The Vanderbilt Commodores will host a regional at Hawkins Field for the fourth time in five years, and fifth time overall. Joining them for the weekend will be a familiar foe.
Lipscomb returns to the NCAA Tournament for only the second time, and first since 2008. The Bisons won the Atlantic Sun Championship in Fort Myers, Florida, going 4-0 in the tournament. Lipscomb defeated Florida Gulf Coast and Stetson before a pair of victories over #one-seed North Florida. The Bisons are 39-18 for the season and enter on a seven-game winning streak. They are particularly dangerous having beaten Vanderbilt earlier in the season, 3-1 at The Hawk on April 7. Last season’s A-Sun champion, Kennesaw State, won the Tallahassee Regional.
Jonathan Allison and Grant Massey are the leaders of an offensive attack that hit .278 with 37 home runs. Allison hit seven home runs and 16 doubles, driving in 54 runs, while drawing a team-high 35 walks. Massey was a catalyst batting .351, stealing 18 bases, and can handle the bat. On the mound, Ian Martinez-McGraw is the ace going 7-3 in 16 starts with a 2.50 ERA. Jeffrey Passantino and Nick Andros have also anchored a fine starting staff, but it was Brady Puckett who shut down Vandy in the earlier game, going 7 1/3 innings to get the win. Andros has also been a leader in the bullpen, tied with Jason Ziegler with five saves. Lipscomb sports a 3.66 team ERA.
The #two-seed in the regional is the Big South champions Radford, making their first NCAA appearance. The Highlanders boast an impressive 43-14 overall record, 20-4 in conference. They have won 15 straight games and were 4-0 in the Big South Tournament defeating #two-seed Coastal Carolina 5-4 in the championship game. They likely would have been an at-large team even had they lost in the conference tournament.
Radford hit .294 with 43 home runs, led by Patrick Marshall who hit 12, while driving in 57 runs and batting .337. The Highlanders pitched to a 3.71 team ERA with a consistent starting rotation of Michael Boyle, Mitchell MacKeith and Dylan Nelson who combined to win 23 in 45 starts, Boyle going 10-2. Radford also has a premiere closer in Ryan Meisinger who was 5-0, with 15 saves, and 62 strikeouts in 37 innings to only seven walks.
Indiana arrives as the #three-seed and is one of a record five Big Ten teams in the field. The Hoosiers were the #four national seed a year ago and was expecting to perhaps host Vanderbilt in the Super Regional, but were shocked by a walk-off home run in a decisive loss at home to Stanford. IU went 34-22, but just 12-10 in the newly deep Big Ten. They were 2-2 in the Big Ten Tournament with losses to Michigan and Maryland sandwiching wins over Ohio State and Iowa. Some question Indiana’s inclusion, seeing Michigan State as a better option.
IU hit .276 with 32 home runs, and pitched to a 3.41 team ERA. It is a balanced offense with all eight normal position players having at least 20 RBI. Craig Dedelow and Logan Sowers each hit six home runs. Ryan Halstead is featured at the back end of the bullpen with ten saves. It has been a balanced starting staff, sometimes erratic.
The Nashville Regional runs Friday-Sunday, with Monday night if necessary, with games at 2 pm and 7 pm. All will be available online at ESPN3 or Watch ESPN. Radford/Indiana gets it started Friday at 2 pm. Vandy/Lipscomb is at 7 pm.