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2008 REGIONAL PREVIEW: BATON ROUGE & LINCOLN
May 27, 2008

SCS.com This part of the NCAA Tournament bracket sees two teams that have virtually swapped places during the last month of the season. National #7 seed LSU has been white hot, while Nebraska has cooled off to lose a potential national seed. Of course, there are six teams that have something to say before the two top seeds move on to a Super Regional next weekend. UC-Irvine made the trip to Omaha last season, which makes them a little familiar with the plains of Nebraska, while Southern Mississippi has seen their share of SEC venues in the NCAA Tournament, only to come up just a little short each year. These two regional venues will be interesting ones to keep an eye on this weekend.

BATON ROUGE REGIONAL
  vs Lincoln Regional

The Field

(1) LSU [National #7]
Record: 43-16. Bid: SEC Champs. No team enters this year’s NCAA Tournament hotter than the LSU Tigers. They have won 20 in-a-row while picking up an SEC Tournament Championship and moving into the National #7 seed.
(2) Southern Mississippi
Record: 40-20. Bid: Conf USA At-Large. The Golden Eagles had a real shot at the CUSA championship last weekend in New Orleans but succumbed twice to Marshall in the semi-finals. They return to the Bayou looking to take home a regional title.
(3) New Orleans
Record: 42-19. Bid: Sun Belt At-Large. The Privateers lost to South Alabama on the opening day of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament. That did not stop them from reaching the Sun Belt Championship game. The Privateers are hoping that the extra time spent last weekend will not catch up with them going into Alex Box this weekend.
(4) Texas Southern
Record: 16-32. Bid: SWAC Champs. This year’s Cinderella story comes into the tournament winning four games to take the SWAC Championship. A nice story but will need to play over their heads again on the weekend to move on.

The Venue

Tigertown has returned to form late in the season and Alex Box has erupted into the major home-field advantage that college baseball fans were accustomed to during their run in the 90’s. The Fighting Tigers will get a “New Box” next season and hope to put the “Old Box” out in style.

The Best

Starting Pitcher – Barry Bowden, Southern Mississippi - Bowden has posted an 8-3 record with a 1.62 ERA in 66 2/3 innings. He has only allowed 12 earned runs in 11 appearances on the season.
Runner-up: Bryan Cryer, New Orleans (12-1, 3.00 ERA, 96 Ks)
Relief Pitcher – Tyler Conn, Southern Mississippi - Conn’s 18 saves are the nation’s most. He has a 1.00 ERA in 35 1/3 innings pitched. Look for the door to be slammed shut if he is brought in this weekend.
Runner-up: Ryan O’Shea, New Orleans (3-2, 3.69 ERA, 13 saves)
Infielder – James Ewing, Southern Mississippi - Leading the Eagles in batting average (.365), Ewing has to have a big weekend to give USM a chance in Baton Rouge. He has an on-base percentage of .451 for the season and will need to be at or above .500 this weekend.
Runner-up: Jeff Lanning, New Orleans (.382, 13 HRs, 50 RBI)
Outfielder – Blake Dean, LSU - Dean had been enjoying a good season…then last week he went out and stamped his name into the limelight with a huge homerun on Wednesday to lead the comeback in the first game of the SEC Tournament. Then on Saturday, he went 3 for 6 with 6 RBIs, including a grand slam.
Runner-up: Earnest Rhone, Texas Southern (.405, 8 HRs, 37 RBI)
Homerun Hitter – Matt Clark, LSU - All Clark has done is knock 22 balls out of the ball park this season. Dean stole some of the thunder last week but Clark probably did not mind.
Runner-up: Entire New Orleans team (93 HRs on the season and well distributed)
Coach – Paul Mainieri, LSU - Mainieri returns his alma mater to the spotlight this season after leading Notre Dame to nine appearances in his 12 years at the helm. This time he hopes to make it to Omaha.
Runner-up: Corky Palmer, Southern Mississippi

The Forecast

The only question that needs an answer is “will anyone stop the runaway train of the LSU Tigers?” Southern Mississippi and New Orleans will get a chance on day two as they face each other on Friday night. One of the two will have to knock off the Tigers on Saturday. The Tigers have been vulnerable to being defeated last week in Hoover; however, no one could put them away. Look for Texas Southern to enjoy a couple of days in Baton Rouge, while the other three decide who will move on to the Super Regionals.

The Predictions

Eddie Jason Jimmy Jonathan
LSU LSU LSU LSU

LINCOLN REGIONAL
  vs Baton Rouge Regional

The Field

(1) Nebraska
Record: 40-14. Bid: Big XII At-Large. The Huskers have been playing good ball until the last two weekends. If they had not finished the season with only one win in their last six, they might have been talking national seed.
(2) UC-Irvine
Record: 38-16. Bid: Big West At-Large. Last year’s Cinderella, the Anteaters, enters the Lincoln Regional as a veteran team now. Coach Mike Gillespie picked up win number 800 last weekend in their series win over UC-Santa Barbara.
(3) Oral Roberts
Record: 46-12. Bid: Summit Champs. The Golden Eagles dominated the Summit Conference while pulling off the two-fer, regular season and conference tournament champs. This team has been through the rigors before and even make the Super Regional a couple of years ago.
(4) Eastern Illinois
Record: 27-28. Bid: Ohio Valley Champs. The Panthers went through the regular season and ended up the four seed in the conference tournament. Four wins later and they are in the NCAA Tournament as OVC Champions. Lets see if they ride the momentum to maybe pick up a win this weekend in Lincoln.

The Venue

Lincoln has been known for the “Black Shirts” on the gridiron but their baseball team has been the talk of the town during the spring semester for the past decade. Rosenblatt Stadium is about 60 miles away but the Huskers have a nice stadium of their own. Hawks Field at Haymarket Park houses 8,500 strong while the fans usually leave happy (only 86 losses in the past six seasons at home). Bring the kids this weekend…there is a playground down the line in right field.

The Best

Starting Pitcher – Scott Gorgen, UC-Irvine - Gorgen has been the workhorse for the Anteaters this season. He has a 10-3 record in 14 starts with 109 strike outs in 104 innings. Only allowing 22 earned runs on the season puts his ERA at 1.90.
Runner-up: Michael Jarman, Oral Roberts (11-2, 3.74 ERA, 6 complete games)
Relief Pitcher – Eric Pettis, UC-Irvine - Pettis has 15 saves in 28 appearances. A modest 1.76 ERA and a 4-2 record give the Anteaters a closer option unparalleled in this regional.
Runner-up: T.J. Kelly, Oral Roberts (2-1, 3.94, 9 saves)
Infielder – Jake Opitz, Nebraska - Opitz is second on the Husker squad with 45 RBIs but leads the team in average (.335) and total bases (115). He will need to post numbers like this on the weekend to keep the Huskers on task.
Runner-up: Ben Orloff, UC-Irvine (.356, 21 RBI, 19 SB)
Outfielder – Ollie Linton, UC-Irvine - The Anteater table setter with a .323 average, Linton will swipe a base before you can say anteater as he has 37 on the season. Keeping Linton off the bases will be the key for opponents this weekend.
Runner-up: Brian Van Kirk, Oral Roberts (.421, 17 HRs, 72 RBI)
Homerun Hitter – Brian Van Kirk, Oral Roberts - Van Kirk has enjoyed an outstanding season while blasting 17 homeruns on the season. The Golden Eagles will certainly need him to put up crooked numbers in the RBI column and quite possibly that will come with a long ball.
Runner-up: Mitch Abeita, Nebraska (.333, 10 HRs, 46 RBI)
Coach – Mike Gillespie, UC-Irvine - Gillespie is a seasoned veteran coach and picked up win #800 last weekend. In his first season at Irvine, he took the Anteaters to their first appearance in Omaha. That marked the fifth time he has guided a team to Rosenblatt in his career.
Runner-up: Mike Anderson, Nebraska

The Forecast

The selection committee did the UC-Irvine Anteaters no favors in getting back to Omaha without running through a gauntlet of teams. First the Oral Roberts squad will be up to the task on Friday. Surely, either team will see Nebraska at some point and have to beat them in order to see another weekend. Nebraska has all the pieces in place to make a trip to Omaha; however, they have to hope that the losses are out of their system now. Getting to the Super Regional from this pod will be a rough road but the team that emerges will be battle tested.

The Predictions

Eddie Jason Jimmy Jonathan
Nebraska Nebraska Nebraska Nebraska
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