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East Carolina Hall of Famer and
former baseball coach Keith LeClair.
 (Photo: ECU Media Relations)

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Editor's note: This feature
coordinated by Denny O'Brien.


From The Dugout

By Keith LeClair

Adjusting the crystal ball

Well folks, Las Vegas made a laughing stock of me and my predictions last week, so I am begging for another chance at the Regionals. What the heck, I will give it my best shot and see what happens. I am supposed to know a little something about college baseball, aren't I? If I blow up my picks this week, everyone will think my wife, Lynn, did all the coaching.

Here are my region-by-region, all-or-nothing predictions:


1. Texas
4. Youngstown State
2. Oral Roberts
3. Texas Christian

Texas has too much pitching and experience to lose this regional, even though its offense is capable of being shut down. The Longhorns rely on speed and manufacturing runs to score just enough for their great pitching staff to win, so if you’re looking for a major upset, it will likely come from Oral Roberts. They have solid numbers across the board, especially their pitching statistics, even though they play in a sub-par conference.


1. Virginia
4. Princeton
2. Vanderbilt
3. George Mason

Interesting regional involving three former Pirates going at each other, with Coach Mac and James Molinari in UVa's dugout and Erik Bakich in Vandy's. With that said, I look for Vandy to come out on top, due to its quality left-handed starting pitching and its ability to execute on offense to score. A very similiar club to Texas, without the team speed. UVa has a tough first round match up with Princeton, which has a quality number one starter and perhaps the best position player in the country that most likely will be a first rounder. UVa has a huge park, so situational hitting is a must and that is where Coach Mac excels. Don't count UVa out, but the Cavaliers have a big challenge ahead of them.


1. Florida State
4. Bethune Cookman
2. Oklahoma State
3. Central Florida

This is a tough one to pick right now, but I am going with an upset in UCF. The Knights have two outstanding starting pitchers and I predict that will get them into Sunday with somebody having to beat them twice. I know Florida State is hot and peaking at the right time, but I am just not sold on the Seminoles' pitching staff from what I have seen on TV. They are at home, so if UCF wins it will be a major upset.


1. Arkansas
4. Lemoyne
2. Wichita State
3. Missouri

I don't know a lot about these teams, except Missouri won the Big XII tournament and Wichita State won the MVC. So, in stating that little information, I am going with Wichita State based on its history and the fact that Arkansas should not have been a number one seed. My sleeper pick is Missouri, which is on a roll right now.


1. Stanford
2. Long Beach State
3. St. John's

I like Stanford and its ability to score runs, versus Long Beach and its star pitcher, Jered Weaver. It is a dangerous scenario when you hold your number one back against a quality team like St. John's. Often times you can find yourself in losers' bracket. A great regional to watch and see if Stanford will be ready for the challenge.


1. Notre Dame
4. Kent State
2. UC Irvine
3. Arizona

Another tough regional for me to predict, but I am going with Notre Dame, due to the fact it is playing at home. UC Irvine, though relatively unknown, has some outstanding players and has beaten a lot of quality teams throughout the year. So, don't be shocked if it pulls off the upset versus the Fighting Irish.


1. Georgia
4. Middle Tenn State
2. Clemson
3. Birmingham Southern

I have seen Georgia and Clemson both play this year and I am going with my mentor, Coach Leggett. But the Tigers and Bulldogs had better beware of their first round match-ups or they could be meeting in a losers' bracket game. Both Birmingham Southern and Middle Tenn State are capable of pulling off upsets.


1. Georgia Tech
4. Jacksonville State
2. Texas Tech
3. Mississippi State

Georgia tech is too talented and deep to lose this regional if it plays up to its ability. With a deep staff and a solid offense, I don't see any upsets being pulled off here.


1. South Carolina
4. The Citadel
2. North Carolina
3. Coastal Carolina

This, in my opinion, is one of the toughest regionals in the country. All first round match-ups are tough ones, where you can't hold back your number one for round two. So, in a tough bracket that features a boat load of pitching talent and depth, I am going with the best offensive club, South Carolina, to win this regional in a barnburner. The Gamecocks are now healthy and playing their best baseball since early spring.


1. East Carolina
4. Stony Brook
2. Tennessee
3. UNC Wilmington

The second round game is always the biggest match up in any regional and this one should be a dandy, whether it's Tennessee or UNCW. Both clubs are due for a Pirate payback and nothing would be sweeter than to see it happen in this regional. The Pirates are primed and ready, but must first get by a very hot Stony Brook team which has won 19 out of its last 23 games. I look for the Pirates to be focused and ready to win this regional. My prediction, Pirates swing the bats and score a lot of runs and win this one in a sweep.


1. Ole Miss
4. Western Kentucky
2. Washington
3. Tulane

This regional will be determined by which Ole Miss and Tulane teams show up. Both clubs have been up and down as of late and must find themselves if they are going to have a shot at winning. The Washington team is very talented and is playing some very good baseball down the stretch, pushing Stanford for the PAC-10 championship. I have to go with Ole Miss in this regional, due to the fact it is playing at home in Oxford, but watch out for Washington in an upset.


1. Arizona State
4. Pepperdine
2. Cal State Fullerton
3. Minnesota

I am still baffled why Arizona State didn't put in for a bid to host and think this very well may cost ASU this regional, with Cal State Fullerton advancing. Fullerton is playing its best baseball and is accustomed to winning these big games, and I believe Fullerton's experience and home field will be the difference.


1. Rice
4. Texas Southern
2. Texas A&M
3. Lamar

They basically gave Rice a first round bye in this bracket and it will be interesting to see who the Owls will pitch. Texas A&M and Lamar should provide a lot of excitement in their first round game and whoever wins will not be a pushover for Rice. This will be a real test for Rice, but in the end, their big three stud pitchers will prevail.


1. LSU
4. Army
2. Southern Miss
3. College of Charleston

This won't take long — LSU wins. Alex Box is the toughest place to play in college baseball and LSU has a potent offense that should put some big numbers up this weekend. Sorry Southern Miss fans, I have gone and played in tOo many regionals at LSU to think any different. Plus, the umpires get caught up in the environment created by the crowd.


1. Florida
4. Central Connecticut State
2. Oklahoma

I don't know too much about these teams, except for Florida, although I do know Oklahoma has a first-rounder in David Purcey, who is a 6'5" lefty. I think from what I have seen from Florida on TV, the Gators will win this regional in a dog fight with Oklahoma.


1. Miami
4. St. Bonaventure
2. N.C. State
3. Florida Atlantic

Tough first round match-up for N.C. State, which, if it survives, could give Miami a run for its money with Sterry on the hill. But Miami was battled tested by Long Beach State last weekend against Jered Weaver — potentially the first pick in the draft — and the Hurricanes beat him, giving Weaver his first loss of the season. I expect Miami to be ready and Jim Morris gets his team to do the little things as well as anybody in the country in close games. Miami wins, but it won't be easy.


Lets recap the sixteen Regional picks:

Central Florida
Wichita State
Notre Dame
Georgia Tech
South Carolina
East Carolina
Ole Miss
Cal State Fullerton

Well, sports fans, there you have my Sweet Sixteen! It certainly is not an easy job picking from a host of great teams. I went with an unprecedented five road teams to win, which is usually not the norm in regional play. But this year there seems to be more balance across the board in college baseball than ever before, so it should be a wild and wacky shootout in a lot of these regionals. It truly doesn't matter as long as the Pirates win.

One more note of interest: Since the NCAA went to a four-team regional bracket, I have seen more and more teams selecting to play the 3:00 game, which in my view makes a lot of sense, from the point of view it gives your team extra time to recover, especially if you lose that first game and have to come back and play at 11:00 AM. Also, if you hit any rain delays in the evening game, it can keep your team on the field until the early hours of the morning, giving your team a distinct disadvantage for the second game.

I know this is an inconvenience for the fan, playing the 3:00 game on Friday, but in the best interest of winning, I think ECU should look into this option. Just my opinion, but I truly think the 3:00 game winner has an advantage over the team that plays the night game.

Editor's note: Coach LeClair's column was filed prior to the Friday, June 4, first day of the Regionals.

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02.23.07 10:27 AM


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