NCAA Regionals Roundup: Super Regionals Set
Monday belonged to the underdogs.
In the final day of NCAA regional play, two teams punched tickets to their first-ever super regionals.
Tennessee Tech, the Ohio Valley Conference winner and the nation’s winningest team heading into the NCAA Tournament, found a way to come out of the losers' bracket of the Oxford Regional and defeat No. 4 national seed Mississippi twice in the same day.
The Golden Eagles exploded for 15 runs on 16 hits in Game 1, blowing out the Rebels 15-5 to force a final game. Game 2 was far closer, as both teams traded zeroes until the sixth inning, when they traded two runs apiece. The Golden Eagles jumped ahead in the seventh on a sac fly, and reliever Nick Osborne threw the three most important innings in Tennessee Tech history to slam the door on the Rebels and shock the Oxford crowd.
With a 3-2 win, the Golden Eagles (52-10) advance to the first super regional in program history, against Texas in Austin.
"These guys are resilient; it's a fighting group," Tennessee Tech coach Matt Bragga said. "Ole Miss is obviously a great team and it was an incredible environment. To come in here and do what these guys did, to come out of the losers' bracket and have to play four games and win three of them in the last 30 hours, is pretty incredible."
Joining the Golden Eagles in making the steep climb through the losers' bracket was Duke, the No. 2 seed in the Athens Regional. At one point at the brink of elimination, down 8-1 to Campbell in the seventh inning of their second game, the Blue Devils went on to outscore opponents 47-15 over the remainder of the regional, showcasing an explosive, resilient offense.
On Monday, it was Duke right fielder Griffin Conine who powered two wins against host Georgia, homering three times between two games to send the Blue Devils to the first super regional in program history. Duke won both games, 8-5, as the Bulldogs and Blue Devils exchanged blows in a ballpark that skewed offensive all weekend.
After making just their second NCAA tournament appearance since 1961, the Blue Devils will travel to Lubbock, Texas to take on Texas Tech in super regionals.
“I’m kind of at a loss for words,” head coach Chris Pollard said. “I want to congratulate Georgia on an unbelievable season. To say that I’m proud of our team is the biggest understatement that I’ve ever said. Unbelievable resiliency and character and fight. They’ve got a lot invested in one another.”
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Elsewhere, Southeastern Conference schools South Carolina, Florida and Mississippi State each punched their own tickets to regionals.
South Carolina, the No. 2 seed in the Greenville Regional took down No. 4 seed UNC Wilmington, 8-4, to advance to a super regional at Arkansas. The Gamecocks had been firmly outside of the NCAA Tournament picture halfway through the regular season, but first-year head coach Mark Kingston and his staff engineered an impressive turnaround that fueled this super regional run.
In Gainesville, No. 1 overall seed Florida overcame a loss to Florida Atlantic earlier in the day and defeated the Owls, 5-2, in the night cap to advance to a super regional against Auburn.
Last but not least, Mississippi State defeated Oklahoma, 4-1, in the Tallahassee Regional after the Bulldogs shocked the country by eliminating No. 7 national seed Florida State over the weekend.
All eight super regionals are set, with half beginning Friday and the other half beginning Saturday. Those matchups:
Supers beginning Friday: Minnesota at Oregon State; Stetson at North Carolina; Washington at Cal State Fullerton; Mississippi State at Vanderbilt.
Supers beginning Saturday: Auburn at Florida; Duke at Texas Tech; South Carolina at Arkansas; Tennessee Tech at Texas.
The winner of each best-of-three series will advance to the College World Series in Omaha.