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How The Eight College World Series Teams Advanced To Omaha



The path to Omaha is a fraught one, filled with twists and turns. One missed tag, bad pitch or costly groundball and your team could be watching the rest of the tournament from home.

We’re down to the final eight teams and almost all of them have survived elimination games or mounted comebacks to avoid slipping into the losers’ bracket. To get you caught up on all that happened, here’s a look at those twists and turns on a game-by-game level by utilizing win probability to measure the ebbs and flows of a baseball game.

An important caveat before we dig into these numbers: Ideally, the win probabilities in this would be based on college baseball. Because of a general lack of play-by-play data even just a few years back, generating a table of wins for every situation simply isn’t feasible. Instead, we’ll be relying on Major League Baseball values. Of course, it’s not a direct comparison and there are far more blowouts and lopsided victories (as well as inflated run totals) in college baseball, but it still does a great job of painting a picture of a game.

Anyway, on to the charts!

Texas

The Longhorns weren’t truly challenged until super regionals, having made quick work of Air Force and Louisiana Tech. The second game—against the Bulldogs—was knotted up at one apiece through six-and-a-half innings. Texas quickly took control, though, with a three-run seventh inning that featured a trio of RBIs from Ivan Melendez, Murphy Stehly and Skyler Messinger.

A three-game set with East Carolina followed and the Pirates came out swinging. East Carolina led 7-2 heading into the sixth, only to let Texas back into the game. The Pirates removed all doubt with a five-run eight inning, though.

The second game—with Texas facing elimination—was a roller coaster ride. As you can tell by the win probability chart, the Longhorns took an early lead before the Pirates answered with a five-run fifth. That lead didn’t last long, with Douglas Hodo III (solo) and Messinger (3-run) launching homers to take an 8-7 lead in the eighth. East Carolina promptly tied it in the top of the ninth on Jacob Starling’s solo home run, but the Longhorns walked it off courtesy of Dylan Campbell.

That comeback from Texas proved to be the final punch in the series. The final game was a lopsided affair, marred by a lengthy rain delay. The Longhorns took a 4-0 lead in the first before the rain came, then only added to it in what was a comfortable 11-1 victory.

Notre Dame

The second time was the charm for Notre Dame, who reached Omaha a year after taking on Mississippi State in Starkville and nearly pulling off the upset. The Irish knocked off the No. 1 seed after a low-scoring trip through the Statesboro regional.

Notre Dame beat Texas Tech twice and host Georgia Southern by a combined score of 11-7, a stark contrast to many other regionals. Any questions about the Irish bats were dispelled in Knoxville, though, as they scored 19 runs in three days and took two of three from the Volunteers.

The first two games of the Tennessee series, while exciting, were pretty lopsided. While Notre Dame’s first win came by just two runs, the Irish built a big early lead (8-1 in the fourth) and saw it out despite a comeback attempt. In the second, the Volunteers channeled their frustrations into an eight-run fifth inning, blowing what had been a narrow game wide open.

Fittingly, the series finale was an up-and-down game, with Tennessee in the driver's seat for much of it. The Vols held a 3-1 edge heading into the final three innings—a spot where they had been unbeatable for the duration of the year—but the Irish scored three runs in both the seventh and eighth to come away with the 7-3 win. David LaManna tied the game with a two-run homer before Jack Brannigan took the lead for good with a solo shot.

Texas A&M

The Aggies went a perfect 5-0, sweeping through two rounds that they hosted both times. Outside of the tournament opening win over Oral Roberts—an 8-2 decision in which they led by just two after six—Texas A&M didn’t necessarily enjoy the smoothest ride. It won every game, but fans of the program were subjected to a roller coaster of ups and downs.

It started in the winner’s bracket against Louisiana. The Aggies struck for four runs in the first frame but watched it dissipate over the next three innings, with the Ragin’ Cajuns taking a 6-4 lead through three. Texas A&M was held off the board until the seventh, where it erupted for five unanswered runs to escape with the 9-6 victory. The regional final against TCU only brought more chaos.

The Aggies trailed, 3-0, heading into the final four frames. They put up seven runs in the next two innings, landing what seemed like a final punch against TCU. The Horned Frogs promptly answered back with a four-run, game-tying bottom of the seventh. When Texas A&M took a slim lead in the top of the eighth, TCU struck for two more to take it right back. The Aggies finally put it out of reach in the ninth, slamming the door with a seven-run frame.

The supers were more of the same, albeit lower scoring. Louisville’s potent offense was largely held in check—at least in the runs column—but the Aggies were never truly comfortable. In the first game, the Cardinals took a 4-2 lead through six, only to watch Texas A&M tie it in the seventh on Jordan Thompson’s two-run home run. The Aggies promptly walked it off two innings later with a Troy Claunch single. In the second game, the teams traded blows before Louisville took a 3-2 edge in the fifth. That didn’t last long, with Ryan Targac tying it in the sixth on one swing of the bat before Dylan Rock’s sacrifice fly in the seventh proved decisive.

Oklahoma

The Sooners have played the second-most games of any College World Series participant after Florida forced a Game 7 in the regionals and the Virginia Tech series went the distance. After easily dispatching Liberty (by scoring 16 unanswered runs), it essentially turned into back-to-back road series against the Gators and Hokies, and Oklahoma came out on top.

In the first game against Florida, the Sooners bats again erupted, erasing an early 2-0 Gators lead thanks to an 8-1 run. In the second matchup, though, Oklahoma’s bats were largely held in check by Carsten Finnvold and the Gators broke open a tied ball game with five runs in the final three innings. That set the stage for a decisive regional finale and it proved to be a much tighter affair. Florida built a 3-1 lead heading into the eighth and were just six outs away from heading to the next round before Peyton Graham hit a two-run, game-tying home run. RBIs from Wallace Clark and Jackson Nicklaus added enough insurance to overcome a ninth-inning home run from Florida’s Wyatt Langford.

The fourth-seeded Hokies awaited in Blacksburg and the series went three games, but it played to Oklahoma’s strengths. In the opener, the Sooners jumped on Virginia Tech starter Griffin Green and built a 5-0 lead. The Hokies fought back, scoring four unanswered, but Trevin Michael slammed the door with two scoreless relief innings.

Virginia Tech’s offense woke up in the second game, building a 5-0 lead—just like Oklahoma did—and tallying seven runs in the middle innings of an eventual 14-8 win. That set the stage for a rubber match, but it was one ultimately without much drama. The teams were tied, 2-2, through three innings before the Sooners went to work against a Hokies pitching staff that couldn’t find a clean inning. Oklahoma scored nine runs in the final six innings, powered by a 4-for-5 day and three RBIs from Tanner Tredaway.

Stanford

The only team to play eight games thus far has been Stanford, a team that has played five elimination games so far this postseason. The Cardinal have had its backs against the wall, whether it was against UC Santa Barbara, Texas State or Connecticut. To make things even more interesting, all of these games came within the friendly confines of Sunken Diamond.

It started comfortably enough, with a 20-7 rout of Binghamton marked by a 10-run second inning. The next game—against Texas State—set the stage for what would be a plethora of close games. The Bobcats used a three-run fourth inning to pull away for what ultimately a 5-2 win, sending Stanford to the losers' bracket. The Cardinal passed a difficult test against UC Santa Barbara, but it was not without drama—the Gauchos led, 4-3, heading into the sixth inning. A two-run double from Brock Jones flipped the lead into the home team's favor, though, and Stanford saw out an 8-4 win.

The bats kept rolling against Texas State in the nightcap, but the Bobcats made it interesting. Trailing by three in the middle innings, Texas State’s Dalton Shuffield hit a solo home run and Peyton Lewis added an RBI single to make it a one-run game. Stanford pulled away for another 8-4 victory thanks to a two-run shot from Drew Bowser.

The most dramatic game, fittingly, was in the regional-deciding Game 7. Despite it being the fifth game for Stanford in four days, the pitching staff was locked in. The teams traded runs in the second before it went into the ninth inning tied. Texas State finally broke through—Wesley Faison hit a two-run single—and the Cardinal was suddenly three outs away from elimination. Out of nowhere, Drew Bowser and Tommy Troy hit back-to-back home runs to start the ninth inning and tie it up, and three batters later Trevor Haskins sparked a celebration with a pinch-hit, walk-off single.

That set the stage for a super regional against UConn, which had just dispatched Maryland. The Huskies came to play, storming out to a 9-0 lead before surviving an onslaught of eight Stanford home runs in a 13-12 series-opening win. It’s hard to tell on the chart—the Cardinal entered the ninth down seven—but the tiny blip up reflects a six-run ninth that saw home runs from Brock Jones, Braden Montgomery, Bowser and Troy. The last two came with two outs and nobody on, though, and a strikeout ended the game.

The offensive resurgence that Stanford displayed showed up in the next two games, both of which were largely secured by the middle innings. In the second game, the Cardinal piled up eight runs in the first two innings and that was all it needed in an 8-2 win. In the finale, UConn put up more of a fight—the Huskies led, 3-2, through three—but Stanford struck for six runs in the third of a 10-5, Omaha-clinching victory.

Arkansas

You want chaos? You got it. Three of the Razorbacks’ six games were as up and down as they could get, marked by dramatic swings in win probability. The Stillwater Regional was particularly dramatic, whether it was games Arkansas was in or not (see: Missouri State vs. Oklahoma State, Missouri State vs. Grand Canyon).

Like many of these teams, it started well enough. The Razorbacks built an early 5-0 lead and coasted to a 7-1 victory over Grand Canyon. In the winners' bracket against Oklahoma State, however, Arkansas played the first of three tension-filled games. The Razorbacks seemed doomed to suffer their first loss when the Cowboys jumped out to a 7-2 lead and answered an Arkansas rally by establishing a five-run lead through six. That’s when the bats went off—the Razorbacks outscored Oklahoma State, 15-2, over the final four innings in what became a lopsided 20-12 victory.

The rematch—after Oklahoma State erased a 12-0 Missouri State lead in the losers' bracket and won by 14—featured even more twists and turns. In a 10-inning affair that featured an abundance of lead changes, Arkansas erased a two-run deficit in the bottom of the ninth courtesy of a two-run Brady Slavens single. The 10th inning was unkind to the Razorbacks, though, as the Cowboys scored four runs to take a 14-10 victory. That forced a regional final that had the makings of a third dramatic meeting, until it didn’t. Arkansas calmly took care of business, striking for four runs in the fourth and seeing out a 7-3 victory. Oklahoma State got within two in the seventh, but a two-run double from Michael Turner in the ninth helped the Razorbacks get some breathing room.

Chapel Hill awaited and Arkansas took care of business. A pitcher's duel between Connor Noland and North Carolina’s Max Carlson was won by the former, with the Razorbacks striking for three runs off of Carlson in the fifth to claim a 4-1 win. Arkansas was headed for another win in Saturday’s meeting before the Tar Heels rallied and took a 3-2 lead in the top of the ninth. Hopes of extending the series was short-lived for North Carolina, however, as Braydon Webb tied it on a fielder’s choice and Slavens walked it off with an RBI single.

Auburn

It was a regional without drama for Auburn, who swept aside Southeastern Louisiana, Florida State and UCLA. The Tigers had no problem with the Seminoles or Bruins, two teams picked by many to advance out of the Auburn regional. The combined score of the three games was Auburn 51, Opponents 18.

The same couldn’t be said about the matchup with Oregon State in Corvallis. Three tightly contested games—decided by a total of four runs—ended with the Tigers advancing.

Saturday’s opener saw a gutsy effort from the Tigers bullpen. After Trace Bright was tagged for four runs in the first inning—erasing an early 2-0 lead—Auburn relievers John Armstrong, Tommy Sheehan, Carson Skipper and Blake Burkhalter combined to hold the Beavers to a single run the rest of the way. Meanwhile, the Tigers’ lineup went to work and took the lead by the third inning, chasing Jake Pfennigs in the process.

Sunday’s game saw the return of Oregon State’s Cooper Hjerpe, who had been held out of Friday’s game due to sickness, and he turned in a gutsy effort. Hjerpe pitched into the sixth, allowing three runs, and struck out six. The Beavers held a one-run lead when he exited and Ben Ferrer took it the rest of the way, throwing three-plus scoreless innings to force a rubber match.

It was more of the same in the Monday finale. Sonny DiChiara broke a scoreless tie with a two-run home run in the third, gifting the Tigers a lead they would never relinquish despite some stressful moments. Two insurance runs in the sixth proved pivotal when Oregon State’s Justin Boyd hit a two-run home run to make it a one-run game in the seventh. Burkhalter closed it out again, striking out five over two-plus scoreless innings.

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Mississippi

Ole Miss won it late (twice) or just absolutely cruised (three times) in its five games in the NCAA Tournament thus far. For a team that was the final team included in the bracket, the Rebels sure made it look easy at times to punch their ticket to Omaha.

Facing off against Arizona in the regional opener, Ole Miss twice found itself down by a pair of runs but got two-run home runs from Jacob Gonzalez and Tim Elko in the fourth and seventh innings, respectively. The Rebels closed out a 7-4 win with Peyton Chatagnier’s two-run double—plus another run on an error—in the top of the eighth.

The second game, against regional host Miami, saw similar dramatics. Hurricanes’ ace Carson Palmquist and Hunter Elliott dueled before the hosts snagged a run on Jacob Burke’s sacrifice fly in the sixth. That lone run seemed like it might hold up, but Ole Miss rallied in the bottom of the seventh and got a clutch, go-ahead two-run double from Elko to secure the 2-1 win. In the regional final, Arizona’s Blake Paugh hit a two-run home run to tie it at five in the fourth. There was no drama from then on, though, as Ole Miss scored 17 runs in the final five innings to come away with a 22-6 rout.

The decisive win set the stage for a much-anticipated matchup against Southern Miss, but the Rebels were in control throughout the weekend. They cruised to a 10-0 shutout in the super regional opener, powered by excellent pitching from Dylan Delucia and Ryan Dougherty and a seven-run sixth inning. After landing the first blow, Ole Miss ran it back and advanced with another shutout victory. A three-run fifth paired with a 10-strikeout day from Elliott was more than enough in a 5-0 win.

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