By Arnie Leshin
There were upsets galore in Friday’s first round of the 64-field NCAA Division I College Baseball Tournament.
Paving the way in surprises on the road were Penn, Rider and Oral Roberts, but No. 1 Wake Forest breezed past George Mason, 12-0, and No. 14 Indiana State nipped Wright State, 6-5.
Surprisingly, the Quakers (33-14) brought the Ivy League its first tournament success over a Southeastern Conference opponent in defeating No. 13 Auburn, 6-3, in 11 innings at the Tigers Plainesmore Park.
Dropping Auburn to 34-22, Penn, which hadn’t won a national tourney game since 1990, gained the lead for good on Ryan Taylor’s double and added a pair of insurance runs on consecutive squeeze plays, while its pitchers limited the home team to four hits and whiffed 14.
The Ivy League had been 0-9 all-time against the SEC in the tournament. Now Penn will try to make a run like the conference’s Columbia did last season when it reached a regional final as a No. 3 regional seed.
Next, Rider of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, upped its record to 36-19 by getting past No. 10 host Costal Carolina, 11-10, when Richie Sica made a diving catch of Caden Bodine’s sinking liner to centerfield with the bases loaded and two out at Spring Brooks Stadium in Conway, S.C.
The tough setback dropped the Summit League team to 39-20. The Broncos, who had lost 15 straight in the tournament, got four RBI from Jack Winsett and survived despite four pitchers yielding 14 hits while issuing eight walks.
Then there was Oral Roberts taking down No. 11 Oklahoma State, 6-4, at the Cowboys’ O’Broate Stadium in Stillwater, upping its record to 47-11 for its third win over Oklahoma State this season and its nation-best 19th consecutive victory.
The Cowboys of the Big 12 in turn fell to 45-9, and Oral Roberts won its tournament opener as a No. 4 seed for the third time.
No problem for No. 1-ranked Wake Forest at its David F. Couch Ballpark in Winston Salem, N.C. as it advanced to 48-10 by shutting down George Mason, 12-0.
Seth Keener and a pair of relievers combined on a 4-hitter and Justin Johnson homered twice and batted in six runs in dropping George Mason to 34-26.
No. 8 Louisiana State advanced to 42-15 by turning back state foe Tulane, 7-2, in Baton Rouge behind the hitting of Dylan Crews and the pitching of Paul Skenes. Crews went 3-for-5 that included a double and an RBI and Skenes scattered seven hits, walked no one, and struck out a dozen in his first complete game.
Skenes also made the defensive play of the game when with the bases loaded and one out, he caught James Agebedis’ line drive between his legs and fired to first base for the out.
Said Skenes: “I got tired of them hitting the ball up the middle and I wanted to catch one.”
No. 14 Indiana State (39-11) had a tough one in its first time as a host before edging Wright State, 6-5, at Bob Warn Field in Terre Haute, with the Summit League team trialing until it got two runners aboard and George Magill singled both in the lead it maintained, as Wright State became 39-22.