NCAA Super Regionals Roundup: Washington, Mississippi State Surge
A few weeks ago, Washington and Mississippi State were fighting just to earn regional bids.
They never stopped fighting. On Sunday night, both teams played on the road in do-or-die super regional games, both forced extra innings and both punched their tickets to the College World Series in thrilling, dramatic fashion.
Lindsay Meggs, in his ninth year as Washington’s head coach, led the Huskies to Omaha for the first time in program history with a 6-5, 10-inning victory at Cal State Fullerton. As had been the case throughout the super regional, both the Titans and Huskies scratched and clawed to the very end. Huskies ace righthander Joe DeMers was an out away from a complete-game victory, before the Titans rallied for three runs to take a 4-3 lead.
But the Huskies responded every step of the way, tying it in the bottom half to force extras. When the Titans took the lead right back with a Hank LoForte solo homer in the top of the 10th, the Huskies rallied against Fullerton closer Brett Conine. Second baseman A.J. Graffanino hit a game-tying RBI single, and right fielder Kaiser Weiss hit the walk-off sac fly that initiated the Washington dogpile—an impressive feat for a Huskies team that at one point had an RPI in the 70s and had a steep climb up the Pac-12 standings.
"I'm thrilled for our guys. I'm thrilled for the University of Washington," Meggs said, "It's been a long time coming and I'm really proud of our guys."
Though the Bulldogs have plenty of College World Series history, Mississippi State’s run to Omaha this year was anything but typical—especially with a head coaching change just three games into the regular season. But interim head coach Gary Henderson has had the Bulldogs playing at a higher level down the stretch, and they showed impressive fortitude in a third-straight classic at Vanderbilt, winning 10-6 in 11 innings.
Both teams played with incredible resiliency, as they have all weekend long. After Jake Mangum fueled a three-run ninth inning for the Bulldogs, the Commodores responded with two huge ninth-inning home runs by Pat DeMarco and Ethan Paul to tie it.
But in the 11th, Mississippi State simply found an extra offensive gear, putting up a four-spot and turning to righthander Keegan James to shut the door.
"It just is an incredible group of kids," Henderson said. "It is the most resilient group I have been around as a coach. This is special. We have the best fans in the nation. They traveled and made this feel like a home game. Can't say enough about how proud I am of this team and how proud I am to be their coach."
Baseball America College Podcast: Rewatching the 2018 Oxford Regional Final
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Mississippi State and Washington join Oregon State and North Carolina to form half the Omaha field; the other half will be filled today, as four Game 3’s will be played.
Duke, South Carolina, Texas and Auburn each forced a third game against Texas Tech, Arkansas, Tennessee Tech and Florida, respectively, in Sunday’s action. The Blue Devils, led by a tremendous outing by hard-throwing lefty Graeme Stinson and an explosive offense, defeated the Red Raiders, 11-2. The rest of the games went down to the wire, decided by three runs or fewer.
Monday will bring four more dogpiles.