Ole Miss opens postseason play on Friday with the four-seed Saint Louis Billikens. But, before them, the two-seed Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles will open things up with three-seed Missouri State. And Matt Bragga’s ball club is certainly worth the price of admission on offense if you’re interested in catching some action before the Rebs hit the field.
Despite being named the No. 4 national seed, Ole Miss was “punished” with one of the better two seeds in the entire 64-team tournament field.
Actually, I will argue they are the best two seed in the entire tournament.
Although they played in the Ohio Valley Conference, they still maintained a 27-3 conference record, as well as a 48-9(!) overall record. The regular season champions of the OVC might have only played four games against Group 1 (Vanderbilt in the midweek and a series loss to Troy). In fact, 38 of their 48 wins were against group three and four teams.
Alas, they are a powerful offense to behold.
The Golden Eagles hit for power. I mean POWER. They lead the nation in home runs at 128 which is THIRTY-FOUR homers better than Clemson, who sports the second highest total and was named a top 16 seed this year. They hit for average, leading the nation with a .342 average, as well as SEVEN other offensive categories. And when Tennessee Tech isn’t dropping dingers or getting tons of base hits, they walk, a lot. TTU is 7th in the nation in free passes, adding runners on base for multiple-run dingers when those eventually come along (they average close to 2.3 homers per game). To add to that, they don’t strike out much, sporting a 321-405 BB-K ratio.
Regardless of the baseball that is used, their power numbers are incredibly impressive.
Even though their strength of schedule isn’t great (No. 182), they have been a consistent winner in the OVC for quite some time. And by quite some time, I mean Bragga’s squad has won either a regular-season or conference tournament championship in six of the last 10 years. And they have been giant killers before, beating Florida State in the Tallahassee regional last year in game one.
This year is no different, this team is an offensive juggernaut, no doubt about it. And their 2018 season reflects it, winning more games than any team in college baseball, topped off by a 28-game winning streak during the middle of the regular season.
Strohschein and Chambers are in the top 10 in the country in batting average. And they also have four hitters, David Garza, Kevin Strohschein, Chase Chambers, and Trevor Putzig, who all sit in the top 39 in the country in homers, with Chambers having the fewest home runs with 15.
Here, let’s take a gander at some of their best numbers:
- Kevin Strohschein - .406, 18 HR, 65 RBI, .713 slugging, .463 on-base
- Chase Chambers - .400, 15 HR, 76 RBI, .652 slugging, .498 on-base
- Brennon Kaleiwahea - .376, 7 HR, 34 RBI, .494 slugging, .458 on-base
- John Ham - .330, 13 HR, 58 RBI, .610 slugging, .438 on-base
I think you get it, they can rake. And the two-lowest batting averages on the team belong to Putzig and Garza who are only tied for second on the team in home runs (16).
Make no mistake, folks, these boys can hit. Yes, the league is not very strong (four conference teams are 100+ in the RPI and five are 200+ in the RPI). Yes, the lost their tournament title game to No. 96 Morehead State. But, these fellas have been on the big stage before and toppled a one seed so this may not be too big of a stage for them.
Nevertheless, Ole Miss’ arms will need to have their big boy pants on for this one as they try to add to the L column of the Golden Eagles’ sparkling 22-3 road record.