National: Grading the Regionals

Yep. It's that time again. Time for me to put on my tweed jacket with the leather patches on the elbow.

Now that the Charlottesville Regional is finally done (damn, those Beavers are impressive!), this is the culmination to my favorite weekend of the year. Let's get the red pen out and start handing out the grades to all 64 teams in the NCAA tournament field.

The Regional Grades.

Nashville Regional:
1- Vanderbilt: C-
The Commodores just kept messing with fire all weekend and it caught up with them on Monday. Don't blame the pitching too much, this was all about their offense not getting the big hit when called for.
2- Michigan: A+++
Unbelievable. I mean, I knew UMich was a good team this year, I said so plenty of times, but this is still remarkable. Now you see where that 4-game weekend in Big 10 play comes in handy. Their deep staff pulled them through.
3- Memphis: D-
Needed to prove something here, but came up well short. I mean, I appreciate what Coach Schoenrock has done, from 13 wins in '04 to 38, but they didn't acquit themselves well.
4- Austin Peay: A
Provided one of the most exciting moments in the tournament this year with that Friday night thriller vs. Vandy. Just imagine if that damned cleat didn't get caught in the turf.

.
Charlottesville Regional:
1- Virginia: B-
Give UVa a little benefit of the doubt here, they had a bad spree of injuries hit the team. Brandon Guyer and Greg Miclat would've made a difference here. The arms eventually ran out.
2- Rutgers: C
There's no shame in not getting past Oregon State in two tries. Their seedings should've been reversed anyway. Still, they wanted more. Good season for coach Fred Hill's Knights.
3- Oregon State: A
Coming out of the loser's bracket to win in the post-season. Sound familiar? That's the O-State Ballaz for you. They turned that trick three times last year to win it all. Now, a reprise on that theme. I like their chances again.
4- Lafayette: C
Didn't play bad, considering the knock-down/drag-out the Leopards had with Rutgers (a 12-11 loss). School record win total (33) and first post-season since '90 is impressive.

.
Long Beach Regional:
1- Long Beach State: C+
The Beach should've won this Regional. Their post-season frustrations continue with no trips to Omaha since '98. Still, this team is young and next year will have more stability.
2- UCLA: A
Speaking of youth, this team came of age this weekend. A trip to the Super Regional didn't seem likely after what we'd seen the last two weeks. But Tim Murphy came through with his best outing of the year.
3- Pepperdine: D-
After making the Regional finals the last three years, going 0-2 was a major shock. We've come to expect better from Coach Rodriguez's teams.
4- Illinois-Chicago: B+
Great, great run of pitching for the Flames. They gave up just eight runs in three games with Long Beach and UCLA. But seven straight Horizon titles? That's a dynasty.

.
San Diego Regional:
1- San Diego: F
Probably the most shocking result of the whole weekend. A pair of losses with Romanski and Matusz on the mound is tantamount to one of the biggest flops in Regional history. But both return next year... redemption year.
2- Cal State Fullerton: A+
Now THIS looks like the Titan teams of old. Looks like they've gone from longshot to favorite to make Omaha in the matter of three games, thanks to their 11th Regional title won on the road.
3- Minnesota: B+
Showed some Big 10 legitimacy with their elimination of the host Toreros. Just didn't have enough gas in the tank to survive the Bulldogs. Mike Mee will be missed.
4- Fresno State: A-
FSU showed why I thought they were the best No. 4 seed in the tournament, making the title round with wins over San Diego and Minnesota. Couldn't hang with Fullerton's experience.

.
Tempe Regional:
1- Arizona State: A
Ho-hum, the Sun Devils conquered the field in pretty short order. Strange to find that the Monmouth game was their only real test, scraping by 5-3. Mike Leake, a frosh, pitched a 4-hitter vs. UCR.
2- UC Riverside: C-
Ugly blowout loss to the Huskers put a pall on this post-season for the Highlanders. not having No. 2 hurler Marc Rzepczynski available was a big blow.
3- Nebraska: B+
The Cornhuskers blitz to the title round was very impressive, especially considering their Big 12 tourney was rather uneventful.
4- Monmouth: B-
A pair of nip-and-tuck games with behemoths like ASU and Nebraska shows that this team came to play. School record 36 wins for the Hawks too. Strong work.

.
Oxford Regional:
1- Mississippi: A
The Rebels sweep the field with little sweat. Well, unless you look at the number of runs the talented pitching staff gave up. How will this translate to the games they're about to play in the desert? Hmmm.
2- Southern Mississippi: D
Aside from the rout of Troy, losing to Sam Houston in extras was a real black mark. Only two teams in this regional deserved bids, it appears.
3- Troy: F
With these two quick losses, that brings the Trojans season-ending spree to 5-10 since May 4th. That's like going to the White House and getting a limp fish handshake.
4- Sam Houston State: A
It's been a while since we've seen a Southland Conference team make some waves in the post-season. The title round run here by the Bearkats shows that Mark Johnson still has some coaching magic.

.
Wichita Regional:
1- Wichita State: A
The Shockers are tournament tough. Their deep staff allowed them to come back from the loser's bracket to win at home. The bats are a little hither-and-yon at times, but the pitching will always keep them in it. CWS bound?
2- Arizona: B
Tired of living in ASU's shadow, I thought this was their chance to pull out a regional W after a 2-0 start. But just eight hits in two games to Wichita isn't going to cut it here.
3- Oral Roberts: D-
After last year's Super Regional appearance, I'm sure Coach Walton and the boys were expecting more. But this was still a rather young Eagles' squad, so we'll have to wait 'til next year.
4- New Orleans: B-
You have to like what Tom Walter has done with this program, considering the back-to-back 30+ win seasons. Nice win over ORU and made WSU sweat things out too.

.
Round Rock Regional:
1- Texas: D+
My gawd! I didn't see this one coming. Even though they weren't world-beaters at last week's Big 12 tourney, I still thought they'd peak when needed. Is it time to forget the "Augie Factor" I always point to in the post-season?
2- UC Irvine: A+
Probably the team of the week, nationally (only upset winner to go unbeaten). I was thinking this was way too difficult of a draw for the Anteaters. Sorry coach Serrano, I won't sell you guys short again. This is suddenly a confident, poised team.
3- Wake Forest: C
Was going to give these guys a D- or something until that wild 9th-inning rally vs. Texas nearly saved their season. Lots of youth, this team will be back soon.
4- Brown: B
The Bears had a late lead on Texas and held Wake to just six hits. That's pretty impressive. Brown won its first Ivy League championship.


.
Houston Regional:
1- Rice: A
The Owls had it on cruise control here. Just another indication that they may be playing better baseball than anyone else in the country at this time, now 41-5 since early March. Scorching!
2- TCU: B-
The Frogs didn't play bad, they were just victims of a tough draw. Had they gone to College Station or Round Rock instead, we'd be seeing purple in the Super Regional round.
3- Baylor: C-
After a good run in the Big 12 tournament, the Bears seemed out of verve here, getting only a win over PV. But all those Freshman are going to grow up quick for Steve Smith's program.
4- Prairie View A&M: C-
Bummer. I was really hoping the Panthers could emulate that great performance they gave us last year against Rice, but to no avail. Still, Coach Robertson has built this program very impressively to the top of the SWAC.

.
College Station Regional:
1- Texas A&M: A-
Nice comeback Ags. I gotta admit, this is one of the more exciting teams I'd seen this year with sticks like Blake Stouffer, Craig Stinson and Ben Faltner. They have speed to burn and that could cause all kind of problems for Rice in the Supers.
2- Louisiana-Lafayette: B+
It looked like the Cajuns were a team on a mission, going 2-0 and with a lot of reliable pitchers available. But then A&M caught fire and the Peppers couldn't match their intensity.
3- Ohio State: B-
For a team that didn't have a ghost of a chance to make the NCAAs up until last week, the Bucks showed a lot of fight. They were tough-luck losers in game one and played hard all weekend.
4- LeMoyne: C-
Like OSU, the Dolphins played hard and competitive baseball. The loss to the Buckeyes could've gone either way.

.
Columbia Regional:
1- Missouri: C
Ouch. I thought this was a good draw for the Tigers, but they just didn't close the deal. How shocking is it that ace Aaron Crow faced nine batters and gave up seven runs in Monday's blowout loss to L'ville? Gah!
2- Miami: D
Not your typical Miami season. They'll be back. Soph-heavy team also added a great frosh pitcher in Eric Erickson, though he had a rough time here. Like Augie, this wasn't a Jim Morris-type of run we're used to seeing.
3- Louisville: A
Who says the northeast teams can't play? (Remember, they're in the Big East). I would've sold you beachfront property in Louisville if you had told me this team would beat Miami and Missouri twice. Un-real.
4- Kent State: C-
The Flashes just decided to start playing a little too late. After a blowout loss to Mizzou, KSU dropped a one-run game to Miami, despite leaving the bases-loaded in the 8th inning.

.
Fayetteville Regional:
1- Arkansas: C-
The Hogs staff didn't have enough quality depth to reign in Oklahoma State this weekend, so for the second year in a row Arkansas has its season end on the home field. That's painful.
2- Creighton: C-
Man, how many warning track flyouts can one team hit? That was their curse vs. Arkansas. Jays still had another surprising season under Ed Servais. Just not this weekend.
3- Oklahoma State: A+
The Pokes do it to the Hogs again, this time as a 3-seed. Riding some hot bats and getting inspired pitching, you have to like their chances vs. Louisville. The last time OSU was in Omaha was in '99.
4- Albany: C
Obviously, the Danes were overwhelmed here in this field. Still a great post-season run that led them from 3rd in the AmEast to their first NCAA bid is a point of pride.

.
Tallahassee Regional:
1- Florida State: D+
I don't know what to say here. I thought the 'Noles got an easy draw in this Regional to begin with. Is this an indication of that easy non-conference slate coming back to bite them in the bum?
2- Mississippi State: A+
I have bagged on State's pitching staff all season long. Well guess what? That rag-tag bunch just shut down the No. 1 hitting team in the country. Now they'll have 10,000+ at home to host Clemson.
3- Stetson: C-
The usually steady defense imploded for five errors on Friday, costing them the MSU game. Sunday's 11-run inning they allowed to Florida State made things ugly.
4- Bethune-Cookman: D
The most dominant team in the MEAC (seven of the last eight titles) just didn't have any magic in their carpet this time.

.
Myrtle Beach Regional:
1- Coastal Carolina: C
Again, the national spotlight shined down on the Chants and they came up snake-eyes. Sure they ran into a buzzsaw of a Tiger team, but their pitching failed them big-time.
2- Clemson: A-
This team finally got its offense cranking, now they're scary. The inconsistencies seem to have been solved, so this will be a fun team to watch once again. Man! They did everything right vs. CCU. Impressive.
3- St. John's: C
This team provided some of the more exciting games of the weekend, which is a testament to their never-say-die attitude. Just couldn't get over the hump vs. a hot Tiger team.
4- Virginia Commonwealth: C-
Heartbreaking loss after battling back so impressively against the Red Storm. Still, this was a pretty good 4-seed team that should've made more noise.

.
Columbia Regional:
1- South Carolina: A
The Gamecocks showed their post-season experience to win this one fairly comfortably. 32 runs in three games? Yep, nothing wrong the offense here. Now, will the pitching staff crank it up a notch?
2- North Carolina State: D+
Two losses to in-state little brother Charlotte is not going to please a lot of Pack fans. Having to go without Andrew Brackman was a big blow too.
3- Charlotte: A
Acquitted themselves pretty well with the wins over N.C. State. Granted, a team with a 2.41 ERA shouldn't give up 33 runs in three games, but the offense did its part.
4- Wofford: D
Speaking of offense, this team just couldn't get things cranking this weekend. Then again, as a 9th-place team in the SoCon, just making the field of 64 was enough.

.
Chapel Hill Regional:
1- North Carolina: B
The best part about this Regional was simply that they didn't give the underdogs anything to brag about. But that WCU finale was a white-knuckler. I like they're chances against South Carolina.
2- East Carolina: C-
Jamie Ray's two-run single in the 8th to beat Western was the highlight of their weekend. But just like the regular season, the Pirates just weren't consistent enough.
3- Western Carolina: A
Lost a pair of heart-wrenching games to ECU and UNC, but give it to 'em for making the title round. I was impressed with the Catamounts this year. I'm bummed I won't get to see them play.
4- Jacksonville: D---
For the second year in a row, the Dolphins go quietly. Only this time, they couldn't even muster a single run. In fact, why am I not giving them an F here?

Comments

They don't have the talent that they had last year, but they don't seem to know how to quit. Now I like Oregon State chances to get back. Still could be two and barbaque, but hey, 3 straight appearances in Omaha would be pretty incredible for this program.

The odd thing is Canham is in the tank the last few weeks and yet folks like Lechalt, Hopkins, et all stepped up. And Joe Paterson... Are you kidding me?

I wrote the Beavs off when they dropped their first home series in years to Washington State, followed by being swept by Arizona State. They have already played beyond expectations for a team that had 9 players leave and sign.

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

 


Eric Sorenson Eric Sorenson
Eric Sorenson is CSTV.com's National Baseball Columnist, and also appears on CSTV as a baseball expert