The final day of super regionals delivered more compelling drama in a pair of games, a dominating performance in another, and some fantastic storylines heading into Omaha—which no longer stands for Ole Miss At Home Again, as Mississippi State fans like to taunt. The other two teams that won Monday are national powers that have emerged in the last decade; Virginia will make its third trip to the College World Series (2009, 2011), and Texas Christian will make its second (2010).
We’ll peek ahead to the CWS field shortly, but first a recap of Monday’s action.
• In their fifth super regional appearance, the Rebels finally broke through to the College World Series for the first time since 1972, ending one of college baseball’s most notorious streaks. Mississippi had to beat the top-ranked team in the country (Louisiana-Lafayette) on the road to do it—after losing the series opener. But the Rebels followed up Sunday’s 5-2 win with a 10-4 victory Monday, breaking open a close game with four runs in the ninth.
The game tilted back and forth for the first eight innings, and Ole Miss carried a 5-3 lead into the bottom of the seventh. With two on and two out in the ULL seventh, Seth Harrison doubled into the left-field corner, scoring one run, but Ole Miss shortstop Errol Robinson made a lightning-quick transfer and perfect relay throw to the plate to throw out Tyler Girouard, preserving a one-run lead for the Rebels. Will Allen blocked the plate with his leg to prevent Girouard from scoring on the play. The Rebels added a run in the eighth on a sacrifice fly, then busted the game open on Holt Perdzock’s two-run double in the ninth. Early on, back-to-back homers by Austin Anderson and Sikes Orvis spotted Ole Miss to a 3-1 lead, setting the tone for the game. Scott Weathersby (2 IP, 2 H, 0 R) and Josh Laxer (3.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K) did a fantastic job holding the explosive ULL offense at bay in the middle and late innings, with help from the defense.
• The first game of the day was one of the most exciting contests of the postseason, a tug-of-war that ended with TCU scoring twice in the ninth to earn a come-from-behind 6-5 win against Pepperdine. The Waves kept surging ahead in the game, and the Frogs kept battling back to tie it. After the Frogs scored twice in the sixth to tie the game at 4-4, Pepperdine regained the lead with a run in the bottom of the eighth on a sacrifice fly. But the Frogs rallied again in the ninth against closer Eric Karch, tying the game on Dylan Fitzgerald’s RBI double and scoring the go-ahead run on a perfect squeeze. Of course, Pepperdine made the Frogs sweat again in the bottom of the ninth putting runners on the corners against Riley Ferrell before he ended the game by striking out Bryan Langlois. Kevin Cron homered and hit a key RBI double in the sixth for TCU, while Aaron Brown continued to terrorize the Frogs, going 3-for-4 with two RBIs.
• Virginia’s offense picked up steam as the weekend went on, and the Cavaliers jumped out to an early lead Monday and cruised to an 11-2 win against Maryland. UVa. scored three runs in the first and three more in the third—Kenny Towns had two RBIs in each of those rallies. And Josh Sborz (7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 9 K) sparkled in his first start since May 10 against Georgia Tech. I’ll have a report from Charlottesville shortly.
So the College World Series field is set. Here are the opening-round matchups (all times Central):
2 p.m.: UC Irvine vs. Texas
7 p.m.: Vanderbilt vs. Louisville
2 p.m.: Texas Christian vs. Texas Tech
7 p.m.: Virginia vs. Mississippi
• All four matchups offer plenty of intrigue. The field features three teams from the state of Texas—each of them a member of the Big 12 Conference, which sent three of its five NCAA tournament teams to Omaha, and a fourth to super regionals. The Southeastern Conference landed just two of its 10 postseason teams in Omaha, while the ACC went 1-for-7 and the Pac-12 went 0-for-5. The Big West sent one of its four teams to Omaha, and the American Athletic Conference sent one of its two, with the second losing in a super regional.
• Just two national seeds (No. 3 Virginia and No. 7 TCU) made it to Omaha, the fewest since the NCAA tournament field expanded to 64 teams in 1999. In the last three years, just nine of 24 national seeds have reached the CWS.
• Super regional hosts won six of eight series this weekend, the most since 2011 (when seven of the eight hosts won).
• Five teams that were No. 1 seeds in regionals reached Omaha, along with a pair of No. 2 seeds (Texas Tech and Texas), and one No. 3 (UC Irvine).
• Five members of the CWS field were ranked in the Baseball America preseason Top 25: Virginia (No. 1), Vanderbilt (No. 10), Texas (No. 18), Texas Christian (No. 19) and Louisville (No. 20). The other three teams did not even crack our preseason field of 64 projection. But if baseball were predictable, it would be a whole lot less fun.