The next battles to see who gets to the College World Series in Omaha start on Friday. 14Powers.com’s Don Yates breaks down each NCAA Baseball Super Regional involving an SEC team and predicts the series winner. It’s going to be crazy but fun to watch.
By Don Yates
Since Tennessee launched sports betting last November, the state has seen some excellent numbers in total handle and revenue. They have already surpassed $1 billion in total handle and of that is $90+ million in revenue. The college baseball season started in February so we can assume that contributed to the total numbers.
We can expect similar numbers this month seeing as the current top two favorites to win the College World Series are Arkansas (+180) and Vanderbilt (+450). Vanderbilt is in Tennessee and Arkansas is a surrounding state. There is definitely some good value in betting on Vanderbilt right now as they have won all three of their past games while Arkansas won two out of three.
NC State at Arkansas (Friday-Sunday Series)
Arkansas, the No. 1 team in the nation, needed to play on Monday to lock their regional championship over Nebraska. The Wolf Pack presents another challenge for the Razorbacks. A lot has been said about the Hogs home run hitting prowess, averaging 1.70 per game. However, Arkansas thrives in getting walks with a national leading 346 of those. And they seem to get lots of those in the ninth inning when the game is on the line. That along with outstanding pitching, is probably why the Hogs are one win from 50 wins, despite a .269 team batting average.
On the mound, the Hogs are very formidable. If you haven’t heard of Kevin Kopps you probably don’t follow baseball. Kopps (0.680 ERA) is almost unhittable, with his single pitching method. Patrick Wicklander is no slouch either with 79 strikeouts and just 22 walks.
The Hogs are tops in the SEC in fielding at 0.979.
NC State has the edge in batting average with a .291 team average. Fielding by the Wolf Pack is third-best in the nation (0.983). NC State has a 4.91 team ERA. Pitcher Reid Johnston has struck out 86. Jonny Butler one of the best for State with a .389 average. Infielder Tyler McDonough has 15 home runs.
This series could be tough for Arkansas if it weren’t at Baum Stadium but it is at Baum so it’ll be tough for State to escape with a win. I do think the Wolf Pack will force a game 3 but it is unlikely they will take the series.
East Carolina at Vanderbilt (Friday-Sunday Series)
Vanderbilt the defending College World Series Champions, takes on a talented East Carolina team in Nashville.
Vanderbilt defeated Georgia Tech 14-11 on Sunday to advance to the Nashville Super Regional. The Vandy Boys lead the SEC in team batting average (.300). Freshman center fielder Enrique Bradfield has been a superstar for the Commodores. He earned First Team All-SEC honors, a rare feat for a first-year player. He’s got the numbers to back it up though. His .359 batting average and lofty .475 on-base average are something to behold. Don’t even think of putting this young man on base though. He’s stolen 46 bases in 52 attempts. Vandy’s batting is not a one-man show though. Vandy utility player Dominic Keegan is second in the SEC with a .374 average. Isaiah Thomas is hitting at a .339 clip with 13 home runs.
In the last 20 years, Vanderbilt has regularly been among the best in team pitching. This season is no different. It’s very possible the first two picks of the upcoming Major League Draft could be Commodores. Both are right-handed pitchers. Kumar Rocker (2.65 ERA) and Jack Leiter (2.22 ERA), are already well known in baseball circles. Both have no-hitters during their career. Two years ago Rocker got his no-hitter against Duke in the Nashville Super Regional. Leiter no-hit South Carolina in a 5-0 Vandy win back in March. Vandy’s bullpen has been shaky at times but things seem to be improving as Commodores dig deeper into the postseason.
East Carolina, the power of the American Conference, is itching to get to its first College World Series after numerous near misses. They earned a ticket to Nashville on Sunday by winning the Greenville Regional with a 9-6 win over Maryland.
East Carolina has a .300 team batting average, the same as Vanderbilt. The Pirates have hit 75 home runs so far this season, the 24th most in the NCAA. Connor Norby is hitting a very impressive .418 with a team-leading 15 home runs. Thomas Francisco is also a solid hitter for the Pirates with a .361 average and 13 home runs.
On the mound, the Pirates are tops in the American Conference with a 4.04 ERA. Righty Gavin Williams is the team’s best pitcher with a 1.82 ERA and 117 strikeouts. Senior reliever Matt Bridges (RHP) is solid with a 2.43 ERA and 43 strikeouts against just 12 walks. Cam Colmore (2.12 ERA), C.J. Mayhue, 3.12 ERA, and 75 strikouts are other key pitchers for ECU.
East Carolina is a solid fielding team ranking 29th nationally with a 0.978 fielding stat.
This series should be an exciting matchup. East Carolina, along with Vanderbilt are both very impressive. I think the difference here will be the experience of Vanderbilt. I also think Vandy has played a little tougher schedule. That doesn’t mean the Pirates can’t win. Only that the odds are Vandy will pull out this series and go to their second straight College World Series. The game has to be played on the field though so anything can happen.
Ole Miss at Arizona (Friday-Sunday Series)
The Ole Miss Rebels hit the road to the desert country to face the No.5 ranked Arizona Wildcats.
Ole Miss won the Oxford Regional last weekend with a 9-6 win over Southern Miss.
The Rebels are a solid team ranking second in the SEC with a .289 team batting average. Freshman Jacob Gonzalez leads Ole Miss with a solid .351 batting average. Kevin Graham is solid too hitting at a .344 rate. Tim Elko (16) and Kevin Graham (14) are the top home-run threats for the Rebels.
Pitching is a strong point for Ole Miss. Lefty Doug Nikhazy (2.39 ERA) has 14 starts with 132 strikeouts and just 28 walks. Gunnar Hogland (2.87) is a Rebel regular on the mound with 11 starts 96 strikeouts against just 17 walked. Derek Diamond has pitched in over 71 innings with a 4.70 ERA and 96 strikeouts with 35 walks.
Ole Miss is a solid fielding team converting successfully on plays at a .971 rate.
The Arizona Wildcats won their own Regional last weekend with a 5-2 win over UC Santa Barbara. Now they will host a dangerous Ole Miss squad.
Arizona is one of the hottest hitting teams nationally, with a .327 team batting average. The Wildcats also flourish in the base on balls department, ranking 8th nationally and 1st in the Pac-12 at 307 walks. The splendid walks and batting average stats make possible a No. 2 national rank in runs scored at 498. Only Wright State, which is no longer in the tournament, has scored more runs (502). The Wildcats have several bat breakers in infielder Jacob Berry (.357), Branden Boissiere (.355), Ryan Holgate (.353), and Kobe Kato (.351) all hit over .350. Then, for insurance, you also have outfielder Danta’ Williams and catcher Daniel Susac, the 2021 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, who both hit at 0.338. Berry is the top home run hitter with 15 while Susac is 2nd on the team with 12.
In the pitching department, Arizona as a team has a 4.38 ERA. The Wildcats have themselves a gem in freshman RHP pitcher Chase Silseth (5.53 ERA). He struck out 93 batters and walked just 24. Garrett Irvin 84.2 innings pitched has a 3.51 ERA with 71 strikeouts and 33 walks. Freshman Chandler Murphy (3.63 ERA) is another Wildcat pitcher with significant innings. He has 61 strikeouts and 25 walks.
Arizona ranks 58th nationally in field percentage (0.965).
This Super Regional is a tough nut to crack for Ole Miss. Looking ahead to this series is sort of similar to the expectations of an upcoming SEC-Pac-12 football game. You have high scoring Pac-12 offense against the more defensive SEC team. Arizona doesn’t appear to be a stellar pitching team but offensively they pile up the runs. Can Ole Miss slow down that high-scoring Arizona offense enough with superior pitching? It’ll be hard to do on the road. There is a reason the top eight national seeds are so coveted.
I think Arizona wins this one but don’t discount Ole Miss. They could steal one in the wild west.
Check back Friday afternoon for my Saturday-Monday predictions of Super Regionals that involve SEC teams.