Things to know about NCAA super regionals
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Super regionals are the next stop on the NCAA baseball tournament’s Road to Omaha.
Four of the best-of-three series are Friday through Sunday, with the other four Saturday through Monday. The eight winners advance to the College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha starting June 15.
Some things to know heading into the round of 16:
No. 1 national seed UCLA (51-9) is in position to become the first school to sweep the baseball and softball national titles in the same year. The Bruins’ softball team won the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City this week, beating Oklahoma in the best-of-three finals. “It would be very, very special,” coach John Savage said. “Softball has done their part. We both played for a national championship in 2010 and South Carolina beat us. It would be remarkable.”
BEEN THERE, DONE THAT
Seven of the 16 teams are in super regionals for the second straight year: Arkansas (44-17), Auburn (36-25), Duke (34-25), Mississippi State (49-13), North Carolina (45-15), Texas Tech (42-17) and Vanderbilt (52-10). Florida State (39-21) is making its nation-leading 17th appearance, and North Carolina has the best all-time record in the round of 16 at 14-4 (.778). Michigan (44-19) is a relative newcomer, having not made super regionals since 2007.
LET’S DO IT AGAIN
Two super regionals match conference rivals.
Big 12: Oklahoma State (39-19) at Texas Tech. Red Raiders swept three games in Lubbock, Texas, in late April.
SEC: Mississippi at Arkansas. Rebels took two of three in Fayetteville, Arkansas, in late March. There is one nonconference rematch: Michigan beat UCLA 7-5 in Los Angeles on March 8.
Five first-round picks in the Major League Baseball draft will be playing: Vanderbilt outfielder JJ Bleday, No. 4 overall, Marlins; Texas Tech infielder Josh Jung, No. 8, Rangers; UCLA first baseman Michael Toglia, No. 23, Rockies; Mississippi State pitcher Ethan Small, No. 28, Brewers; and North Carolina second baseman Michael Busch, No. 30, Dodgers.
OFFENSE, OFFENSE, OFFENSE
Mississippi (40-25) batted a tournament-best .404 with nine home runs in regionals and outscored three opponents 41-7, a school record for runs in a regional. Florida State batted .375 with 10 homers and 11.7 runs per game. Ole Miss’ Tim Elko (.778) and Anthony Servideo (.769) had the best on-base percentages among players advancing to super regionals. Other top batting teams: East Carolina, .341; LSU, .330; Mississippi State, .327; and Auburn, .324. The hottest hitter coming out of regionals is Florida State’s Mike Salvatore, who went 9 for 14 (.643) with a homer and double.
IT COMES DOWN TO PITCHING
The top eight pitching teams in regionals, and 16 of the top 24, advanced. Texas Tech allowed just three earned runs in 27 innings (1.00 ERA) and averaged 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings. Arkansas had the only other sub-2.00 ERA, at 1.67, and Louisville averaged 11 Ks per nine innings to lead surviving teams. Stanford’s Brendan Beck, who made a start and relief appearance, pitched 10 1/3 shutout innings.
Florida State at LSU (40-24) matches two of the most successful programs in the college game’s history. In addition to 17 super regional appearances, the Seminoles have the NCAA wins leader in all sports in Mike Martin (2,026). LSU is tied with Cal State Fullerton with 14 super regional appearances, and the Tigers’ Paul Mainieri is ninth on the wins list (1,456). The all-time series is tied 9-9, but LSU has won four in a row, with the last two in the 2017 CWS.
East Carolina (47-16), which plays at Louisville, might be the best program to never reach the College World Series. The Pirates have been in the tournament 16 times since 1999 but are 1-8 in four super regionals. They came close the last time. That was 2016, when they won their opener at Texas Tech but sustained an excruciating 3-1, 13-inning loss in Game 2 after failing to score in the ninth with two runners on base and no outs, and in the 12th with bases loaded. They lost Game 3 11-0.
Stanford (45-12) has rediscovered the long ball, hitting a tournament-leading 12 in regionals. After hitting 55 homers last year, the Cardinal have 87 for the most since the 2004 club connected 96 times. A new power source emerged last week. Maverick Handley, the regional’s Most Outstanding Player, hit three home runs in five games after entering the postseason with four in 129 career games.
The SEC leads the power conferences in tournament winning percentage through regionals: SEC, 25-8, .758; ACC, 18-9, .667; Big 12, 10-7, .588; Pac-12, 9-8, .529; Big Ten, 6-9, .400.