2017 NCAA Regionals Roundup: Tallahassee Turnover

SEE ALSO: NCAA Regional Scoreboard

SEE ALSO: Oklahoma, Louisville Win

SEE ALSO: WVU Hits Six Homers

Strike One: Trouble in Tallahassee

Auburn made things interesting in the Tallahassee regional, when the Tigers took down No. 2 seed Central Florida Friday night, 7-4, showing just how scary they could be as a No. 3 seed.

Righthander Keegan ThompsonNo. 127 on the BA 500—led Auburn to the win, striking out a season-high nine in an eight-inning gem. Thompson threw 119 pitches in total, working around four hits and one walk to send the Tigers to the winner’s bracket on Saturday.

“Keegan Thompson was really good,” Auburn head coach Butch Thompson told AuburnTigers.com, “and Central Florida is a very good baseball team. I thought we were a little rusty the first few innings; we hit into four double plays in the first five innings, and I give (UCF starter) Robby Howell a lot of credit for that. We just got a victory against a young man that’s 10-0. We got some base runners, we did some things, we scored a couple of times. We showed resilience, we got to the (UCF) bullpen, and we outlasted them.

Howell was UCF’s Friday starter this season and won the AAC Pitcher of the Year award after striking out 90 batters over 96 innings, with a 3.28 ERA. This Friday night in the opening game of the Tallahassee regional, Auburn managed 10 hits and five walks vs. Howell, putting up four runs (three earned) against him.

To make things even more interesting, Florida State dropped the second game of the night to No. 4 seed Tennessee Tech, 3-1, giving the bottom two teams a solid chance to make it to a Super Regional. The Golden Eagles didn’t score a run until the eighth inning, when they tied the game 1-1, but tacked on two more against the Seminole bullpen. Designated hitter Ryan Flick was responsible for the game-winning hit, a two-run double to right field immediately after Florida State’s Alec Byrd entered the game.

Tennessee Tech and Auburn will face off in the winner’s bracket at 7 p.m. ET Saturday, while top seeds Florida State and Central Florida will play an elimination game at noon.

Strike Two: Bombs at Baum

Garrett Benge was ready to be the hero for Oklahoma State, in the Fayetteville Regional against Missouri State.

After falling behind 3-0 after the third inning, the Cowboys battled their way back, led by Benge whose 4-for-5 day at the plate featured the fourth cycle by an OSU player since 1997. The third baseman doubled in his first trip to the plate in the first inning, and then homered to left in the top of the fourth, putting Oklahoma State on the board.

His only out of the game came in the sixth inning, when he grounded out to third, but he bounced back with a single in the seventh and secured the cycle with a game-tying triple to right. Benge was primed to be the hero of the game for the three-seeded Cowboys. . . until Missouri State shortstop Jeremy Eierman stole the show.

In the bottom of the ninth, with two outs and one runner on, Eierman took a 2-1 pitch from OSU righty Trey Cobb—who had previously struck out six batters in 2.2 innings of relief work—and launched it over the right field fence to help the Bears claw their way into the winner’s bracket on Saturday.

Eierman’s heroics allowed Missouri state to overcome a 13-hit performance by OSU, including Benge’s cycle as well as a three-hit game from right fielder Jon Littell. In addition to the walk-off homer, Eierman walked, stole second and scored in the third inning and hit a solo home run to left in the bottom of the fifth.

There must be something about Baum Stadium that Eierman likes, as he went 5-for-5 with two home runs in an 8-2 victory back on May 17, 2016—his only other game played at the field in his Missouri State career.

Strike Three: Tar Heels Terrorized

On Selection Monday, as Davidson coach Dick Cooke anxiously waited to see where his team would be sent for the first regional in program history, he ran into a former player.

That player was texting with other former Wildcats, from all around the country. Plans were being made to watch Davidson’s first regional foray. Not only players, but people around the community. Cooke answered calls on his office phone from fans he didn’t know, asking if he could help them find tickets.

“That happens at a lot of places,” Cooke said. “I think the uniqueness of the fact that we haven’t done this 44 years in a row obviously makes it a little more special in this kind of game tonight.”

Special indeed.

Davidson upset No. 2 national seed North Carolina at Boshamer Stadium, claiming the first NCAA Tournament victory in the program’s 115-year history.

“Biggest win in our program history, no question,” Cooke said. “Probably the biggest win of my coaching career.”

Read the full story from Chapel Hill here.

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