Florida State, Virginia, North Carolina Clinch College World Series Berths, Highlighting Saturday’s NCAA Tournament Super Regional Action


Image credit: James Tibbs III (Brian Westerholt/Four Seam Images)

The busiest day of the super regional weekend delivered plenty of action from around the country, including the first teams advancing to the College World Series.

Here are 10 takeaways from Saturday’s action.

1. The first three tickets to Omaha were punched Saturday and they all went to ACC teams. Florida State, Virginia and North Carolina all swept into the College World Series and will be grouped together in one Omaha bracket.

It was a big day for the conference, which has not sent more than two teams to the CWS since 2008. Now, on one day, it blew past that total. The conference still has two more teams playing, as well. NC State is one win away from reaching the CWS, while Clemson must beat Florida twice to advance.

No matter what happens Sunday (and maybe Monday), this has already been a successful super regionals round for the ACC. The Seminoles, Cavaliers and Tar Heels on Saturday saw to that.

2. Florida State became the first team to secure its CWS berth, beating UConn, 10-8, in 12 innings. After the Seminoles thumped the Huskies, 24-4, on Friday, they had to work a lot harder for Saturday’s series clincher. UConn scored six runs (five earned) off ace Jamie Arnold, matching the most runs any team had scored against him this season. The Huskies fought back all game long, including a pinch-hit, game-tying home run in the ninth from Matt Malcom.

But, in the end, Florida State proved to be up to the challenge – thanks in large part to James Tibbs III. The ACC player of the year had had a quiet postseason before Saturday. He went 0-for-9 in regionals, though he drew six walks, and in Friday’s offensive onslaught, he went 2-for-5 with a pair of singles. On Saturday, however, he broke out in a big way. He went 5-for-6 and hit three two-run home runs, including the 12th-inning blast that proved to be the game-winner.

Florida State (47-15) is now headed back to Omaha for the first time since 2019 and the first time under second-year coach Link Jarrett. It’s been a special year for the Seminoles, who have more than doubled their win total from a season ago when they went 23-31. They’ve endured some tough injuries, especially on the mound, and seen some dramatic growth of players around the diamond.

Florida State has also done it following the death of legendary former coach Mike Martin, just two weeks before Opening Day. Martin’s final season as head coach was the last time the Seminoles played in Omaha. Now, they’re going back.

3. Virginia clinched the Charlottesville Super Regional with a 10-4 victory against Kansas State. The game was closer than the final score, as it was just a one-run advantage for the Cavaliers going into the ninth inning when they plated five runs.

Virginia again got strong pitching, something that had been a bugaboo for the team much of the season. Righthander Jay Woolfolk, fresh off a career outing in the final game of the Charlottesville Regional, delivered a quality start. Lefthander Chase Hungate retired the final six batters of the game to close it out.

The Cavaliers are going to the CWS for the third time in four seasons. It’s an impressive run for the program, especially considering how much talent Virginia lost from last year’s team. But the Cavaliers haven’t missed a beat and now roll into Omaha playing arguably their best baseball of the year.

4. North Carolina again played a dramatic postseason game at Boshamer Stadium. And the Tar Heels again found a way to win.

UNC defeated West Virginia, 2-1, to clinch the Chapel Hill Super Regional. It took an early lead, scratching out two runs in the first three innings, and got outstanding pitching from Jason DeCaro (6.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 5 K) and Dalton Pence (2.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 6 K) to hold off the Mountaineers’ comeback attempt.

UNC is now headed to Omaha for the first time since 2018 and the first time under fourth-year coach Scott Forbes. It’s had an incredible postseason, winning five thrilling games at Boshamer Stadium, where it is 37-3 this season. It’s also probably been tested more than any host that will make it to Omaha, having to beat LSU and West Virginia. Will that experience be worth anything in the CWS? It’s hard to say, but no one can say the Tar Heels haven’t earned their way into the main event.

5. Evansville stunned Tennessee, taking down the No. 1 overall seed, 10-8. That evened the Knoxville Super Regional and set up a winner-take-all Game 3 on Sunday.

The Volunteers opened the game with three solo home runs in the first inning and led 4-0 after two innings. With that kind of start to the game and righthander Drew Beam, their steadiest pitcher, on the mound, it looked like they were going to roll to a sweep.

But no one told Evansville that midnight was supposed to strike Saturday on Cinderella. The Purple Aces scored three in the fourth and three more in the fifth to take the lead. They really opened things up with a four-run sixth to lead 10-5.

Things got hairy in the ninth and Evansville had to bring on closer Shane Harris to finish the game. He got the job done, finishing the game by getting Christian Moore to fly out with the bases loaded. Evansville calling on Harris may prove significant on Sunday, as he’s now thrown 68 pitches over 3.1 innings the last two days. He has not pitched on three straight days this season, though he did throw 110 pitches over four days last weekend in Greenville.

Regardless, Evansville did what it had to do in a must-win situation. And it made history in the process, becoming the first team seeded No. 4 in a regional to beat the No. 1 overall seed in the super-regional era (since 1999). Previously, No. 4 seeds were 0-30 when facing the No. 1 team in the tournament.

Can Evansville spring another upset on Sunday? It’ll be another tall order, but the Purple Aces are playing with plenty of confidence. Tennessee has also shown some of its best arms already. There will be a lot riding on senior lefthander Zander Sechrist (3-1, 3.60), who will start the rubber game.

6. The worst news of the day came from College Station, where Texas A&M outfielder Braden Montgomery suffered a season-ending injury in the first inning against Oregon. Montgomery was trying to score from second base and awkwardly lost his footing. After the A&M medical team treated him, he was helped off the field with his right ankle in an air cast.

After the game – which A&M won, 10-6, coach Jim Schlossnagle said Montgomery will be out for the season. That means the Aggies will be without their three-hole hitter and one of the best players in the country. Montgomery hit .322/.452/.733 with 27 home runs this season.

The Aggies have a strong lineup, but it’s going to be different without Montgomery, an All-American and a projected top-10 pick next month.

7. The most surprising result of the day was probably NC State walloping Georgia, 18-1. The Wolfpack scored 11 runs in the second inning and never looked back.

The offense was great for NC State – you don’t score 18 runs without looking good offensively. But what stood out the most to me was the way the Wolfpack pitched. Sam Highfill (6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 2 K) and Andrew Shaffner (3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K) combined to all but silence a powerful Georgia lineup.

NC State is now 4-0 in the NCAA Tournament and has held its opponents to 10 runs. If the Wolfpack can keep that level of pitching up (and they haven’t consistently pitched at that level much of the year), they have more than enough offense to be very dangerous, as Georgia found out Saturday.

8. Kentucky made a statement in its first ever home super regionals game, beating Oregon State, 10-0, in front of a crowd of 7,441 fans at Kentucky Proud Park.

The Wildcats were excellent on the mound. Trey Pooser (7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 8 K) and Jackson Nove (2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K) combined to silence the Beavers. It was the first time they were shut out this season and the first time they were held to one hit since last March.

The Wildcats broke the game open with a seven-run seventh inning, but the story was really what they did on the mound. Oregon State got a leadoff hit in the second inning from Elijah Hainline. That proved it be it, however. The Beavers did threaten in the fifth inning, loading the bases with one out on a hit batter, an error and a walk. But Pooser worked out of the jam and Oregon State couldn’t string anything together the rest of the night.

Kentucky is now one win away from its first trip to the College World Series in program history.

9. Florida beat Clemson, 10-7, to open the Clemson Super Regional. The Gators fell behind early before dealing the Tigers some of their own medicine and coming back for the win.

Florida’s comeback was spurred by a seven-run fifth inning that saw it send 11 batters to the plate and included a massive opposite-field home run by Jac Caglianone. Righthander Brandon Neely, who has found a role as the team’s bullpen ace, made sure the comeback stuck, as he threw four scoreless innings to finish the game.

Neely has been one of the biggest reasons Florida has gotten to this point, where it is one win away from a trip to Omaha. He last week threw eight scoreless innings over two games in the Stillwater Regional, helping Florida beat Nebraska and Oklahoma State. He also held Georgia to one run in 4.2 innings to give Florida time to come back in a must-win game on the final weekend of the regular season.

While it’s been an up-and-down season for Neely, as he bounced between the bullpen and the rotation, he’s pitching his best down the stretch. That sounds a bit like Florida overall and now the Gators are one win away from another CWS appearance.

10. The losses Saturday by Kansas State and West Virginia mean there will be no Big 12 teams in the CWS for the first time since 2013. It was a strange year for the conference, which for the last few months seemed to lack contenders on a national level.

It’s a quiet end to this era for the conference, which is undergoing some big changes. This year it welcomed BYU, UCF, Cincinnati and Houston to the fold. Next year it will say goodbye to Oklahoma and Texas, while welcoming in Arizona, Arizona State and Utah.

Is this a one-year blip or does it represent a shift in the conference’s fortune? There’s uncertainty about the future without Oklahoma and Texas, which are the only two Big 12 teams to play for the national championship in the 21st century. And Texas has made more CWS trips than any team in the country. Losing the Longhorns means losing one of the most consistently good teams in the sport.

But it’s not all doom and gloom for the Big 12. K-State and West Virginia broke through to super regionals, an important step for both programs. The new Big 12 has six programs that have won a regional in the last five NCAA Tournaments. That, along with the upward momentum of programs like UCF, Cincinnati and Kansas, gives reason for optimism.

Will the new Big 12 produce an Omaha team annually for the next decade? Probably not. The balance of power seems to be consolidating too tightly in the ACC and SEC. But the Big 12 is going to be a serious factor on the national stage more often than not.  

Download our app

Read the newest magazine issue right on your phone