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May 30, 2013

Bloomington Regional Preview



THE TEAMS

No. 1: Indiana Hoosiers (43-14, 15-6 Big Ten)
The winner of the Bloomington Regional goes on to face the winner of the Tallahassee Regional, and that next step goes directly through the Big Ten champions. Florida dropped two of three to Indiana at McKethan Stadium in early March. The Hoosiers have eight players batting .300 or better and all of them have started at least 27 games. To add on, they have three pitchers with sub-2.00 ERAs, two of them starters. Keep an eye on sophomore Kyle Schwarber (.374, 16 HR), who is having as good of an offensive season as anyone in the country.

No. 2: Austin Peay (45-13, 22-7 Ohio Valley Conference)
The hottest team in college baseball, the Governors and Gators are on completely opposite slides entering their Friday afternoon opener. Austin Peay has won a nation-high 15 straight games while Florida finished 2-9 in its last 11 conference games. Much like the Hoosiers, the Governors have plenty of guys who can get on base. Seven regular starters have on-base percentages of .400 or better. Austin Peay's track record against the Southeastern Conference this season isn't the best. The Governors have lost games to Kentucky and Mississippi State in 2013.

No. 3: Florida (29-28, 14-16 SEC)
One month ago, Florida not only looked like a team that could make the postseason but a squad that could make some noise once it got there. That swagger was tempered the last three weeks of the season when the Gators struggled to defeat SEC competition. Florida has gotten to this point without a dominant bat in its lineup - only two freshmen are hitting above .300 - or any form of a consistent pitching rotation. The Gators have started 10 different pitchers this season, and only Friday's starter Jonathon Crawford (4.03 ERA) has double-digit starts. Just reaching a regional is a serious accomplishment for a team that has been ravaged by the Major League Baseball Draft in recent years.

No. 4: Valparaiso (31-26, 13-11 Horizon League)
Arguably the weakest team in this year's field, the Crusaders made the NCAA Tournament after winning the Horizon Tournament despite coming in at No. 174 in the RPI rankings. Valparaiso has been abysmal on the road, 5-17, and has hit just eight home runs the entire season. Look for them to bow out of the field by day two and leave this regional up to the three top-36 RPI teams in contention.

THREE QUESTIONS

What does Florida have to do to contend? The Gators have their fair share of pitching inconsistencies, but run production was the biggest issue during their latest cold streak. Florida has to make pitchers work and feed off top-of-the-lineup hitters like Richie Martin and Casey Turgeon to build momentum in a young lineup. There is capable pitching talent if given an opportunity to throw with a lead.

Can Crawford get the job done for the Gators? There have been flashes of 2012 Crawford this year but they have been few and far between. Consistency has been a major issue, as has sustainable velocity and fastball location - the two things that made him the breakout star of the UF rotation last year. Whether or not a week away from the mound will help or hurt Crawford is up for interpretation. Look for Johnny Magliozzi to get the ball in a must-win game two if Crawford struggles Friday.

Who will win this regional? It's tough to argue against the favorites. Indiana is the No. 1 seed here for a reason. The Hoosiers are balanced offensively and on the mound and are more battle-tested than Austin Peay. Indiana will move on to play the winner of the Tallahassee Regional.


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