A second team punched its ticket to regionals Saturday by winning its conference tournament. In the Northeast Conference, Sacred Heart beat top-seeded Monmouth 5-1 behind a complete game from Kody Kerski (9 IP, 5 H, 1 ER). The Pioneers rebounded from a 1-9 start to the season and finished the conference tournament the same way they did a year ago—by winning back-to-back games against Monmouth. And for the second year in a row, Sacred Heart got complete-game victories from Troy Scribner, Nick Leiningen and Kerski in the NEC tournament. Sacred Heart heads to the NCAA tournament with a 25-30 record.
For most of the country, the regular season concluded Saturday. Let's take a look at the key action in the major conferences, then take a conference-by-conference look at which teams emerged as regular-season champions in the mid-majors.
The day's most compelling race unfolded in the SEC, where Louisiana State beat South Carolina 3-2 in 10 innings to win the series and clinch the regular-season title outright. The Tigers needed both Kentucky and Florida to lose to win the title outright, and that's what happened: Auburn beat Florida 5-4, while Mississippi State completed a sweep of Kentucky with an 11-3 win.
South Carolina (18-11) finished a half-game behind LSU (19-11) but still won the Eastern Division by a half-game over UK and UF (18-12). The Gamecocks, however, lost their head-to-head series against each of the other three powers, putting them on the bubble for a national seed. But Kentucky's national seed hopes look shot; the Wildcats finished the regular season by losing three of their final four series, dropping them to No. 17 in the updated WarrenNolan.com RPI rankings.
Elsewhere in the SEC, Vanderbilt completed its sweep of Mississippi with a 6-3 win, assuring the Commodores of a winning overall record regardless of what happens in the SEC tournament. Vandy finishes the regular season with a 16-14 record in the SEC and a No. 28 RPI; it is in good shape for an at-large bid. That seemed awfully improbable a month ago.
Georgia, however, finds itself on very shaky ground heading into the SEC tourney after dropping its final series at Alabama with a 6-4 loss Saturday. The Bulldogs finish 14-15 in the SEC—respectable enough—but rank 50th in the RPI. They need to do some work in Hoover to bolster their at-large credentials.
Auburn, despite Saturday's win, is 13-17 overall and 56th in the RPI. The Tigers need a deep run in Hoover to have any chance at a bid.
Rice and Central Florida entered the final day tied for the C-USA lead. The Owls won the regular-season title with a 5-2 win behind John Simms (5.1 IP, 7 H, 1 ER). Rice has won or shared a regular-season or conference tournament title for 17 straight seasons. The Owls (No. 13 in the WarrenNolan.com RPI) effectively sewed up a hosting spot with Saturday's win and kept their national seed ambitions alive—especially if South Carolina stumbles in Hoover.
In Saturday's other C-USA game with postseason implications, Tulane was run-ruled by Marshall, 10-0. The Green Wave won the series and earned the third seed in the conference tournament, but its No. 58 RPI means it needs a very strong week in the tournament to feel good about its at-large chances.
Southern Miss and Memphis both won Saturday to finish with 14-10 conference records (same as Tulane), pushing East Carolina to sixth (13-10-1) in the standings. At No. 25 in the RPI, the Pirates still have a strong chance for an at-large bid, but a sixth-place finish in C-USA doesn't look good on its resume, pushing it into bubble range. The Pirates should still get in, however.
Atlantic Coast Conference
Top-ranked Florida State reversed its negative momentum by securing a series win against North Carolina State, 6-2. The Seminoles finish the regular season with just one series loss and are an ironclad lock for a national seed.
North Carolina completed a sweep of Virginia Tech with a 6-2 win behind Hobbs Johnson (8 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 10 K), who carried a perfect game into the eighth inning. The Tar Heels also are in great shape for a national seed, especially with N.C. State losing its series in Tallahassee, likely thwarting its late charge at a national seed.
Wake Forest completed a sweep of Clemson with a 7-0 win behind Brian Holmes (6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 6 K). The Demon Deacons did what they needed to do to rescue their foundering at-large hopes this weekend. They finish the regular season with a solid enough 13-17 ACC record and a No. 34 RPI; they are a strong bet for an at-large spot.
Virginia Tech, however, looks cooked after getting swept at UNC. The Hokies finish 11-19 in the conference and miss the ACC tournament. Georgia Tech is in slightly better shape after avoiding a sweep with a 2-1 win Sunday to finish 12-18 in the league, but the Yellow Jackets need a strong week in Greensboro.
Texas avoided a sweep with a 2-1 win against Baylor, helping the Longhorns climb to No. 46 in the Warren Nolan RPI. Texas remains on the bubble, but Saturday's win was critical; the 'Horns can breathe a little easier now.
The same goes for Oklahoma, which won its rubber game against Samford, 13-3. The Sooners rank 45th in the RPI and finished the regular season with positive momentum.
Texas A&M completed its sweep of Oklahoma State with a 5-4 win. The Cowboys dropped to fifth place in the standings and 88th in the RPI; their remote at-large hopes are dashed. The Aggies, meanwhile, finish strong at 16-8 in the Big 12 and No. 11 in the RPI. A&M has put itself in great shape to host a regional and has put itself back into the national seed discussion heading into the conference tournament.
Assuming Texas A&M hosts, Arizona might be the most likely of our 16 hosts in last week's Stock Report to be supplanted. The Wildcats did not help themselves with an 8-4 loss at Southern California on Saturday, leveling that series. Arizona remains tied with UCLA for second place in the Pac-12 (17-9) and still has a solid RPI (No. 16), so it is still very much in the hosting mix.
UCLA and Stanford both clinched road series Saturday, as UCLA beat Cal 8-5 and the Cardinal beat Utah 8-1. The Bruins have gotten hot down the stretch and look like a very strong bet for a national seed.
Mid-Major Conference Champions
For the leagues that concluded their regular seasons Saturday, here are the teams that claimed regular-season crowns:
• America East: Stony Brook (21-3) cruised to the title by five games over Albany.
• Atlantic 10: Saint Louis and Dayton both won Saturday to finish in a tie for the best record in the A-10 (17-7), but the Billikens won the head-to-head series to capture the top seed on the conference tournament. Saint Louis improved to 40-17 overall, its first 40-win season.
• Atlantic Sun: Belmont beat Lipscomb 10-4 to finish 17-10 in the league, a half-game ahead of South Carolina-Upstate. The A-Sun's top at-large candidate, Stetson, was swept in a doubleheader by Florida Gulf Coast to finish tied with Mercer for fourth place. The Hatters are not in good at-large shape.
• Big East: Louisville beat Pittsburgh 9-5 Saturday, and St. John's dropped its rubber game against Seton Hall, so the Cardinals and Red Storm finished with matching 18-9 conference records, but Louisville won the head-to-head series last weekend. Louisville should be safe for an at-large spot if it doesn't win the conference tournament, but St. John's really needs to win the automatic bid.
• Big South: Coastal Carolina (18-5) won the regular-season title by 3.5 games over Campbell.
• Big Ten: Purdue had already clinched the Big Ten title last weekend, but it dropped its first conference series of the year at Iowa. Indiana finished strong with a sweep of Ohio State to climb within a game of the Boilermakers in the final standings, but outside at-large range in the RPI (No. 84).
• Colonial Athletic Association: UNC Wilmington (24-6) won the regular-season title by four games over Hofstra. At No. 43 in the RPI, the Seahawks remain in solid at-large shape heading into the conference tournament.
• Great West: Utah Valley completed a four-game sweep of Northern Colorado to finish with a remarkable 28-0 conference record—12 games ahead of second-place Texas-Pan American and New Jersey Tech. In a league where no other team has an RPI better than No. 218, the Wolverines have managed to build a No. 66 RPI. The Great West does not get an automatic bid, but UVU has managed to put itself into the at-large discussion, at least.
• Horizon: Valparaiso throttled Youngstown State 13-2 on Saturday to win its first Horizon League title, by two games over Wright State. Valpo finished the regular season by winning 24 of its final 28 games, improving from 10 games below .500 on April 3 to finish 32-22.
• Metro Atlantic: Manhattan (18-6) won the league title by two games over Canisius. The Jaspers finished a perfect 18-0 at home.
• Mid-American: Kent State finished off a sweep of Akron to finish the regular season with a 13-game winning streak. At 24-3 in MAC play, the Golden Flashes won the East Division by eight games. Toledo (19-8) won the West by two games over Central Michigan.
• Missouri Valley: Indiana State clinched the regular-season title on Thursday, but Missouri State won the next two games of the series to finish a half-game behind the Sycamores (14-7) and preserve its at-large hopes. Wichita State also finished with a series win at Creighton to land in third place and bolster its at-large credentials. Strong year for the MVC.
• Mountain West: New Mexico (18-6) clinched at least a share of its first MWC title since 2000 with an 11-5 win against Air Force on Saturday. Texas Christian can still tie New Mexico for the conference crown with a win Sunday against San Diego State, but the Lobos will have the top seed in the conference tournament based on tie-breakers. New Mexico has quietly boosted its RPI into the edge of at-large range (No. 62).
• Ohio Valley: Austin Peay State and Eastern Kentucky both won Saturday to finish 19-7 and share the regular-season crown. The Governors, who won their second straight OVC title, earned the top seed in the conference tournament based on the head-to-head tie-breaker. EKU earned a share of the regular-season title for the first time since 2000.
• Southern Conference: Appalachian State dropped its rubber game against Western Carolina 9-7 on Saturday, and College of Charleston beat UNC Greensboro 10-4. The Mountaineers and Cougars (21-9) share the regular-season crown, but Appalachian State earns the top seed in the conference tournament based on the head-to-head tie-breaker. Elon completed a sweep of The Citadel to finish a game back, keeping its fading at-large hopes alive.
• Southland Conference: Sam Houston State (24-9) won the regular-season title by four games over Southeastern Louisiana.
• Sun Belt: Second-place Arkansas State beat Arkansas-Little Rock 7-3 on Saturday to climb within a half-game of Florida Atlantic, but the Owls' finale against Florida International was rained out, giving FAU the regular-season title outright. The Owls finished 19-8, while the Red Wolves went 19-9 to earn their highest Sun Belt finish since 1993.
• Summit: Oral Roberts run-ruled North Dakota State, 10-0, to finish 17-6 and capture the regular-season title by a game over Oakland.
• Western Athletic: Nevada and Sacramento State both lost Sunday to finish the regular-season 11-7, tied for the conference title. New Mexico State (10-7) can also claim a share of the regular-season title with a win Sunday against last-place San Jose State.
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