Higher seeds fared better in many of the early games, but lower seeds slugged their way to wins in three games that just wrapped up. In the wildest game of the day so far, third-seeded Southern Mississippi jumped out to an 8-1 win against second-seeded Elon, but the Phoenix stormed back to tie the game at 9-9 in the sixth. The two teams exchanged blows over the next three innings, but when the dust cleared, the Golden Eagles had won 17-15.
In Clemson, third-seeded Oklahoma State topped Alabama 10-6 behind six RBIs from Tom Belza. This one was only too predictable; it seems the teams that earn controversial at-large choices often play with an extra chip on their shoulders in regionals (see: Oklahoma, 2008).
And in Fort Worth, third-seeded Oregon State nearly blew a 9-1 lead over Texas A&M after six innings but held on for a 9-8 win. Brooks Raley’s struggles down the stretch continued for the Aggies, as he lasted just two innings, allowing four runs (one earned). A&M had to use Alex Wilson for four innings in that one, taking a bite out of its vaunted pitching depth.
Two other No. 3 seeds have ridden hot bats to big leads in other games. Western Kentucky leads Missouri 11-4 in the eighth inning in Oxford, and for the second straight year I have to question Tim Jamieson’s use of ace righty Kyle Gibson in a regional. Last year, the Tigers started Rick Zagone over Gibson in a winner’s bracket game against Miami. Today, Mizzou went with its pitcher-by-committee approach against the best offensive team in its regional, WKU. I just don’t understand that; winning the first game is critical, and who are you saving Gibson for? You won’t see a better hitting team this week than the Hilltoppers.
And in Fullerton, Gonzaga has jumped out to a 7-1 lead in the second inning against Georgia Southern. Beware: The Eagles are capable of erasing that deficit quickly. That said, I’ll take Zags ace Matt Fields to protect it.
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