about every way, leading the nation in home runs per game, slugging percentage and ERA, ranking second in strikeout-to-walk ratio as a pitching staff, fourth in scoring, 11th in batting and 13th in fielding percentage.

2. The Lindsey Nelson spectacle. As Tennessee rocketed to national prominence over the last two years, Lindsey Nelson Stadium became one of college baseball’s most intimidating venues for road teams. The fans are raucous, and the brash Volunteers feed off their energy and play to the crowd with demonstrative celebratory antics. That can rub opponents and old-school baseball purists the wrong way — but the only way to stop them is to beat them, and doing that in Knoxville has been close to impossible. Tennessee is 37-3 at home this year and 68-12 at home over the last two years.

3. John Michael Bertrand. After his gem against Florida State in the ACC tournament, I described Notre Dame ace lefty Bertrand as a master clinician at the height of his powers. He’s a fifth-year senior with loads of poise, polish and competitiveness, and the ability to keep hitters off balance by mixing an 88-93 fastball that he can locate to either side with sink or ride, a tumbling changeup, sharp slider and curveball. At 9-2, 2.27 with a 103-19 K-BB mark in 99 innings, Bertrand is a slam-dunk All-American, and it will be fun to see how he matches up with Tennessee’s explosive offense on Saturday (the Irish will throw Austin Temple on Friday, as Bertrand threw 107 pitches this past Sunday in the regional final against Texas Tech).

4. Chase Dollander. The SEC Pitcher of the Year is an immense talent with top-of-the-draft upside in 2023, with an overpowering mid-to-high-90s fastball, a plus slider in the mid-80s, a better than average changeup and solid curveball. Dollander is 9-0, 2.38 with a sterling 103-13 K-BB mark in 72 innings, evidence of both his superb bat-missing ability and his exceptional control — a rare combination. But Dollander was uncharacteristically mortal in the regional against Campbell last week, getting knocked out in the third inning, so it will be interesting to see if Notre Dame’s disciplined offense can follow the Camels’ script and get to him for a second straight week. It won’t be easy.

5. Tennessee’s flash vs. Notre Dame’s stability. These matchup presents a dramatic contrast between Tennessee’s in-your-face, emotional style and Notre Dame’s quieter, laser-focused and ultra-disciplined mentality. The Volunteers simply dazzle you with their overwhelming talent, in the lineup as well as on the mound. The Fighting Irish have talent too, with a nice collection of upper-90s arms in the bullpen, but everyone who faces the Irish always walk away raving about how well coached and fundamentally sound they are, with a cohesive and mature offensive approach and a rock-solid defense that seldom gives away free bases. That isn’t to say Tennessee lacks sound fundamentals or focus (just look at its .980 fielding percentage, which is identical to Notre Dame’s). But nonetheless, this feels like a clash between the unstoppable force that is Tennessee and the immovable object that is Notre Dame. It’s a category five hurricane against a 300-year-old oak tree.

Stanford Super Regional Preview: UConn vs. Stanford

Connecticut (49-14) at Stanford (45-14)

  • 10 p.m. Saturday on ESPNU
  • 7 p.m. Sunday on ESPN2/ESPNU
  • TBD on Monday, if necessary

Five things to watch

1. Stanford’s Alex Williams. Outside of Oregon State lefthanded pitcher Cooper Hjerpe, no one on the West Coast had as much of an impact on the mound as the Stanford righthanded hurler. Williams, who has a hard-nosed, come at you, approach, was terrific all-spring long, tallying a 2.35 ERA in 95.2 innings of work, along with 89 strikeouts and 23 walks. He held teams to a .207 OBA and he just pounds the zone with a low-90s fastball, which can get up to 94 mph when he wants to reach back a little. He also has a very effective slider. Williams didn’t look particularly great in the Stanford Regional, so conventional wisdom would suggest he enters this weekend looking to make somewhat of a statement.

2. Brock Jones. Now that Jones is dialed in, he’s one of the more exciting players in college baseball. He’s worth tuning in to the game in the wee hours of the evening. Jones is an electric personality who has electricity on the field, too. In addition to being a premier defender in the outfield, he’s been an excellent hitter, too, the last half of the regular season, hitting .319 with 13 doubles, five triples, 17 home runs and 50 RBIs entering the weekend. He also has induced 52 walks and walked 15 bases. If Jones gets going for the Stanford offense, chances are good the rest of the lineup will follow suit. 

3. Carter Graham and Braden Montgomery. While Brock Jones is the fire starter for this Stanford team, Graham and Montgomery serve as the destroyers in the middle of that offensive lineup. Graham has made massive strides this season, and when he went down with an injury in the Stanford Regional, you could tell that Cardinal lineup was a bit deflated. Well, he’s expected to be healthy and ready to go this weekend against Connecticut, and he has massive raw power, entering the weekend with a whopping 22 homers. Montgomery is another raw power king. Montgomery is nearing the 20-home run mark as a true freshman, and he has the look of a premium prospect and someone who deserves serious consideration for Freshman of the Year. 

4. The heart of UConn’s lineup. The Huskies were so impressive last weekend at the College Park Regional, and a lot of credit goes to the pitching staff, and of course, the heart of its lineup. Erik Stock continues to rake, hitting .366 with 10 home runs and 55 RBIs entering the weekend, Ben Huber and Casey Dana are both talented players who have been consistent hitters this season, and David Smith is that spark plug who really gets this offense going. He was very good at the College Park Regional, and he’s versatile. He hits for a solid average, for power and also has been ultra-successful on the basepaths this spring, swiping 23 of 27 stolen bases. Bryan Padilla and Matt Donlan are other intriguing hitters to watch, particularly for their power production. UConn might not have the ‘star’ power offensively that Stanford might have, but this is a lineup filled with experienced and productive hitters. 

5. Austin Peterson. The talented UConn righthanded pitcher has had a terrific season and enters the weekend as a true ace for Josh MacDonald’s pitching staff. He has started 16 games (17 appearances) and tallied a 3.30 ERA in 109 innings of work. He has swing and miss stuff, as evidenced by 145 strikeouts and just 23 walks, while teams are hitting him at a .227 clip. UConn will need length out of Peterson this weekend. If that happens, their chances of taking at least one game, and perhaps the series, rises exponentially. He’s the bell cow for this pitching staff. 

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