Two more teams punched their tickets to regionals Sunday, bringing the total of teams already in the 2011 NCAA tournament to four (Princeton and Bethune-Cookman are already in). In the Northeast Conference, Monmouth won an elimination game against Central Connecticut State, 6-3, to earn a date with Sacred Heart in the championship round. But the Pioneers cruised to a title-clinching 9-2 win behind a gem from Kody Kerski (9 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K). Sacred Heart allowed just four runs in its perfect 3-0 run through the NEC tournament, and it heads to regionals riding a seven-game winning streak—and an 11-game winning streak against NEC opponents. It will be Sacred Heart's second trip to regionals, and its first since 2006.
In the Southwestern Athletic Conference, Eastern Division champion Alcorn State beat Western Division champion Southern 12-6 in Sunday's championship game. Kenny Rowan (2-for-3, 2 R, 3 RBI, HR) led Alcorn State's 12-hit attack, and Steve Easter (3.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER) earned the save with strong relief work. The Braves had lost seven straight games—all on the road against Arizona and Dallas Baptist—heading into the SWAC tourney, but they outscored their opponents 51-11 in their perfect 4-0 march through the conference tournament. Alcorn State will head to regionals for the first time ever.
"I am so proud of the players and my coaching staff," Braves coach Barrett Rey after the game, "as this was our goal before the season started—to win the SWAC. The guys never gave up, gave it their best, and I could not be more proud than I am today. I would also like to thank all of fans who supported us during the season. Now, it's on to the NCAA."
There was regular-season action in a few other conferences Sunday. Here's a quick roundup:
• Logan Odom (6.1 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 8 K) bested Josh Osich (5.2 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 5 K), as Southern California beat Oregon State, 4-3, to hand the Beavers their first series loss of the season. Oregon State remained a game ahead of Arizona State and UCLA in the Pac-10, but the Beavers fell to No. 21 in the updated warrennolan.com RPI, putting their national seed hopes in question. Next weekend's final regular-season series at Oregon is clearly a must-win for the Beavers to have a shot at a national seed, and it might be must-sweep.
• After shutting out Washington Friday and Saturday, the Sun Devils were shut out themselves on Sunday, 3-0. Jacob Clem held ASU to just six hits in a complete-game shutout, and Kyle Ottoson (4.1 IP, 4 H, 2 ER) made the start and got the loss for the Devils. Normal Sunday starter Jake Barrett was out with arm soreness that ASU coach Tim Esmay said "doesn't seem to be serious," according to the Arizona Republic last week.
• Adam Plutko (8 IP, 3 H, 2 ER) led UCLA to a 5-2 win in the rubber game against California. The Bruins out-hit the Bears 12-5 Sunday, as Justin Jones (3 IP, 6 H, 3 ER) fell to 7-5 on the season. The Bruins needed that series to put some distance between themselves and the at-large bubble, and now they find themselves just a game behind OSU for first place in the Pac-10. Cal falls to fourth place at 13-11.
• Stanford edged Arizona, 2-1, in the rubber game of that series at Stanford. Arizona's Konner Wade (6.1 IP, 7 H, 0 R) and Stanford's Jordan Pries (7 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K) were both strong in no-decisions, but the Cardinal came from behind with two runs in the eighth, capped by Austin Wilson's go-ahead RBI single. Jake Stewart (appendix) made his first start in center since May 1 for the Cardinal.
• Cal State Bakersfield completed a sweep of Fresno State with a 7-4 win. The Roadrunners broke a 4-4 tie with three unearned runs in the eighth against Taylor Garrison. Bakersfield's RPI climbed to No. 64, per warrennolan.com, with the victory—still outside at-large range. Fresno's regional hosting chances were effectively destroyed this weekend.
• UC Riverside came from behind with two runs in the eighth to beat UC Irvine, 2-1, and reduce Cal State Fullerton's magic number in the Big West to one. The Anteaters wasted a nice start from Matt Whitehouse (7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 K).
• Marco Gonzales (7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 8 K) and Cody Martin combined on a three-hit shutout of Pepperdine, propelling Gonzaga into a tie for first place in the WCC with San Francisco, heading into next weekend's decisive series between the Bulldogs and Dons.
• Texas Tech beat Oklahoma State, 5-3, to win a big series and breathe a bit of life into its at-large hopes. The Red Raiders jumped out to an early lead with four runs in the second against Randy McCurry (5 IP, 5 H, 5 ER), and Duke von Schamann (7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER) improved to 5-0 on the season.
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