Image credit: Michigan lefthander Tommy Henry (Photo by Tomas DeRosa)
Sunday will have a tough time topping Saturday, but here’s to hoping it does.
To recap last night’s action: Kumar Rocker threw a 19-strikeout no-hitter, UCLA held off Michigan in extras, Oklahoma State battled to keep its season alive, Louisville advanced to Omaha emphatically, and four other teams are now a win away from the College World Series.
Below are the scores and start times for today, followed by Joe Healy’s analysis.
|11:30 a.m. ET
|(1) North Carolina
|1-1 (Series Tied)
|3 p.m. ET
|(1) Ole Miss
|1-1 (Series Tied)
|3 p.m. ET
|6 p.m. ET
|(3) Florida State
|6 p.m. ET
|(1) Oklahoma State
|(1) Texas Tech
|9 p.m. ET
|9 p.m. ET
|(1) Mississippi State
— Riding a wave of momentum after righthander Kumar Rocker’s no-hitter on Saturday, Vanderbilt came back out on Sunday, hit the ground running and slugged its way to a 13-2 win to clinch its spot in Omaha. Third baseman Austin Martin set the tone in the first at-bat of the game, ripping a solo shot on the way to a four-run first for the Commodores that also featured a three-run homer by Pat DeMarco. In the second inning, Martin did it again, this time a two-run homer, and Vandy was well on its way. Fully, it scored runs in each of the first five innings of the contest, which prevented Duke from ever really getting back in the game. The only thing that could really slow the Commodores down was weather, as lighting in Nashville kept both teams off the field for several hours. It only served to delay the inevitable, however, as this supremely talented Vanderbilt team will end its season at the College World Series.
— With a roller coaster, 8-6, win over Oklahoma State, Texas Tech won a hotly contested Lubbock Super Regional in three games, securing a trip to the CWS. The wind was blowing out, and that made Sunday’s finale feel as much like an organized home run derby as anything else. The teams combined for seven home runs, four of those belonging to Texas Tech, and the Red Raiders certainly had the most clutch examples. After Oklahoma State took a 6-4 lead in the top of the eighth inning, thanks in large part to a Colin Simpson, you guessed it, home run, Texas Tech answered back in the bottom half. Shortstop Josh Jung got things started with a solo home run, his second round-tripper of the game, and with two men on later in the inning, left fielder Kurt Wilson put one over the wall to give the Red Raiders their eventual winning margin. It’s amazing how far this Texas Tech program has come in a short time. It hadn’t been to the College World Series at all until 2014, and now, it has been in four of the last six years.
— Mike Martin is headed to the College World Series in his 40th and final season at the helm of Florida State, not more than six weeks after it looked like the Seminoles might not be in the postseason at all. FSU punched its ticket to Omaha with a 5-4 win over Louisiana State in 12 innings. Up 4-2 heading to the eighth inning, LSU scored two runs to tie it up, and then the zeroes came. FSU lefthander Antonio Velez did an outstanding job of cleaning things up in the eighth and then throwing four more scoreless frames. On the other side, LSU righty Devin Fontenot was even better. He came on in the sixth inning and was still on the mound in the bottom of the 12th. At that point, he’d not yet given up a hit, but that would change. With one out, shortstop Mike Salvatore ripped a solid single up the middle, the first time a Florida State hitter had really squared up Fontenot. Then, in an at-bat that would end in a strikeout of Reese Albert, LSU catcher Saul Garza had a pitch tip off his glove and go to the backstop to move Salvatore to second. After getting Albert swinging, and with first base available to put on FSU third baseman Drew Mendoza, it still seemed like Fontenot had things under control. But rather than walking him or at least working around him, LSU went after him. In a 2-2 count, Mendoza lined a hit into right-center, bringing Salvatore around and sending Florida State into a mad scramble of a celebration. What a story this postseason run for Florida State has been.
— If Florida State’s magical run to Omaha wasn’t enough, Michigan has provided another surprise entrant into the College World Series field. The Wolverines upset No. 1 overall seed UCLA to win the Los Angeles Regional, finishing the job with a 4-2 victory on Sunday. Michigan becomes the first team to win a series this season against UCLA and advances to Omaha for the first time since 1984, when future Hall of Famer Barry Larkin was manning shortstop for the Wolverines. Lefthander Tommy Henry missed Friday’s opener due to illness but delivered a quality start Sunday to beat UCLA for the second time this season (he beat the Bruins in the Dodger Stadium Classic in March), and Benjamin Keizer threw two scoreless innings to finish off the game, getting freshman Matt McLain, a 2018 first-round pick, to end it with the tying run on second base. Outfielder Christian Bullock led the Wolverines’ offense, going 2-for-3 with two runs, a double and a triple.
— Mississippi State was the final team on Sunday to punch its ticket to Omaha. The Bulldogs defeated Stanford, 8-1, to complete a sweep of the Starkville Super Regional and reach the CWS for the second consecutive season. Mississippi State righthander Peyton Plumlee gave up a leadoff homer to Kyle Stowers but didn’t allow another hit until the seventh inning. Catcher Dustin Skelton delivered a three-run triple for the Bulldogs, providing the offense they needed to beat big Stanford lefthander Erik Miller.
Moving to Monday
— North Carolina turned the pressure up on Auburn lefty Bailey Horn in the first inning of Sunday’s Game 2. Three of the first four UNC batters reached, with the fourth at-bat ended in a two-RBI single by third baseman Ike Freeman. It looked like it was going to be an offensive day for the Tar Heels that might end in a blowout score, but that was not meant to be in what ended up a 2-0 North Carolina win. Including leaving the bases loaded in that first inning, Auburn spent much of the day leaving Tar Heels runners on base, 14 of them by the end of the game, to be exact, and UNC pitching never let the Tigers’ offense get in a groove. Righthander Austin Bergner threw the first 4.1 innings. He was far from perfect, as he allowed four hits and walked four batters, but he kept Auburn off the scoreboard. Righty Austin Love, however, was outstanding in allowing just two hits and no walks on the way to closing the game out with 4.2 scoreless innings. These two teams will meet Monday for a spot in Omaha in what you should expect to be all-hands-on-deck-type game from the respective pitching staffs.
— Mississippi fell behind Arkansas 2-0 in the first inning, but it didn’t take the Rebels long to get up off the mat, get its own offense going and eventually run away from the Razorbacks in a 13-5 win. Ole Miss scored three runs in the bottom half of the first on a three-run homer by first baseman Cole Zabowski to immediately take the lead back, and then they added five more in the second, including three on a bases-clearing double off the bat of third baseman Tyler Keenan. And just when Arkansas gained some momentum and some belief and pulled it to within three at 8-5, Ole Miss struck again for three in the sixth and two in the seventh to put things out of reach. On the mound, lefty Doug Nikhazy made it just five innings, having allowed ten hits and five runs, but righthander Houston Roth picked him up, throwing four scoreless to close the game out and send this series to a third and deciding game on Monday.