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A Look at NCAA Regional Play

As promised, here's a recap of what went down in regional play this weekend. This is done with a focus on the draft prospects, and it's broken down by regional.

Austin Regional (Texas, Texas State, Boston College, Army)
Winner - Texas

Best 2009 Draft Prospect: LHP Mike Belfiore, Boston College

Belfiore, Boston College's closer, also plays first base for the Eagles. On Friday, Belfiore went an inning, allowing 2 runs on a hit and 2 walks, striking out 1. He did get the save for the game, holding on to a 8-5 lead that finished with an 8-7 BC victory. Going on into the winner's bracket, Boston College and Texas proceeded to play the famous 25 inning marathon, and Belfiore was right in the thick of it. Brought in during the 9th, Belfiore shut the door and stayed in far too long for someone who had been used as a reliever all year, finishing with a line of 9.2 innings with no runs allowed on 3 hits, walking none and striking out 11. He threw 129 pitches, by far the most in his career, and all after having pitched Friday. What a disgrace. BC lost the game, but Belfiore didn't factor into the decision. Staggering from the fallout of the marathon, BC was eliminated this afternoon by Army, 4-3, and Belfiore did not pitch. Belfiore's season is over, but he's expected to start popping up as an option on teams' boards as early as the late second round next week.

Fort Worth Regional (TCU, Texas A&M, Oregon State, Wright State)
Winner - TCU

Best 2009 Draft Prospect: RHP Alex Wilson, Texas A&M

Wilson's once again overtaken teammate Brooks Raley as the best draft prospect on the A&M team, as his shift to the bullpen after some arm fatigue has really helped him. Raley struggled in Friday's matchup against Oregon State, and Wilson came in to relieve him. Wilson ended up going 4 innings, allowing 5 runs, all earned, on 8 hits, walking 3 and striking out 4. He threw 83 pitches in the matchup, getting the Aggies to the 7th inning in a game that was 9-1 when he left. The Aggies ended up losing 9-8. Due to the high number of pitches, Wilson was unavailable for the Aggies' Saturday win over Wright State and for their elimination loss against Oregon State Sunday, a game which the Aggies lost 13-5, ending their season. Wilson figures to be an option beginning in the supplemental first round, as his good arm is coveted by a number of teams.

Atlanta Regional (Georgia Tech, Elon, Southern Miss, Georgia State)
Winner - TBD (Georgia Tech vs. Southern Miss on Monday)

Best 2009 Draft Prospect: OF Luke Murton, Georgia Tech

In a regional relatively devoid of 2009 draft talent, the best talent was actually some exciting 2010 draft prospects in Deck McGuire and Derek Dietrich. However, Murton's no slouch, as his strong senior season has driven him up some draft boards in a draft where signability might be a tad more important than usual. Hitting 3rd and playing right field for the Yellow Jackets, Murton put up a single and 3 walks in 5 plate appearances on Friday in Tech's 9-3 win over Georgia State. He followed that up with a homer and 2 walks in 5 plate appearance on Saturday against Southern Miss, driving in 2 and scoring his lone run on the home run. Tech lost that matchup 10-7, forcing them into the elimination bracket. In the Jackets' first Sunday matchup, Murton went 1-4 with a single, strikeout, and an RBI in a game Georgia Tech won 8-4 over Elon, moving them up to another elimination game in the evening against Southern Miss. Murton ended up going 1-4 with a homer, walk, and 2 strikeouts, though the homer was just a solo shot. Tech won 10-3 to force a rematch tomorrow at 7 eastern for the regional title. Though he's already 23, Murton figures to be an early second day draft pick, as his power is quite good, and he has good bloodlines, with his brother Matt an outfielder for the Rockies.

Gainesville Regional (Florida, Miami, Jacksonville, Bethune-Cookman)
Winner - Florida

Best 2009 Draft Prospect: RHP Billy Bullock, Florida

I never thought Bullock would overtake teammate Matt den Dekker and Miami shortstop Ryan Jackson as the best draft prospect in this regional, but it's definitely the case. Called on to pitch in the opening game of the regional for Florida, Bullock entered in a game the Gators were losing 6-5 to Bethune-Cookman. He proceeded to get a pop out, then allowed a homer, but followed it up with a pair of fly outs. Despite allowing another run across, the Gators came back to win the game in the 9th, giving Bullock the win in an 8-7 victory. Bullock only threw 10 pitches on the night. Called on again on Saturday against Miami, Bullock pitched a perfect 9th, striking out a pair, though the game was already sealed. The Gators won 8-2. Finally, in their clinching game on Sunday, the Gators once again called on Bullock to pitch the 9th, and even though he allowed a hit and walk, he struck out 2 and got out of the inning unscathed, clinching the win at 16-5 over Miami once again. This overuse for no apparent reason is a little maddening. We'll see Bullock again next weekend in the Super Regionals, but we'll definitely see him picked on the first day of the draft, with a slight chance he's picked in the back half of the first round. He'll be off the board before the second round is too far underway.

Tempe Regional (Arizona State, Oral Roberts, Cal Poly, Kent State)
Winner - Arizona State

Best 2009 Draft Prospect: RHP Mike Leake, Arizona State

Leake has risen up draft boards more than anyone in the early first round picture this year, as he's pitched lights out all year. The same was the case on Saturday, when the Sun Devils called on their ace to beat a second-seeded Oral Roberts team. Leake went the whole way, allowing just an earned run on 5 hits, walking 2 and striking out 15. He beat ORU's ace Mark Serrano, the subject of an upcoming post on this blog. Leake has absolutely solidified his position as someone that will be taken in the first half of the first round, with the Diamondbacks at numbers 16 and 17 being the latest he'll go. I've predicted a number of times that he'll land with the Rockies at #11, but if Alex White is there, I think the Rockies go with White. We'll get at least one more chance to look at Leake in the Super Regionals next weekend.

Clemson Regional (Clemson, Alabama, Oklahoma State, Tennessee Tech)
Winner - TBD (Clemson vs. Oklahoma State on Monday)

Best 2009 Draft Prospect: LHP Andrew Oliver, Oklahoma State

Oliver's been a major disappointment this spring, but after a scuttle with the NCAA a year ago, there's speculation that there were some distractions that have gradually been taken care of. Called on to pitch the Cowboys' pivotal winners' bracket game on Saturday against Clemson, Oliver proceeded to throw 7.1 innings, allowing a pair of earned runs on 8 hits, walking just 1 while striking out 6, throwing 108 pitches in all. He left after allowing the 2 runs in the 8th, blowing a 2-0 lead just given to him by his offense, but his teammates scored a run in the bottom of the inning to take the lead permanently, and the Cowboys won 3-2. After getting blown up on Sunday in the rematch, the Cowboys will play the Tigers once again on Monday at 7. Oliver's still projected to go somewhere in the back half of the first round, as his arm is still of high quality, and if he regains his breaking ball, he could be a nice prospect.

Greenville Regional (East Carolina, South Carolina, George Mason, Binghamton)
Winner - TBD (East Carolina vs. South Carolina on Monday)

Best 2009 Draft Prospect: RHP Sam Dyson, South Carolina

Dyson was given the ball in game one of the regional against George Mason, and luckily for him the game was delayed for 80 minutes after he had finished the 7th inning. He wasn't thrown back out there for the 8th, so his final line was 7 innings, allowing 3 earned runs on 7 hits, walking 4 and striking out 5. He left with an 8-3 lead, and he ended up getting the win in an 11-3 Gamecock victory. He threw 130 pitches, so I hope that he wouldn't have gone out for the 8th regardless of the rain delay. Dyson's draft stock has been up and down so far this spring, as he has one of the best pure arms in the class, but his injury history and status as a draft-eligible sophomore have clouded his stock. As it stands, it's likely he's a supplemental first rounder or second rounder, depending on his signability. South Carolina plays for its season on Monday at 6 pm.

Chapel Hill Regional (North Carolina, Coastal Carolina, Kansas, Dartmouth)
Winner - North Carolina

Best 2009 Draft Prospect: OF/1B Dustin Ackley, North Carolina

Ackley continues to solidify his status as the best draft prospect behind Steven Strasburg, and he put on a show this weekend. On Friday against Dartmouth, Ackley, hitting second and playing first base, went 3-5 with a pair of singles and a double, striking out once, but driving in 2 in a 5-2 UNC victory. He followed that up on Saturday with a 4-4 performance, hitting 3 singles and a double and walking twice, driving in 1 and scoring 2 runs. UNC defeated Coastal Carolina 14-5 in the game. In the clinching game on Sunday, Ackley took Kansas to town, going 3-5 with a single, double, and homer, walking once and striking out once. He drove in 2 and scored 3 runs in a 12-1 UNC victory that sealed their regoinal championship. We'll see Ackley once again next weekend in the Super Regionals before the draft, but there's no doubt he's the top hitting prospect in this class.

Fullerton Regional (Cal State Fullerton, Georgia Southern, Gonzaga, Utah)
Winner - Cal State Fullerton

Best 2009 Draft Prospect: OF Josh Fellhauer, Cal State Fullerton

The best team in the Fullerton Regional also had the best 2009 draft prospect by far in Josh Fellhauer. A gritty outfielder, Fellhauer has risen up the draft boards with a good spring. On Friday, Fellhauer went 3-4 in the third hole while playing center field, all hits being singles, and he added a hit by pitch for good measure. He scored a single run and was lifted later in the game when the blowout was on, as Fullerton beat Utah 18-2. On Saturday, Fellhauer had a rough go, going 0-4 with a walk and strikeout. He was also caught stealing in a 7-4 Fullerton win over Gonzaga. In the Sunday clincher, Fellhauer returned to form with a 3-3 game, including 3 more singles, driving in 2 and scoring a run. He was once again lifted part-way through the game in a 16-3 blowout victory over Utah. There's a chance Fellhauer slips into the third round on the 9th, as his solid season and signability are positives. We'll see him again next weekend.

Louisville Regional (Louisville, Middle Tennessee State, Vanderbilt, Indiana)
Winner - TBD (Vanderbilt vs. Louisville on Monday)

Best 2009 Draft Prospect: RHP Eric Arnett, Indiana

I thought long and hard about who the best prospect was, and even though Minor is being rumored for the #3 slot in the draft, the overall talent is definitely on Arnett's side, and I think Arnett's a first round lock, whereas Minor still has an outside chance to slip into the supplemental first round. Arnett was handed the Friday start against Louisville, and he was plagued by some bad luck. He pitched 7 innings, allowing 5 runs, though just 1 earned, on 5 hits, walking 4 and striking out 6, throwing 118 pitches total. He left with his team down 5-2, and the Hoosiers ended up losing 8-2. His own fielding was a problem, though, so there's not much he can do about that other than get better at his position. The error he committed was the 4th of his season, not good at all for a pitcher. As a result, he took the loss. The Hoosiers were eliminated the next day. I still think Arnett's a strong possibility for the second half of the first round, maybe as early as the late teens. However, his season is over, so unless he has private workouts scheduled, his showcasing is done.

Tallahassee Regional (Florida State, Georgia, Ohio State, Marist)
Winner - Florida State

Best 2009 Draft Prospect: 1B Rich Poythress, Georgia

Poythress came on the draft screen with a scorching early season run, but a cool spot has also cooled his draft stock. On Friday, however, Poythress put up a huge game. He went 4-4 with a double a 3 homers, walking twice in addition. He drove in 7 and scored 4 runs in the victory over Ohio State by a score of 24-8. In Saturday's matchup against Florida State, Poythress went 1-4 with another home run, though he struck out once. He drove in a pair and scored on the homer, though the Bulldogs lost 8-2, forcing them into the elimination bracket. Sunday's line of 0-2 with a pair of walks and a strikeout was not good enough to stave off elimination, as Georgia fell to Ohio State 13-6, ending their season. Poythress is still a late first round candidate, though I don't think his show this weekend really changes his stock much. Scouts know what he's capable of by now. He shouldn't be on the board when the second round starts.

Norman Regional (Oklahoma, Arkansas, Washington State, Wichita State)
Winner - Arkansas

Best 2009 Draft Prospect: RHP Andrew Doyle, Oklahoma

My choice for the best regional draft prospect probably surprises some, but there's no doubt that Doyle has outperformed teammate Garrett Richards and Arkansas lefty Dallas Keuchel on the year. However, called on to start the Sooners' first game of the regional against Wichita State, Doyle fell on his face with a line of 2.2 innings, allowing 4 earned runs on 4 hits and 2 walks, striking out only 1. He also hit a batter. He left the game down 4-1, but his teammates rallied for the 5-4 win, taking him off the hook. He came back on Sunday to pitch in an elimination game against Arkansas as a reliever, citing the small pitch count from Friday. He threw 1.1 innings, allowing an earned run on 3 hits, striking out a batter. He threw only 23 pitches in the outing. Unfortunately, the game was already decided, and the Sooners were eliminated. Doyle figures to be in the equation for a third round selection, possibly late in the second for someone who favors pitchability and doesn't like their other options.

Irvine Regional (UC Irvine, Virginia, San Diego State, Fresno State)
Winner - TBD (UC Irvine vs. Virginia on Monday)

Best 2009 Draft Prospect: RHP Steven Strasburg, San Diego State

This is a no-brainer, and Strasburg offered another lights-out outing on Friday. He threw 7 innings, allowing a pair of earned runs on 8 hits, walking none and striking out 15, though with 2 wild pitches. Unfortunately for Strasburg, his offense didn't show up, and the Aztecs lost the game 5-1, 3 of the Virginia runs scoring after Strasburg had left the game. Strasburg still continues to be the best draft prospect in memory, and there's still no reason to think the Nationals won't take him at 6 pm a week from Tuesday. However, Strasburg's college career is finished, as San Diego State was eliminated on Sunday.

Oxford Regional (Ole Miss, Missouri, Western Kentucky, Monmouth)
Winner - TBD (Western Kentucky vs. Ole Miss on Monday)

Best 2009 Draft Prospect: RHP Kyle Gibson, Missouri

The Tigers decided to hold their ace Gibson for their second game, a matchup that ended up being an elimination game following the Tigers' loss to Western Kentucky on Friday. Matched up against Monmouth, Gibson went 8 innings, allowing no runs on 6 hits, walking 1 and striking out 8, getting the win on just 102 pitches. The final score ended up being 9-0 as the Tigers took care of business behind Gibson. However, Missouri was eliminated Sunday in a rematch against Western Kentucky, ending their season in the regionals. Gibson's stock soared this year, and there's no reason to think he'll last beyond the Nationals or Rockies at the 10 and 11 slots in the draft. I fully expect him to sign rather quickly for slot and get his pro career started this summer.

Houston Regional (Rice, Kansas State, Xavier, Sam Houston State)
Winner - TBD (Rice vs. Kansas State on Monday)

Best 2009 Draft Prospect: RHP A.J. Morris, Kansas State

Morris has been a huge surprise this year for the Wildcats, as he's dominated Big 12 competition. The team asked him to start their second game in the regional, and his matchup was against Rice after the Wildcats defeated Xavier on Friday. Morris responded with a complete game victory, allowing 6 runs, 5 earned, on 13 hits, walking 2 and striking out 2. He threw an outrageous 141 pitches, and I've said repeatedly I wouldn't draft Morris after the documented abuse he's had on the mound this year. It should be criminal. His team won the game 7-6, and while they have an elimination game on Monday, Morris is going to feel the effects of this outing well into next weekend if they make it that far. As it stands, if his arm is alright, Morris is a possible second round candidate next week, and there's no way he lasts until the second day if there's no concern about his arm health. Rice and Kansas State play Monday at 7 eastern.

Baton Rouge Regional (LSU, Minnesota, Baylor, Southern)
Winner - LSU

Best 2009 Draft Prospect: OF Jared Mitchell, LSU

This regional had a nice collection of 2009 draft prospects, ranging from Mitchell to Minnesota's Eric Decker. LSU was easily the best team in the matchup, and Mitchell is the best 2009 draft prospect. In Friday's matchup, Mitchell, hitting 8th and playing right field, went 1-4 with a single, RBI, and run scored. He switched to left field late in the game when the blowout was on, as LSU beat Southern 10-2. In Saturday's matchup against Baylor, Mitchell hit 6th and went 2-3 with a single and home run, walking twice for good measure. He drove in just the 1 run, but scored a pair and stole a pair of bases in the 3-2 victory. Hitting leadoff on Sunday, Mitchell proceeded to go 2-4 with a pair of singles, walking once, scoring a run and stealing a base while also getting caught once. His athleticism is apparent there, and it's that athleticism that has him an option for the late first round as one of the few high-upside college hitters in this class.