NCAA Bracket Breakdown, Day OnePostseason
Well, the first full day of college baseball’s NCAA Tournament is in the books and what did we learn? There were the usual collection of upsets and upstarts that took down some of the blue bloods of the sport. Out West, Oregon State actually had to sweat – a lot – against Holy Cross. North Carolina was the biggest upset victim of the day, losing to Davidson.
There were plenty of other upsets as eight ranked teams took it on the chin, including the stunning late night upset of Iowa taking down Houston and South Alabama disposing of Mississippi State.
Let’s go around the horn and see what we liked and hated about this first full day of action in the Field of 64, then we’ll get to what I took in at the Stanford Regional in the beautiful Bay Area today.
THE HOT TAKES.
Five quick-hit things we noticed about today…
1- SEC Looking To Make Amends
As opposed to last year’s horrid NCAA Tournament performance, this was a good start for the monster conference. There were a few hairy moments (like LSU trailing Texas Southern, Florida getting out-hit by Marist, etc.) but the SEC went 7-1 in the opening round of games today. That’s pretty good. Granted, there will be bigger challenges ahead for the SEC on Saturday, but at least they weren’t the ACC. Which reminds me…
2- ACC Troubles
The biggest upset victims of the day were No. 2 National Seed North Carolina – which was beaten by in-state little brother Davidson – and Tallahassee No. 1 seed Florida State – who was felled by Tennessee Tech. Additionally, N.C. State had to go to extra innings to dispose of Indiana and Clemson escaped with a white-knuckle 5-4 win over UNC Greensboro. Does this mean this will continue the trend from a year ago of the ACC teams having a tough time in the NCAA Tournament. At least so far, it looks like, yes.
3- Ranked teams that probably shouldn’t have been ranked.
Of the eight teams in the D1baseball.com Top 25 that lost today, two of them were ranked higher but at the same time also had lower seeds than their tormentors. So that’s why you see No. 25-ranked St. John’s getting beaten by Vanderbilt, who was actually the two-seed in the Clemson Regional. And it’s also why you see No. 24 Michigan getting beat by Florida Gulf Coast, despite being a No. 3 seed below the Eagles. Also, Auburn barely made it into the field (more on that next section) and took down No. 23 UCF in easy fashion and Sam Houston proved what some of us were starting to suspect with the up-and-down way Arizona was playing lately as the Bearkats upended the Desert Cats 5-4.
4- The “Last Four In”
The last four teams to get at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament went .500 on the day. All playing as three-seeds, the UCLA Bruins kept it close all game long with two-seed Texas before falling 3-2. Also, St. John’s took an early lead over Vanderbilt until the Commodores blew things open in the sixth and seventh innings. On the plus side, SEC West brethren Auburn and Texas A&M both won, taking down UCF and Baylor in the process. So a little bit of good and a little bit of bad.
5- The Worst Losses of the Day.
A handful of painful endings for some losing teams.
– Illinois-Chicago looked to have homestanding Southern Miss on the ropes, leading 6-1 at the midway point, but a three-run fifth and a four-run sixth put the Eagles up for good. But the Flames got the tying run to third base in the seventh, eighth and ninth inning, without scoring.
– Xavier was cruising behind ace Zac Lowther with a 2-0 lead. But with the help of a throwing error, the floodgates opened in the seventh inning as OU won 7-2.
– Even with the specter of going up against Clemson ace Alex Eubanks, the UNCG Spartans played toe-to-toe with the No. 1 seed Tigers in front of 5,095 in Doug Kingsmore Stadium. But eventually they’d drop a one-run game despite leaving the tying run in scoring position.
– Missouri State 6, Oklahoma State 5
This back-and-forth affair in Fayetteville came down to the last at-bats for both teams. The Pokes used an RBI triple in the top of the ninth inning by Garrett Benge (which also completed the cycle for him) to take a 5-4 lead. Then, needing three outs in the bottom of the ninth, the Cowboys ran into Jeremy Eierman, who launched a two-run jog-off home run to pull out the W.
– Ryan Flick, Tennessee Tech
The Eagle cleanup man was sitting there with his bottom lip poking out after starting the day 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts. Then his opportunity came up in the ninth inning. With no outs and men on second and third, Flick cracked a two-run double down the right field line to provide the winning runs and allowing the Eagles to stun No. 1 seed Florida State, 3-1.
THE HERO, PART 2:
– Randy Bell, South Alabama pitcher
Not only did the Jaguar ace pitch a complete game six-hitter to pull off a 6-3 win, he also managed to hold Brent Rooker and Jake Mangum to just one hit amongst them. Yes, Rooker… with one hit. That’s nearly a drought for him. Bell puts the Jags into a winner’s bracket showdown with Southern Miss in what is essentially a very winnable game. We’ll see.
– The Seminole Offense
Usually completely comfortable with dominating on their home field, the Seminole offense came up snake eyes against Tennessee Tech. After the third inning the Noles managed just two hits and never threatened the Eagles.
– Robby Howell, UCF pitcher.
The American Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year was anything but spectacular in his team’s 7-4 loss to Auburn, giving up 10 hits, issuing five walks and allowing four runs to the Tigers. After a 10-0 regular season this was Howell’s first loss of the year. He picked a bad time for his first stinker.
WHO’S SITTING PRETTY (…other than Oregon State)
Sometimes it’s really good for the home team in the Regionals to play the Friday afternoon game and not the evening game, as most hosts do. The Wildcats had some nervous moments in their 6-4 win over Ohio, but they persevered for the win. Then they got to kick back and relax in their own houses while in the nightcap, N.C. State and Indiana wore each other out for 12 innings, so that only helps the UK cause. Now the re-freshed Bat Cats will be ready for the Wolf Pack in the winner’s bracket game on Saturday night.
WHO’S BEHIND THE 8-BALL
– Florida State
Although I bagged on the ‘Noles offense above, this hasn’t been the usual battering ram offense we’ve seen from them over the years. Now, dropping to 0-1, they’ll have to fight their way vs. UCF on Saturday and then, in theory, they’d have to beat Auburn (over TennTech) twice. That’s a tall order for an offense that is misfiring right now. But it’s not impossible.
MOST INTERESTING DAY TWO PITCHING SHOWDOWN:
– Texas’ Morgan Cooper vs. Long Beach’s Darren McCaughan
Just going to be a thing of beauty. I might have to venture down for that one in Long Beach at Blair Field.
THE OTHER MOST INTERESTING DAY TWO MATCHUP:
– Iowa vs. Texas A&M
Oh man, this is good. An upstart Big 10 team taking on an SEC team who was one of the last picks to get a bid to the Big Dance. How intriguing. I guess we will see if A&M can live up to some the hype that they were supposed to have early in the season. Iowa is a hot club, coming off a Big 10 tournament championship and featuring hard-hitting Jake Adams.
TOUR DE FORCE:
– Davidson head coach Dick Cooke
The Wildcats took it to in-state big brother North Carolina, pasting them 8-4 to serve as the biggest upset of the day. It also served as Seth Curry U’s first-ever NCAA tournament win. The ;legendary Dick Cooke would say after the win, “This is the biggest win in our program ever, no question. And it’s probably the biggest win of my coaching career too.”
Dick Cooke has been the head coach at Davidson for the past 27 years. And consequently, Davidson has had a baseball team for 115 years.
BEST CONFERENCE PERFORMANCE
Mentioned it above. They are already making amends for last year’s Big Dance. Well done.
WORST CONFERENCE PERFORMANCE
– The Big 10
Ack! For a conference that was christened with five bids this year, going 1-4 on opening day was not good. Granted, only one of those losses was to lower-seeded teams as No. 2 Nebraska somehow lost to Yale 5-1. But we still expected something a little better than this. Though kudos to Iowa for the win at Houston which continues the Hawkeye hot streak.
SECOND-WORST CONFERENCE PERFORMANCE
– The Pac 12.
For all the love we give the occidental conference and all its supposed underratedness, if that’s a word, the Pac 12 really stunk things up on Friday. All their games were actually close so I guess I shouldn’t say it was a total stink job, but they did go 1-3 with UCLA losing 3-2 to Texas, Arizona getting upset by Sam Houston State 5-4 and the game I was at with Stanford dropping a 4-1 decision to Fullerton.
The only win was No. 1 Oregon State taking down Holy Cross 8-2. And even that game didn’t come easy as the Crusaders ruffled the Beaver dam on a number of occasions, even pulling to within 2-1 in the sixth inning.
– 90 degrees, Clemson Regional at 4pm
I guess Mother Nature decided to be kind to our sport with no unbearable scorchers. (Well, 90º is unbearable to me, but you get my drift.)
– 61 degrees, Corvallis Regional at final pitch, 11:12pm Pacific
Typical Oregon. Just cool.
THE DREADED RAIN DELAY AWARD
– Fort Worth.
Games were cancelled for today and will be made up tomorrow.
… where it is supposed to be scattered thunderstorms off-and-on all day.
Okay, enough analysis from here. Let’s get to the games that I saw in the pastoral town of Palo Alto, California on the San Francisco peninsula.
GAME THREE AT STANFORD REGIONAL
BYU finally got its vaunted offense on track and overcame an early deficit to eliminate Sacramento State in relatively easy fashion.
B.Y.U. – 003 001 200 – 6 9 1
SacSt – 100 000 000 – 1 4 1
WP: Hayden Rogers, 9-2
LP: Parker Brahms, 8-4
– Tanner Chauncey, 3-for-5, 3RBI
– Daniel Schneemann, 2-for-4, RBI
– James Outman, 1-for-4, RBI
– BYU, 38-20
– Sacramento State, 32-29
HOW IT WENT DOWN:
Unlike Thursday’s first round games, the team that jumped out to an early lead in the elimination game did NOT end up winning in a boat race.
Sac State put up a run in the first inning on James Outman’s RBI double which came with two out in the frame. Hooray for the Hornets. Right?
Well that would be the only cheering that the Green and Gold fans would be able to enjoy. BYU pitchers Hayden Rogers and Mason Marshall allowed very little joy from that moment on, shutting down the opposing offense to the tune of just two hits from innings two through nine. Yes, two. And this is a Hornet offense that came into the Regionals on an eight-game win streak where they had hit .344 with 10 home runs.
No such luck today.
The Cougar offense came alive with three runs in the top of the third inning where they collected three hits, a walk and back-to-back-to-back RI from Brennon Anderson, Daniel Schneeman and Tanner Chauncey. That would be all the Cougars would really need, considering the arms of Rogers and Marshall.
They would get an extra run in the sixth on a bases-loaded single by Bonson Larsen. A two-RBI double by Chauncey – again, that Chauncey dude – would add two more runs in the seventh inning.
SAY G’BYE TO SACRAMENTO STATE
The Hornets may have gone 0-2 here but this is the second-ever NCAA bid for them, the first one coming back in 2014. So that’s still two out of four for the boys from the Capital City. Head coach Reggie Christiansen was clearly bummed out but also very appreciative of his boys and said he really looks forward to next season.
“Coach (Trent) Pratt and I were talking the other day, and we try not to get too ahead of ourselves in talking about next year, but we were looking at things and we have a lot of guys out with injury that should be back with us next season. Today’s starter (Parer Brahms) and the last pitcher we used who is usually a starter (Austin Roberts) are both Freshmen. We are going to have a lot of experience coming back next year and we are very excited about it.”
GAME FOUR IN PALO ALTO
Cal State Fullerton continues to exude a different kind of energy from what I saw most of the season and stays in the win column with a stout 4-1 win over the No. 8 National seed Cardinal of Stanford.
Stanford – 000 010 000 – 1 4 1
Fullerton – 010 021 00x – 4 10 0
WP: John Gavin7-2
LP: Andrew Summerville, 5-2
– Jesse Kuet, 2-for-3, RBI
– Sahid Valenzuela, 3-for-4, hit for the “short cycle”: single, double, triple
– Timmy Richards, 2-for-4 double
– Stanford, 41-15
– Fullerton, 36-21
HOW IT WENT DOWN:
Stanford came into this game having won 22 of its last 24 games. In other words, piping hot.
Tonight on the Farm, it was Fullerton’s starting pitcher John Gavin who turned the heat up to hotter than pyrotechnics at a KISS concert in Sunken Diamond. The big southpaw was stout as all get-out allowing just four hits and having five of his eight innings on the mound result in three-up, three-down fashion.
As the game went on Gavin seemed to get stronger, including a strikeout of the side in the seventh inning which demoralized the Cardinal and pretty much salted away the win.
Once again, the Fullerton offense seemed to be energized like I hadn’t seen them this season scoring a run in the second inning on John Hudgins’ RBI double, and then capping the game with two runs in the fifth inning thanks to Sahid Valenzuela’s triple and Dillon Persinger’s RBI single. A huge throwing error on Stanford shortstop Nick Hoerner allowed Persinger to score and make it 3-1.
Fullerton added another run in the sixth inning on an RBI single from Valenzuela to make it 4-1. With the way Gavin was pitching that 4-1 lead seemed more like 9-1 as he continued his dominance.
Brett Conine came on in relief in the ninth inning for the Titans and crushed any hopes for a comeback with no drama, giving up a leadoff bleeder single before retiring the Cardinal in the next three batters.
The Titans have been a new team ever since showing up here in Palo Alto, suddenly having a potent approach at the plate and executing their offense unlike they have all season. As Rick Vanderhook said yesterday, “This is about as good as we could play.”
That’s a huge statement. The Titans now sit in the catbird seat as they’ll await the winner of Saturday’s BYU-Stanford game for an evening rematch.
The Cardinal are a bit more on the nervous side. They now see longtime head coach Mark Marquess at the precipice of his career. One more loss and the old war horse can be put out to pasture. The Cardinal will now have to face off with BYU on Saturday afternoon and hope the Cougars haven’t found a second wind at the plate.
A few more images from today’s second game.