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The NCAA Tournament Atlanta Regional: Who to watch for

First of all, some of you may have noticed an error in my fact checking yesterday about the National #8 seed always making it to the CWS. That was an error on my part and thanks to NoDakJacket for holding me accountable to the fact. I will stress an even greater importance on the verification of statements. No one wants to read stuff that's just made up.

The Atlanta Regional kicks off this Friday with #1 Georgia Tech vs. #4 Mercer and #2 Alabama vs. #3 Elon. Who are these teams? Where did they come from? and how did they get to the NCAA Tournament?

Mark Pope will take the mound against Mercer on Friday. Danny Hall is taking the risk and planning on pitching Deck McGuire on Saturday against Elon/Alabama in the winner's bracket. While Bird will throw the numbers at you that argue that Pope deserves the start, I still get nervous watching him pitch more than 3 innings.

The competition:

Alabama Crimson Tide Crimsontidealogo_medium

The Tide comes in with a record of 37-22 and are coming off a good SEC tournament run this past weekend as they made it to the championship game against LSU before falling 4-3.

Keys to the Tide:
    - Pitching: Alabama has a solid starter in Jimmy Nelson. I was unable to find any information as to whether he will be starting on Friday or Saturday for a hopeful matchup against Georgia Tech on Saturday. In the SEC tournament, he pitched a complete game shut down of the Auburn Tigers, holding them to 1 run over the entire game in a 7-1 victory. Though the seemingly #1 starter, Nelson is the style pitcher that Tech batters feast on: 3.69 ERA and has given up 14 home runs (most on the pitching staff) with a .250 opponents batting average. He's not very wild, and averages just under a strikeout an inning (89 K's vs. 97.2 IP)

Probable Rotation: (W-L, ERA)
Jimmy Nelson (8-2, 3.69)
Adam Morgan (6-4, 6.04)
Taylor Wolfe (3-2 5.50)

Bullpen: (W-L, ERA, Appearances)
Nathan Kilcrease (6-2, 2.47, 31)*
Brett Whitaker (2-3, 4.65, 23)
Jason Townsend (2-1, 6.15, 20)

*Kilcrease may not have started many games for Alabama but he puts in a lot of innings (80+ IP)

  - Hitting: The Tide doesn't come close to the power numbers of Georgia Tech. Only one player (Clay Jones) has 15 homeruns. The rest of the bunch are scrappy group who string together hits and produce runs. Watch out for Josh Rutledge and Clay Jones. The two players lead Alabama in slugging and RBI and are 2nd and 3rd in batting average. Neutralize these two, and you neutralize the Alabama offense.

Probable Lineup: (BA, HR, RBI)
CF Taylor Dugas (.391, 1, 33)
SS Josh Rutledge (.357, 8, 61)
2B Ross Wilson (.259, 7, 40)
1B Clay Jones (.332, 15, 58)
3B/P Jake Smith (.249, 11, 47)
IF Jon Kelton (.299, 7, 40)
DH Brandt Hendricks* (.265, 0, 14)
RF Andrew Miller (.262, 1, 24)
C Brock Bennett (.290, 2, 17)

Record against the ACC in 2010: 0-0


Elon University Phoenix

The Phoenix return to Atlanta this year well prepared after visiting the city for last year's Regional. Elon received an at-large bid to the tournament out of the Southern Conference and went 38-22 in the regular season. In fact, three teams from the Southern Conference received bids to the tournament, a new record. They have never played Alabama nor Mercer and are 0-4 all-time against Georgia Tech.


Keys to the Phoenix:
  - Pitching: Jimmy Reyes and Daniel Britt look to the the #1 and #2 starters. Neither give up many home runs but both at ERA's approximately at 4.00, revealing that they put runners on the bases. Really, there isn't anything special about their pitching staff. Just like last year, they focuses on their offensive numbers....

Probable Rotation: (W-L, ERA)
Jimmy Reyes (10-3, 3.97)
Daniel Britt (5-2, 4.62)
Jared Kernodle (6-3, 5.62)
Ken Ferrer (9-5, 4.99)

Bullpen: (W-L, ERA, Appearances)
Kyle Webb (0-3, 3.41, 27)
Thomas Girdwood (3-2, 5.33, 27)
John Brebbia (1-0, 8.16, 22 )
Jim Stokes (2-0, 4.60, 20)
J.D. Reichenbach (0-1, 5.97, 15)

- Offense: Last year Elon led the nation in both home runs and home runs per game. This year their offensive production is down as a team but they still have players who can swing a stick. Players to watch on Elon are Matt Hinson and Neal Pritchard. Hinson has a slugging percentage of .673 (about a double and a half per base hit) and has hit 16 home runs.

Probable Lineup: (BA, HR, RBI)
CF Harry Austin (.284, 1, 30)
LF Niko Fraser (.290, 1, 21)
C Mike Melillo (.312, 11, 56)
SS Neal Pritchard (.345, 11, 46)
1B Ryan Adams (.300, 11, 57)
3B Scott Riddle (.317, 6, 31)
2B Seth Canipe (.285, 10, 35)
DH Ben Scott (.318, 2, 16)
RF Justin Hilt (.240, 10, 36)

Record against the ACC in 2010: 6-1. Wins against Clemson, Wake Forest, UNC, NCSU. Loss @ UNC


Mercer University Bears
Mercer is the hottest team in the regional, having won 17 of their past 20 games and earned their way into the NCAA Tournament by winning the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament. This bid to the Tournament is their first trip in school history. However, they return to Atlanta again to face Georgia Tech for the 3rd time this season. In the previous two attempts, the Jackets outscored the Bears 34-12. Mercer will not pitch its #1 starter Friday night as they hope for some luck to push them into the winner's bracket on Saturday....or they expect to lose and want to survive with their #1 on Saturday.

Mercer has seen Mark Pope earlier this year. They put on 10 hits over 6 innings while scoring 5 runs. Over the previous two meetings Mercer has been able to hit the ball but has not been able to defend or pitch the ball. No one should expect too much trouble from the Mercerians.

Keys to the Bears:
-Pitching: Like I stated before, the Bears can't rely on their pitching. They have to hope their hitters come through. Weekend starters David Teasely, Matt McCall, and Brandon Love all have ERA's over 4.50. It will be Brandon Love who takes the mount against Mark Pope on Friday night. Love himself brings a 6.19 ERA and an 8-3 record. He has given up 13 home runs over the season and opponents are batting over .300 against him. Love is fresh meat for the Georgia Tech bats.

Probable Rotation: (W-L, ERA)
Brandon Love (8-3, 6.19)
Matt McCall (7-2 4.57)
Justice French (3-3, 6.09)
David Randall (5-4, 6.10)

Bullpen: (W-L, ERA, Appearances)

Jacob Matthews (3-0, 2.31, 11)
Michael Shaw (1-0, 3.18, 15)
J.T Odom (2-2, 3.48, 33)
James Kimsey (0-0, 5.62, 16)
Lath Guyer (1-4, 7.97, 25)
Chris Newell (2-1, 9.48, 14)
Russell Moses (0-2, 9.61, 14)
David Teasley (5-1, 4.57, 41)

-Offense: Mercer has a shallow bench. They start 9 with only 4 reserves who has seen the field on a semi-regular basis, though 8 of the 9 starters all are hitting over .300. The sluggers are Jacob Tanis and John Moreland (22 and 21 HRs respectively). Tanis has put together a complete season batting in 86 runs and scoring 66 times himself and is 2nd in the nation in RBI's. Against Mark Pope, Tanis went 3-4 with 5 RBI's.

Probable Lineup: (BA, HR, RBI)
CF Billy Burns     (.374, 2, 25)
DH Tyler McCarty (.345, 4,34)
3B Jacob Tanis (.382,22,86)
RF Thomas Carroll (.312, 8, 61)
2B Michael Langley (.396, 6, 48)
LF Joe Winker (.291, 9, 45)
C Nick Dimauro (.360, 2, 48)
1B John Moreland (.312, 21, 52)
SS Evan Boyd (.314, 2, 23)
Record against the ACC in 2010: 0-2. Both against Georgia Tech.

National Rankings of note:

Home Runs: Georgia Tech #2,114 HRs; Mercer #14,89 HRs Elon #22,83 HRs; Alabama #118,53 HRs)

RBI: Jacob Tanis, Mercer,#2, 86 RBI Tony Plagman, GT, #31, 73 RBI; Josh Rutledge, Alabama, #129, 61 RBI, Ryan Adams, Elon, #203,57 RBI

ERA: Nathan Kilcrease, Alabama, #27, 2.48; Deck McGuire, #54, 3.01; Jimmy Reyes, Elon, #187, 3.97

Georgia Tech clearly comes into the Regional with the most power. Of course the question will be whether or not they can sustain the power throughout the weeks necessary to make it deep into the tournament. It's the typical question with Georgia Tech: the bats are there most of the time but will they show up? We have the pitching depth that is needed for a run in the tournament as well, something we've been lacking for quite a few years. If we play like we've played in the middle of the season, it will be an easy run. Big IF.

Tournament Schedule:

Friday, June 4
3 p.m. Game 1
7 p.m. Game 2

Saturday, June 5
3 p.m. Game 3 (Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2)
7 p.m. Game 4 (Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2)

Sunday, June 6
3 p.m. Game 5 (Winner Game 3. vs. Loser Game 4)
7 p.m. Game 6 (Winner Game 4 vs. Winner Game 5)

Monday, June 7
7 p.m. Game 7 (if necessary same teams as Game 6)