Super Regional hosts, Arkansas, Florida, Cal-State Fullerton, Oregon State, North Carolina, Oregon State, while Texas Tech and Texas from the Lone Star State
By Arnie Leshin
Tennessee Tech? Well, it’s not University of Tennessee, Vanderbilt or Memphis, but there it is, a Division I school in Cookeville, 70 miles east of Nashville, and heading for its first baseball Super Regional.
Surprised, well so are the Golden Eagles, but they looked up to the task in winning the Oxford, Miss., as the 2nd seed, coming out of the loser’s bracket to defeat the 3rd seed Missouri State, and twice turning back the host and top seed Mississippi, employing all the key ingredients.
And when they returned to campus after this history-making achievable, they were surrounded by students, teachers, coaches, and other school athletes. Like a dream come true, Tennessee Tech now moves on to Austin, Tex., to fact host Texas in the round of 16. The Golden Eagles sport a best-ever record of 48-14, while the Longhorns are 40-20 and has all the experience that Tennessee Tech doesn’t have.
All sweet 16 winners advance to the NCAA Division I Elite Eight Baseball World Series at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb., and which throws the initial pitch on Saturday, June 16, and will have the two final winners in the best-of-3 final.
Also getting this far for the first time is 11th ranked Stetson (48-11) from Deland, Fla. The Hatters had been in the national tournament before, but had never made it out of the Regional. This time, they played host for the first time and had no problem in front of their own fans in disposing of Oklahoma State, Hartford and the Cowboys again to gain the Super Regional against North Carolina (41-18) in Chapel Hill.
Not too much known about Stetson, except that New York Mets star pitcher, Jacob deGrom, played for the Hatters, but it’s their best-ever season, so the Tar Heels should not take them lightly.
Florida may be number one in the land but will face the premier pitcher in the land when Auburn sends right-hander Casey Mize to the hill. He was the first pick in the college draft to the Oakland Athletics, and when he’s pitching, it makes the Tigers all that better. They won the Raleigh, N.C. Regional as the 2nd seed and ousted top-seed North Carolina State to do so.
But the Gators (44-18) also have quality pitching as they usually do, and the defending champions will have home field advantage, which is where they erased Columbia, Jacksonville State and Florida Atlantic.
But the 3rd seeded once–beaten Owls surprised their state rivals by forcing a deciding game on Monday, but lost a 4-0 lead and Florida came away with the Regional title. With Mize on the mound, it would favor Auburn, but the Gators have more strong hurlers and a balanced lineup.
Another surprise was Duke. Known for its success in basketball, the Devils were another making it to the Super Regional for the first time. They did so as the 2nd seed in Athens, Ga., and eliminated top seed, 8th ranked Georgia, to advance versus Texas Tech (42-17) in Lubbock, Tex. Home field gives Texas Tech the nod here.
Arkansas (42-18) became the Super Regional host in Fayetteville by coming out of its Regional as the tip seed, while South Carolina was the 2nd seed in finishing on top at the Greenville, SC, Regional via a win in the title game over host and top seed East Carolina. Arkansas will take on a Gamecock team that rolled past host and state rival East Carolina on the road. But the Hogs are tough to beat at home.
Two 3 seeds, Cal-State Fullerton and Washington line up at the home field of Cal-State Fullerton as it had the higher ranking. Home field should favor the familiar tournament team of Cal-State Fullerton.
Two top seeds out of their respective Regional were Minnesota (44-13) and Oregon State (47-10), with the Beavers being higher ranked to be selected to host and claim the home field advantage. Both the Gophers and Oregon State went 3-0 in winning the Regional they hosted. This one should be close, maybe go three games.
Last and certainly no stranger to the Super Regional is Vanderbilt, which has won a national title, and now meet up with another 2nd seed in Mississippi State, which dropped game one, 20-10, to 3rd seed Oklahoma, but then won the next three that included another triumph over the Sooners, after ousting top-seeded Florida State. Another close one, experienced Vanderbilt against a Mississippi State that is on a current roll.
And despite its women’s softball team winning its first-ever NCAA championship, the Seminoles missed out for the first time in the tournament and still have not won the whole thing in a record 44 appearances.
Of the country’s eight top-ranked teams, 2nd ranked Stanford also bowed out when Cal-State Fullerton won the Regional hosted by the Cardinal. The 4thranked Mississippi (Ole Miss) concluded at 47-17 when Tennessee Tech routed the top seed, 15-1, in the Regional final in Oxford, Miss.
From the top eight list remains Florida, Oregon State, Ole Miss, Arkansas, and North Carolina. The favorite? Take a guess like everyone else does.
SUPER REGIONAL AT HOST SCHOOLS
June 8 to June 11
AUBURN vs. FLORIDA in Gainesville, Fl.
DUKE vs. TEXAS TECH in Lubbock, Tex.
SOUTH CAROLINA vs. ARKANSAS in Fayetteville, Ark.
TENNESSEE TECH vs. TEXAS in Austin, Tex.
WASHINGTON vs. CAL-STATE FULLERTON in Fullerton, Calif.
MISSISSIPPI STATE vs. VANDERBILT in Nashville, Ten.
STETSON vs. NORTH CAROLINA in Chapel Hill, N.C.
MINNESOTA vs. OREGON STATE in Corvallis, Ore.