by Knox Bardeenknoxbardeen@csssports.com
ATLANTA-- Georgia Tech will host Southern Mississippi, Mississippi State and AustinPeay over the weekend at Russ Chandler Stadium as Atlanta was selected as oneof the 16 hosting sites for the 2011 NCAA Baseball Tournament.CSSwill broadcast every game with Matt Stewart and Brian Jordan calling the games.Fridays action begins at 3 p.m. ETwith Southern Miss playing Mississippi Stateand concludes with Georgia Tech taking on Austin Peay.Heresa closer look at the four teams involved:Team: GeorgiaTech Yellow JacketsConference: AtlanticCoast Conference (Tied for 1st Coastal Division)(At-large bid)Record: 40-19,22-8 ACCCoach: DannyHallRPI: 7Polls: 14(USA Today), 19 (NCBWA), 9 (Baseball News) and 12 (Baseball America)Key Wins: Aseries sweep over Miami and a 2-1 series win over North CarolinaKey Losses: Fivelosses to smaller programs within the state: Georgia Southern (102 RPI), twolosses to Mercer (132 RPI), Kennesaw State (94 RPI) and Georgia State (218RPI).Players to Watch: Kyle Wren (.352 batting average), Daniel Palka (10 homeruns), Matt Skole (57 RBI) & Mark Pope (11-4, 1.77 ERA)Yes,recent history suggests that the Yellow Jackets will not fare well in thepostseason, but lets forget about the past and look at why they could advancethrough this Atlanta Regional quite handily. Georgia Tech plays small-ball welland has a great pitching staff. In this day and age of deadened baseball batsin college, teams with solid and better pitching have the advantage. Take thatand add it to the fact that Southern Miss is dealing with injuries, MississippiState cant string together any kind of solid run offensively, or on themound and Austin Peay might just be too mid-major a team to make adifference in Atlanta, and youll see why Georgia Tech is my pick.Team: SouthernMississippi Golden EaglesConference: ConferenceUSA (Tied for 1st )(At-large bid)Record: 39-17,16-8 C-USACoach: ScottBerryRPI: 52Polls: 22(USA Today), 24 (NCBWA), NR (Baseball News) and 25 (Baseball America)Key Wins: Aseries sweep over UCF and a win over Ole Miss.Key Losses: Lossesto directional schools in Louisiana (Monroe and Lafayette) werent good.Neither was the Conference-USA Championship loss to East Carolina.Players to Watch: Tyler Koelling (.367 batting average), B.A. Vollmuth (12home runs & 48 RBI), Todd McInnis (8-2, 2.61 ERA) & Collin Cargill(1.05 ERA with 8 Saves).SouthernMiss was an incredibly hot team in March and April, but its lost six of itslast eight games and enters the NCAA Tournament hobbled quite a bit. Twoplayers Geoffrey Thomas and Jonathan Thompson are academically ineligible,and Tyler Koelling, the teams best hitter, is listed as day-to-day and maymiss the Atlanta Regional with a hamstring injury. Also injured is firstbaseman Adam Doleac, who is also listed as day-to-day with a foot injury. TheGolden Eagles can pitch, and if they can stay in games, they have CollinCargill, one of the best closers in the game, to finish things out.Team: MississippiState BulldogsConference: SoutheasternConference (Tied for 2nd Western Division)(At-large bid)Record: 34-23,14-16 SECCoach: JohnCohenRPI: 22Polls: NR(USA Today), NR (NCBWA), NR (Baseball News) and NR (Baseball America)Key Wins: A5-4 win over Southern Miss and three wins over Ole Miss.Key Losses: Twolosses to Iowa (RPI 96) and a loss to Sacred Heart (RPI 159).Players to Watch: Jarrod Parks (.383 batting average & 36 RBI) &Jonathan Ogden (8 home runs).TheBulldogs entered the Southeastern Conference Tournament having lost theirseason series against all but one of the seven other tournament opponents.Southern Miss is the only regional foe theyve faced this year, and MississippiState won on April 5, 5-4. When the Bulldogs left Hoover, Ala. early, it gave theirpitching staff some time to rest. When the NCAA baseball committee announcedMississippi State would travel to Atlanta, the Bulldogs had to be happy withGeorgia Techs recent history in the postseason when the Yellow jackets havehosted a Regional. But if Mississippi State hopes to advance, it will have tobecome consistent in every facet of the game, which is something its struggledwith all season.Team: AustinPeay GovernorsConference: OhioValley Conference (Conference Champions)(Automatic Bid)Record: 33-22,17-6 OVCCoach: GaryMcClureRPI: 198Polls: NR(USA Today), NR (NCBWA), NR (Baseball News) and NR (Baseball America)Key Wins: Winsover Belmont and Lipscomb.Key Losses: Lossesto Eastern Kentucky (244 RPI), South Dakota State (253 RPI) & Murray State(266 RPI).Players to Watch: Jordan Hankins (.361 batting average), John Hogan (13home runs & 62 RBI), Jeremy Dobbs (9-2, 3.43 ERA)Sure,the Governors can hit and run. But remember that this Ohio Valley Conferenceteam hasnt had success against major-conference foes this season. Austin Peaylost twice to Ole Miss in early March and lost to Tennessee two weeks later andneither of those teams is represented in the NCAA Tournament. If the Governorsare going to make a difference, watch Michael Blanchard and Rolando Gautier atthe top of the batting order. Those two have wreaked havoc on the OVC allseason by getting on base often and being aggressive when they do.