By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent
For the first time in over two decades, Auburn is going to Omaha, Neb., for the College World Series.
The Tigers won their Super Regional matchup over North Carolina as they exploded for 25 runs in their two wins in Chapel Hill. Auburn won the series opener,11-7, after scoring nine runs over the final two innings. North Carolina bounced back with an impressive defensive performance in a 2-0 victory in Game 2 but the Tigers’ bats came alive again to start the rubber match. Butch Thompson’s team scored 13 runs in the first inning en route to a 14-7 win, Tigers clinching Auburn’s first berth in the College World Series since 1997 and fifth in school history.
Auburn will face off against a familiar foe in Omaha in Mississippi State, who disposed of Stanford in two games in the super regionals. In the opener, Mississippi State won, 6-2, over the Cardinals. The Bulldogs then cruised to an 8-1 victory to clinch a spot in the CWS for the second straight season and the 11th time in school history.
No. 2 overall seed Van-derbilt started its series with Duke with a shocking 18-5 loss. However, behind a no-hitter from true freshman pitcher Kumar Rocker, the Commodores responded with a 3-0 victory in the second game to even the series. Rocker, who is the son of former Auburn football star Tracy Rocker, racked up 19 strikeouts in the winning effort. Vandy won the third and final game at 13-2 to advance to the College World Series for the fourth time in school history and fourth time since 2011. All four appearances have come under head coach Tim Corbin. The Commodores won the national title in 2014.
One Super Regional was an all-SEC affair when Ole Miss traveled to Fayetteville to take on Arkansas. While the series went three games, all three were blowouts. The Razorbacks won the series opener at 11-2, but the Rebels responded with a 13-5 win the following day. Arkansas then do-minated the series finale, 14-1, to advance to Omaha for the 10th time in school history. The Hogs finished as the runner-up a season ago and have made the CWS six times under head coach Dave Van Horn.
LSU’s season came to an end at home against a Florida State team that barely snuck into the NCAA Tournament. The Seminoles won the first game, 6-4, and stunned the Tigers in the second game, 5-4, to complete the sweep.
Elsewhere, Michigan knocked off No. 1 overall seed UCLA, Texas Tech beat Oklahoma State and Louisville stormed past East Carolina.
College World Series Preview
The eight teams in the College World Series are divided into two brackets of four teams each. Each qua-drant of teams will play a double-elimination tournament, and the winners of the two brackets will meet for a best-of-three series to determine the national champion. Theoretically, a team can lose twice and still win the championship depending on when the losses occurred. The first bracket consists of Texas Tech, Michigan, Arkansas and Florida State. The Razorbacks are the top ranked team on that side of the bracket, though rankings don’t mean particularly much at this point in the season since there’s no home field advantage. Arkansas plays Florida State first, and the winner of that game will greet the winner of Michigan and Texas Tech, while the two losers will play in an elimination game.
Bracket two features three teams from the SEC, including a matchup between Auburn and Mississippi State in the first game. Vanderbilt faces Louisville in the other matchup. The Commodores are the highest ranked team remaining in the tournament.
College World Series predictions
Bracket 1 winner
Arkansas over Texas Tech
Bracket 2 winner
Vanderbilt over Mississippi State