Previewing the Louisville Regional

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The Road to Omaha continues this weekend with NCAA regional action.

We take an in-depth look at all 16 NCAA regionals.

THE TEAMS
Team Conference Record Berth Last NCAA appearance
1. Louisville Big East 48-12 At-large 2009 (Fullerton SR)
2. Vanderbilt SEC 41-17 At-large 2009 (Louisville Regional)
3. Illinois State Missouri Valley 31-22 Won MVC 1994 (Midwest I Regional)
4. Saint Louis Atlantic 10 33-27 Won A-10 2006 (Fullerton Regional)
THE BREAKDOWN
The favorite: Louisville

1. Louisville

2. Vanderbilt

3. Illinois State

4. Saint Louis
It's just like last season when the Cardinals faced Vanderbilt for the Louisville Regional title. Barring a major surprise that once again will happen again this weekend. The Cardinals are a national seed for a reason. They're balanced to say the least. UL enters the postseason hitting .317 with Andrew Clark (.377,12,58), Ryan Wright (.366,15,77) and Phil Wunderlich (.357,20,58) leading the charge. The Cardinals also have a solid pitching staff that enters the weekend with a 3.71 ERA. Thomas Royse (2.91, 99 IP) leads the way in terms of starters, while relievers Bob Revesz, Neil Holland and Gabriel Shaw also have done great jobs this season.
The dark-horse contender: Vanderbilt
The Commodores winning this regional wouldn't be a huge surprise. The 'Dores were in good shape to earn an NCAA regional host of their own just a couple of weeks ago. However, things didn't pan out for coach Tim Corbin's club. Still, this is a very dangerous team to watch in the postseason, and arguably the nation's toughest No. 2 seed. The 'Dores have a solid weekend rotation with Sonny Gray, Taylor Hill and Jack Armstrong leading the charge. They also have several talented relievers to choose from. At the plate, Vandy enters the postseason hitting .312 with Anthony Gomez (.388,2,28), Jason Esposito (.348,9,54) and Aaron Westlake (.308,12,51) leading the way. Vandy has the talent to go the distance the next couple of weeks.
Best hitter: Illinois State 2B Kevin Tokarski
Few can match Tokarski when it comes to having a season to remember. The sophomore is having an incredible offensive campaign for the Redbirds. Tokarski enters the postseason hitting .429 with 25 doubles, three triples, seven homers and 49 RBIs. He also is slugging .702 and has an incredible .551 on-base percentage. Also worth noting, Tokarski is 33-for-39 in stolen bases this season. The Redbirds need a big weekend from Tokarski to experience success.
Best pitcher: Vanderbilt RHP Sonny Gray
It will be interesting to see how the Commodores use Gray throughout the Louisville Regional. One thing is for sure, though, he is the fire starter for the Commodores. Gray is having a fantastic sophomore campaign. He has started 14 contests and has a 9-4 record and a 3.18 ERA in 93 1/3 innings. He also has struck out 100 and walked 41 and opponents are hitting just .233 against him. There's a reason Gray will be one of the higher draft picks in the 2011 MLB draft.
The buzz
Louisville will have all its players when regional play commences on Friday. But it won't have coach Dan McDonnell. The NCAA suspended McDonnell for three games after he was ejected from a Big East tournament contest last week. Assistant coach Chris Lemonis will serve as head coach while McDonnell is on the shelf … Vanderbilt has several players that deserve recognition entering the postseason. But perhaps no player has been as impressive as freshman infielder Anthony Gomez. Gomez has been a fire starter for the Commodores and enters the weekend hitting .388 with eight doubles, two homers and 28 RBIs. He also has a .464 slugging percentage and a .418 on-base percentage. It'll be interesting to see how Gomez fares in his first NCAA tournament appearance … Illinois State may have one of the nation's top hitters in Kevin Tokarski, but its pitching staff must rise to the occasion to make some noise this weekend. The Redbirds have a 5.35 ERA and ace pitcher Corey Maines enters postseason play with a 4.45 ERA in 83 innings. On a positive note, keep an eye on reliever Kenny Long. Long has recorded nine saves in 30 appearances and has a 1.37 ERA in 59 innings … Saint Louis is a great story. The Billikens weren't expected to make too much noise this season. But after winning the Atlantic 10 tournament last week, they're one of the better stories entering NCAA regional action. As with Illinois State, the Billikens leave something to be desired on the mound with a 6.43 ERA. However, ace pitcher Bryant Cotton enters the tourney with a solid 3.97 ERA in 118 innings. He also has struck out 95 and walked just 28. Can the Billikens find a way to upset host Louisville in the opener?