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Patrick Ebert | D1baseball.com | June 3, 2021

2021 NCAA baseball tournament preview: Greenville Regional

The field:

1. East Carolina: Regular Season Results | Team Stats and Leaders
2. Charlotte: Regular Season Results | Team Stats and Leaders
3. Maryland: Regular Season Results | Team Stats and Leaders
4. Norfolk State: Regular Season Results | Team Stats and Leaders

Greenville Regional Superlatives

Most Exciting Player: Connor Norby, 2B, East Carolina. Norby enjoyed an incredible season, batting .428 with 15 doubles, 15 homers and 51 RBIs serving as ECU’s leadoff hitter. He stole 15 bases while playing second base for the Pirates, but it’s in the batter’s box where he shines the most with a knack for squaring up the baseball to hit lasers to all parts of the ballpark.

Best Hitter: Austin Knight, 3B, Charlotte. Norby is the best hitter in this regional, but since he’s also the most exciting player we’ll expand the candidates so Knight gets some well-deserved recognition. His 29 doubles lead the nation and his 61 RBIs are tied for 11th. Overall he’s slashing .351/.402/.622 and was honored as Conference USA’s Player and Newcomer of the Year after transferring from Tennessee. 

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

Best Defensive Player: Benjamin Cowles, SS, Maryland. Cowles has been considered a glove-first shortstop for the past several years for the Terps which may surprise some considering he leads the Big Ten with 17 bombs. Smooth, steady and consistent are all words to describe Cowles’ defensive prowess, as both he and Maryland center fielder Chris Alleyne are difference makers up the middle of the field defensively.

Best Pitcher: Gavin Williams, RHP, East Carolina. ECU players took home both Player and Pitcher of the Year honors in the American Athletic Conference as Norby and Williams were rewarded for their impressive individual seasons. Williams’ numbers are eye-popping, going 10-0, 1.32, allowing just 43 hits and 18 walks in 68 innings with 108 strikeouts. He makes throwing in the mid- to upper-90s look easy and he’s a potential first rounder for this year’s thanks to his stuff and 6-foot-6, 238-pound frame.

X-Factor: Danny Hosley, 3B/RHP, Norfolk State. There doesn’t appear to be too many things Hosley can’t do on a baseball field. When he’s not pitching he usually suits up at third base, although he also plays shortstop and has spent some time behind the plate. He batted .375/.461/.500 this year with 11 extra-base hits and went 7-1, 2.95 on the mound while tossing six complete games. His most recent start, an 8-3 win over Florida A&M in the MEAC championship, was one of his best, striking out nine in seven innings of work and he also hit a two-run double.

Best Starting Rotation: East Carolina. Williams, the team’s staff ace, can match up with any other pitcher in the nation and his progression over the past several years has been notable. Righthander Tyler Smith and lefthander Jake Kuchmaner add even more experience to the starting staff, and 6-foot-3, 205-pound second-year freshman lefthander Carson Whisenhunt really took a step forward this year, going 5-1, 3.70 with a 66-fot-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 48 2/3 innings. This quartet accounted for starting 45 of the team’s 54 games and 223 of ECU’s 474 innings.

Best Bullpen: East Carolina. For as much experience as the East Carolina starting staff has their starters are rarely asked to go deep into games, and only Williams recorded a complete game this season. That didn’t happen by accident as the Pirates have wealth in numbers when it comes to capable arms. Their three most turned-to bullpen options are Cam Colmore, Matt Bridges and CJ Mayhue, a trio that combined to post a 2.65 ERA in 115 2/3 innings over 80 appearances. During that time they struck out 156 batters, giving them a clear edge over their visiting regional opponents.  

MORE: Complete coverage of the DI baseball championship | Bracket 

Best Offensive Team: East Carolina. Norby is one of the nation’s most dangerous catalysts at the top of the order, and two other hitters – first baseman Thomas Francisco (11) and catcher Seth Caddell (13) – have double-digit home runs. This unit slashed .303/.392/.479 overall with 72 home runs to go along with some speed on the basepaths, making ECU one of the nation’s most prolific run scoring teams.

Best Defensive Team: East Carolina. With a .978 team fielding percentage, this is a steady overall unit with a lot of experience scattered across the diamond. The double play combo of shortstop Ryder Giles and Norby up the middle of the infield is as sure-handed as they come while Seth Caddell brings several years of experience behind the dish. There’s a fair amount of versatility on the field as well as numerous players can play multiple positions, particularly in the instances Giles enters the game to pitch.

No. 1 Seed Win Probability (1-10): 8. East Carolina on paper is the best team of the four, but you do have to factor in the magic Charlotte captured this season and just how hot Maryland got down the stretch. It’s also important to note that ECU was considered the heavy favorite in the American Athletic Conference and could have been the only AAC team to make the Field of 64 had they not been eliminated in the conference championship. However, with the most dynamic offense and the deepest pitching staff it seems more likely than not that Head Coach Cliff Godwin will guide his Pirates to their third super regional appearance in the last four seasons that counted.

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 19-30, 2021
TD Ameritrade Park | Omaha, NE

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