Baton Rouge Regional quartet of teams feature marquee talent

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Josh Smith
Josh Smith sets the table for the LSU lineup and anchors the infield defense at shortstop.

The Baton Rouge regional will be an intriguing collection of talent. The competition between the quartet of teams features a good mix of arm talent, power at the plate and dynamic future pros.

For Arizona State, freshman lefty Erik Tolman boasts a 2.83 ERA but the second-seeded Sun Devils have three other fine options on the mound that are capable of quieting the opposition.

Junior right-hander Alec Marsh has a 3.17 ERA and 92 strikeouts. Another left-hander, junior Chaz Montoya, brings a 3.18 ERA to town. An intimidating mound presence for ASU is 6-foot-6 power pitcher Blake Burzell, another freshman, who sports a 4.19 ERA. The staff collectively have 461 strikeouts on the season.

Yet make no mistake about it, the Sun Devils are known for their bats. Six batters have a .300 average or better while the lineup leads the country in home runs.

Sophomore first baseman Spencer Torkelsen has a .348 average with 21 homers while fellow sluggers Hunter Bishop, a 6-5 junior outfielder, is at .347 with 22 round trippers and a .765 slugging percentage. Sophomore outfielder Trevor Hauver with a .333 average and 13 homers. Sophomore infielder Alika Williams has a .332 average while Gage Workman come to town at .322. Junior catcher Lyle Lin, who hails from Taipei, Taiwan, has a .303 average. The squad has a healthy .307 team batting average. They don’t steal much, but ASU doesn’t have to do much else with that kind of pop.

LSU has a less striking .271 team batting average with 58 home runs on paper but a majority of that comes against the nation’s best conference in the SEC. Tiger hurlers have punched out 535 hitters.

Only three LSU hitters hover around .300 or above. Josh Smith often leads off with his .343 mark while Antoine Duplantis, who has collected the third most career hits in SEC history at 349, has a .316 average. Zach Watson has been streaky but finished the SEC tourney at .312 average. Despite some late season struggles, Daniel Cabrera paces the team with 12 home runs.

Zach Hess has 78 strikeouts, which leads the arms despite his move to the bullpen. Freshman righty Cole Henry (3.86 ERA and 63 K’s) will be heavily counted upon if he can stay healthy after many weeks out of action before an appearance in Hoover last week. Eric Walker, with a 5.32 ERA, has 54 punchouts but the sophomore relies heavily on his command to be effective.

For the top-seeded Tigers, the starting option who is peaking for an injury-riddled staff at the right time is freshman Landon Marceaux (4-2, 4.93), a Destrehan product who likely fits the description of LSU’s number one starter heading into the regionals.

The Stony Brook Seawolves will face LSU in the opening round. The 31-21 squad is sprinkled with good hitting and solid pitching albeit against lower level opposition. They have only hit 39 home runs on the season, lowest among the four teams in the regional, but do boast a .280 batting average.

Junior outfielder Micheal Wilson with a .345 average and 10 homers leads the fourth-seeded Stony Brook, but America East Player of the Year Nick Grande (.342), senior first baseman Brandon Alamo (.335) and junior Chris Hamilton (.313) are other consistent sticks. The Seawolves will run, evidenced by the 83 stolen base attempts with 62 successful.

Grande, a junior infielder, leads the team in hits (68), runs (58), on base percentage (.452 ) and stolen bases (19).

The pitching staff for SBU, although crafty, has a 5.40 ERA with only 374 strikeouts. Another freshman, right-hander Ben Fero, throws in the upper 80’s and has a 2.22 ERA. Senior righty Bret Clarke, undefeated on the season, has a 3.76 ERA and 49 K’s. Junior right-hander Sam Turcotte is the No. three arm for the Seawolves with a 3.98 ERA.

Southern Miss could be the dark horse in the regional. The third-seeded Golden Eagles boast five hitters with a .300 average or higher. The group is led by junior catcher Bryant Bowen, a Shreveport native who sports a .340 average and 11 home runs, He uncoils quickly behind the plate as well.

Junior outfielder Matt Wallner (6-5, 220) has powered 21 home runs for USM with a .324 average. Sophomore outfielder Gabe Montenegro hits .323, senior outfielder Hunter Slater comes in at .311 with 11 round trippers and junior second baseman Matthew Guidry sits at an even .300. Southern Miss has a .287 team average with 60 home runs and 42 stolen bases.

Collectively, the Conference-USA Tournament winning Golden Eagles have 456 K’s as a pitching staff. Freshman right-hander Gabe Shepard (5’10, 180) hits 90 and has a 2.16 ERA. St. Thomas Aquinas (Hammond, La.) right-hander Hunter Stanley follows up with a 2.75 ERA. Big 6-foot-7 righty Walker Powell has collected 71 strikeouts with a 2.78 ERA.

Of course, you don’t base who you think will win strictly on stats. It will come down to timely hitting and pitching in the moment. The ball will be flying out of Alex Box Stadium as is typical for this time of year with the temperatures ramping up. I’m not expecting any 1-0 pitching duals. Bring the popcorn and expect to be in your seat or in front of the TV for some exciting baseball. These four have earned the right to be here.

With the MLB draft looming, here are a few players that you will see in Baton Rouge who should hear their names called early.

Arizona State’s left handed hitting Hunter Bishop is a first round pick expected to be one of the first hitter off the board. He has good rhythm at the plate, adequate power and all the tools as a center fielder including speed.

Southern Miss’s Matt Wallner, another power lefty hitter, is expected to go as early as the second round. His arm strength can play in center field or right field. He shows good pop as an aggressive hitter at the plate but also draws lots of walks.

LSU’s Zack Hess is still among the top 100 prospects. His slider is in the mid 80’s while his fastball is usually timed between 91-95 mph. His other secondary pitches need work, explaining why he has had more consistent success for the Tigers in relief.

Alec Marsh, right-hander from Arizona State, is another top 100 prospect thanks to a fastball clocked at 96 complemented by a good slider (78-83) and curve,. He locates well in the strike zone.

LSU’s Josh Smith, listed among top 75 prospects, makes good contact as a hitter. He could end up as a good utility man but has all the tools needed to be an everyday shortstop. The Catholic-Baton Rouge product projects to have enough power to perhaps hit 15 home runs per season.

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Rene Nadeau

Rene Nadeau

CCS/Fox Sports/ESPN/WFAN

Born and raised in the New Orleans area, Rene Nadeau has been involved in sports ever since his earliest memories. Rene played basketball, wrestled, ran track, and was an All-District running back in football at John F. Kennedy High School. He went on to be a member of the LSU football program, developing a passion for the game in even…

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