2023 College Baseball Conference Tournament Roundup (May 27)

Image credit: Jacob Walsh (Courtesy Oregon)

Here’s a look at what happened in college baseball conference tournaments on Saturday.

ACC

Miami downed top-ranked Wake Forest, 7-2, to advance to Sunday’s ACC Championship game behind a 3-for-4, two-home run day from star third baseman Yohandy Morales and a strong performance on the mound by Alejandro Rosario, who did not allow an earned run in his 4.2 innings pitched. Morales got the scoring started for the Hurricanes with a two-run single in the third inning, and after Wake made it a 2-1 game in the bottom half of the inning, which is where the score stood until the sixth inning, Morales walloped a solo home run to the opposite field. Miami extended its lead to 6-2 following a three-run seventh inning. Morales in the ninth inning put the exclamation point on an outstanding day for the Hurricanes with an inside-the-park home run.

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While not much changed for Wake Forest with the loss, the Hurricanes today can thrust themselves into the top-eight seed discussion with a conference championship.

Clemson continued its near-perfect play with a resounding 10-4 victory over North Carolina. The Tigers scored five runs in the first inning thanks to a Caden Grice two-run double, a two-run home run by red-hot Billy Amick (which banged off the bull beyond the Blue Monster) and a solo blast by Blake Wright.ย 

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Five runs was all Clemson would need as it cruised the rest of the way. Amick and 2023 ACC Freshman of the Year Cam Cannarella each laced two-run triples to give the Tigers some insurance. Grice turned in yet another strong start on the mound, allowing three earned runs across seven innings pitched with nine strikeouts.ย 

With its nice run in the conference tournament, North Carolina has cemented itself as a likely two-seed in the Field of 64. Clemson will be a top-eight national seed regardless of Sunday’s result, but winning its first ACC Championship since 2016 would be the cherry on top of what has been an unbelievable last two months.ย 

Atlantic 10

George Mason punched its ticket to the tournament with two wins over St. Louis. The Patriots won the first game, 4-1, before taking down the Billikens 6-2 in game two. George Mason trailed 2-1 in the sixth inning of the second game, but took advantage of some shoddy defense to take a 3-2 lead. Owen Stewart was excellent out of the bullpen with five shutout innings to close the game. It is George Mason’s first Atlantic 10 title and NCAA Tournament appearance since 2014.ย 

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Big 12

TCU advanced to the Big 12 championship by doubling up Kansas State, 6-3. The Wildcats led 3-1 in the fifth inning following a Raphael Pelletier solo home run and aย Nick Goodwin two-run single, but the Horned Frogs quickly tied the game at three after a Kurtis Byrne solo shot and an Austin Davisย sacrifice fly. TCU manufactured its next three runs thanks to an Anthony Silvaย RBI groundout and a chaotic eighth inning safety squeeze by Tre Richardson that resulted in two runs coming across to score.ย 

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The Horned Frogs are safely in the tournament field, but it will be an anxiety-filled Selection Monday for the Wildcats who are as bubbly a team as anyone.

Oklahoma State needed to beat Texas Tech twice in order to punch its ticket to the conference championship game, and it did just that. The first game came and went without much fanfare as the Cowboys cruised to an 8-1 win. They led 6-0 by the end of the third inning, while Brennan Phillips and Bayden Root held the Red Raiders’ lineup in check.

The second game was the exact opposite. After Texas Tech built a 5-0 lead thanks to a five-run fifth inning, Oklahoma State was looking like it would fall just short of an impressive two-win day. However, in the eighth inning the Cowboys exploded for five runs to tie the game. Beau Sylvester got the scoring started with a two-run home run and David Mendham cut the lead to 5-3 after he scored on a wild pitch. Redshirt freshman Carson Benge delivered the game-tying hit in the form of a two-run single to right field.

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With the score tied at five and Texas Tech threatening with runners on first and second in the ninth inning, freshman RHP Gabe Davis got two enormous strikeouts to wiggle out of trouble. After a strikeout to begin the inning, Aidan Meola came through with the second biggest hit of his college career, only behind his game-winning two-run single last June against Arkansas. Meola got a 94 mph fastball that rode right into his barrel and he destroyed it into the second deck in left field for a walkoff home run.ย 

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Oklahoma State has likely secured a host spot and while it was a tough day for the Red Raiders, they are comfortably in the Field of 64.ย 

Big East

The Big East champion was decided in a winner-take-all game after UConn beat Xavier 6-4 earlier in the afternoon. The Huskies led 3-2 in the ninth inning and looked to be on their way to their first conference tournament championship, but Xavier exploded for five runs in the inning to take the lead for good. Veteran and “Mr. Xavier” Jack Housinger capped off a 3-for-4 day with a game-winning two-run triple to put the Musketeers up 4-3, and Jared Cushingย grounded an RBI single up the middle to complete the scoring and extend the Xavier lead to 7-3.

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Justin Loer retired the Huskies in order in the bottom of the ninth to clinch Xavier’s first tournament berth since 2017.

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Big South

After dropping its first series of the season last weekend to South Carolina-Upstate, Campbell avenged its rough weekend in the best way possible as it defeated the Spartans 3-2 to win its third straight Big South Championship. Campbell trailed 2-1 in the eighth inning, but conference player of the year Lawson Harrill and catcher Grant Knipp crushed back-to-back home runs to put the Camels up 3-2. Aaron Rund was spectacular in relief with five shutout innings. With an overall record of 44-13 (22-5), a top-15 RPI and 17 wins against RPI top-100 teams, the Camels have a compelling case to host a regional.ย 

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Horizon League

Wright State was in a difficult spot heading into Saturday as it needed to defeat Oakland twice in order to win the Horizon League title. However, the Raiders did just that. They won the first game in thrilling fashion, as Andrew Patrick hit a go-ahead home run in the top of the ninth inning to lift Wright State to a 9-8 victory.

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It was all Raiders in the second game as they cruised to a 14-0 win that was headlined by a 3-for-4, six-RBI performance from Patrick and seven shutout innings on the mound from Tristan Haught. It is Wright State’s third consecutive Horizon League championship.

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Metro Atlantic

Rider thumped top-seeded Fairfield 18-4 to win its first MAAC Championship since 2010. Scott Shaw had a monster day at the plate, going 4-for-6 with three home runs and six RBIs, while John Volpe went 2-for-5 with a double and four RBIs. Righthander Alec Sachais was great out of the bullpen, allowing just one earned run across his four innings pitched.ย 

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Mid-American Conference

In what was the most thrilling game of the day, Ball State defeated Kent State 12-9 to win its first MAC championship since 2006 and its first-ever MAC tournament. The Golden Flashes scored seven runs between the seventh and eighth innings to take a 9-8 lead into the ninth and were in a strong spot to finish off the Cardinals. However, with his team down to its last out and the bases loaded, senior shortstop Adam Tellier belted a go-ahead grand slam.ย 

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Kent State would load the bases with two outs in the bottom half of the inning, but Jacob Hartlaub struck out Justin Miknis to seal the win.ย 

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While it is usually quite difficult for a mid-major conference to earn an at-large bid, Kent State has an intriguing resume. It was the regular season conference champion, it has 40 wins and its RPI is inside the top 50 at 47.ย 

Missouri Valley

Indiana State needed to beat Evansville just once to win the conference title and it was in great shape to do so in game one of the day, but Chase Hug had other ideas. With the Aces down to their last out, the first baseman slugged a walkoff grand slam.ย 

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The second game was tightly contested as Indiana State led by a slim 2-0 margin in the ninth inning, but it scored four enormous insurance runs to stretch its lead to 6-0 and close out the win. Simon Gregersen (4.1 IP, six strikeouts) and Cam Edmonson (4.2 IP, eight strikeouts) combined to shut out the Aces.

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The 2023 season has been an historic year for Indiana State, and with a 42-15 record, a conference championship and an RPI of 9, it is in the best shape it has ever been to host a regional.

Ohio Valley Conference

Eastern Illinois got off to a roaring start with five runs in the first inning, but Morehead State scored five unanswered runs to tie the game. The score remained deadlocked from the third inning to the seventh until Lucas DiLuca delivered the game-winning RBI groundout. The Panthers’ bullpen was magnificent, as it combined for 6.2 shutout innings pitched. It is Eastern Illinois’ first OVC championship and regional appearance since 2008.ย 

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Pac-12

In the Pac-12 championship game, Oregon defeated Arizona 5-4 in what was an excellent, back-and-forth game. The Wildcats tied the game at four in the sixth inning after a Kiko Romero inside-the-park home run, but Oregon took the lead right back in the bottom half of the inning thanks to a towering solo blast off the bat of first baseman Jacob Walsh.ย 

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Tanner Smith provided some much-needed insurance with an RBI single to extend the Oregon lead to 5-3, and while a Tony Bullardย home run in the eighth inning cut the Oregon lead in half, the Ducks were able to hang on and win their first Pac-12 Championship since 1957.ย 

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Arizona finished the season playing as well as anyone and is on the cusp of an at-large berth, but it will be an incredibly nerve-racking Monday morning for the Wildcats.

SEC

Texas A&M was able to avenge its earlier tournament loss to Arkansas and defeated the Razorbacks 5-4 to advance to the SEC Championship. Trevor Werner got the scoring started for the Aggies with an RBI double in the third inning. It would remain a one-run game until the sixth inning, when Texas A&M would add three runs thanks to a pair of bases-loaded walks and an Austin Bost RBI double. The Razorbacks cut the Aggies’ lead to 5-4 in the ninth inning and had runners on first and second with one out, but Troy Wansing struck out Jace Bohrofen and Jared Wegner to close the game. It was a hard-fought loss for Arkansas, but it has been locked into a top-eight national seed for some time. As for Texas A&M, its recent run has it in two-seed territory.ย 

In the second semifinal, Vanderbilt took care of Florida, 11-6. The Commodores mounted a 10-1 lead by the end of the third inning thanks to a pair of four-run innings. This result of this one was never in doubt as Vanderbilt was in control all game. Alan Espinal went 3-for-4 with a double and a home run to lead the offense, while Nick Maldonadoย slammed the door with two perfect innings. Similar to Arkansas, Florida is locked into a top-eight national seed, but an SEC Championship would have put it on the cusp of earning the No. 1 overall seed.ย 

Vanderbilt and Texas A&M face off this afternoon for the SEC Championship. Vanderbilt is seeking its first SEC title since 2019, while the Aggies have not won one since 2016.

SoCon

It was a whirlwind of a day for Samford, who in the morning beat UNC-Greensboro to advance to the championship round against Wofford, who they would need to beat twice in order to win the conference championship. The Bulldogs took care of business, beating the Terriers 7-2 to force a winner-take-all title game. Samford kept on rolling, as it finished off its remarkable run with a 5-2 win in the championship game. It is Samford’s second conference championship in three years, and it will be a tough out in the NCAA Tournament.ย 

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Southland Conference

Top-seeded Nicholls took down New Orleans 6-3 to advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998. Kaden Amundson went 2-for-3 with two RBIs and a double, while Garrett Felix went 1-for-2 with two RBIs and a double to pace the Nicholls offense. Nico Saltaformaggio turned in a strong outing in relief, allowing one earned run across three innings pitched.ย 

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Summit League

Oral Roberts finished off its dominant run through the Summit League with a 12-4 win over South Dakota State to take home its second straight conference championship. Six different Golden Eagles had multi-hit performances, while Summit League pitcher of the year Cade Denton struck out seven of the 10 batters he faced to seal the victory. Oral Roberts enters the tournament with an impressive overall record of 46-11.

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West Coast Conference

Santa Clara shut out Portland 6-0 to capture its first conference championship since 1997. Brandon Gomez was superb in his start, tossing eight shutout innings with six strikeouts against only one walk.ย 

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Western Athletic Conference

Sam Houston State on Saturday scored a whopping 33 runs across its two wins against Utah Valley. The Bearkats won the first game of the day, 12-10, to force a winner-take-all championship game in which they dominated the Wolverines 21-1. It was a balanced attack for SHSU, who had eight different members of its lineup record at least one hit, with seven different hitters driving in at least one run. It is Sam Houston State’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2017 and its first conference championship as a member of the WAC.ย 

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