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Burke Granger | D1baseball.com | June 3, 2021

2021 NCAA baseball tournament preview: Knoxville Regional

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

The Field 

1. Tennessee: Regular Season Results | Team Stats and Leaders
2. Duke: Regular Season Results | Team Stats and Leaders
3. Liberty: Regular Season Results | Team Stats and Leaders
4. Wright State: Regular Season Results | Team Stats and Leaders

Knoxville Regional Superlatives

Most Exciting Player: Max Ferguson, 2B, Tennessee 

A dynamic athlete who’s showing speed and surprising pop this season, Furguson (.262/.381/.475, 11 HR, 15 SB) can impact the game in a variety of ways. His best tool is his double-plus speed, which is evident on the bases and in the dirt.   

Best Hitter:  Tyler Black, 2B, Wright State

One of the top second base prospects in the draft class, Tyler Black (.374/.495/638, 10 HR) has a sound approach at the plate complete with strike zone awareness and a penchant for barreling the baseball. 

Best Defensive Player: Cam Locklear, SS, Liberty 

The Atlantic Sun Defensive Player of the Year, Locklear can really flash the leather. He moves well to either side with fluid, athletic movements and has an advanced internal clock. Tennessee shortstop Liam Spence gets an honorable mention here. 

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

Best Pitcher: Trevor Delaite, Liberty

A transfer from Maine, the 6-foot lefty emerged as not only the top arm on the roster, he took home ASUN Pitcher of the Year honors after leading the conference in wins (11), finishing second in ERA (1.98) and third in strikeouts (83)

X-Factor: Duke 

Is it a copout to pick an entire team as an X-Factor? Perhaps. But the Blue Devils enter the tournament as one of the hotter teams in the field, winning 14-of-16 games over the last month. Gelling at the right time and the corresponding momentum makes them a wildcard team that’s difficult to handicap. 

Best Starting Rotation: Tennessee 

Even with the loss of ace Jackson Leath early in the season, Chad Dallas (10-1, 4.07), Blade Tidwell (8-3, 3.47) and Will Heflin (2-3, 4.24) have been consistently solid all season long, eating innings and putting the Vols in a position to win. 

Best Bullpen: Tennessee

The Vols have embarrassment of riches in the bullpen, highlighted by Redmond Walsh (4-1, 2.65, 5 SV) and Kirby Connell (1-1, 3.02, 2 SV) from the left side and Sean Hunley (7-4, 2.82, 7 SV) Elijah Pleasants (2-1, 4.37) from the right. Additionally, swingman righthander Mark McLaughlin (2-0, 1.83) is effectively wild but also particularly difficult to barrel, holding opponents to a .130 batting average. 

MORE: Complete coverage of the DI baseball championship | Bracket 

Best Offensive Team: Wright State. 

The Raiders have one of the most potent offenses in the tournament, leading the country in all three slash categories (.342/.451/.578), runs per game (10.6), and doubles per game (2.74).  

Best Defensive Team: Liberty.

The Flames have the second-best fielding percentage in the country (.984) trailing only Notre Dame (.985).

No. 1 Seed Win Probability (1-10): 6 

The Vols are indeed one of the best teams in the country and earned the #3 national seed, but the committee didn’t do them any favors with this draw. 

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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