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May 27, 2013

Columbia Regional capsules

Breaking down the Columbia regional:

Bid: At-large
League (record): Southeastern (17-12)
Coach (history): Chad Holbrook (First season; North Carolina '94)
Quality wins: 4-3 and 8-7 over Liberty; 6-0 and 8-0 over Clemson; 3-2, 6-4 and 6-3 over Texas A&M; 4-2 and 4-0 over LSU; 5-3 over Mississippi State
2013 record vs. rest of field: 2-1 vs. Liberty, 2-1 vs. Clemson
Top hitters: 1B LB Dantzler (.332, 15 HR, 48 RBIs); SS Joey Pankake (.315, 10 HR, 38 RBIs); C Grayson Greiner (.291, 4 HR, 35 RBIs); RF Connor Bright (.288, 4 HR, 18 RBIs)
Top pitchers: LHP Nolan Belcher (7-5, 2.30 ERA, 88 SO); LHP Jordan Montgomery (4-1, 1.86 ERA, 46 SO); LHP Jack Wynkoop (7-3, 2.81 ERA, 33 SO); LHP Tyler Webb (2-2, 1.24 ERA, 52 SO, 16 saves)
The skinny: Despite having no Michael Roth, Matt Price or Christian Walker, USC is only one game off last year's pace at this time and looking to show that it's much better than the stumbling 1-4 finish to the regular season and the SEC tournament. The Gamecocks have been on a rollercoaster all year; just when they've seemed to get things figured out, another SEC series without a win was just around the corner or another key player was injured. USC was as healthy as it had been until the final play of its SEC tournament, when second baseman Max Schrock was knocked winding by a runner and sustained a concussion. Schrock will get a nice long rest to see if he'll be ready for Friday, but even if he can't play, USC wants to show that it's better than what it has been. The talent is there, and the wins have been there, often a big hit or a third strike away. That's something that the last three teams always were able to get; this team is trying to show that it can be just as good in the postseason as those teams were.

(2) CLEMSON TIGERS (39-20)
Bid: At-large
League (record): Atlantic Coast (18-12)
Coach (history): Jack Leggett (20th season; Maine '76; former coach at Vermont and Western Carolina)
Quality wins: 2-0 and 12-2 over William & Mary; 6-3 over South Carolina; 10-5 and 7-4 over NC State; 7-6 over Virginia; 5-4 over North Carolina; 1-0 over Miami; 11-3 and 4-3 over Georgia Tech; 8-2 over Florida State
2013 record vs. rest of field: 1-2 vs. South Carolina
Top hitters: 3B Shane Kennedy (.317, 4 HR, 33 RBIs); C Garrett Boulware (.310, 8 HR, 44 RBIs); 2B Steve Wilkerson (.294, 2 HR, 32 RBIs); RF Steven Duggar (.291, 2 HR, 28 RBIs)
Top pitchers: LHP Matthew Crownover (7-2, 2.05 ERA, 42 SO); RHP Daniel Gossett (9-4, 2.53 ERA, 89 SO); RHP Clate Schmidt (3-4, 5.27 ERA, 25 SO); RHP Matt Campbell (1-1, 4.82 ERA, 35 SO, 7 saves)
Record against USC: 170-131-2
Last played USC: March 3, 2013 (8-0 USC)
The skinny: The Tigers seemed to be moving a year ahead of schedule, taking a lot of new faces and rising past a rough start to have a solid year, but then played themselves right out of NCAA host contention with five straight losses in the regular season and the ACC tournament. They did lose four of them to great teams (two to Florida State, one to NC State and North Carolina) but the selection committee deemed it just out of host contention despite having a similar record and RPI to host USC. Still, the Tigers are young and dangerous, and matching them up again with archrival USC brings so much more than X's and O's to the table. Clemson has lost six straight postseason games to USC, including two in the NCAA Regionals last year, and doubtless wants to change that. No streak lasts forever, and this time, there is no Michael Roth or Ray Tanner to face. Clemson would doubtless face Jordan Montgomery or Nolan Belcher again, who each dominated the Tigers during the regular season, but that was in March and this is May. Things have changed for both teams, and it may turn out that they never face each other - although that's not a wise bet to make.

(3) LIBERTY FLAMES (34-27)
Bid: Automatic
League (record): Big South (13-11)
Coach (history): Jim Toman (Sixth season; NC State '85)
Quality wins: 3-2 over South Carolina; 6-2 over William & Mary; 9-8 and 8-0 over Coastal Carolina; 2-1 over Campbell
2013 record vs. rest of field: 1-2 vs. South Carolina
Top hitters: 2B Bryan Aanderud (.318, 1 HR, 37 RBIs); C Trey Wimmer (.299, 4 HR, 36 RBIs); DH Danny Grauer (.294, 7 HR, 41 RBIs); CF Ryan Cordell (.267, 6 HR, 39 RBIs)
Top pitchers: RHP Carson Herndon (3-5, 2.73 ERA, 37 SO); RHP Brooks Roy (7-5, 3.39 ERA, 51 SO); ); RHP Trey Lambert (7-3, 3.76 ERA, 47 SO); RHP Ashton Perritt (3-1, 1.39 ERA, 32 SO, 8 saves)
Record against USC: 3-8
Last played USC: Feb. 17, 2013 (3-2 Liberty)
The skinny: A team set to have a great season, the Flames found out that things weren't quite so rosy. They were behind almost from the outset in a one-bid league, and stumbled into the Big South tournament with only one advantage - it was being played on their home field. Suddenly, they caught further fire, knocked off Coastal Carolina in two straight games and then beat regular-season champion Campbell to finally go dancing. It's a return to Carolina Stadium for Toman, who brought Liberty in for a three-game series earlier this year, and a return to Columbia, where he was Ray Tanner's right-hand man in the USC dugout for years. With Clemson already in the field, the selection committee apparently decided to make it further into a family affair.

Bid: Automatic
League (record): Atlantic 10 (17-7)
Coach (history): Darin Hendrickson (Sixth season; Southern Illinois-Edwardsville '92)
Quality wins: 6-3 over San Diego; 2-1, 2-1, 5-4 and 7-4 over Charlotte;
2013 record vs. rest of field: 0-0
Top hitters: 1B Mike Vigliarolo (.347, 8 HR, 40 RBIs); RF Alex Kelly (.340, 11 HR, 60 RBIs); C Grant Nelson (.336, 5 HR, 32 RBIs); SS Alec Sole (.332, 0 HR, 34 RBIs)
Top pitchers: RHP Alex Alemann (6-6, 3.36 ERA, 70 SO); RHP Clay Smith (8-2, 3.76 ERA, 73 SO); RHP Nick Bates (8-3, 4.05 ERA, 53 SO); RHP Marco Mejia (3-2, 2.81 ERA, 31 SO, 6 saves)
Record against USC: Never played
The skinny: The Billikens have to be feeling like Dorothy in Oz this weekend, stepping into a hotbed of collegiate baseball where the other three teams are all very familiar (and very contested) with each other. St. Louis, though, has an advantage over the rest of the teams in the regional - it doesn't have any rivalry pressure, or beating a former assistant pressure. It just wants to win. If it doesn't, well, it wasn't supposed to anyway.

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