2017 Super Regional Roundup

Strike One: McKay, Ellis Deliver Cards To CWS

In one afternoon, with their ace on the mound against an in-state rival, the disappointment of losing in consecutive super regionals was washed away.

Brendan McKay—who could be top pick in the draft Monday—pitched into the seventh inning in his final game at Jim Patterson Stadium, and Drew Ellis homered twice as Louisville beat Kentucky, 6-2, to reach the College World Series for the first time since 2014.

It is the Cardinals’ third trip to Omaha in the past five years, but heartbreak losses at home in the super regionals the past two years clearly bothered players and coach Dan McDonnell.

“We met less than 24 hours after last year’s loss in the super regionals, and I challenged these guys to get after it last summer,” McDonnell said. “No self-pity, nobody’s going to feel sorry for us, except maybe your family members and friends.”

Ellis got Louisville off quick with a homer in the second inning, then hit another one in the sixth as the Cardinals opened up the lead. The No. 66 player on the BA 500 was 4-for-8 with three homers and six RBIs in the super regional.

But the spotlight was on McKay, the junior two-way star who could be picked No. 1 overall by the Twins on Monday night. The lefthander struck out nine in 6.2 innings, allowing two runs on eight hits to improve to 10-3, 2.34. BA’s College Player of the Year set the program’s single-season record with 140 strikeouts.

McKay admitted he thought about his final game at Patterson and what comes next.

“Too many emotions to think of,” McKay said—with his typical stoic demeanor—when asked what he felt taking the mound Saturday. “It’s the last time you’re going to pitch on that mound again, and it’s a great feeling to know you’ve had a lot of success.”

But he, like his teammates, had Omaha on the brain.

“(The CWS) means everything,” McKay said. “We have three different pictures of fields of Omaha (in Louisville’s locker room), and you wan to put your own picture there. Just seeing it, you want to get there, and you do whatever it takes. You push your body to its limits every year, pushing towards that goal.”

This year’s team, unlike 2015 and 2016, got there. Louisville will open College World Series play vs. Texas A&M next weekend.

“This group ran toward the war,” McDonnell said. (But) we didn’t come here for some of it,” he said, at which point Ellis and McKay finished McDonnell’s sentence: “We came for all of it.”

Strike Two: Gators Weather Storm

The game was billed as the Gators’ pitching against Wake Forest’s booming bats—but the thunder came from above. In a game delayed nearly four hours because of rain and lightning, Florida emerged with a 2-1 win on Ryan Larson’s bases-loaded single in the bottom of the 11th.

It was the Gators’ first walk-off win of the year, and left them one win away from a third straight trip to Omaha.

“Not an easy game, but we did just enough to win. Wake Forest has got a heck of a ball club and tomorrow’s not going to be easy,” Gators coach Kevin O’Sullivan told reporters in Gainesville.

Three Florida pitchers combined to strike out 23, including six over three innings by closer Michael Byrne (4-4, 1.62), who gave up a game-tying homer to Ben Breazeale to start the ninth. Junior righthander Alex Faedo, the No. 10 player on the BA 500, struck out nine in four innings before the rain, and Brady Singer, making his first relief appearance this season, struck out eight.

Faedo threw 72 pitches in four innings. If there is a Game 3 Monday, Faedo is available, O’Sullivan said.

The hit and the win were especially important to Larson, who played his first game in two weeks since getting hit in the head with a pitch in the Southeastern Conference Tournament.

Jonathan India started the rally in the 11th with a walk and took second on a wild pitch from Griffin Roberts. J.J. Schwarz and Nelson Maldonado were both hit by pitches to load the bases with one out. Wake Forest reliever Colin Peluse took over and struck out out pinch-hitter Mark Kolozsvary, but then Larson hit the second pitch back through the middle to end it.

“I was watching those pitches on Mark and it looked like it had some ride to it, and walking up there I remember we were watching a game in the locker room a few days ago and Sully spit out some stat (that) 74 percent of game-winning hits are up the middle or something like that,” Larson said. “So I just decided to stay up the middle of the field.”

Strike Three: Beavers Knock out Wright, Punch Ticket

Game Two of the Corvallis Super Regional was expected to pit Kyle Wright, No. 2 on the BA 500, against Drew Rasmussen, No. 56 on that list.

Instead, the Beavers pitched Bryce Fehmel, who was the Saturday starter much of the season until Rasmussen returned. But with Rasmussen hurting—the Portland Tribune reported he is dealing with soreness from a hematoma in his pitching arm after being hit by a line drive against Abilene Christian—Oregon State turned to Fehmel.

And while Wright, projected as potentially the top pick in Monday’s draft, struggled, Fehmel excelled. The righthander helped lead Oregon State to a 9-2 victory to advance to the CWS for the first time since 2013. Oregon State, the No. 1 national seed, has won 21 games in a row and will go to Omaha with a stunning 54-4 record.

Fehmel had pitched just once since going to the bullpen after his last start on May 6, but he was not rusty. The sophomore righty struck out 10 in a complete-game five-hitter. K.J. Harrison hit a three-run homer off Wright and Fehmel cruised, throwing 77 of 104 pitches for strikes.


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