The Southeast Missouri State Redhawks are the lone non-Power 5 team competing in the Louisville Regional. The Redhawks hail from the Ohio Valley Conference, where they ended their regular season with a 37-20 record and placed #2 in the conference standings. SEMO prevailed in the OVC tournament by defeating the #1 Belmont Bruins in 10 innings.
The Redhawks, like the rest of the teams in the Louisville Regional, have a better offense than they do pitching. They can score runs, even against a middling SEC West team like Ole Miss, where they prevailed in Mississippi 13-3. They did not fare as well against better competition, such as Missouri, and were completely obliterated by #3 Oklahoma State in the regular season. Will they get a surprise victory over Louisville, Michigan, or Oregon? Probably not, but it’s not outside of the realm of possibility. Hey, they’re just happy to be here.
Hosting the Louisville Regional is, of course, the Louisville Cardinals. The Cardinals ended their regular season with a 38-18-1 record, and a 18-11-1 ACC Atlantic division record that put them atop the Atlantic Division. Then - like Oregon - Louisville dropped their first two games and immediately bowed out of the ACC tourney. Unlike Oregon, Louisville had a very good regular season which earned them an overall #12 seeding in NCAA baseball play. During the season, they won against #15 TCU and #14 Vanderbilt. The Cardinals swept a very good #1 Notre Dame team, won their series against #20 North Carolina and #23 NC State, but lost their series against #3 Virginia Tech and were swept by #19 Florida State. The Cardinals vaguely resemble the streaky Ducks in that they can perform well a lot of the time against really good teams, only to inexplicably bottom-out.
Louisville’s pitching is a lot like Oregon’s - they have a solid pitching stable and can bring out some good pitching, but they don’t have lockdown starters. The Cardinals rely on defense and bats to keep them in, and win, games. Their pitching is lead by Jared Poland, who sports a 5-3 record with 72 innings pitched, but has a very respectable 2.92 ERA. But with the lack of solid starters, Louisville’s modus operandi has been much the same as the Ducks - start a solid reliever, see how far he can take you, and then march out your backups. If the Cardinals have a lead, they have an outstanding saver in Michael Prosecky, with a 2.84 ERA, and a 2-0 record with 10 saves.
Louisville has a very good defense, with outfielder Levi Usher earning the ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors. They won’t make many mistakes on the field - again, much like the Ducks.
The Cardinals have excellent batters. Six of their lineup boast an average of .300 and above. Dalton Rushing leads the team with 21 home runs. Ben Metzinger follows with 17, and Cameron Masterman has pushed 14 over the fence. 8 of their 9 starting batters have double-digit doubles on the season. Louisville has won 19 games in which they trailed, so they feel that they’re never out of the contest until it’s over. Remind you of anyone?
The Michigan Wolverines will square off against Oregon in the first game of the Louisville Regional on Friday. Unlike Oregon, Louisville, and SEMO, the Wolverines back-doored their way into the NCAA tournament by winning the Big10 tournament. After finishing fifth in the Big10 conference standings on a 12-12 conference record, Michigan blew through the Big10 tournament - only losing to Iowa in their third game before destroying Iowa in their second contest to reach the finals against Rutgers. The Wolverines solidly dispatched Rutgers in the finals by a score of 10-4. They ended their season 32-26. The knock on Michigan is that they lost against four of the five top-25 teams that they faced (winning against #21 Maryland, losing against #14 Texas Tech, #4 Vanderbilt, #10 Notre Dame, #18 Maryland). They haven’t played very much stiff competition, even as they can be presumed to match up well against whom they have faced.
Again, Michigan is a team that doesn’t have pitching that jumps out at you. Their fielding is not quite as stellar as Louiville’s, but is respectable. They have bats. Michigan has five batters that have gone yard in double digits. They have six batters that have double-digit doubles.
I will have more information on Michigan ahead of the Ducks’ Friday game with them, when I open up the game thread for Oregon’s contest against the Wolverines.
The Oregon Ducks have been streaky this season, to say the least. Whoever they face in the Louisville regional will be a team that Oregon has never played against. The bad news is that Oregon closed the regular season looking solid, only to immediately exit from the Pac-12 tournament. The good news is that host Louisville did the same. The bad news is that we really don’t know what Oregon Ducks team is going to show up for this regional. The good news is that the other teams really don’t know who will show up, either.
I think the Ducks have a good draw. If a team isn’t going to host, then coming in at a #2 seed in a regional puts the hands of fate elsewhere. When one looks at the national #1 seeds, coming into a regional with the #12 overall seed is not a bad place to be. All three of the other teams in the Louisville have, for the most part, the same strengths and weaknesses as the Ducks. Oregon has an excellent shot at prevailing and advancing past the Louisville Regional.
But can they?