NCAA Super Regionals Roundup: Florida Wins Thriller To Cap Dramatic Weekend
A thrilling weekend of super regional action saved the best for last.
With Florida and Auburn tied in the 11th inning and the last spot in this year’s College World Series field hanging in the balance, Austin Langworthy drove a ball deep to right field at McKethan Stadium. Tigers right fielder Steven Williams tracked the ball to the wall. He jumped, getting his glove on the ball. But the ball didn’t settle into his glove. Instead it skipped off and over the wall for a walk-off home run and a 3-2 Gators victory.
It was, as Texas Christian coach Jim Schlossnagle tweeted, what makes baseball “so beautiful and so evil at the same time.”
Florida, the defending national champion, is going back to the College World Series for the fourth year in a row. Auburn’s season—remarkable in its own right—is over. Such are the fine lines on super regional weekend.
Joining Florida on Monday in advancing to Omaha were Arkansas, Texas and Texas Tech. They join Mississippi State, North Carolina, Oregon State and Washington, who won super regionals earlier this weekend, to form the 2018 CWS field. Five of the teams in the field (Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina, Oregon State and Texas Tech) were ranked in the top six of the Preseason Top 25 and only Washington did not appear in the preseason rankings.
Monday’s decisive Game 3s began in Austin, Texas, where Texas beat Tennessee Tech, 5-2, to return to Omaha for the first time since 2014. The Longhorns came back after losing the first game of the series to eliminate the upstart Golden Eagles, who saw the best season in program history come to an end in their first super regional appearance.
Texas Tech joined its Big 12 Conference rival in the Omaha field a few hours later with a 6-2 victory against Duke in the Lubbock Super Regional. The Red Raiders are making their third CWS appearance in the last five years. Duke, like Tennessee Tech, lost in its first super regional appearance in program history.
Arkansas quickly dispatched South Carolina, jumping out to a big lead in the first inning and going on to win 14-4 in the Fayetteville Super Regional. The Razorbacks are making their first trip to Omaha since 2015.
For the third year in a row, all eyes in the college baseball world then turned to the Gainesville Super Regional to see who would round out the CWS field. And for the third year in a row, Florida won a decisive Game 3 on its home field.
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The Beavers defeated the Bulldogs, 5-2, to move into the CWS Finals against Arkansas for the first time since they won back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007.
All-American third baseman Jonathan India gave Florida an early lead with a first-inning solo home run. Auburn tied the game in the third inning on a two-out RBI single from Williams. The Gators again pushed ahead in the fourth inning on a delayed double steal of home by Blake Reese. The Tigers then tied the game with a run in the seventh on a sacrifice fly from Josh Anthony.
The game stayed tied until the 11th. All-American closer Michael Byrne threw four scoreless innings for Florida the day after taking the loss in Game 2. Davis Daniel, who emerged late in the season as a key reliever for Auburn, threw 5.1 scoreless innings of his own.
But, finally, in the bottom of the 11th, after Cody Greenhill had taken over on the mound for Daniel, Langworthy provided the breakthrough for the Gators. The sophomore lefthanded hitter got a fastball over the middle of the plate on a 1-2 count and drove it out to right for his second homer in as many days and his fourth of the season.
It was a fitting weekend to a phenomenal weekend of baseball around the country.