Exciting weekend trims baseball field
Also: Alabama wins golf title; Ohio State captures rowing title
There was a lot of baseball played during the weekend -- 100 NCAA Regional games to be exact -– but the Division I 64-team bracket was finally whittled down to 16 teams on Monday, finalizing the match-ups for the NCAA Super Regionals beginning Friday.
We started at noon ET on Friday in Tallahassee, Fla., and the final out was made early Tuesday morning at 1:04 a.m. in Chapel Hill, N.C. In between, pitchers twirled some gems, fielders made spectacular diving catches and sluggers provided walk-off heroics.
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Indiana and Kansas State earned their first NCAA Super Regional berths, and 14 of 16 No. 1 regional seeds advanced. Virginia Tech and No. 8 national seed Oregon were the only top-seeded teams not to earn spots in the Super Regionals as Oklahoma and Rice, respectively, knocked them out of the tournament. Half the Super Regional field is comprised of Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference teams as each league will send four for a total of eight. The Pac-12 and Big 12 are the only other conferences with multiple teams as they each have two.
If you happened to miss the action, here’s the condensed version of the weekend’s highlights, in order of finish:
• Louisville earned its first Super Regional berth since 2009 and went 3-0 in an NCAA Regional for first time with a little help from the bat of junior outfielder Coco Johnson, who was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Louisville Regional. Johnson went 2-for-4 with three RBI in the Cardinals’ 12-3 victory against Oklahoma State on Sunday. For the weekend, he batted .455 with two homers and six RBI.
• NC State clinched its second consecutive NCAA Regional championship with a 9-3 defeat of No. 2 seed William & Mary on Sunday. Saturday’s complete-game, two-hit shutout by sophomore pitcher Carlos Rodon that fueled the Wolfpack to a 1-0 defeat of the Tribe certainly didn’t hurt. Rodon struck out 10 batters in the outing, moving into second place on the school’s all-time strikeout list with 296. He has fanned at least eight batters in 15 of 16 starts, and reached double-digit strikeouts for the third consecutive appearance. In his last 23 innings pitched, Rodon has surrendered just three hits while striking out 33 batters. As a staff, NC State allowed just three runs on the weekend –- the fewest the Pack has given up in 26 NCAA Regional appearances.
• After losing four consecutive games heading into the NCAA tournament, No. 7 national seed Florida State did not let its opponents get close during the weekend as the Seminoles won their 13th NCAA Regional in the past 15 years (since the Super Regional format was instituted). The Seminoles outscored foes 32-4 in three games, tallying double-digit runs in each contest and not allowing a run until the regional championship against Troy on Sunday. FSU has won 19 consecutive NCAA Regional contests.
• Virginia won its fourth regional in the past five seasons as the Cavaliers got solid performances from both the pitching staff (1.33 ERA), and the offense ( .302 batting avg.). The Cavaliers had six starters hit .300 or better, including sophomore shortstop Nick Howard, who hit .462 in the Charlottesville Regional. Virginia’s No. 7, No. 8 and No. 9 batters -– Howard, Kenny Towns and Nate Irving –- combined to bat .560 during the three-game sweep.
• Oklahoma had lost 9-of-11 contests heading into the Sooners’ regular-season finale on May 19, but flipped the switch since the dismal stretch, winning eight consecutive games to capture the Big 12 championship and Blacksburg Regional along the way. Jonathan Gray tossed a complete-game win with 12 strikeouts against Coastal Carolina on Friday, and the Sooners’ bullpen held foes scoreless in relief to claim their second consecutive regional championship on the road. Oklahoma downed Virginia in Charlottesville in 2012.
• Indiana, hosting an NCAA Regional for the first time, continued its magical season and won the program’s first regional title with a little flair. In the opener, the Hoosiers rallied from a three-run deficit in the bottom of the ninth inning capped off by Chad Clark’s walk-off home run for a 5-4 defeat of Valparaiso on Friday. IU then met Austin Peay and the Governors’ nation-leading 16-game winning streak, and handily ended it with a convincing 15-6 victory. The Hoosiers met the Governors again in the regional championship, claiming a history-making 6-1 win on Sunday. The most impressive play of the game was by centerfielder Justin Cureton, who robbed a potential game-tying three-run homer in the second inning -– grabbing the ball at the top of the eight-foot centerfield wall -- and then ended the inning by throwing the runner out a first. The Hoosiers were leading 3-0 at the time, and the home run would have changed the momentum in Austin Peay’s favor.
• It apparently will take more than a collision with teammate Raph Rhymes to knock LSU freshman shortstop Alex Bregman out of action. Bregman went 3-for-4 with a homer and two RBI in a 5-1 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette on Sunday. He went 6-for-10 in the NCAA Regional after having to leave Friday’s game against Jackson State. Bregman garnered Baton Rouge Regional Most Outstanding Player honors, and became the third freshman in LSU history to record 100 hits in a season (currently has 102).
• Oregon State junior left-hander Ben Wetzler fanned a career-high 10 batters in a complete-game performance as the Beavers secured the Corvallis Regional title with a 6-1 defeat of Texas A&M on Sunday. The Beavers’ pitching staff posted a 1.67 ERA on the weekend, needed only 3.1 innings of relief in three games.
• Another first-time regional host -- Kansas State – is going to the NCAA Super Regionals for first time in program history after winning its school-record 44th game of the season with a 4-3 come-from-behind defeat of Arkansas on Sunday. After being down 3-0, the Wildcats regained the lead on a pair of wild pitches in the seventh inning. Ross Kivett led all players with seven runs scored in the NCAA Regional, including the game-winning tally against the Razorbacks. He went 6-for-12 with two homers and five RBI, and garnered Most Outstanding Player of the Manhattan Regional.
• UCLA sophomore left-hander Grant Watson helped the Bruins wrap up regional play with a 6-0 win against San Diego to advance to NCAA Super Regionals in consecutive seasons for the first time in program history. Watson hurled seven innings, combining with two Bruin relievers for a one-hit shutout. UCLA is the only team from California or the Pac-12 to have earned at least three NCAA Super Regional bids in the past four years.
• Cal State Fullerton’s pitching staff had a phenomenal weekend, posting the lowest ERA in NCAA Regional action -- 0.67 in three games. The Titans allowed just 13 hits for a NCAA Regional-leading .141 opponent batting average, and did not give up a walk. Two freshmen –- Justin Garza and Thomas Eshelman -– set and tied the Fullerton freshman season-record for victories with 12 apiece.
• Despite the lengthiest rain delay of the NCAA Regionals, South Carolina returned on Monday and finished Sunday’s job against Liberty with a 6-4 win as the Gamecocks earned their 11th appearance in the NCAA Super Regionals in the past 14 years. South Carolina has won 27 consecutive home postseason games.
• No. 2 national seed Vanderbilt bounced back from Sunday’s 5-0 loss to Georgia Tech with a 7-1 victory against the Yellow Jackets on Monday night to advance to the NCAA Super Regionals for the fourth time in program history, and third time in four years. After recording just two hits in Sunday’s shutout, the Commodores shook off their slump, belting 13 hits against Tech on Monday. Pitchers Philip Pfeifer and Brian Miller combined to hold the Jackets to one unearned run on four hits.
• Mississippi State claimed its second Super Regional berth in the past three years as the Bulldogs dominated Central Arkansas, 6-1, on Monday night. The Bulldogs had lost to the Bears, 6-2, on Sunday, but rebounded with a stellar relief performance Chad Girodo, who picked up the victory after striking out a career-high 12 batters in the 6.1 inning outing. Alex Detz went 8-for-13 on the weekend, including two hits on Monday, to earn Most Outstanding Player honors.
• After Oregon shut out Rice 11-0 on Sunday, the Owls regrouped and pounced on the Ducks immediately in Monday’s contest, scoring 11 runs on 15 hits for an 11-4 win that eliminated the No. 8 national seed. Filling in for an injured Geoff Perrott, freshman catcher Josh Graham went 4-for-5 with four RBI, and got the Owls on the board with an RBI-triple in the first inning. Rice has advanced to the Super Regionals for the 10th time since the new format was instituted in 1999.
• Florida Atlantic kept battling but No. 1 national seed North Carolina seemed destined to be in the NCAA Super Regionals. The Owls upset the Tar Heels 3-2 on Sunday to force a Monday winner-take-all game that UNC eventually survived, 12-11 in 13 innings. Cody Stubbs ripped the RBI-single to score the game-winning run. FAU took the lead in the ninth and 12th innings, only to have UNC tie it up in the bottom of the frames in the roller coaster game.
• The University of Tampa baseball team claimed its sixth Division II national championship with an 8-2 defeat of Minnesota State on Saturday at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, N.C. Jake Schrader went 2-for-3 in the contest, including a RBI double that keyed a five-run second inning against the Mavericks and Division II baseball national pitcher of the year Harvey Martin, who suffered his first loss of the season against the Spartans. Schrader batted .444 with two home runs, seven RBI and a .944 slugging percentage in five national tournament games, earning Most Outstanding Player honors. It is the Spartans first title since winning back-to-back championships in 2006 and '07.
• The Alabama men’s golf team captured its first NCAA championship with a convincing 4-1 victory against Illinois in the finals of match play on Sunday at the Capital City Club in Atlanta. The Crimson Tide had lost to Texas in last year’s NCAA Finals. Senior Scott Strohmeyer won his last three holes to close out the match for a 3-and-2 win. It is the first national championship in a men’s sport other than football in Alabama history.
"I think [what happened last year] makes it more special," Alabama head coach Jay Sewell said when asked about last year's loss. "It makes you appreciate it a great deal more. It is so hard to even get here. This team has been on a mission, a mission, a mission. That is the leadership of Scott Strohmeyer and all of the guys on this team. It is their championships and we won [Sunday] because of them."
Earlier in the week, California senior Max Homa became the school’s first player to win individual medalist honors at NCAA championships. Homa shot a four-under-par 66 -- without a bogey -- in Thursday’s final round of stroke play, posting a 9-under, 54-hole score of 201. The Bears finished with the lowest team score at the conclusion of stroke play, earning the top seed in match play, but were knocked out by Illinois, 3-2 in Saturday’s semifinals.
• The Ohio State rowing team claimed the program’s first NCAA Division I team title after earning first-place finishes in the first varsity four and second varsity eight, as well as a third-place finish in the first varsity eight at Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis over the weekend. The Buckeyes are the first Big Ten team to win an NCAA team rowing championship. Ohio State’s first varsity four collected its second consecutive NCAA title with a time of 7:08.26, while the Buckeyes’ second varsity eight crew crossed the line with a time of 6:27.86.
• Linfield claimed the Division III Baseball Championship for the first time in school history as Chris Haddeland tossed a complete-game 4-1 victory against Southern Maine in Tuesday’s title game at Fox Cities Stadium in Appleton, Wis. Haddeland scattered eight hits and three walks, while fanning five batters as he picked up his school-record 15th victory of the season. Linfield put up four runs in the fourth inning to spark the victory. The Wildcats also won NAIA titles in 1966 and 1971.
|THE DIGIT||THE 4-1-1|
|7||Oklahoma senior Keilani Ricketts tossed the seventh no-hitter of her career in a 7-1 defeat of Michigan to open the Women’s College World Series on Thursday. It was the first no-hitter in the WCWS since 2007, and 17th in the championship’s history. The two-time USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year struck out 12 batters in the outing.|
|8||The Williams College women’s rowing team won both the I Eights Grand Final and the II Eights Grand Final on Saturday morning as the Ephs captured their eighth consecutive NCAA Division III Championship at Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis. Williams posted the maximum team total of 42 points to clinch the program’s ninth national championship.|
|14||Florida State sophomore pitcher Luke Weaver struck out a career-high 14 batters in eight shutout innings of work as the Seminoles blanked Troy 11-0 on Saturday. It was the most strikeouts by any pitcher in NCAA Regional action during the weekend. Weaver allowed just four hits and no walks in the outing. It was the most strikeouts by a FSU pitcher since Tyler Chambliss fanned 15 against Maryland in 2006.|
|15||Saturday’s 15-inning marathon between Florida and Nebraska was the longest Women’s College World Series game since 1994, when Oklahoma State edged Cal State Northridge in 15 innings. The Gators’ 9-8 win against the Huskers was the fifth game in WCWS history to go 15 innings or longer. The longest game was a 25-inning Texas A&M 1-0 defeat of Cal Poly Pomona in 1984.|
|30||Oklahoma’s Lauren Chamberlain's hit her 30th home run of the season in spectacular fashion -- a walk-off two-run home run in the 12th inning of Monday’s 5-3 against Tennessee. It was also the 60th homer of his career.|
• Tennessee softball advanced to championship series for the second time in program history with 2-1 victory against Texas on Sunday night. The Lady Vols also played in the championship series in 2007, losing to Arizona. Lauren Gibson blasted a first-inning solo homer, and then scored the game-winning run in the sixth inning. Gibson, the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, has hit a school-record 19 home runs.
• Every collegiate player remembers his first home run, but Florida State’s Brett Knief first one will be remember by teammates and Seminole fans for a long time as well. Knief blasted a grand slam homer in the fourth inning in the midst of the Seminoles come-from-behind seven-run rally against Troy on Sunday for an eventual 9-4 FSU win.
• Florida Atlantic’s Ricky Santiago turned a lot of heads with a three-run homer in the seventh inning that lifted the Owls to a 3-2 upset of No. 1 national seed North Carolina on Sunday. The FAU victory forced a winner-take-all Monday contest between the two teams. UNC left-hander Hobbs Johnson carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning, but was relieved by Trevor Kelley, who gave up the home run to Santiago.
• Central Arkansas was the lone No. 4 seed to advance to the NCAA Regional championship after extending its streak of elimination game victories to eight with a pair of wins against South Alabama and Mississippi State on Sunday, forcing a second contest with MSU on Monday night, where the Bears’ run finally ended with a 6-1 loss. UCA lost the first game of the Southland Conference Tournament before winning five in a row to claim the title. The Bears also lost their first NCAA Regional game against Mississippi State on Friday, but have won three elimination games since then. UCA is lone No. 4 seed remaining in the tournament after getting a pair of complete-game pitching performances on Sunday. Connor Gilmore held South Alabama to four hits in a 3-0 complete-game shutout in the Bears’ first game of the day. Ethan McKinzie then pitched complete-game four-hitter for a 5-2 victory against Mississippi State.
Follow Amy Farnum on Twitter: @NCAA_Amy