Raleigh Regional Primer
Well the weekend just didn’t go Auburn’s way and it looks like it was that way from the start. NC State went 2 and BBQ in Durham for the ACC tournament, falling to Virginia and eventual champ FSU along the way, while Auburn went 2-2, with wins over Kentucky and the only team to beat champion Ole Miss. That however is in the past and now it’s time to hit the real post season. Auburn was paid a huge compliment, being award the highest 2 seed in the field (#17 overall) and was placed in the Raleigh regional with NC State, Northeastern and Army. On the blush, this going to be a solid regional with some real promise for Auburn, but let’s dive in a bit deeper and get to know our bunk mates for the weekend.
NORTHEASTERN HUSKIES – 36-19 (17-6 Colonial)
This team sounds familiar…Oh that’s right, Casey Mize no-hit them back in early March…gee, thanks Ray Tanner and the rest of the selection committee for this rematch. Any who, the Huskies went on to have a solid season and at one point, had an RPI high enough that they were thought to be a dark horse to host a regional at Fenway Park (completely outside but college baseball fans tend to dream big). After handing Auburn their first loss of the season in a 2-1 double header on a Saturday afternoon, Northeastern went on to get swept in 4 games by regional host Texas Tech, have a bit of a run through the Colonial, only to go to the championship game of the tournament and force a winner take all against UNC-Wilmington and drop that 7-4. At the plate, the Huskies are paced by 1B Jake Farrell, who has started all but 1 game for ‘Eastern and will enter the postseason with a .341 BA, and 11 HRs. On the bump is where the Huskies have struggled and could go a bunch of different way. Back in March, Sean Mellen went 8 innings against Auburn, giving up 1 run on just 2 hits and continued that for the rest of the season, with a 2.28 ERA in 14 appearances. David Stiehl was the last “Friday Night” starter against Delaware and will enter the post season with a 3.83 ERA. There are a couple of others that could go in Tyler Brown or Brian Christian but I am guessing it will be Mellen, given Auburn had trouble with him earlier this season. Northeastern was a controversial pick to make the postseason but make no mistake, this is a very dangerous team, especially at the plate, and Auburn will need it’s A game to take them down in Game 1.
ARMY BLACK KNIGHTS – 36-22 (18-7 Patriot)
- Champions of the Patriot League (Swept series with Navy in Annapolis to win title)
Army has one of the better wins of the regional this season, splitting a 2 game set with regional host Stetson back in March. After that, it’s few and far between as far as quality opponents. The Black Knights are just 3-6 vs the RPI Top 100 and an uninspiring 15-11 vs 101-200. However, they kicked it into high gear against rival Navy in the Patriot League Championship series, where they were able to sweep the Middies and take the auto spot. On offense, Army is led by C Jon Rosoff with a .351 BA and also leads the team with 14 doubles on the season. Don’t look for the Knights to bash home runs this weekend; they’ve only knocked in 9 as a team on the year. On the mound, Tyler Giovinco leads the team in starts with 14 and enters Raleigh with a 3.39 ERA and is 8-5 on the year. The junior also leads the team with 3 CGs on the year. Another name to know is Matt Ball, who has 13 starts on the season and is 7-2 with a 3.33 ERA. Can Army keep the 5 game winning streak going and take down the host Wolfpack? Sure they can, but their pitching will have to be on point and get a little offense to do it, and the offense part has been the bugaboo for the Black Knights all season long.
NORTH CAROLINA STATE WOLFPACK – 40-16 (19-11 ACC)
NC State enters the regional on a bit of a slide, dropping 4 of their last 5 (3 of which were to FSU), however they had a very respectable 9-8 vs the RPI Top 25 this season in a tough ACC. At the plate is where the Pack is really dangerous. Josh McLain is the batting champ for the regular season, with a .337 but he is not alone. Patrick Bailey, Brock Deatherage and Will Wilson all enter with +.300 batting averages on the season. It doesn’t end there however; the home run man for the NC State is Brett Kinneman who paces the Pack with 17 bombs on the year. Right behind him with 14 a piece are Deatherage and Wilson. This is a line up with a lot of pop, the likes that Auburn saw with Ole Miss, Arkansas and Kentucky. On the hill, the Wolfpack ace is Brian Brown. A starter in 15 games, he will trot out a very pretty 2.71 ERA and a 6-2 record. Look for NC State to go with either Reid Johnston or Johnny Piedmonte vs Army and hold Brown for the Tigers, should Auburn get past Northeastern. Going back to Brown, he excels in keeping his offspeed stuff low in the zone while getting his fastball up between 85-87 MPH. He also has a nasty change that will get down to 71-74 MPH. If he can get that and his breaking stuff working, this will be a tough challenge for the Auburn offense, as it has been all season.
This is a regional Auburn can excel at and get to a Super regional, probably in Gainesville. However, it will take an A+ weekend effort like they had against Vanderbilt. As with any team, if Auburn can go 2-0 to start it would be huge. Unlike last season, the Tigers feel good with their 3 and 4 if they have to go there with Jack Owen getting a lot of work in the midweek and a little SEC work. Butch Thompson said after the regional reveal that Auburn would take “calculated risks” to win the regional and advance in the tournament. That’s the way it should be, and I think that means you will see Tanner Burns start against the Huskies and Casey Mize hit the field in the second game for the Tigers. Either way, it will be a fascinating regional to watch from a strategy stand point and a very long wait to Friday at 1 PM.
Below I have a PDF of all the regionals and will be updating them as along as Auburn alive in the tournament. Print them out and have fun with them!!