The Daily Nole

Tallahassee Regional: A Look at the Four Teams

Larry Novey/FSU athletics

The brackets are unveiled and the NCAA Baseball Tournament is set to begin. For the sixth straight year, Florida State is a regional host. The Seminoles overcame a sluggish end to the regular season to reach the ACC Tournament final before ultimately falling to Clemson.

FSU is the top seed in the double-elimination regional and will be joined by Southern Mississippi, South Alabama and Alabama State. Here’s a look at the four teams that will be playing baseball at Dick Howser Stadium this weekend:

1. Florida State Seminoles (37-20), ACC at-large

With a roster made largely of youngsters and transfers, Florida State notched its 39th straight NCAA Tournament appearance. The Seminoles finished fourth in a very strong ACC during the regular season and reached the ACC Championship for a second straight year before being ousted by Clemson.

Strengths: Florida State is a very good offensive club made up of hitters who know how to work counts. The top half of the order is particularly strong with Taylor Walls, John Sansone, Cal Raleigh and Jackson Lueck. Dylan Busby came on strong during the ACC Tournament. The Seminoles also own a very deep and usually dependable bullpen, led by Jim Voyles. Playing at home could be a big advantage as well. FSU is 27-9 at Dick Howser Stadium this season.

Weaknesses: Florida State doesn’t have a legitimate No. 1 starter on the mound, but Drew Carlton has pitched well of late. FSU also tends to struggle in the field and anyone who has watched this team in 2016 knows running the bases can be an adventure. While FSU does have an outstanding bullpen, the back end of the pen is largely a question mark.

Key Players:

  • John Sansone (Sr.-3B) — .365 average, 9 HRs, 62 RBIs
  • Taylor Walls (So.-SS) — .357 average, 67 runs, 6 HRs, 41 RBIs
  • Jim Voyles (Jr.-P) — 6-1 record, 47 IP, 2.68 ERA, .185 opposing BA

2. Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles (40-18), Conference USA Champions

Southern Mississippi clinched an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament with a thrilling 3-2 victory over Rice for the Conference USA title. The Golden Eagles are in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five years. Southern Miss proved itself capable of playing with the big boys during the regular season, defeating Michigan State, Ole Miss, Alabama and Rice.

Strengths: Southern Miss is a prolific offensive team, leading C-USA in most major categories, including batting average, doubles, runs scored and home runs. The Eagles also drew more walks than any other team in the conference. In the field, Southern Miss is fundamentally sound with a .976 fielding percentage. Closer Nick Sandlin is a reliable arm at the back end of the bullpen.

Weaknesses: While the Golden Eagles are deep top to bottom in the batting order, that’s not the case on the mound. That could be a problem during a regional that could require Southern Mississippi to play as many as five games in four days. Southern Miss doesn’t have a lot of speed either with just 10 triples and 27 stolen bases throughout the course of the season.

Key Players:

  • Tim Lynch (Sr.-1B) — .366 average, 10 HRs, 57 RBIs
  • Dylan Burdeaux (Jr.-IF/OF) — .340 average, 11 HRs, 39 RBIs
  • Kirk McCarty (So.-P) — 7-1 record, 82.2 IP, 3.38 ERA, 85 Ks

3. South Alabama Jaguars (40-20), Sun Belt at-large

South Alabama finished just 2-2 in the Sun Belt Tournament, but has 40 wins coming in, including victories over Georgia, Alabama and Auburn. The Jaguars also took both meetings with Southern Mississippi, who they’ll begin the regional with. The Jaguars are in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013.

Strengths: South Alabama does its best work on the mound and in the field. As a team, South Alabama held an ERA of just 3.79 and an opposing batting average of just .236. The Jaguars also led the Sun Belt in fielding percentage. South Alabama doesn’t have a lot of bit bats, but knows how to manufacture runs. The Jaguars ranked second in the conference in that category with 361 or just more than six per game. USA ranks seventh nationally with 105 stolen bases.

Weaknesses: While South Alabama finds a way to score runs, it doesn’t have a lot of power. The Jaguars were dead last in the Sun Belt with 29 home runs and ranked eighth as a team with a .263 team batting average.

Key Players:

  • Cole Billingsley (Jr.-OF) — .301 average, 37 RBIs, 31 SB
  • Kevin Hill (Sr.-P) — 8-1 record, 117.1 IP, 2.53 ERA, 125 Ks
  • Randy Bell (Jr.-P) — 6-1 record, 79.1 IP, 2.38 ERA, .211 opposing BA

4. Alabama State Hornets (38-15), SWAC Champions

Alabama State went a perfect 4-0 in the SWAC Tournament to capture its first SWAC title. The Hornets didn’t face a lot of Power 5 teams during the regular season, but did defeat Tennessee. Against SWAC opponents, Alabama State was a perfect 28-0. Friday’s contest against Florida State will be just the second meeting between the schools.

Strengths: Alabama State was clearly the most complete team in the SWAC throughout the course of the season. The Hornets finished second in the league in batting average and runs scored and their 3.60 team ERA was nearly two full runs lower than the next closest in the conference. Alabama State also utilizes its speed, stealing 82 bases this season.

Weaknesses: While Alabama State has had great starting pitching, the bullpen outside of Angel Alicea has been a weak spot for the Hornets. Only one other reliever has an ERA below four. Unlike most of the other teams in the regional, Alabama State didn’t face very good competition throughout the year.

Key Players:

  • Dillon Cooper (Sr.-OF) — .359 average, 10 HRs, 57 RBIs, 20 doubles
  • Carlos Ocasio (Jr.-OF) — .340 average, 13 HRs, 60 RBIs, 19 SB
  • Joseph Camacho (Sr.-P) — 10-0 record, 83.2 IP, 2.04 ERA, 3 CG

SCHEDULE (All times eastern)
Friday, June 3

Game 1: (3) South Alabama vs. (2) Southern Mississippi, noon
Game 2: (4) Alabama State vs. (1) Florida State, 6 p.m.

Saturday, June 4
Game 3:
Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, noon
Game 4: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 6 p.m.

Sunday, June 5
Game 5:
Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 loser, noon
Game 6: Game 5 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 6 p.m.

Monday, June 6
Game 7:
Game 6 rematch (if necessary), 6 p.m.

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