By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent
NCAA Super Regionals Review
Six teams from the Southeastern Conference made the NCAA Super Regionals, and three of those teams were guaranteed to advance. Three Super Regionals were all-SEC battles, and it the path to Omaha included several riveting games between the conference rivals.
Auburn reached its first Super Regional since 1999 after winning the Raleigh Regional. Unfortunately, the Tigers had to travel to Gainesville to take on the defending national champion Florida Gators, who cruised past the Tigers by a score of 8-2 in the first game.
The second game of the series was a pitcher’s duel between Florida’s Jackson Kowar and Auburn’s Tanner Burns. With the score tied at 1-1 in the bottom of the eighth, Will Holland drove home Josh Anthony to give the Tigers a 2-1 advantage. However, Florida responded in the top of the ninth after a solo home run from leftfielder Austin Langworthy. In the bottom of the inning, Auburn’s Luke Jarvis connected on a base hit to drive home the game-winning run to force a Game 3 as the Tigers won 3-2.
In the final game of the series, Florida took an early 1-0 after a solo home run from third baseman Jonathan India. Auburn evened the score on an RBI hit from Steven Williams in the top of the third, but the Gators retook the lead in the bottom of the fourth.
It took several innings for Auburn to strike back, but Anthony brought home Jarvis in the top of the seventh to tie the score a 2-2. The game went into extra innings after very impressive pitching performances from Auburn reliever Davis Daniel and Florida reliever Michael Byrne. In the bottom of the 11th, however, Lang-worthy hit a home run to rightfield that just barely made it over the fence to send Florida to its fourth straight College World Series and 12th in school history.
The best series of the weekend took place in Nashville between Vanderbilt and Mississippi State. Both teams exploded for several runs in the series opener. Mississippi State carried an 8-7 lead into the top of the ninth inning, but the Commodores evened the score. In the bottom of the ninth, MSU right fielder Elijah MacNamee launched a walk-off two-run home run to give the Bulldogs a 10-8 victory.
Vanderbilt returned the favor in the second game. With the score tied a 3-3 in the bottom of the ninth, Vandy rightfielder J.J. Bleday blasted a solo home run to give his team a 4-3 win. The Commodores’ victory set up a winner-take-all Game 3, which produced another classic from the two schools.
The game was tied 3-3 entering the ninth, and the Mississippi State offense doubled its run total in the top of the inning. Jake Mangum drove home Luke Alexander, and Mangum later scored on a wild pitch. Rowdey Jordan drove home Jordan Anderson to give the Bulldogs a 6-3 lead.
In the bottom of the ninth, Vandy outfielder Pat DeMarco crushed a solo home run to close the gap to 6-4. Harrison Ray knocked through a base hit, and Ethan Paul hit a 2-run home run to even the score during the next at-bat.
Both teams were scoreless in the 10th inning, but the Bulldogs pulled away from the Commodores with a loud top half of the 11th. Tanner Allen doubled home Josh Hatcher for the first run of the inning. Mississippi State later tacked on three more runs, and Van-derbilt failed to answer. The Bulldogs advanced to their 10th College World Series in school history.
In the last SEC Super Regional, South Carolina traveled to Fayetteville to take on Arkansas. The Hogs were heavy favorites in the series and took care of business in the first game with a comfortable 9-3 victory. The Gamecocks weren’t fazed by the threat of an elimination game, however, and they won the second game, 8-5, to force a Game 3.
If there was any pressure on the Razorbacks in deciding game, they certainly didn’t show it. Arkansas pounced on South Carolina and never gave the Gamecocks a chance to settle in as the Razorbacks scored five runs in the first inning and two in the second. Arkansas won 14-4 to advance to the College World Series for the first time since 2015 and for the ninth time in school history.
College World Series Preview
The final eight teams remaining in college baseball will compete for the national championship in Omaha. There are two four-team brackets, and it’s a double elimination tournament until only two teams remain. Those two teams will then play a best-of-three series to determine the national champion.
In the top bracket, Oregon State and North Carolina square off in a rematch of the 2006 and 2007 College World Series finals. The Beavers won both of those national championships and are favored to beat the Tar Heels in the opening game this year.
Washington will take on Mississippi State in the bottom half of Bracket 1. The Huskies are making their first CWS appearance in school history. Mississippi State has made it to Omaha several times but never won a national championship in baseball.
Bracket 2 is highlighted No. 1 overall seed Florida. The Gators are aiming for their second straight national title and are the gold standard for college baseball programs right now. Florida will face Texas Tech in its opening game.
Arkansas has been a regular in Omaha throughout the last 15 years, but the Razorbacks have not won a national title. The Hogs open up against Texas in their first game. The Longhorns have won six national titles and hold the record for most appearances in Omaha of any school with 36.
College World Series Predictions
Bracket 1 winner
Bracket 2 winner
Florida over Oregon State