The Bucknell Bison are making their first foray into the NCAA Tournament under new head coach Scott Heather. Heather's predecessor, Gene Depew, went to Tournament 5 times, the last in 2010. Depew retired at the end of that season, and Bucknell's baseball stadium has since been named after Depew. Depew won over 600 games in 30+ years as the head coach there. In an interesting side-note, Heather was a pitcher at Arkansas before getting into coaching. So it will be an interesting matchup if Bucknell and Arkansas face each other.
Bucknell finished 30-19-1 this year, including a 2-1 win over RPI #34 Columbia last week. Their only other win over a top 100 team was a 4-2 walk-off win over #83 Illinois State. Bucknell reaches the NCAA Tournament by virtue of winning the Patriot League championship. Interestingly, in the Patriot League, teams play 4 game weekend series. Usually this is a double header both Saturday and Sunday. That might give a team an advantage in the four-games-in-3-days regional format.
The Bison are led by their pitching. They have the 68th best ERA (3.41) in the nation and the 36th best WHIP (1.25) in the nation. They aren't a high strikeout pitching staff, at just 5.6 K/9, but they are very stingy with walks, at just 2.6 per 9 innings. That gives them a very solid 2.1 K/BB ratio, 91st in the nation. Whatever you're going to get against Bucknell's pitching staff, you're going to earn. They also allow just 8.5 H/9, 77th in the nation. The final piece of their run-prevention equation is a .967 fielding percentage, which is 135th in the nation. That is good, but not great. And not a great combination with a low strikeout staff.
The starters are led by senior Dan Weigel, who is 7-5 with a 2.94 ERA in 13 starts, who we'll likely see on Friday. Their two other top starters are sophomore Andrew Andrechick (5-4, 3.46 in 11 starts) and junior Bryson Hough (8-3, 4.37 in 13 starts). Other options to start are Max Kra and Xavier Hammond. Kra has started 4 times this year and Hammond has started 8. Hammond also has 4 saves on the year. The Bison's closer is Tucker Rekucki, who has 6 saves and a 3.60 ERA and 18 Ks in 15 innings. Rekucki is really the only high strikeout guy on the team.
Offensively, this team is led by senior OF Corey Furman. Unfortunately, Furman is out for the season with an injury. In his stead, the team is led by OFs Joe Ogren (.324 BA, team leading 28 RBI) and Anthony Gingerelli (.312 BA, team leading 5 HRs). The Bison as a team hit just 10 HRs on the season, a total equaled by Mike Papi all by himself. Sophomore catcher Jon Mayer can hit one out, but struck out in over one-quarter of his PAs on the season. In fact, as a team, the Bison struck out in over 20% of their PAs.
Freshman CF Brett Smith leads the team with 9 SBs, but he's been caught 5 times. Smith is also one of the few Bison who will happily take a walk. Ogren is 6/8 on the season in SBs.
Bucknell really misses Furman offensively. Without him, this is a bad offense that struggles to put runs on the board. They rank 253 in BA (.249), 242 in OBP (.332) and 234 in SLG (.329). It isn't easy to have a team on base percentage higher than its slugging. That means they have more walks (and HBPs) than extra bases. The Bison are 230th in runs, at just 4.3 per game.
The Bison would need great pitching performances to get out of the Charlottesville regional. Even with that, it might be tough for them to get out because they simply won't hit enough.