02 Jun

regional rumination

Curious decision by Mississippi State coach Andy Cannizaro to hold out ace Konnor Pilkington from the team’s Hattiesburg Regional opener tonight against South Alabama. Left-hander Pilkington is 7-5, 3.13 ERA and shackled USA back in March, throwing 7 2/3 shutout innings with 13 strikeouts. Pilkington told the Biloxi Sun-Herald he is “fine with it.” But for a team that lacks pitching depth, winning the opener behind a starter who can go deep would seem to be paramount. Cole Gordon (2-2, 4.59) will get the ball. … South Alabama trots out a very potent lineup, including Mississippians Wells Davis and Dylan Hardy. Don’t sleep on the Jaguars, a 39-win club that has made 27 NCAA appearances. Mississippi State has 36. … Even against a tough field, Southern Miss, with 14 regional appearances, is the heavy favorite at Taylor Park, where the Golden Eagles went 24-6. Baseball America calls this USM’s “best and most complete team in years.” … If there are college baseball fans out there who aren’t yet familiar with USM’s Matt Wallner, that could end this weekend. The left-handed hitting freshman has been a force in a stacked lineup with a .345 average and 19 homers. The coach who recruited him to North Dakota – where he never played because the program was shut down – has compared Wallner’s swing to Will Clark’s. Now that’s a familiar name. … USM’s Scott Berry will throw his ace, Kirk McCarty (10-2, 2.96), against 4-seed Illinois-Chicago in today’s first game. … Berry also has a first-rate weapon to throw at the end of games: second-team All-America Nick Sandlin, who notched 10 wins, seven saves, a 2.16 ERA and 72 punchouts in 50 innings for the 48-win Eagles. … UIC was pegged to finish in the middle of the pack in the Horizon League this season, but fueled by some strong pitching and excellent defense, the Flames won 39 games and the conference title. They also beat Vanderbilt two out of three in Nashville this season. So there’s that. … With the postseason runs of Delta State and William Carey having ended, we’re down to two Magnolia State schools still playing. We’ll have one at most after the anticipated dust storm settles in Hattiesburg.

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