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NCAA Regionals Roundup: Super Regionals Tickets Punched

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Stetson's Brooks Wilson (Courtesy of Stetson)

On a night when several blue-bloods claimed regional titles, the first two tickets punched to super regionals were issued to a pair of relative upstarts. Washington and Stetson on Sunday evening became the first two teams to advance to super regionals with wins in the championship games of the Conway and DeLand regionals, respectively.

In all, 11 teams on Sunday advanced to super regionals. Joining Stetson and Washington were Arkansas, Auburn, Cal State Fullerton, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oregon State, Texas, Texas Tech and Vanderbilt. Minnesota is also a first-time super regionals participant, though the Golden Gophers won five regionals before the super regionals were introduced in 1999.

Of the five regionals that will continue play Monday, only one will do so because the if-necessary seventh game was forced. The other four have all fallen behind schedule due to inclement weather.

Washington became the first team to punch its super regionals ticket with a 9-6 victory against Connecticut in the Conway, S.C., Regional final. The two teams both put six runs on the board in the first three innings before settling into the game. A.J. Graffanino provided the game-winning hit in the eighth inning with a three-run double and Alex Hardy threw a scoreless ninth to send Washington to victory. The Huskies will take on Cal State Fullerton next weekend.

Stetson followed with its own history-making victory not long after. The Hatters blitzed through the DeLand Regional all weekend, going 3-0 and outscoring their opponents 29-7. Sunday was no different, as Stetson defeated Oklahoma State, 11-1. All-American two-way player Brooks Wilson went 7-for-12 with seven RBIs and four runs on the weekend and was named the regional’s Most Outstanding Player, but his services were never required at the back end of the bullpen thanks to the Hatters’ dominance.

Stetson improved to 48-11 with the victory, matching the program’s record for most wins in a season. The Hatters are also the hottest team in the country and will carry a program record 18-game winning streak into next weekend’s super regional at North Carolina.

Minnesota also swept through the weekend to win a regional for the first time since 1977. After on Saturday edging UCLA in a pitchers’ duel, Minnesota on Sunday broke out its bats for a 13-8 victory. The Bruins got to Gophers starter Jake Stevenson early in the game, knocking him out in the third inning, but couldn’t contain the Gophers’ offense. Minnesota scored all 13 of its runs in the first four innings to alleviate any pressure. The Gophers next week will travel to Oregon State for a Big Ten Conference-Pac-12 Conference showdown in super regionals.

Auburn captured its first regional title since 1999 with a 15-7 victory against host North Carolina State. The Tigers’ hitters provided plenty of firepower all weekend and they averaged 13.34 runs in their three victories. Sunday was no different and Auburn opened a 7-0 lead in the fourth inning. Senior Josh Anthony, who has been hitting ninth in the lineup for the last month, went 9-for-13 with three doubles and a home run on the weekend to be named the regional’s Most Outstanding Player.

Auburn must now wait to see who its opponent will be in super regionals. The Tigers are paired with the Gainesville Regional, where Florida Atlantic must beat Florida twice Monday to upset the No. 1 national seed.

Fullerton and Vanderbilt both swept through the weekend on the road to repeat as champions of the Stanford and Clemson Regionals, respectively. Fullerton on Saturday won a thrilling 2-1 game against Stanford on a walk-off home run. The Titans didn’t need the dramatic ending Sunday as they never trailed the host Cardinal and will likely now host a super regional.

Vanderbilt exploded offensively in a 19-6 victory at Clemson. The Commodores turned the game into a home run derby, smashing nine homers, including three from shortstop Connor Kaiser. The junior drove in 10 runs, equaling an NCAA Tournament record. Vanderbilt now awaits the winner of the Tallahassee Regional, where Mississippi State and Oklahoma on Monday will play a decisive seventh game.

North Carolina and Texas, two powerhouse programs, both swept through home regionals to advance snap short super regional droughts. The Tar Heels advance to super regionals for the first time since 2013, when they went on to reach the College World Series. For Texas, this is its first trip to super regionals since 2014, when it also went on to Omaha. North Carolina outslugged Houston, 19-11, while Texas edged Indiana, 3-2.

Oregon State and Texas Tech also wrapped up home regional wins in which they were in control all weekend. The Beavers steamrolled the field in the Corvallis Regional, winning three games by a combined score of 35-4. The Red Raiders also had a strong offensive weekend in the Lubbock Regional, where they averaged 10 runs per game.

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Around the Horn

  • All five remaining regionals will resume play at 1 p.m. ET Monday. If none of them require an if-necessary seventh game, play should be wrapped up before the draft begins at 7 p.m. But should any nightcap have to be played, there is a chance players will be drafted while they are playing a must-win game. That is especially true in Gainesville, where three Gators—righthanders Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar and third baseman Jonathan India—are expected to be picked in the first round.
  • The American Athletic Conference had a rough day Sunday, as all four of its teams in the NCAA Tournament were eliminated. The league ranked fourth in conference RPI this year but will not have a team in super regionals. East Carolina, the AAC Tournament champion, hosted a regional, but was eliminated by fourth-seeded UNC Wilmington with a 9-7 loss. Connecticut and Houston both reached regional championship games, but neither was able to find a way through to next weekend. South Florida was knocked out by Oklahoma State in the DeLand Regional losers’ bracket. In all, the conference went 6-8 this weekend.

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