In a sport where the quality of pitching continues to improve year upon year and hitters have to play catch up, there are plenty of talented starting pitchers you should keep an eye on throughout the DI baseball tournament. But the truly lucky teams have several shutdown arms to throw out there any given day.
Here are five of the best starting rotations in the tournament, listed in alphabetical order:
There's a regional in Terre Haute for several reasons, but none may have been more impactful than the reliable starters for the Sycamores. Matt Jachec has been a consistent Friday starter and inning-eater. He has three complete games in 14 starts, a strikeout-to-walk ratio over 6.0 and a 1.12 WHIP. Behind him is another workhorse in Connor Fenlong, who has made the transition from the bullpen this season to throw a team-high 100 innings, including four complete games and an even lower WHIP.
The feel-good story comes in the Sycamores' other regular starter, Lane Miller. Aside from his .211 opponent batting average and .221 BABIP, Indiana State has won every game Miller has started in 2023 — a season that he began by preparing not for a postseason run, but for the beginning of his time with the Marines.
With the reliable combination of Marcus Morgan and Brody Brecht at the top of the rotation, the Hawkeyes had the foundation of a pitching staff that was best in the Big Ten. Opposing hitters are well under .200 against both Morgan and Brecht (whose .148 average is DI-best), and aren't hitting much better against third starter Ty Langenburg. The three have combined for over 200 innings pitched this season, always available and consistent to boot.
Walks can be a bit of an issue for the Hawkeyes' workhorses, but Morgan and Brecht are more than able to get themselves out of jams with strikeout rates over 25% for each. Even when the ball is put in play, opponent BABIPs hovering around .250 means contact is below average and primed for the Iowa defense to make plays.
No. 5 LSU
When you have one single pitcher as dominant as Paul Skenes can be, it's hard to get left off this sort of list. Skenes — much like the Tigers — has been must-watch all season with his DI-best 167 strikeouts (48% rate) in 90 innings of work, opponent batting average of .166 and 1.89 ERA. Behind the star man is Ty Floyd, whose numbers don't pop quite like Skenes' do, but also keeps hitters under a .200 batting average himself.
Whether the third starting spot is filled by Thatcher Hurd, Christian Little or someone else, the Tigers' arm talent can be as dominant as any in the tournament. It could be the x-factor in LSU bringing home a first national title since 2009.
Even when the expected pitching trio of Chase Burns, Drew Beam and Chase Dollander struggled this season, the Volunteers have made the necessary adjustments to bolster the rotation. Andrew Lindsay was slotted into the rotation midseason to success, keeping hitters to a .211 average and OPS under .600. Dollander has rounded back into form with a couple of gem outings against Vanderbilt and South Carolina in recent weeks, and Beam is still capable, if a little volatile.
If the Vols are to make a run out of the Clemson Regional, it will be on the back of their pitching, which has the ability to carry them through the first weekend. That's before you even get to their incredible bullpen.
No. 1 Wake Forest
If this list wasn't in alphabetical order, the Deacons would be top, so we really are saving the best for last. Wake Forest's duo of Rhett Lowder and Josh Hartle have been unhittable all season long. Both are semifinalists for the National Pitcher of the Year award (the only teammates on the list) and both the numbers and eye test will show you why.
Lowder is a superstar. He leads all hurlers in the tournament in total innings pitched (102.2) and ERA (1.58), while rivaling Skenes in metrics like WHIP and walk rate. Behind him but almost as devastating is Hartle, who strikes out 31% of batters with the highest K-to-BB ratio on the team (6.89) and boasts a 2.35 ERA. There isn't much more hope for opponents when the bullpen arms get to work, but Lowder and Hartle as a 1-2 punch is something special this season.