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NCAA Regionals Roundup: No. 4 Seeds Show Some Bite

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Samford head coach Casey Dunn brought some swagger with him to the postgame press conference in Tallahassee.

He couldn’t help himself.

“No questions yesterday, so am I good to go? Or do we got any tonight?” Dunn said, cracking a smile and making eye contact with every reporter in the room. “You want to ask something tonight now? Yesterday we didn’t have anything to say to the Bulldogs, man.”

Such is the plight of the No. 4 seed—to be overlooked, underappreciated and written off.

But that wasn’t the case Friday, on the first day of the NCAA Tournament. No. 4 seeds across the country showed that they will not go down quietly.

In one of several upsets nationally, the Bulldogs took down No. 7 national seed and host Florida State, 7-6, giving reporters plenty to ask Dunn about afterward.

Samford, who earned an automatic bid to the Tallahassee Regional by winning the Southern Conference Tournament, took advantage of an early exit from FSU ace righthander Cole Sands, who left with shoulder tightness in the third inning.

Freshman Brooks Carlson hit a two-run homer off of Sands before he left to give the Bulldogs a 2-1 lead, and then the gritty Samford offense kept tacking on, scoring three runs in the fifth with the help of two Florida State errors. Sidewinding senior closer Wyatt Burns threw 3.2 strong innings in the back end of the game to seal the victory.

The Bulldogs will match up with No. 3 seed Oklahoma tonight in the winners' bracket game, while FSU, shockingly, will take on No. 2 seed Mississippi State in the losers' bracket.

Around the country, similar storylines unfolded.

In the Raleigh Regional, No. 4 seed Army, the winner of the Patriot League, took down host North Carolina State, 5-1, in one of the bigger surprises of the day. Army starter Tyler Giovinco threw 6.1 strong innings, scattering seven hits and allowing just one earned run. Meanwhile, the Army offense chipped away at Wolfpack pitchers—no big innings. Army scored three of its runs on two sacrifice flies and a fielder’s choice groundout.

All of a sudden, an N.C. State team that lost just two weekend series all season is staring at elimination, taking on No. 3 seed Northeastern Saturday while Army goes toe-to-toe against No. 2 seed Auburn and ace righthander Casey Mize.

But wait, there’s more.

While Army and Samford were the only two No. 4 seeds to win games Friday, a few others showed similar moxie.

Morehead State, the Ohio Valley Conference auto-bid, jumped out to an early lead against host Clemson and battled the Tigers for 10 innings, before a Jordan Greene walk-off single sealed a Clemson win.

Wright State, the Horizon League auto-bid, pushed No. 2 overall seed Stanford for 13 innings, rallying late against ace Tristan Beck to tie the game and force extras. The Cardinal would eventually win, 4-3, thanks to a 13th-inning walk-off double by center fielder Christian Robinson in the wee hours of the morning.

Even Ivy League champion Columbia proved feisty against No. 1 overall seed Florida, the reigning champion, leading for the first three innings before the Gators exploded for a 13-5 win.

Last season, it was No. 4 seed Davidson who shocked the nation by taking down No. 2 national seed North Carolina to advance to super regionals against Texas A&M. While there is still plenty of baseball to be played, several teams have already auditioned for that same role of Cinderella.

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Around The Horn

  • Not all No. 4 seeds are created equal. Most of the regional hosts took care of business Friday with lopsided scores: North Carolina beat North Carolina A&T, 11-0; East Carolina defeated UNC Wilmington, 16-7; Texas Tech toppled New Mexico State, 9-2; Coastal Carolina blew out LIU Brooklyn, 16-1; Minnesota over Canisius, 10-1; Stetson over Hartford, 8-3; Arkansas over Oral Roberts, 10-2; Oregon State over Northwestern State, 9-3; and Texas over Texas Southern, 10-0.
  • Weather interfered with several regionals throughout the country, delaying some games and postponing others until Saturday. The Oxford Regional, hosted by Mississippi, has yet to play a game. While Game 2 of the Athens Regional, between host Georgia and No. 4 seed Campbell, was pushed back until Saturday.
  • Not to be overshadowed by the No. 4 seeds, a few No. 3 seeds picked up big wins Friday as well. Powered by a complete game from lefty Aaron Fletcher, Houston defeated Purdue, 9-1, in the Chapel Hill Regional to set up a compelling matchup between Houston ace Trey Cumbie and UNC’s Luca Dalatri tonight. Troy, who came on strong late in the season in the Sun Belt, shut out Duke, 6-0, to advance to the winners' bracket in Athens. A strong eight innings by ace Joe DeMers fueled Washington past host candidate Connecticut in the Conway Regional, setting up a Saturday showdown with host Coastal Carolina.
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