COLUMBIA, S.C.—Connecticut gave South Carolina everything it could handle, but the Gamecocks’ bullpen shined and Christian Walker hit a tie-breaking home run in the eighth inning. The Gamecocks pulled away late, and the defending national champions returned to the College World Series by a final score of 8-2, sweeping the Columbia Super Regional.
Connecticut opened up a 2-0 lead in the second inning against South Carolina starter Colby Holmes, and even many of the Huskies’ outs were hit hard. Holmes made it to the fifth inning, but after two men reached and then the first out of the inning was made on a hard-hit fly to left, it was time for a change.
The Gamecocks’ bullpen has been one of the team’s biggest strengths, anchored by closer Matt Price. While their starting rotation has had turnover since the end of last year and even during the course of this season, the bullpen has always been there.
All eight super regionals were in action Saturday, and two of them were resolved with teams clinching College World Series berths. Fans in Omaha are plenty used to seeing North Carolina jerseys, as the Tar Heels are headed to the CWS for the fifth time in the last six years. But Vanderbilt also clinched a trip to Omaha on Saturday, for the first time in school history. Two other super regionals (Austin and Gainesville) were pushed to decisive third games Sunday. Here's a roundup of Saturday's action:
Austin Super Regional
Texas over Arizona State, 5-1 (series tied 1-1)
Cole Green (5 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K) and four Texas relievers shut down the Arizona State offense to force a third game Sunday. In a game filled with missed opportunities as a result of over-aggressive play on the basepaths, Texas broke open a 2-1 game on Jordan Etier's three-run homer in the ninth. Arizona State will start Mitchell Lambson on Sunday against Sam Stafford.
Chapel Hill Super Regional
North Carolina over Stanford, 7-5 (UNC wins series, 2-0)
UNC carried a 6-1 lead into the bottom of the eighth inning, when the Cardinal scored four runs to make the Tar Heels sweat. After a 3 1/2-hour rain delay, the Tar Heels got an insurance run in the ninth and closed out another perfect run at home through the postseason to Omaha. Teddy Cahill has more details. [...] Continue Reading »
CHAPEL HILL, N.C.–After the celebration ended, after North Carolina became the first team to clinch a spot in this year’s College World Series, Mike Fox admitted he had a feeling a few weeks ago this would happen. Something told him the Tar Heels would make their fifth trip to Omaha in the last six years.
Saturday night, North Carolina beat Stanford 7-5 to make Fox’s gut feeling a reality.
“I told them three or four weeks ago that I felt that deep down inside that we were going to go back,” Fox said. “And they did it.”
The Tar Heels have swept through the NCAA tournament so far, winning five straight, but little about their return to the College World Series has been easy. [...] Continue Reading »
SANTA CLARA, Calif.—During his team's run through the losers' bracket at the Houston Regional last week, California coach David Esquer said his team doesn't do anything easy. And that was before the Golden Bears rallied from a three-run deficit in the ninth inning to beat Baylor in the regional's winner-take-all game.
So you can imagine how refreshing Saturday was for Esquer. The Golden Bears thoroughly dominated Dallas Baptist in the first game of the Santa Clara Super Regional, cruising to a 7-0 win that landed the Bears just one win away from their first trip to Omaha since 1992.
Justin Jones and Logan Scott combined on a three-hit shutout against a DBU team that had been shut out just once before this season. Cal rapped out 11 hits—10 of them against Patriots ace Brandon Williamson—including a pair of three-run homers, and the Bears maintained complete control of the game from the second inning on.
"I think that's the first thing my wife told me: 'It sure was nice to have a lead for once,' so she didn't have to get too nervous," Esquer said. "I said, 'For you? It was nice for me too.' To get Justin some run support and let him just go in there and pitch, and I think for our whole team it was different, just to get comfortable in this type of atmosphere. We talk about being loose, but it takes a little effort to get relaxed in these types of games. I thought we did a good job, and we looked like it right after that home run."
The Bears came out very aggressive—maybe too aggressive—but Chad Bunting's three-run homer to left field in the second inning seemed to settle them down. And settling down was essential, because Cal is treading unfamiliar ground, playing in its first super regional in front of an unusually boisterous crowd. The standing-room-only crowd of 1,431 might not seem like much by Southeastern Conference standards, but Jones said it was "for sure" the largest pro-Cal crowd any of the Bears had ever played in front of. [...] Continue Reading »
COLUMBIA, S.C.—The opening game of the Columbia Super Regional saw Connecticut come out firing on all cylinders while host South Carolina stumbled. But the Gamecocks righted the ship behind another sterling effort by ace Michael Roth, and the defending national champions had the final say in a 5-1 win.
While South Carolina’s program has the prestige, the Huskies may have more star power with first-round picks Matt Barnes and George Springer. And it was the Huskies’ stars who fired the game’s opening salvo.
Springer roped a single to left-center field and scored the game’s opening run in the top of the first. Barnes then came out and blew away the Gamecocks’ first two hitters with mid-90s fastballs before freezing No. 3 hitter Christian Walker with a slider on the inside corner. It looked like it might be a long night for the throng in garnet and black.
Hosts won three of Friday's four super regional contests—two of them in very convincing fashion. Three Pacific-10 Conference teams were in action, and they went 1-2, all on the road. Here's a roundup:
Austin Super Regional
Arizona State over Texas, 3-1 (ASU leads series 1-0)
The Sun Devils took advantage of two errors by Texas (a .982 fielding team entering the game) to score a pair of unearned runs in the third inning against Taylor Jungmann (7.1 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 3 K), who lost for the second straight week. Arizona State run producer extraordinaire Joey DeMichele went 2-for-4 with two RBIs, giving him 11 RBIs in four postseason games. Brady Rodgers (6.2 IP, 8 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K) and Mitchell Lambson (2.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K) were outstanding on the mound for ASU.
Chapel Hill Super Regional
North Carolina over Stanford, 5-2 (UNC leads series 1-0)
UNC ace Patrick Johnson (7.2 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K) extended his scoreless streak to 30 2/3 innings before the Cardinal finally broke through in the eighth inning. But Seth Baldwin's two-run homer in the seventh proved the game-winner, and the Tar Heels tacked on two more in the eighth. UNC has won 14 straight postseason home games by three or more runs. [...] Continue Reading »
CHAPEL HILL, N.C.—The two previous times the ball had come off Seth Baldwin’s bat, it had rolled up the third-base line only to drift into foul ground. Unable to get the sacrifice bunt down and facing a two-strike count, Baldwin looked to North Carolina coach Mike Fox for instructions.
Fox took the bunt sign off, letting his right fielder swing away with no outs and a runner on second base in the bottom of the seventh inning.
“He’s not the best bunter in our locker room,” Fox would later say.
Given another chance to move the runner up, Baldwin took a full swing and sent Mark Appel’s fastball over the left-field fence for a two-run home run. The blast gave North Carolina a three-run lead and all the separation it would need as it went on to a 5-2 victory against Stanford to open the Chapel Hill Super Regional.
Neither Baldwin nor Fox was sure the ball was a home run off the bat, but it was hit just hard enough to carry over the fence.
“He’s the one guy on our team that can do that—that can hit a ball up off the net opposite field,” Fox said. “It didn’t really sound like he’d squared it up, but he’s strong as a bull.” [...] Continue Reading »
Texas A&M secured the final spot in this weekend's super regionals with a 3-0 win against Arizona on Tuesday, in a game that had been postponed by rain on Monday. The Aggies will face Florida State in the Tallahassee Super Regional.
The extra day of rest allowed both teams to get strong performances from their sophomore aces. A&M's Michael Wacha (7 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K) left with the game still scoreless after seven strong innings, thanks in part to Krey Bratsen's perfect throw from center field to gun down Jett Bandy at the plate in the fifth. The Aggies finally got to Arizona's Kurt Heyer (7.2 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 K) in the eighth. Tyler Naquin's RBI single broke the tie, and Jacob House followed with a two-run double off Bryce Bandilla to give the Aggies soem critical insurance. Ross Stripling, making his first relief appearance since March 12, set down the Wildcats in order in the ninth to end it.
"What a game. I don't think you could ask for more from eitehr team," Texas A&M coach Rob Childress said. "Each team gave each other as good as shot as they could give it. I'd like to compliment coach (Andy) Lopez and Arizona. I thought they did it the hard way. Coming back after losing on Friday to Seton Hall all the way back to today's game, they gave us everything we could handle for 18 innings. They have a very good program, but our guys are resilient."
The site of the California-Dallas Baptist super regional was still undetermined late last night, but the NCAA announced today that Cal will host at Stephen Schott Stadium on the campus of Santa Clara, about an hour south of Berkeley. The three games will be held Saturday, Sunday and Monday (if necessary).
It's an odd state of affairs when a Pacific-10 school (and the flagship university of the nation's richest baseball hotbed state) has to host at a West Coast Conference stadium because its own facilities are inadequate (and lack lights), but the Golden Bears are lucky just to have a program, at this point.
Monday was a big day for college baseball. The first day of the draft is always exciting for college players and fans, and two players—Connecticut's George Springer and Matt Barnes—were selected in the first round while they were in the middle of a regional final against Clemson. Five more regionals were decided Monday. Three winners are very familiar (Texas, Florida State, South Carolina), while two others are headed to their first super regionals (Dallas Baptist, California). The last regional final between Texas A&M and Arizona was postponed by rain until Tuesday.
Here's a roundup of Monday's action:
No. 1 Texas over No. 3 Kent State, 5-0 (Texas wins regional)
Six Texas pitchers combined on a five-hit shutout, as the Longhorns beat Kent State for the second straight day to reach their eighth super regional since 2000. Sam Stafford (3.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 K) got the start and got the 'Horns off to a good start. Texas brought back Cole Green (who threw 103 pitches Sunday against Texas State) and Taylor Jungmann (who threw 85 pitches in Saturday's loss to Kent) for one perfect inning apiece in the later innings. Freshmen Mark Payton and Erich Weiss recorded two hits and one RBI apiece to lead the Texas offense. The 'Horns will host Arizona State in a tantalizing super regional matchup between two of college baseball's traditional powers. [...] Continue Reading »
The Division I Baseball Committee announced seven of the eight sites for next weekend's super regionals late Monday night. The host of the Dallas Baptist-California super regional is still undetermined, as neither team has adequate on-campus facilities without some work. NCAA spokesman J.D. Hamilton told BA that both schools will explore off-campus alternatives as well, and an announcement is expected by 1 p.m. ET on Tuesday.
"We want both schools to have a chance to find something that might be beneficial for both schools," Hamilton said. "The committee hasn't had something like this in a long time."
Potential off-campus sites in the Bay Area include Stanford's Sunken Diamond (the Cardinal will be in Chapel Hill) and the home of the high Class A San Jose Giants (who are at Modesto this weekend). Potential off-campus sites in the Metroplex include TCU's Lupton Stadium and QuikTrip Park, home of the independent Grand Prairie AirHogs. The AirHogs are also on the road this weekend. The Frisco RoughRiders are home this weekend.
One other super regional matchup is still pending, as the decisive game of the College Station regional was postponed by rain until Tuesday. The Texas A&M-Arizona winner will travel to Tallahassee to face Florida State.
Here is the schedule that has been released:
The following four best-of-three super regionals will be played Friday, Saturday and Sunday (if necessary). All times are Eastern: [...] Continue Reading »
COLUMBIA, S.C.—Only the weather was able to slow South Carolina’s march to its second consecutive super regional. The sixth game of the Columbia Regional was suspended overnight after heavy storms moved through the area, but when play resumed, the Gamecocks fended off a Stetson rally before pulling away late, winning 8-2 to finish off a perfect 3-0 run through the weekend.
The Gamecocks were leading 4-1 in the top of the fifth, with the bases loaded and one out and Robert Beary, who hit a grand slam against Stetson on Saturday and would go on to be named the regional MVP, coming to bat. But with bad weather inbound, the decision was made to halt the game.
The storm was violent enough to blow the tarp off part of the infield and knock out the power at Carolina Stadium. With the proceedings halted for the night, Beary would have to wait.
FULLERTON, Calif.—Stanford couldn't have drawn it up any better than this.
Bring in back-to-back recruiting classes ranked in the nation's top two. Baptise young team with a brutally difficult nonconference schedule, featuring road series against three future national seeds (Rice, Vanderbilt, Texas) in the first three weeks of the season. Weather the storm. Build confidence in the second half. Arrive at a hostile regional setting with a battle-tested, extremely talented team.
Win that regional in emphatic fashion.
A day after eking out a 1-0 victory against rival and regional host Cal State Fullerton, Stanford pounded Illinois 14-2 on Sunday night to advance to super regionals, where it will face North Carolina in Chapel Hill. The Cardinal looked like an unstoppable juggernaut against the depleted Illini pitching staff, pounding out 20 hits—including laser after laser. Senior DH Ben Clowe led the way, going 4-for-4 with two doubles and a pair of two-run homers—both tattooed to left field. He doubled his season home run output entering Sunday.
"I don't think I've hit two home runs in a game since I've been in college," said Clowe, who entered the game hitting .237/.313/.359 with two homers and 10 RBIs in 131 at-bats this season. "It's nice. For a career winding down, to contribute like this, it's a good feeling."
At that point, Stanford coach Mark Marquess interjected, "It's a good Little League day." [...] Continue Reading »
More than half of the super regional field is set, as nine teams wrapped up undefeated runs through regionals Sunday—three apiece from the SEC (Florida, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State) and Pac-10 (Stanford, Arizona State, Oregon State), two from the ACC (Virginia, North Carolina) and one from the Big West (UC Irvine).
Six of the nine teams that won regionals Sunday were No. 1 seeds, one was a No. 2 seed (Stanford), and two were No. 3 seeds (MSU and UCI). The top three national seeds plus No. 6 Vandy all won regionals, while No. 4 South Carolina and No. 5 Florida State were leading in games suspended until Monday by weather. Only one national seed (No. 8 Rice) has been eliminated.
Also noteworthy: the ACC (15-7), SEC (17-5) and Pac-10 (17-4) are a combined 49-16 so far in regionals. The Pac-10 has gone 14-1 after starting out with a 3-3 showing Friday.
Here's a regional-by-regional roundup of Sunday's action:
No. 1 Georgia Tech over No. 4 Austin Peay State, 12-2 (APSU eliminated)
No. 3 Mississippi State over Georgia Tech, 7-3 (MSU wins regional)
After Buck Farmer went the distance in Georgia Tech's rout of Austin Peay in the elimination game, the Bulldogs blitzed freshman DeAndre Smelter (2.1 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 1 ER), and the Yellow Jackets made three of their five errors in the first three innings, as MSU built a 6-0 lead. That was more than enough for Nick Routt (9 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K), who threw the first complete game of the year for Mississippi State, and his first since 2009. [...] Continue Reading »
CHAPEL HILL, N.C.—While North Carolina’s pitching staff proved to be human Sunday night, it was still good enough to see the Tar Heels through to super regionals. After 18 straight innings of scoreless baseball, North Carolina finally gave up a run in the Chapel Hill Regional when James Madison, the nation’s highest scoring team, broke through in the first inning.
But North Carolina defeated James Madison 9-3 to claim the Chapel Hill Regional and win its 14th straight NCAA tournament game as a host, a streak that stretches back to super regionals in 2007. Even more impressive, the Tar Heels have won their last 13 postseason home games by three or more runs.
The Tar Heels will return to super regionals for the fifth time in six years. Though the Tar Heels didn’t dogpile Sunday night, left fielder Chaz Frank said they were excited to be back in super regionals after their season ended in the Norman Regional last year.
“It was tough for us to end the streak,” Frank said. “We’re super excited this year about going to the super regional.”
The Tar Heels played and won their third game without coach Mike Fox. It was announced Sunday that his mother, Barbara, died Saturday. Previously, it had only been disclosed Fox was dealing with a personal matter. [...] Continue Reading »
FULLERTON, Calif.—If baseball gods exist, they care little for justice.
To clarify: There was nothing unjust about fourth-seeded Illinois' stunning 7-5 win against top-seeded Cal State Fullerton on Sunday. The Illini are one of college baseball's great stories in 2011, having rallied from a 12-21 start to the season to win 18 of their next 23 games, capped by Sunday's colossal upset. The Fightin' Illini lived up to their name, battling hard even facing a three-run deficit against a stacked Fullerton pitching staff after six innings.
Certainly, Illinois deserved to win Sunday—it earned a date with Stanford in the regional championship round, which starts later this evening. The only injustice—other than the blown call taht factored significantly into Saturday's Fullerton loss to Stanford—was that Nick Ramirez's standout Fullerton career ended the way it did.
Ramirez, a slugger and closer for the Titans for three years, had three hits and two RBIs after seven innings Sunday. Fullerton starter Colin O'Connell was in control through six innings, and he had retired 12 straight Illinois hitters from the second through the fifth. After Illinois used an error, a hit batsman, a two-base wild pitch and an RBI single by Pete Cappetta to tie the game at 4-4 in the seventh, Ramirez was summoned from first base to take over on the mound—and he ended the seventh with a big strikeout.
But Illinois got to him for three runs in the eighth, taking the lead on Matt Dittman's RBI flare single to left field, then breaking it open on Davis Hendrickson's two-run double to left-center. [...] Continue Reading »
BY BRANDON MOREE
CHAPEL HILL—Maine saw its season come to an end at the hands of righthander Evan Scott and James Madison in a 5-2 loss at Boshamer Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Scott lasted 7 1/3 innings, giving up only two runs (both earned) on four hits and four strikeouts. Scott allowed single runs in the first and third innings but otherwise had a very smooth outing. From the fourth to the seventh innings, Scott faced the minimum amount of batters—making quick work of the Black Bears.
“If we’re going to have a chance at all in this thing we had to have a good start from Evan,” JMU coach Spanky McFarland said. “We had no chance if we didn’t get a six- or seven-inning start from our pitcher, which gives us a little respite in the bullpen to have some quality arms for tonight’s game.”
Scott said he was very aware that he needed to have a strong start but it didn’t affect his focus.
“I was just in there trying to throw strikes and let the defense work behind me,” Scott said. “I was able to do that, (and the Dukes) played great 'D' all day so it worked out. I was able to last long enough to save some pitching for the next game." [...] Continue Reading »
COLUMBIA, S.C.—Stetson got a yeoman’s effort out of the bullpen from junior Tucker Donahue, preserving an early lead to get the Hatters past North Carolina State by a 5-3 score, earning them a rematch with South Carolina in the championship round of the Columbia Regional.
N.C. State had seen Donahue before. The righthander threw 50 pitches over 2 2/3 innings in Stetson’s come-from-behind 8-7 victory on Friday. He was given the benefit of a day off while the Hatters who routed by South Carolina in the winners’ bracket game Saturday. Facing elimination on Sunday, Donahue was called into action again. And he came through again.
Stetson had opened up a 3-0 lead early, but after starter Robbie Powell gave up a two-run homer in the fifth to make it 3-2, Hatters coach Pete Dunn summoned Donahue, a swingman who’s made nine starts among his 28 appearances.
Three power conferences that produced 20 of the NCAA tournament's 64 teams have gotten off to strong starts. Through two days of regional play, the ACC and SEC are each 11-3, while the Pac-10 is 9-3. The only other conferences with winning records are the Big West (3-1) and the MAC (2-0). And, of course, the field's lone independent team is 2-0.
Which leads us to a roundup of Saturday's fascinating action. As we mentioned yesterday, teams that start 2-0 have gone on to win regionals 82 percent of the time since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1999. Ten top seeds have started 2-0 this year, as well as four No. 3 seeds and two No. 2 seeds. Interestingly, of the four regionals in the state of Texas, the top seed remains unbeaten in just one of them (College Station), as the other three were upset Saturday.
No. 1 Georgia Tech over No. 2 Southern Mississippi, 6-2 (USM eliminated)
No. 3 Mississippi State over No. 4 Austin Peay State, 8-3
The Yellow Jackets scored five runs in the second in support of Jed Bradley (7.2 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K), as USM's once-promising season ended with its eighth loss in the last 10 games. Mississippi State scored seven runs in the fourth to chase APSU ace Jeremy Dobbs (3.2 IP, 5 H, 3 ER), and freshman Evan Mitchell (8 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 5 BB, 8 K) shined in Atlanta, less than 30 minutes from his hometown. [...] Continue Reading »
FULLERTON, Calif.—It had everything a Stanford-Cal State Fullerton postseason game should have—and then some.
In a game that featured just six hits between the two teams, Stanford's Jordan Pries out-dueled Fullerton's Noe Ramirez in a fantastic pitcher's duel, as the Cardinal advanced to the Fullerton Regional title round with a 1-0 win. Pries allowed just two hits and no walks while striking out six over 7 2/3 shutout innings, while Ramirez racked up 12 strikeouts and allowed just four hits and two walks. His lone mistake was a first-pitch fastball over the middle of the plate to cleanup hitter Stephen Piscotty in the sixth inning. Piscotty crushed it over the left-center-field fence for the game's only run.
"That was a great baseball game," Titans coach Dave Serrano said. "I knew coming into today that the best shot we had was if Noe stepped it up for us, and he did. He gave us a chance to be successful. He threw 109 pitches, and he might have thrown one bad pitch.
"What a fabulous baseball game; what a fabulous baseball game. Pries stepped up for them, and I'm not ashamed at all of what this young man (Ramirez) did. We'll have to fight back, hopefully we'll get another crack at them. This game was filled with great pitching and intensity, and unfortunately we came up on the short end." [...] Continue Reading »
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