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Mike Lopresti | | June 7, 2023

How Omaha's potential field went from 64 teams to these 16

Top defensive plays from the 2023 NCAA baseball regionals

Notice how the Road to Omaha suddenly seems a lot emptier? Look at all the top-16 seed regional hosts who took a wrong turn: No. 3 Arkansas, No. 4 Clemson, No. 6 Vanderbilt, No. 9 Miami, No. 10 Coastal Carolina. On and on. Nos. 11 and 13 Oklahoma State and Auburn were at home and didn’t even win a tournament game.

But Rider did for the first time in 36 years, and Penn for the first time in 33 years, and George Mason for the first time in 31. They’re gone now, too. So is Wright State with second baseman Gehrig Anglin –—right, he’s named after the Yankee legend — who nearly beat eventual regional champion Indiana State with a two-run homer... on Lou Gehrig Day. His parents, wishing a baseball theme, pondered naming him Rawlings, after the glove.

What’s left for the super regionals are 16 survivors of various June pedigrees and often shared conference affiliations. There will be two all-SEC collisions this weekend (Kentucky at LSU, South Carolina at Florida) and one from the ACC (Duke at Virginia). In the who-saw-this-coming super regional, Oral Roberts will be at Oregon.

So 16 teams still dream of late June in eastern Nebraska — and 16 special feats from the past weekend that put them there.

Wake Forest...

...dominated like the tournament No. 1 seed the Demon Deacons are, steamrolling three regional opponents by a combined score of 48-7, outhitting them 44-14 and striking out 50 of their hitters. Wake Forest had more extra-base hits in the regional than its opponents had total hits, and the Demon Deacons led for 25 of the 27 innings. To think, two years ago Wake Forest was limping to the finish line 20-27, and 10-22 in the ACC.

Live updates: 2023 DI baseball championship

“It’s really just been a complete kind of transformation of our program over the last couple of years,” coach Tom Walter said. “The momentum of the season started early in the year but it kind of built as the season went on and the culmination of that is what you saw.”


...will be in its first super regional in 13 years and had to fight to get there. The Tide had their first walk-off win of the season against Nicholls, and needed four unearned runs in the ninth inning to get past Troy 11-8. That and the fact they have stayed on task after the sudden firing of their head coach in early May because of a gambling scandal suggests this team will not easily go away. But if it’s a challenge they want, wait till they show up in Winston-Salem.


Know how many regionals the Volunteers had ever won away from Knoxville before Sunday at Clemson? None. If they want to get to the College World Series they’ll need more road work, at Southern Mississippi in the super regional. Eight home runs — four by Christian Moore — powered them through the weekend. That and surviving the 14-inning 6-5 instant classic that shocked the home Tigers Saturday. Tennessee was one strike away from the loser’s bracket and probable extinction, but Zane Denton’s three-run homer in the ninth inning saved the day, and maybe the season. The Vols won the game five innings later and never looked back.

Southern Miss...

...wasn’t going to let a 5-1 Penn lead in the fourth inning Monday night — the Golden Eagles’ largest deficit of the postseason — ruin the victory lap for coach Scott Berry.  The program’s all-time winningest coach is retiring at the end of this season and to keep the going-away party together another week, Southern Miss scored 10 runs from the fourth inning on to finally put away the Quakers 11-7. In all-hands-on-deck mode, the Golden Eagles turned to top starters Tanner Hall and Billy Oldham for important innings Monday night. Hall had gone 123 pitches Friday, Oldham 81 Saturday.


...can be harder to get rid of than ants at a picnic. The Cardinal made it to the super regional by going 3-0 in elimination games, just as they won five of them last year on the way to Omaha. This was the fourth tournament in a row Stanford clinched a regional in a winner-take-all game. The Cardinal are also the only team in the country to be playing in its fourth consecutive super regional.


...went into last Saturday night without a single complete game pitched all season. Then Lebarron Johnson Jr. stayed on the mound for all nine innings and all 129 pitches and the Longhorns put Miami in the corner 4-1. The next day, they beat the Hurricanes again 10-6 to clinch the regional on Miami’s home field.

Oh, and Dylan Campbell kept getting on base. His Big 12 record hitting streak is now 38 games.

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...accomplished something the Gators hadn’t done in a quarter-century; come out of the losers’ bracket to survive three win-or-else games and take the regional. After losing to Texas Tech 5-4, Florida never trailed in the next three games, winning by a combined score of 21-3. Pitching carried the Gators through the entire regional with a 1.64 earned run average. BT Riopelle will do as a symbol of Florida resilience. He was 0-for-15 in the regional with eight strikeouts before Monday’s final showdown with Texas Tech. Then he hit a pair of two-run homers.

South Carolina...

...hit .357 and outscored its regional opponents 41-11. But for the truly extraordinary gap, consider walks. The Gamecock pitchers issued only three of them in three games. The hitters walked 30 times. South Carolina is still the last repeat winner of a College World Series, 12 years ago. The Gamecocks swept Florida three games in May, but that was in Columbia. Gainesville this weekend will sound a tad different.


...had Transfer Portal Appreciation Weekend at its regional. The Cavaliers outscored their opponents 25-5 with three strong performances by starting pitchers Brian Edgington, Nick Parker and Connelly Early. All three were pitching for another school last season. Parker might be the poster player for the new age. He gave up one run in seven innings to East Carolina Saturday. Last June, he threw eight shutout innings at the Pirates in the regional — pitching for Coastal Carolina.

“The advent of the transfer portal has changed college sports,” coach Brian O’Connor said. “And if you’re going to be successful you have to be good at it.”


...brought out the big sticks in Coastal Carolina’s park, hitting 12 home runs in four games. Of the Blue Devils’ 32 runs in the regional, 20 trotted across the plate via homers. DJ Metz had three in three consecutive at-bats against UNC Wilmington in the opener. He saw nine pitches in those three plate appearances. He sent three of them out of the park.

By the way, eight teams from the state of North Carolina were in the NCAA tournament bracket and the Blue Devils and Wake Forest remain. Duke now visits Virginia, where the Blue Devils took two of three in a late April series.


Who had the Ducks getting this far? They lost eight of their last 11 regular season games, but tournament play seems to have given them a second wind. They are 7-0 in the postseason, rolling through the Pac-12 tournament, then the Vanderbilt regional. The bullpen has been crucial, allowing only nine earned runs in 38.1 innings in the postseason.

Oral Roberts...

Who really had the Golden Eagles getting this far? But they have clearly been touched by magic. There’s the 21-game winning streak, the nation’s longest. There’s Jonah Cox’ 44-game hitting streak. He has hit safely in 59 of 60 games this season. There’s the 15-12 win over Washington last weekend after the Golden Eagles fell behind 8-0, the third largest comeback in tournament history. They marched through the Oklahoma State regional beating all three teams by a combined margin of six runs, counting on Cade Denton to come out of the bullpen and save all three games. They’ll arrive in Eugene for their first super regional in 17 years, as the eighth No. 4 seed to ever make it that far. The two teams can share stories of defying expectations.


...became Arkansas’ worst nightmare. Especially the second baseman. Before Sunday, Tre Richardson had two home runs this season in 239 official at-bats, and 44 RBI in 60 games. Then he turned into Roy Hobbs from The Natural. In 11 at-bats against the Razorbacks, he had four homers, two of them grand slams in consecutive innings. In two games, he had 14 RBI, 11 on one night. That led to TCU’s fearful pounding of the No. 3 seed in the tournament. The Horned Frogs scored 32 runs in two games against Arkansas — in Fayetteville.

2023 NCAA baseball: Men's College World Series scores, schedule

Indiana State...

...won its first regional in 37 years, with the usual clutch hitting. The Sycamores have 152 two-out RBI this season. The title was not painless. Ten Sycamore batters were hit by Iowa pitches in the clincher Sunday to tie an NCAA postseason record, and five of them scored runs.  Getting plunked is part of Indiana State’s offensive game plan, with 125 HBPs this season. When pitches wander inside off the plate, “we try not to move,” coach Mitch Hannahs said. Though that’s not a standing order because “it’s easy to be tough with someone else’s body... But it’s the guys that’ve kind of bought in. If one guy is going to do it, then every guy is going to stand in there and that’s why it’s kind of taken off. We don’t have practice where we throw at guys.”

Hannahs, who played on Indiana State’s 1986 regional champions — “I spent most of that on the bench. I remember getting a free bat,” he recalled of the trip to Omaha — doesn’t mind being the underdog team the big names don’t see coming. “We’re fine sitting here in our little crevice,” he said. “I’m certainly not going to call out any power-5s.”

Indiana State just beat Iowa twice and now must go to TCU, even though as a higher seed it could have been host. But the Special Olympics are in Terre Haute this weekend taking all the hotel rooms and requiring a big effort from the community to host, so the Sycamores had to start packing.    


...did what LSU does with its megawatt star power. Dylan Crews hit .615 at the top of the lineup, Paul Skenes threw a complete game seven-hitter in his start, striking out 12 with no walks, and the Tigers confirmed their super regional in Baton Rouge, where no visitor would want to go, but Kentucky now has to. Those seven losses to SEC opponents in May don’t matter much now. Skenes will start Friday with 179 strikeouts this season — 41 more than anyone else in the country. 


...came into this June not having thrown a shutout in the NCAA Tournament since 1949. Then the Wildcats blanked Ball State 4-0 Friday. They had waited 74 years for the last one, but only two days for the next one, 10-0 over West Virginia Sunday. Get the pitching theme of the weekend for Kentucky? There was no shutout Monday, but Wildcat starter Darren Williams — a 25-year-old in his seventh year of college baseball — gave up two early Indiana runs and then teamed with reliever Mason Moore to allow no more the last seven innings.

So now Kentucky heads for Baton Rouge, where it faced the Tigers' feverish crowd and won one of three games in April. “I told them, I don’t know how to prepare you to have 13,000 people go against you,” coach Nick Mingione said about that trip. It’ll be even louder this visit but the Wildcats clearly understand why they’ll be there. On one wall of their meeting room in Lexington is a huge picture of the front of Charles Schwab Field in Omaha and the statue that every single College World Series team will pose in front of for pictures. “That’s why we have it in here, as a constant reminder,” Mingione said Monday night.

Two more wins. Just like 15 other teams are thinking.

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Division I
Baseball Championship
June 14 - 24, 2024
Charles Schwab Field Omaha | Omaha, NE

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