NCAA Tournament: Knoxville Regional Notes

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — On Friday, the NCAA Tournament teed off with the field of 64 teams geared up for the Road to Omaha. At Baseball Prospect Journal, we have an inside look at the Knoxville Regional, with the Tennessee Volunteers being the host and No. 1 overall seed. Southern Mississippi, Indiana and Northern Kentucky are the three other seeds trying to spoil the party at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

Indiana vs Southern Mississippi

Indiana got off to a fast start in Session 1 against Southern Miss en route to a 10-4 victory. In the first inning, Hoosier first baseman Brock Tibbitts launched a home run to the porches in left field to give IU a two-run lead with two outs. He drove in two more runs with a double in the fourth. Tibbitts has played multiple positions for IU, including catcher during his time in Bloomington. The junior is an intriguing power bat, with sustainable hit tools. Tibbitts missed a few weeks in the middle of the season due to injury.

Indiana’s Devin Taylor also flashed during the contest. Taylor had three hits, an RBI and two stolen bases. On the night, Taylor showed a strong ability for contact. The left-handed swing is made for line drives and gap-to-gap power. Taylor is a sophomore that will likely be placed in the top 100, with potential to be a Day 2 darling, in the 2025 MLB draft.

Ty Bothwell provided a strong to start for the Hoosiers on the mound, tossing 103 pitches – 65 for strikes. Through 5 2/3 innings, Bothwell struck out nine while allowing two earned runs and two walks.

Southern Miss threatened in the sixth inning when Nick Monistere hit a two-run homer. Davis Gillespie added another RBI for the Golden Eagles in the last frame.

Southern Miss’s Billy Oldham worked through 3 2/3 innings while allowing 10 hits and seven runs. The right-hander struggled throwing strikes, but when he did find the zone, IU hitters were getting hard hits consistently enough to chase Oldham after 82 pitches.

The Hoosiers capitalized at the plate, driving in six runs on seven hits in two-out situations. Southern Miss went 3 for 20 at the plate with runners on base and left 10 men stranded.

Some of the Best in NCAA Shine

Northern Kentucky’s Cleary Simpson led off the night with a solo home run off Tennessee pitcher Chris Stamos.The Volunteers used Stamos to open the game, but quickly pivoted to AJ Causey on a 2-2 count with one out.

Causey got a swing-and-miss before inducing a pop-out to end the inning. The Vols’ right-hander was stellar through 6 2/3 innings against the Norse. Causey was moved from a starter role and deployed as a long-relief option after allowing 15 earned runs in four innings of combined starts between Georgia and Auburn earlier in the season. He has since surrendered 14 earned runs, while striking out 58 and walking nine through 44 1/3 innings. Causey came into the NCAA Tournament ranking 11th in the country in K/BB rate (6.25).

So, what’s been the difference for the junior?

“Honestly, my focus is what I was trying to do on the mound,” said Causey. “I went from just trying to throw strikes to trying to execute elite pitches on the black. That’s honestly the only thing I can tell you that’s changed mentally about it.”

Causey is now tied for second in the NCAA Division I for wins with 12 victories under his belt.

Billy Amick lofted a three-run shot out center field in the bottom of the fourth to give UT a 6-1 lead and provide Causey plenty of cushion. It was Amick’s second home run in as many games after a four-game hitless spell. The Tennessee third baseman continues to provide hard contact, and it’s that calling card that has Amick garnering first-round attention for the 2024 MLB draft.

Dylan Dreiling added three hits, including a two-run homer, giving the Vols 9-3 lead that they didn’t relinquish. The draft-eligible sophomore flashed his feel for the barrel by getting good contact throughout the night. Dreiling’s confidence has been key to his development while in Knoxville. He’s one of our favorite prospects for this summer’s draft.

Logan Quinton
Logan Quinton
Logan Quinton joined Baseball Prospect Journal in March 2023 as a College Baseball Writer focusing on the Tennessee Volunteers. Follow Quinton on Twitter @LDQsports.

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