30 May

there’s a drive …

Power matters in college baseball. Power wins. Twelve of the top 20 teams in total home runs are in the NCAA Tournament, seven of them as No. 1 seeds, three more as 2-seeds. The national leader in homers — with 147 — is SEC champion and No. 1 overall seed Tennessee, which is hosting the Knoxville Regional where Southern Miss was shipped. Virginia, which is hosting the Charlottesville Regional where Mississippi State was assigned, ranks ninth in homers with 113. Both teams feature multiple players who can rake. Neither USM (41-18) nor State (38-21), both 2-seeds, would be regarded as teams that rely heavily on power. USM has hit just 63 homers this season, ranking 138th overall. State’s got 73, barely cracking the top 100 at No. 98. Tennessee has five players with double-figure homer totals, led by Christian Moore with 28 and Billy Amick with 19. USM’s leader is Slade Wilks with 14. Indiana, USM’s first-round opponent in the regional, blasted 78 homers this season, and Northern Kentucky, the 4-seed in Knoxville, hit 86. On the flip side, USM’s pitching, which has posted a 5.00 ERA (54th nationally), has done a fair job of limiting long-ball damage, allowing 60 homers. MSU pitchers, in a remarkable turnaround from 2023, have put up a 4.15 ERA this season, 12th-best in the country. They’ve yielded 63 homers. The Bulldogs’ first-round opponent is St. John’s, which has only 41 homers. The 4-seed in Charlottesville is Penn, which has hit 55. Virginia’s top slugger is Harrison Didawick, who has 23 bombs, leading three others in double digits. Dakota Jordan is sitting on 17 for the Bulldogs, though his power tailed off down the stretch. Hunter Hines has hit 15 bombs. There is more to the game than hitting home runs, of course, but it certainly helps to have that weapon in your lineup. Nothing changes a game like a three-run bomb.

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