ISU baseball en path to NCAA Regional in Vanderbilt | Indiana State Sports activities
When the Indiana State name came up on the NCAA baseball selection show to play at Vanderbilt for the second straight year, it was undoubtedly like deja vu for Sycamore fans and ISU coach Mitch Hannahs.
The site may be the same as the ISU’s 2019 NCAA regional trip and the host’s Commodores are just as terrifying, but this isn’t a complete reminder in the other sense of the term.
That’s because of the Sycamores heading to Nashville this year – and the players who helped ISU play in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1986-87 (there was no tournament in 2020 due to COVID-19) – are very different from the ones that played at Charles Hawkins Field in 2019.
Only one everyday starter – catcher Max Wright – remains of 2019. Tyler Grauer has a similar bullpen role to 2019 – although he is more of a secondary priority than the primary. Geremy Guerrero was an all-rounder in 2019. Now, as an ISU ace, he is the MVC pitcher of the year. There are some players, like Jordan Schaffer, who played in 2019 but not regularly.
So it’s a different team. And it’s an accomplishment all of its own.
“At the beginning of the season there were a lot of strangers from this group. The committee we got back was that they really appreciate our non-conference schedule. Throwing these guys into this non-conference right away? We learned a lot about them, that they would not impress, they would compete and learn that they have a little bit higher equipment. It’s a completely new team, we threw them on the wolves and they responded, “said ISU trainer Mitch Hannahs.
The ISU didn’t have the automatic bidding in 2021 as it did in 2019, so there was a bit of a sense of concern despite most experts having the Sycamores solidly in the field after a 3-2 performance at the MVC tournament.
“It’s exciting to see our names called out. It was more of a feeling of amazement for us than in 2019. We didn’t know when, where or if, absolutely. We had a feeling of amazement, but then quickly felt that we had to get something to work, “said Schaffer.
What is similar in 2019 is the difficult task. The Nashville Regional is even tougher than it was in 2019.
Number 3 in the Regionalliga, ISU opens the Atlantic Coast Conference against Georgia Tech on Friday at 1pm. In 2019, the ISU was a No. 2 seed, opening up against the pesky McNeese State, a solid team but one of the lesser-known Southland Conference as opposed to the ACC.
And of course, the hosts are the Commodores, who won the College World Series in 2019, the big dogs. Vanderbilt is ranked fourth in the tournament’s overall ranking and the Commodores will be greeted by Presbyterians for a night drink on Friday.
Georgia Tech (29-23) won the ACC Coastal Division with a half game against Miami. While the ACC only has one team that hosts a regional league (Notre Dame), the league was very even. The Yellowjackets won seven of their 12 ACC series.
This is despite the fact that Georgia Tech had a Team ERA of 5.82. Brant Hurter is the only starting pitcher with an ERA under four at 3.74.
The Yellowjackets did well, however, with a team stroke average of .283, the third best in the ACC, and Georgia Tech led the ACC in runs scored with 366, including 119 doubles in the league. Georgia Tech doesn’t have any of the ACC front-runners at home runs, but catcher Kevin Parada led the league with 20 doubles. Shortstop Luke Waddell was among the ACC leaders at the base hits with 66.
ISU (30-20) had a relatively successful MVC tournament with a 3-2 record overall. On the upside, there was a revival of the ISU offense after it slumped in its last two regular series of the season. The ISU’s pitching was solid from the expected sources as well. On the flip side, the ISU’s defense was – usually a strength, sometimes arbitrary, and the ISU stranded an MVC tournament record of 20 runners in their championship round loss to the Dallas Baptist.
“Of course we have to play better defensively. We have to take advantage of the opportunities, which are more limited in a regional league than in the MVC tournament. If you get a chance in a game? written down.
As for the rest of the field, Vanderbilt (40-15) is his usual creepy self. The highly acclaimed starting pitcher, Kumar Rocker, who faced the Sycamores in 2019, is still there. Rockers ERA is 2.86 and opponents beat .186 against him. Vandy’s other main starter is Jack Leiter, who has a gaudy 2.28 ERA. Like the ISU, the Commodores have implemented most of their daily starting grid since 2019 but still have skill, including Dominic Keegan (.369), Enrique Bradfield Jr. (.356), Isaiah Thomas (.331, 12 HR) and Carter Young (15 HR).
Presbyterians (22-21) were the surprise winners of the Big South Conference tournament. The Blue Hose beat Campbell, twice the No. 1 seeded Campbell, who received an NCAA bid, on the way to the Big South Championship, twice.
Guerrero is one of the few Sycamores to have played in the Regionalliga 2019. He threw three innings over two games against Vanderbilt and relieved Zach Frey, who was also on the roster, in the second fight against the Commodores.
“Experience is a long way. This experience with some of our guys will help us control the moment and not let the moment control us,” said Guerrero. “I think it’s a good thing to have a few guys with no experience. They can take that experience with you into the future.”
The winner of the Nashville Regional is paired against the winner of the Greenville Regional hosted by East Carolina. The host Pirates, Charlotte, Maryland and Norfolk State encompass this regional field.
Dallas Baptist won the other MVC tournament as the winner of the MVC tournament. The Patriots play in nearby Fort Worth Regional against Oregon State at the TCU.
Game 1 – No. 2 Georgia Tech (29-23) vs. No. 3 ISU (30-19), 1pm (ESPN3)
Game 2 – No. 1 Vanderbilt (40-15) vs. No. 4 Presbyterians (22-21), 6 p.m. (SEC)
Game 3 – Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, noon
Game 4 – Winner of Game 1 vs. Winner of Game 2, 6 p.m.
Game 5 – Winner of Game 3 vs. Loser of Game 4, 2pm
Game 6 – Winner of Game 4 vs. Winner of Game 5, 8 p.m.
Game 7 * – Winner of Game 6 vs. Loser of Game 6, 6 p.m.
* If necessary