The 2018 NCAA Regionals kick off this Friday with action at 16 regional sites across the country. While the DeLand Regional may not have the notoriety or high-powered offenses like some of the other regionals, don’t overlook this bracket.
The action kicks off Friday at 1 pm est. with Oklahoma State (#3 seed) vs University of South Florida (#2 seed). At 7 pm, the host and top-seeded Stetson Hatters will battle the #4 seed Hartford Hawks.
Let’s break down each of the four teams in DeLand, determine which players to watch closely, and pick a winner to come out of the bracket. The winner of the DeLand regional will take on the winner of the Chapel Hill regional.
#1) Stetson Hatters
Record: 45-11, 15-3 Atlantic Sun Conference
The Hatters will make their 19th NCAA regionals appearance after winning the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament by defeating Jacksonville, 9-8. This will be the first time ever that an NCAA regional will be hosted in a Florida city that’s not Coral Gables, Gainesville, or Tallahassee. They are currently riding a 15-game winning streak, and are 29-3 at home this season.
Players to watch: Logan Gilbert. The Hatter’s top pitcher will be a first-round draft pick in the June 4th MLB draft after a 10-1 season that saw him strike out 143 hitters in 100 innings. He has a 2.52 ERA, and opposing batters are hitting just .192 off of him.
Overview: The Hatters’ leading hitter is (JR) OF/1B Mike Spooner who is hitting .299 on the year. He is also tied for the team lead for home runs with three. The Stetson pitching staff will carry this team through the regional. Outside of MLB prospect Gilbert, the Hatters send Mitchell Senger (8-2, 2.65 ERA) and Joey Gonzalez (8-3, 1.77 ERA) to the mound, all three of which are limiting hitters to a .192 average or lower.
#2) University of South Florida Bulls
Record: 35-20-1, 14-9-1 American Athletic Conference
The South Florida Bulls began with a tough schedule, opening up with three vs North Carolina and one vs Florida State. They came out of the gate at 1-3 in those four games, but played dominant baseball at home and went 3-0 against Army and 3-2 vs UCONN to highlight their season. Unfortunately, one of those losses to UCONN came in the AAC conference title game.
Players to watch: The Bulls are led by potential Top-10 2018 draft pick, LHP Shane McClanahan. The redshirt-sophomore hits triple digits on the radar gun and struck out 117 hitters in 71 innings. He has allowed only 10 extra-base hits all season, limiting hitters to a .181 average. As for the offense, two Junior infielders, David Villar and Joe Genord, lead the way. Villar hit a team-high .379 with 12 home runs, while Genord hit .317 with a team-high 15 home runs.
Overview: South Florida went 8-9-1 on the road in 2018, but they’ll stay in the state of Florida for this regional. The Bulls will look to rack up the runs and lean on their offense to carry them through this regional.
#3) Oklahoma State Cowboys
Record: 29-24-1, 16-8 Big 12 Conference
The Cowboys are making their 44th overall appearance in the NCAA regionals, and are 13-10 in the tournament under head coach Josh Holliday. Their Big 12 tournament run was short-lived, falling to West Virginia and Texas Tech in back-to-back games.
Players to watch: The biggest player to watch on this squad is Junior OF/C Colin Simpson. Simpson hit .281 this year with 18 home runs (led team), 12 doubles, and a .384 on-base percentage.
Overview: Oklahoma State was one of the last four teams to get an at-large bid into the bracket. They are 1-9 over their last 10 games, however, weekend sweeps over TCU, Kansas State, and Oklahoma helped propel them into regionals. If the Cowboys can play like they did in the Big 12 (16-8), they could potentially make some noise in this bracket, but they will have to overcome the big arms of McClanahan and Gilbert.
#4) University of Hartford Hawks
Record: 26-29, 16-8 American East
The Hawks are making their very first NCAA regionals appearance after winning the American East regular season and tournament titles. Interestingly, the Hawks were picked to finish in last place in their conference this year.
Players to watch: Hartford is led by their senior captain Nick Campana. Campana hit .389 with 10 home runs, 17 doubles, and 21 stolen bases. He walked 22 times and struck out just 15 times, resulting in a .472 OBP.
Overview: The Hawks played two ranked opponents this year, going 0-7 against South Alabama and Oregon State. They were outscored 13-50 in those games. Overall, Hartford was 0-18 vs schools in the Top 150 RPI. It’s going to be extremely tough for the Hawks to get through this bracket, but crazier things have happened.