No. 1 MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS
COACH: Chris Lemonis (1st season, 46-13)
NCAA APPEARANCES: 38 (10 CWS, 0 national titles)
AT A GLANCE: The Bulldogs earned the No. 6 national seed by tying Arkansas for the SEC West Division title. State was second in the league in batting average (.316) and runs scored (482) and led the league in hits (667). The pitching staff had the fourth best ERA at 3.59 and led the conference in strikeouts (636). The Bulldogs will be playing in front of a packed house in its newly-refurbished stadium and has strong postseason experience with their 10th CWS berth last season.
TOP PITCHER: Jr. LH Ethan Small (8-2, 1.80 ERA, 90 IP, 24 BB, 150 K)
TOP HITTER: So. 2B Justin Foscue (.339, 14 HR, 56 RBI, 2 SB)
WORTH REPEATING: “As a coach, at this point, you loosen the reins. It’s player-driven. The teams that get to Omaha and the teams that play great in the postseason, they’re player-driven. And we’ve really been player-driven since the day I showed up on campus.”
No. 4 SOUTHERN JAGUARS
COACH: Kerrick Jackson (2nd season, 41-55)
NCAA APPEARANCES: 11 (0 CWS, 0 national titles)
AT A GLANCE: The Jaguars are one of the top turnaround stories in the nation after going 9-33 last year. This is their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2009. They slugged their way to the SWAC title, leading the league in hitting with a .315 average. Southern likes to run with 135 stolen bases in 168 attempts. The Jaguars were also the top fielding team in the league and second in earned run average.
TOP PITCHER: Jr. RH Eli Finney (6-2, 4.45 ERA, 64.2 IP, 23 BB, 49 K)
TOP HITTER: Sr. 3B Tyler LaPorte (.389, 6 HR, 64 RBI, 21 SB)
WORTH REPEATING: “Coming into this environment and being a (No.) 4 seed, and yet still being an HBCU, you’re going to always be an underdog. There’s never going to be a situation where we’re going to go into a regional — not in the short future, anyway — where they’re going to say, ‘Hey, you’re a No. 2 or a No. 3.”