NCAA Regionals Preview: Kent State to Start Playing Friday in Louisville Regional

Matt Ryerson-US PRESSWIRE

A dangerous 4-seed in the Louisville Regional, the Golden Flashes look to make another trip to Omaha.

1. #12 Louisville (45-15, 19-5 American Athletic Conference)

Offense H AVG OBP SLG OPS HR SB
573 .286 .381 .402 .783 31 121

Pitching IP ERA WHIP Opp AVG SO BB H/9
540 2.85 1.241 .231 505 220 7.5

First Team All-American Jeff Gardner leads the way in the Cardinals' lineup, swinging a slash line of .340/.416/.572 with a team-leading 66 runs batted in and 123 total bases. He, Cole Sturgeon and Alex Chittenden all have batting averages above .300 on the team with at least 180 at-bats. Another All-American on this roster is Nick Burdi, the team's closing pitcher. Holding his opponents to a .129 batting average, he has an earned run average of 0.56 with 57 strikeouts in just 32 innings this season. Starting pitcher Kyle Funkhouser  (12-2) has recorded 100 strikeouts in 99.1 innings this year with an ERA of 1.81.

2. #26 Kentucky (35-23, 14-16 Southeastern Conference, at-large)

Offense H AVG OBP SLG OPS HR SB
624 .302 .401 .453 .854 59 63

Pitching IP ERA WHIP Opp AVG SO BB H/9
520.2 3.98 1.404 .273 353 180 9.5

Led by A.J. Reed, who just absolutely owned the SEC this season and was named College Baseball's Player of the Year, the Wildcats are Kendall Rodgers' pick to win the Louisville Regional. Reed has a slash line of .351/.491/.768 with 70 RBI and 23 home runs. All of the Wildcats' regular starters have at least one home run to their name this year.

Did I mention that Reed is also a two-way player? Yep. When he's not playing first base, he's on the hill leading all other Wildcat starting pitchers in ERA (2.10), wins (11), innings pitched (103), opponent's batting average (.232) and strikeouts (68). Screw the SEC, this kid just owns college baseball.

3. Kansas (34-24, 15-9 Big 12, at-large)

Offense H AVG OBP SLG OPS HR SB
556 .284 .371 .382 .753 22 39

Pitching IP ERA WHIP Opp AVG SO BB H/9
513 3.51 1.283 .263 326 147 9

The Jayhawks were victimized to a 2-and-out in the Big 12 Championship Tournament after a pair of losses to West Virginia and Baylor, teams that didn't make it to the NCAA Regionals.

Stephen Villines anchors down the bullpen with a 1.64 ERA and eight saves on the year. Only eight earned runs were scored against him through his 44 innings of work. Frank Duncan is the ace of this team's starting rotation, totaling 80 strikeouts through 109.2 innings with an ERA of 2.46 and a WHIP of 1.021.

4. Kent State (36-21, 16-11 Mid-American Conference, automatic bid)

Offense H AVG OBP SLG OPS HR SB
561 0.287 0.373 0.408 0.781 25 74

Pitching IP ERA WHIP Opp AVG SO BB H/9
498 3.74 1.263 0.236 408 188 8

The only automatic bid in this pool, and it's a very dangerous team. Pitching from Brian Clark and Eric Lauer should have a lot of Golden Flashes fans excited about this opportunity. Those two have a combined 3.53 ERA, 1.206 WHIP with 129 strikeouts.

If Miklos can get back onto the field, he'd be a huge help for the Flashes, since he leads the team in batting average (.362), slugging percentage (.593), and on-base percentage (.439). Until then, Cody Koch has been a good boos, leading the team with 30 walks and seven home runs.

Kent State will start off against Louisville at 6 p.m. A win will have them play on Saturday at 5 p.m. against the winner of the Kentucky/Kansas matchup, and a loss will have them play at 1 p.m. against the loser of that game.  All games can be seen on ESPN3 and heard on Golden Flashes iHeart Radio.

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