State prepared for today's NCAA regional
By By Marty Stamper / EMG assistant
May 30, 2003
STARKVILLE There'll be no shortage of playoff experience when it comes to the NCAA Regional in Starkville which begins today.
The host and top seeded Mississippi State Bulldogs are making their 24th appearance, the number two North Carolina TarHeels are making their 18th, the third seeded Missouri Tigers are appearing in their 15th Regional, and the fourth seeded Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee are making their 11th appearance.
Play begins at 2 p.m. with Missouri (35-20) taking on North Carolina (39-21). At six p.m. MSU (40-18-1) hosts Middle Tennessee (33-25).
In addition to the host Bulldogs, each of the other three teams have played in regionals at MSU before.
The 2003 regional will be the 11th hosted on the MSU Campus with the last coming in 2000.
The Bulldogs, which have a 65-53 all time record in NCAA Regionals, are 25-8-1 at home this spring.
Matthew Maniscalco leads the Bulldogs with a .340 average. He has also scored a team high 51 runs. The senior shortstop has 15 doubles, 7 homeruns, and 38 RBIs.
Steve Gendron, a junior third baseman is batting
.331 with 12 doubles and 31 RBIs. Matthew Brinson, junior first baseman bats .326 with 19 doubles, 8 homeruns and 46 RBIs.
MSU has a .302 batting average, but is bolstered by a 3.44 team ERA and a .974 team fielding percentage.
On the mound for Polk are Paul Malholm, 8-2. 2.67 ERA, Jeff Lacher, 6-0, 3.34 ERA and Alan Johnson, 5-4, 4.02 ERA.
The merging as a major factor in recent outings is Jamie Gant 5-1, 1.30 ERA. Jonathan Papelbon, 6-2 1.64 ERA leads MSU in saves with seven for the year, opponents have batted .243 against MSU pitching.
Middle Tennessee is fresh off winning the Sun Belt Conference Tournament at Lafayette Louisiana.
Chad Cooper leads the Blue Raiders with a .374 batting average with 13 doubles, seven homeruns, and 32 RBIs. Brett Carroll leads in homeruns with 17. Carroll also bats .327 with 17 doubles, and 48 RBIs. Josh Archer has 17 doubles, 15 homeruns, and 51 RBIs.
Chuck Akers was voted Sun Belt Tournament MVP after going 7-16 with two doubles, two triples, and one homerun.
The top pitcher for the Blue Raiders is Steve Kline, (7-3, 4.45 ERA). Chase Swing (2-4) has 11 saves in MTSU's 33 wins. Other top pitchers are Jerry Knox (4-2, 3.48 ERA) and BJ Church (4-1 4.58 ERA).
The Blue Raiders have a .293 team batting average, a 5.31 ERA, and a .951 fielding percentage.
MTSU and MSU have faced common opponents in Lipscomb, Memphis, Vanderbilt, Samford, and New Orleans with the Blue Raiders going 10-4 and the Bulldogs 9-2.
This is the Blue Raiders seventh regional appearance under head coach Steve Peterson.
North Carolina should enter the event with confidence, having two wins over number one national seed Florida State. The latest win over the Seminoles was a 3-2 decision in the ACC Tournament last Friday. UNC, which went winless in a three game series against Auburn at Chapel Hill in early March, also defeated FSU 8-4 on March 29 at Tallahassee.
Junior infielder Jeremy Cleveland, a first team all ACC Selection, leads the Tar Heels in homeruns with 18, batting average (.420, RBIs, 61, runs 69)
Senior shortstop Chad Prosser ranks second in USC in career hits with 285.
Leading the Tar Heels on the mound are Adam Kalkhof (7-1) and Daniel Moore (7-2). Whitley Benson has a team best ERA of 3.22 and leads UNC in saves with four.
The Tar Heels broke a lot of hearts at Dudy Noble Field by beating MSU in the finals of the 1989 South Regional.
Missouri finished fourth in the Big 12 Conference. The Tiger have a .309 team batting average with a 5.06 team ERA. The Tigers are led at the plate by Jayce Tingler, (.390, 10 doubles, 46 RBIs, 64 runs), Cody Ehlers(.274, 15 doubles, nine homeruns, and 58 RBIs) and Brad Flanders (.34, 12 doubles, six homeruns and 42 RBIs).
Tingler is Missouri's career hits leader with 269. The Tiger leadoff man led the Cape Cod League in on base percentage last summer.
Andy Shipman is the ace of the Missouri pitching staff with a 9-2 record and 4.76 ERA. Justin James is 7-6 with a 4.11 ERA. Travis Wendte has a team best eight saves. Other top pitchers are Danny Hill (4-2, 4.35 ERA) and Garrett Broshuis (5-3, 7.11 ERA).
The winner of the Starkville Regional will face the winner of the Atlanta Regional next weekend in a best of three Super Regional with that winner advancing to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.