Here's a look back at what we've played so far in the NCAA baseball tournament. Texas A&M, Florida, and Mississippi State have already punched their tickets to the Super Regionals, while LSU and South Carolina can do so today. Ole Miss and Vanderbilt have been eliminated, but the Commodores' two-loss Saturday came under circumstances no one wants to be a part of. Our continued condolences to the family of Donny Everett and the entire Vanderbilt community.
On to "Three Up, Three Down"!
The Aggies just might be the best team in the country right now. Their dominant run through the SEC tournament turned out not to be any sort of fluke, as the Aggies cruised to a 3-0 regional win this weekend in College Station. A&M knocked off each of the other three teams in their regional — Binghamton, Wake Forest, and Minnesota en route to a berth in next weekend’s College Station super regional. The Aggies plated 37 runs in their last three games in Hoover, and put up 32 more this weekend, albeit with 22 of them in a blowout win over Wake Forest. Jonathan Moroney swung a hot stick in the regional, going 6-for-10 with eight RBI, winning the regional’s most outstanding player award.
Just as good as the offense was, the pitching was even more solid. A&M allowed just two runs in each of their games (4-2, 22-2 and 8-2 wins). In 17 innings of starting pitching, the Aggies struck out 18 and walked only five. The bullpen was dominant as well, allowing only one run and six hits in 10 innings of work.
A&M didn’t do anything to change their status as a national favorite this weekend. If anything, they only strengthened that status.
The Gators certainly had some solid teams and pitchers in the Gainesville regional, but Florida withstood the challenges and rolled to 32-4 at McKethan Stadium and 28-1 overall against non-SEC competition. Florida took care of Bethune-Cookman 9-3 in their tournament opener, with Logan Shore looking like he’s back in the thick of things for the Gators. Sure, two earned runs on five hits in 6.1 innings isn’t the greatest of starts, but Shore earned the W, and is now 11-0. It seems as if Kevin O’Sullivan now can depend on his righty again to face Florida State next weekend.
Saturday was Florida’s toughest test, both on paper and in reality, as the Gators took on UConn. Huskies left-handed ace Anthony Kay tossed 5.2 innings, but allowed five runs on eight hits. The Huskies offense and bullpen picked up the slack – for the most part. Jonathan India launched a solo homer in the eighth inning, giving the Gators a 6-5 win and putting Florida squarely in the driver’s seat to win the regional title. That they did a night later, as Florida rolled past Georgia Tech 10-1. The Yellow Jackets threw everyone but the kitchen sink in the loss, using eight pitchers, but the Gator offense was just too much, scoring seven runs in the fifth and sixth innings without a home run.
Remember how there were some questions as to how Gators 1B Pete Alonso would fare in his return from injury? How does 8-for-14 sound? Yeah, no problems there.
Florida, like Texas A&M, seems to have all facets of the game clicking at the right time. Additionally, they’ll be at home this weekend to face their rival Florida State Seminoles. It would be a surprise if the Gators aren’t Omaha-bound next week.
South Carolina’s Resiliency
South Carolina sputtered down the stretch in the regular season and went two and out in Hoover at the SEC tournament. Combine that with the fact that Rhode Island threw ace Tyler Wilson (12-1, 2.08 coming in) on Friday night, and it wasn’t a shocker that the four-seed Rams came away with a 5-4 win in the regional opener. However, the Gamecocks didn’t quit. Just a day later, South Carolina found itself locked in a 2-2 tie heading to the ninth inning against the Duke Blue Devils. Playing as the visiting team, South Carolina plated two runs in the top of the frame and stayed alive.
It was in the rematch with Rhode Island that the Gamecocks truly woke up, slugging their way to a 23-2 victory to send the Rams packing. Then, the Gamecocks were tasked with playing UNC Wilmington, one of the nation’s top offenses, and without the benefit of rest, South Carolina rolled to a 10-1 win over the Seahawks.
South Carolina has had multiple chances to simply fold and miss the Super Regionals for the third straight year and miss Omaha for the fourth straight season. However, the Gamecocks didn’t do that, and have made some of their biggest statements of the season. This team has proven it’s here to stay.
What’s next for South Carolina is a winner-take-all game tonight against UNCW. The season is over for the loser. The winner goes on to the Super Regionals against Oklahoma State. It should be a fun one at 6 p.m. Eastern.
We discussed on here last week how the Rebels had been stuck with a killer regional, as Tulane, Boston College and Utah invaded Oxford. However, did anyone expect the Rebels to be the club who went two-and-out? Don’t think so.
Another point discussed here was how the bullpen was a point of concern for Ole Miss, and that was shown once again this weekend. Ole Miss led Utah 5-2 after five innings on Friday, but the Utes plated three in the sixth and the winning run in the 10th to take a 6-5 extra inning win. Then on Saturday, the Rebel bullpen gave up four runs in 3.1 innings, allowing Tulane to walk away with a 6-5 win and end the Ole Miss season.
The Rebels found themselves in a pair of tight games, and weren’t able to close out either one. Sadly, a brilliant season comes to an end.
South Carolina’s bona fide ace had a strong season against SEC competition, but it was the Atlantic 10 champion Rhode Island Rams who carved up Schmidt and limited his night to four innings. Schmidt threw only 89 pitches, allowing five runs on six hits and three walks. He lost only his fourth decision of the year as the Gamecocks were upset. As discussed above, though, South Carolina is far from done. If the Gamecocks win tonight, Schmidt will need a better outing against Oklahoma State this weekend.
The Weather in Baton Rouge
The regional schedules are set up so that a regional will end Sunday evening if the champion goes 3-0, or Monday if an “if necessary” game is needed. Well, here we are on Monday, and not just two teams, but three, are still alive in Baton Rouge. If the winner of this afternoon’s Southeast Louisiana-Rice game beats LSU tonight, this regional will stretch to Tuesday. We’ve found something the rally possum can’t overcome: Mother Nature.