Conference Tournament Roundup

Here’s a roundup of all the teams that won conference tournaments this weekend. Keep in mind that five teams had already secured automatic bids before this week: Bethune-Cookman (MEAC), Bucknell (Patriot), Cal Poly (Big West), Columbia (Ivy) and Jackson State (SWAC). And Oregon State clinched the Pac-12′s automatic bid this weekend by winning the conference’s regular-season title. The Pac-12, like the Big West, does not have a conference tournament.

America East Conference champion: Binghamton

After losing their tournament opener against Hartford’s Sean Newecomb, the Bearcats ran through the losers’ bracket with four straight wins, beating top-seeded Stony Brook in back-to-back nail-biters to win the AEC title for the second straight year, and third time in the last six years. In Sunday’s clincher, Anthony Grillini (5.2 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 K) earned the win with stellar relief work, and Eddie Posavec delivered a walk-off single in the 12th. Reed Gamache (5-for-6, 2 R, 2 RBI) led Binghamton’s 21-hit onslaught in that one. With a lineup stuffed with veterans, Binghamton was our preseason pick to win the America East but finished 11-12 in the conference during the regular season to earn the No. 3 seed. Sunday’s win improved the Bearcats to 25-25 overall.

American Athletic Conference champion: Houston

The third-seeded Cougars drubbed top-seeded Louisville in Sunday’s title game, 10-4. Josh Vidales (5-for-5, 3 RBI) and Casey Grayson (2-for-5, 4 RBI) led the Houston offense, and Tyler Ford (4.1 IP, 2 H, 2 ER) earned the win with strong relief work. Houston punched its ticket to regionals for the first time since 2008, but it was passed over for a host spot in favor of Louisville, which swept a regular-season series at Houston and finished 4.5 games ahead of UH in the standings.

Atlantic 10 Conference champion: George Mason

Third-seeded George Mason completed a 4-0 run through the A-10 tournament with a 3-2 win against Virginia Commonwealth on Saturday, sending the Patriots to regionals for the first time since 2009. Luke Willis had four hits to lead George Mason’s 12-hit attack behind tournament MOP Jake Kalish (9 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K) in the championship game, and the Patriots won on a sacrifice fly in the 10th. Willis went 10-for-15 in the tournament, helping Geoge Mason win the A-10 championship in its first season as a member of the league.

Atlantic Coast Conference champion: Georgia Tech

The Yellow Jackets beat Maryland 9-4 on Sunday to win the ACC tournament for the second time in the last three years, and the ninth time overall. Matt Gonzalez (4-for-5, 3 R, RBI), A.J. Murray (3-for-4, R, 3 RBI) and Thomas Smith (3-for-4, 2 R, RBI) led the offense for Georgia Tech, which broke a 4-4 tie with a run in the seventh and broke the game open in the final two innings.

Atlantic Sun Conference champion: Kennesaw State

Max Pentecost

Max Pentecost

The Owls went 4-0 in the A-Sun tournament, capped by a 7-1 win in Sunday’s title game against Lipscomb. Max Pentecost (2-for-3, 2 R) and Chris McGowan (2-for-3, 3 RBI) led the KSU offense in support of Jordan Hillyer (6 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 5 K), and the Owls broke a 1-1 tie with three runs in the seventh, then broke it open on McGowan’s three-run double in the eighth. Kennesaw State is one of the hottest teams in the nation, with 23 wins in its last 24 games, and now it is headed to regionals for the first time in program history.

Big Ten Conference champion: Indiana

The top-seeded Hoosiers repeated as Big Ten tournament champions with an 8-4 win against second-seeded Nebraska in front of 19,965 fans at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha—the largest crowd ever to attend a conference tournament game, in any conference. Indiana jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, and after Nebraska whipped the crowd into a frenzy by tying the score with three runs in the top of the fifth, Kyle Schwarber hit a go-ahead homer in the bottom of the frame, and Indiana took command with three more in the sixth. The Hoosiers have won the Big Ten’s regular season and tournament titles in each of the last two years, and they head into the NCAA tournament ranked second in the RPI.

Big 12 Conference champion: Texas Christian

The Horned Frogs completed a 4-0 run through the Big 12 tournament with a 7-1 win against top-seeded Oklahoma State. Freshman lefthander Tyler Alexander (9 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K) threw his first career complete game and improved to 9-3 for the Frogs, who got two RBIs apiece from Jerrick Suiter and Dylan Fitzgerald. Suiter was named tournament MOP.

Big East Conference champion: Xavier

Fourth-seeded Xavier lost its opener in the four-team Big East tournament, then won three straight games (against St. John’s, Seton Hall and Creighton) to capture the championship. Freshman Trent Astle (9 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 K) shut down the Bluejays in Sunday’s title game to send the Musketeers to regionals for the first time since 2009. Most Outstanding Player Mitch Elliott went 8-for-18 in the tournament and had two hits Sunday.

Big South Conference champion: Campbell

A year after getting snubbed for an at-large spot despite finishing 49-10, Campbell found redemption with an unlikely run through the losers’ bracket to the Big South title. After losing their opener to Coastal Carolina, the Camels won five straight games, beating High Point twice on Saturday to reach Sunday’s title game against Winthrop. Matt Nadolski (3-for-5, 2 R, RBI) led a balanced 13-hit attack Sunday, as the Camels jumped out to an early lead and cruised to a 9-1 win, sending them to regionals for the first time since 1990.

Colonial Athletic Association champion: College of Charleston

The Cougars won the CAA tournament in their first year in the league, beating UNC Wilmington and William & Mary (twice) to complete a 3-0 run to the title. Nick Pappas (4-for-4, 3 R) and Ben Boykin (2-for-3, 3 RBI) led the CofC offense in support of Tyler Thornton (8 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 8 K) in Saturday’s title game, and the Cougars held off the Tribe’s four-run ninth-inning rally to win 6-4. Charleston will make its sixth trip to regionals, and its second in the last three years.

Conference USA champion: Rice

Michael Aquino

Michael Aquino (Photo by Andrew Woolley)

The Owls won a back-and-forth championship game Sunday against Texas-San Antonio, 11-5, to add a tournament title to its regular-season C-USA championship. Michael Aquino (3-for-4, 2 R, 4 RBI, HR), Skyler Ewing and Leon Byrd had three hits apiece to lead Rice’s 16-hit barrage Sunday, as the Owls overcame a 5-4 deficit with two runs in the eighth, then broke it open with five more in the ninth. Rice won the C-USA tournament for the sixth time in its nine years as a league member.

Horizon League champion: Youngstown State

The unlikeliest member of the 2014 NCAA tournament field, Youngstown State won all four of its Horizon League tournament games—including two games against top-seeded Wright State—to punch its ticket to regionals with a 16-36 overall record, a 6-17 conference mark in the regular season, and a garish 6.90 staff ERA. The Penguins came from behind with two runs in the ninth to stun the Raiders 5-4 in Saturday’s title game. Joe Ford delivered a game-winning two-run triple to send Youngstown to regionals for the second time in program history, and the first time since 2004. Tournament MVP Phil Lipari went 3-for-5 in the title game.

“I’m incredibly proud of our guys,” YSU coach Steve Gillispie said afterward. “Today was the only time we trailed in the tournament, and we fell behind after having a lead twice. We fought back and closed it out. It’s a great testament to their character and ability to play to the end.

“We haven’t always played well this season, but we’ve always continued to play hard. We never gave up when a lot of teams could have with the way our season was going.”

Metro-Atlantic Athletic Conference champion: Siena

Siena can give Youngstown State a run for its money as the Cinderella team of the 2014 NCAA tournament field. The Saints started the season 0-17 and played its first 34 games on the road—but finished 26-31 overall and 17-7 in the MAAC. The Saints lost their tournament opener against Fairfield, then won four straight games to win the MAAC title for the first since 1999. They had to win four games in two days to finish it, including two wins against top-seeded Canisius on Sunday. So the Saints are headed to regionals for the second time ever, in head coach Tony Rossi’s 45th season.

Seldom-used freshmen Chris Amorosi (4.1 IP, 5 H, 0 R) and Taylor Ahearn (5.2 IP, 6 H, 1 ER) started the two games Sunday and became unlikely heroes. Cleanup man John Rooney had three RBIs in the clincher, while tournament MVP Vincent Citro recorded three hits in both games and finished 14-for-20 with nine runs on the week.

Mid-American Conference champion: Kent State

Perennial MAC power Kent State completed a 4-0 run through the conference tournament with a 3-0 win Sunday against Akron. Jon Wilson went 4-for-4 to lead the Kent State offense in support of Michael Clark (6.2 IP, 4 H, 0 R), and Zarley Zalewski’s two-run double broke a scoreless tie in the eighth. The Golden Flashes have won either the regular-season or tournament title in 14 of the last 15 seasons, and they have won the automatic bid nine times in that span. This is their first trip to regionals since their 2012 run to Omaha.

Missouri Valley Conference champion: Dallas Baptist

The Patriots beat Illinois State 4-1 in Saturday’s championship game to win the MVC tournament title in their first season in the league. DBU heads to regionals for the first time since 2012, when it made it as an independent. Drew Turbin’s three-run triple broke a 1-1 tie in the eighth inning Sunday, and the Patriots got stellar starting work from usual reliever Joseph Shaw (6.1 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 8 K), making just the fourth start of his career.

Mountain West Conference champion: San Diego State

The Aztecs repeated as MWC tournament champions by winning three games in two days, capped by back-to-back wins against top-seeded UNLV. San Diego State broke a 3-3 tie in Sunday’s title game with a sacrifice fly in the sixth inning, and relievers T.J. Kendzora, Cody Thompson and Michael Cederoth held the Rebels scoreless from that point on to preserve a 4-3 win. Tournament MVP Brad Haynal had two hits Sunday to finish 14-for-24 with four doubles and nine runs scored on the week. At 42-19, San Diego State’s .689 winning percentage is its best since the 1990 Aztecs finished 49-22 (.690).

Northeast Conference champion: Bryant

The top-seeded Bulldogs went 3-0 in the NEC tournament to repeat as champions. Robby Rinn’s three-run triple in the 12th inning broke a 2-2 tie in Saturday’s title game against Sacred Heart, propelling Bryant to a 6-2 win. Trevor Lacosse (4.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 4 K) earned the victory with strong relief work. The Bulldogs dominated the NEC all year, going 19-5 to win the league by five games. They head into regionals witha  42-14 overall mark.

Ohio Valley Conference champion: Jacksonville State

After losing their OVC tournament opener to Eastern Illinois, the Gamecocks reeled off six straight wins, capped by three wins in two days against the tournament’s top two seeds, Tennessee Tech and Southeast Missouri State. JSU overcame an early 2-0 deficit and then broke a 2-2 tie with two runs in the seventh inning to win Sunday’s title game against TTU 4-2. Zachary Fowler (7.2 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K) earned the win, and Travis Stout recorded the final two outs to pick up his 15th save. The Gamecocks won their fourth OVC tournament title, all in the last decade (2004, ’06 and ’10).

Southeastern Conference champion: Louisiana State

Sean McMullen’s two-run homer broke a scoreless tie in the eighth inning, lifting LSU to a 2-0 win in Sunday’s title game against top-seeded Florida. The Tigers won the SEC tournament for the second straight year, the fifth time in the last seven years and the 11th time overall. Alden Cartwright (4 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 0 K) and three relievers combined on a two-hit shutout for LSU, which went 4-0 in the tournament. Karsten Whitson (6 IP, 3 H, 0 R) was excellent in a no-decision for the Gators, emerging as an X-factor heading into regionals.

Southern Conference champion: Georgia Southern

The Eagles dropped their tournament opener to Appalachian State, then won five straight games to win the championship. In Sunday’s title game against Samford, Georgia Southern overcame a one-run deficit with two in the ninth, capped by Chase Griffin’s walk-off single. The Eagles are headed to regionals for the first time since 2011.

Southland Conference champion: Southeastern Louisiana

The Lions went 4-0 in the Southland tournament, capped by Saturday’s 9-4 win against Central Arkansas. Jacob Seward, Jameson Fisher and Daniel Midyett had three hits apiece to lead a 13-hit attack Sunday, and Tate Scioneaux (5.1 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 8 K) picked up the win with stellar relief. Southeastern Louisiana is headed to regionals for the first time since 1994.

Summit League champion: North Dakota State

The Bison went 3-0 in the Summit tournament, capped by a 9-0 win in Saturday’s title game against Western Illinois. John Skrbec’s grand slam highlighted North Dakota State’s six-run first inning, and Reed Pfannenstein (8.1 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 K) took it from there. The Bison will make their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1969.

Sun Belt Conference champion: Louisiana-Lafayette

Rhys Hoskins

Rhys Hoskins

The Cajuns went 4-0 to win the Sun Belt tournament and improve to 53-7 overall. Louisiana-Lafayette beat Texas-Arlington 6-5 in Sunday’s title game. The Mavericks tied the score with two runs in the top of the seventh, but Blake Trahan delivered a go-ahead solo homer in the bottom of the frame to propel ULL to the victory.

Western Athletic Conference champion: Sacramento State

Our preseason pick to win the WAC, top-seeded Sacramento State dropped its tournament opener to Cal State Bakersfield, then won four straight elimination games to make its first regional as a Division I school (dating back to 1990). Rhys Hoskins (3-for-5, 2 R, 4 RBI) homered twice to lead the offense in Sunday’s 10-3 win against Utah Valley, and Brennan Leitao (5 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 ER) earned the win. The Hornets improved to 39-22 overall. Chris Lewis hit .500 in the tournament to win MVP honors.

West Coast Conference champion: Pepperdine

The Waves went 3-0 in the WCC tournament, beating second-seeded Loyola Marymount twice in a row to win the title. Jackson McClelland (6 IP, 7 H, 1 ER) was strong in Sunday’s title game, and the Waves broke a scoreless tie with three runs in the sixth en route to a 6-1 victory. Bryan Langlois’ two-run double was the big blow. Pepperdine, which made its last regional appearance in 2012, reached the 39-win mark—its most since 2006.

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