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Walter Villa | D1baseball.com | June 3, 2021

2021 NCAA baseball tournament preview: The Gainesville Regional

The college baseball freshmen who've made the biggest impact in 2021

The field:

1. Florida: Regular Season Results | Team Stats and Leaders
2. Miami: Regular Season Results | Team Stats and Leaders
3. South Alabama: Regular Season Results | Team Stats and Leaders
4. South Florida: Regular Season Results | Team Stats and Leaders

Gainesville Regional Superlatives

Most Exciting Player: Gators leadoff batter and left fielder Jacob Young can hit, run, field and throw. He leads Florida in batting average (.317), doubles (16), triples (three) steals (13-of-14) and outfield assists (seven).

Best Hitter: This is the toughest question on the board. Three hitters in this regional are projected to get selected in the first round in July: Miami’s Adrian Del Castillo, Florida’s Jud Fabian and South Alabama’s Ethan Wilson. However, Del Castillo, who hit .338 with 72 RBIs as a freshman and .358 in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, has slumped to .284 with just three homers. His OPS is .799, down from .994 his freshman year. Fabian is batting just .258 with a team-high 76 strikeouts in 57 games. However, he is also tied for fifth in the nation with 20 homers, and he owns a .956 OPS against elite SEC pitching. Wilson, who has a .980 OPS, is hitting .319 with eight homers. Solid numbers, but – like Del Castillo – Wilson has declined since his last full year of 2019, when he slugged 17 homers and had an 1.139 OPS.

TOURNAMENT FAQ: Conference champ tracker | Regional sites | How the CWS works

There’s one other name to consider – Adrian’s older brother, Christian Del Castillo, who has the best batting average (.368) of anyone in this regional. He is not the draft prospect of his rivals and doesn’t hit for a ton of power – 10 doubles, one triple and four homers — but he has a .926 OPS and has been the best pure hitter of the bunch this year.

Best Defensive Player: Scouts rave about Fabian in center field, and he is the top choice here. Fabian also made the SEC’s All-Defense team. But Hurricanes shortstop Dominic Pitelli is a player to watch. An undersized true freshman, Pitelli led Miami in assists (142), and he was a part of 28 double plays. 

2021 NCAA DI baseball tournament bracket selection show

Best Pitcher: Miami closer Carson Palmquist gets the nod over two Gators who have first-round-pick potential: righthander Tommy Mace in 2021 and lefty Hunter Barco in 2022. Palmquist (1-1, 1.74 ERA, 15.7 strikeouts per nine innings), a nasty sidearm lefty with a 90-93 fastball and two good secondary pitches, is tied for second in the nation with 13 saves. In 41.1 innings, he has 72 strikeouts and just six walks.

X-Factor: The X-Factor is pitching. How do Florida’s relievers perform? How about Miami’s starters, the weakest element of this Hurricanes team? And, perhaps most notably, how does South Alabama replace true freshman righthander Jeremy Lee, who made second-team All-Sun Belt with a fastball up to 95 mph. He had forearm tightness one month ago and has been shut down for the season. The Jaguars won the Sun Belt tournament without him, but the Gainesville regional is a much stiffer test of their pitching depth. “(Lee) could probably throw by now,” South Alabama coach Mark Calvi said, “but his career is more important.”

WHAT TO KNOW: 1 thing about each team in the 2021 DI baseball tournament field

Best Starting Rotation: Mace (6-1, 4.32 ERA) and Barco (10-2, 3.81 ERA) form a terrific 1-2 punch for the Gators. Mace has a mid-90s fastball, cutter, curveball and changeup from the right side, while Barco offers a low-90s heater, swing-and-miss splitter and spike curveball from the left side.

Best Bullpen: Miami’s relievers have a 3.75 ERA as opposed to a 4.88 mark turned in by Hurricanes starters. The set-up men to get to Palmquist include Spencer Bodanza (3-0, 2.08 ERA in 18 games) and Andrew Walters (1.11 ERA in 17 games). In addition, Daniel Federman, who flunked his trial as a starter this year with a 6.75 ERA, has a 1.83 ERA in 19.2 innings since moving back to the bullpen.  

Best Offensive Team: Florida, facing loads of elite SEC pitching, averaged 6.4 runs this year with 70 homers, a .372 on-base percentage and a .450 slugging percentage.

MORE: Complete coverage of the DI baseball championship | Bracket 

Best Defensive Team: South Alabama, which had the best fielding percentage (.979) of the teams in this regional, features players such as third baseman Cameron Tissue and shortstop Santi Montiel. Tissue, a shortstop in junior college, has impressive range for a third baseman.

No. 1 Seed Win Probability (1-10): 6. The Gators are a battle-tested club, having gone 17-13 in SEC play. But this regional has no soft touches, including Sun Belt champ South Alabama and the AAC title-holders, South Florida. And, by virtue of their No. 2 seed in this regional, Miami should be the biggest threat to the Gators. Miami won two of three at Florida to open this season, and all of those games were decided by two runs or fewer, including one that required 13 innings to settle.

This article first appeared on D1Baseball.com and continues there with a team-by-team breakdown of every regional.

For more stories like this one, you can use coupon code NCAA2021 to get a 20 percent discount for an annual subscription to DIBaseball.com or D1Softball.com.

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Division I
Baseball Championship
June 17 - 26/27, 2022
TD Ameritrade Park | Omaha, NE

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