Sports, Spring, Baseball

Preview: BC Heads to Tuscaloosa Regional

All you need is a bid to the tournament. 

While Boston College baseball was not selected as one of the 16 teams to host a regional, the Eagles have a ticket to the NCAA Baseball Tournament and earned a No. 2 seed in the Tuscaloosa Regional with No. 16 Alabama, Troy, and Nicholls State as its opponents. Since the 64-team format was introduced, about three quarters of College World Series teams have been No. 1 seeds, but in 2022, the fewest number of No. 1 seeds advanced to Omaha in two decades. 

The eventual winner of the 2022 tournament was, in fact, a No. 3 seed and the last at-large team in the field—Ole Miss. And in one of the most memorable underdog runs in recent history, 2016’s Coastal Carolina defeated three national seeds en route to winning its first national championship too. 

BC made four College World Series appearances in 1953, 1960, 1961, and 1967, earning a third place result in 1961. Since then, the Eagles have made the NCAA Tournament twice, advancing out of the regional round once in 2016 to face Miami, the No. 3 overall seed. This year’s selection is the Eagles’ ninth appearance in school history. 

Here is a look at the tournament’s structure and the four teams competing in the Tuscaloosa Regional. 

Tournament Structure

Of the 305 schools that sponsor Division I baseball programs, 64 are invited to participate in the NCAA Division I Baseball Championship, a three-round, four-weekend event throughout June. After 30 teams win auto-bids by winning their respective conference tournaments, 34 at-large teams are selected. 

The 64 qualifying teams are split into 16 regional locations, hosted by the 16 teams that the NCAA Selection Committee determines to have the best resumes based on their seasons’ results. The regional tournaments are double elimination, with one of the four teams advancing to the super regional round. Super regionals, hosted by the higher-seeded team, are a best-of-three series format, with the winner advancing to the eight-team College World Series in Omaha, Neb. 

No. 16 Alabama (40–19, 16–14 Southeastern)

Which version of Alabama will fans see in the Tuscaloosa Regional? The Crimson Tide began the season on an absolute tear, going 14–0 with an offense averaging over 11 runs per game, and earned top-25 rankings across several publications in early March. Alabama followed up that 14-game win streak with five consecutive series losses to Columbia, then-No. 2 Florida, then-No. 22 Kentucky, then-No. 6 Arkansas, and Mississippi State. The Crimson Tide appeared to right the ship with a series win over Auburn and a sweep of Missouri, then went on the road and were swept at then-No. 1 LSU. 

Then, on May 1, Ohio sportsbooks halted all betting in games involving the Crimson Tide due to unusual activity in Alabama’s game against LSU on April 28. The investigation marked the beginning of the end for sixth-year head coach Brad Bohannon, who was dismissed from his position and fired for cause later in the week. 

With interim head coach Jason Jackson at the helm, Alabama rebounded with three series wins over then-No. 5 Vanderbilt, Texas A&M, and Ole Miss. Behind the late-season resurgence is a pitching staff averaging 2.50 runs allowed per game in May. 

Hitter to Watch: 

Freshman third baseman Colby Shelton bats cleanup for Alabama and is tied for fourth in the conference with 22 home runs. Shelton’s strikeout total is elevated, as he goes down on strikes in nearly a quarter of his at-bats, but regardless, Shelton will not be getting many good pitches to hit with men on base.

Pitcher to Watch: 

Senior right-hander Garrett McMillan missed time early in the season due to injury and has an ERA of 3.99 in eight starts. McMillan has become the Saturday starter for Alabama and hit his stride in May, posting four consecutive starts of more than five innings and less than four earned runs. 

Boston College (35–18, 16–14)

As the regional hosts were revealed on Sunday night, the tweets slowly rolled in about the Auburn Regional, the Baton Rouge regional, the Charlottesville regional, the Clemson regional, and the Columbia regional . A regional in Brighton would not happen.

While the individual stats don’t pop off the page, BC finds success in the little things. The Eagles are fifth in fielding percentage nationally, which is evidence of a squad that makes few mistakes and plays fundamental baseball. This season, the Eagles more than tripled their ACC win total from 2022, finishing with 16 ACC wins. Most notably, the Eagles are at their best on the road, with the odds stacked against them—they are 18–9 on the road, with road wins over ranked teams in No. 1 Wake Forest, No. 21 Tennessee, and No. 10 Connecticut. 

The Eagles have shown this year that analysts’ predictions and actual on-field performance can tell vastly different stories, but a question remains: How far can the Eagles go in their historic season? 

Hitter to Watch: 

In the Eagles’ last 14 games, Junior first baseman Joe Vetrano has batted .397 with seven home runs. With Cameron Leary and Travis Honeyman missing time with injuries, Vetrano has picked up the slack. 

Pitcher to Watch: 

Right-hander Chris Flynn, a graduate transfer from Roger Williams, has been the go-to starter for the Eagles all season. Named to the All-ACC Second Team, Flynn struck out 82 batters in 72.2 innings pitched in 2023. Look for Flynn’s signature strut back to the dugout after the third out, firing up the Eagles.

Troy (39–20, 18–12 Sun Belt)

The Trojans made waves in the early season, starting with 11 wins, including sweeps of Evansville, South Carolina Upstate, and Stony Brook. While Georgia State swept the Trojans in their first series in conference play, the Trojans rebounded to go 7–2 in the rest of their in-conference series and 5–1 at home. 

Troy has a balanced approach, with a .285 team batting average and a 5.48 team ERA. The Trojans, who finished in third place in a four-bid Sun Belt conference, had balanced home and road splits at 24–8 at home and 14–9 on the road. Troy played two games against regional host Alabama, losing two midweek games by a combined score of 4–17. 

Hitter to Watch: 

Junior centerfielder Kole Myers sets the table for the Trojans, batting leadoff with a .292 batting average. Myers leads the team with 20 stolen bases and had a .985 fielding percentage in center field on the season. 

Pitcher to Watch:

Junior right-hander  Noah Manning has been the closer for the Trojans, collecting 11 saves on the season with a 3.40 ERA. Manning pitched in a team-high 32 games and posted a 1.37 WHIP in 45 innings. 

Nicholls State (34–22, 15–9 Southland)

The Colonels are making their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1998 as the champion of the Southland Conference. Nicholls State won the regular-season title with a 15–9 conference record and went 4–0 in the conference tournament to claim both titles.

Nicholls State made the hour-plus drive up north to Baton Rouge to play LSU twice, and after losing the first game via mercy rule 12–2 in seven innings, returned three weeks later to dethrone the then-No. 1 Tigers at home, 6–5. The Colonels defeated the Tigers a day after LSU was named the unanimous No. 1 program across all the college baseball rankings for the seventh straight week. 

Hitter to Watch: 

In the Colonels’ last 32 games, Redshirt senior Xane Washington has gone hitless only twice, with 18 multi-hit games in that span. The Southland Conference Tournament MVP, Washington bats second for Nicholls State and leads the team in batting average, hits, RBI, OPS, and runs scored.

Pitcher to Watch: 

Right-hander Jacob Mayers won Freshman of the Year honors in the Southland Conference, throwing 70 innings and posting a 1.93 ERA as a freshman weekend starter. With a 9–1 record and 97 strikeouts on the season, Mayers is the most consistent pitcher on Nicholls State’s staff.

June 2, 2023