It’s Super Regional Sunday, and that means that we’re one day closer to setting our field of eight for the College World Series in Omaha. Let’s get right to recapping the action.
Cal State Fullerton 2 Long Beach State 1 (Cal State Fullerton Wins 2-1, Advances to CWS)
There’s no such thing as free agency or the trade deadline in college baseball. You kind of are what you are for the entirety of the season.
When you get a key player back from injury at a pivotal time, though, it can kind of feel like you acquired a key piece. That must be how Cal State Fullerton feels after they got Colton Eastman back from injury late in the season, what with the way he’s pitched this postseason.
In the Palo Alto Regional against Stanford, to clinch his team’s place in a super regional, he threw 6.2 innings, giving up two hits and one unearned run with two walks and five strikeouts. He topped that on Sunday by throwing seven innings, giving up just one hit and one unearned run with four walks and eight strikeouts on the way to pitching his team past the Dirtbags and into Omaha for the second time in three seasons.
It was fitting that, in a deciding game between Big West rivals, a typical Big West affair broke out. In addition to combining for three runs, the teams combined to collect just six hits. Both of the Titans’ runs came on a Hank LoForte two-RBI single in the fourth. The only other hit of the game for CSUF came in the top of the fifth, a Scott Hurst single. With the way Eastman was pitching, of course, that was enough.
There are still the perpetual questions about how much offense Fullerton can produce against top pitching (although they did score 12 runs against Beach on Saturday), but with a starting rotation of Connor Seabold, John Gavin, and Colton Eastman and in a pitcher’s park like TD Ameritrade, you can’t discount their chances to come back to Orange County with a national title in hand.
TCU 8 Missouri State 1 (TCU Wins 2-0, Advances to CWS)
With an 8-1 win over the Bears, the Horned Frogs are headed to the College World Series for the fourth consecutive year.
Just as he has been in postseasons prior, Brian Howard was once again the hero for TCU. Things got off to a rocky start, as he allowed a leadoff home run to MSU’s Hunter Steinmetz, tying the game 1-1, but after that, he was nails. When it was all said and done, he had thrown 7.1 innings, giving up four hits and one run with two walks and 11 strikeouts. According to stats from Carlos Mendez of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Howard now has a career postseason ERA of 1.96.
Offensively, the Frogs just never let lefty starter Doug Still get comfortable on the mound. In the first, Cam Warner delivered an RBI single. In the second, Elliott Barzilli, who hasn’t had the kind of season he had hoped for, came through in a big spot with an RBI double, and in the fourth, Evan Skoug connected for his 20th homer of the season, a two-run shot that made it 4-1 TCU. Skoug added an RBI walk in the sixth to make it 5-1, and a three-run homer for Barzilli in the ninth was icing on the cake.
Experience in Omaha seems to matter. Teams with a similar core of players tend to do better in the their second or third times around (as rare as those teams are, generally), and that really bodes well for TCU. This is a group of guys who have been there before, and have gone through the highs and lows of playing on that stage. Their celebration after clinching their spot was noticeably subdued, and that’s often the sign of a team not satisfied with just being there. The Horned Frogs are going to be very dangerous.
On a side note, kudos to Missouri State on their season. That’s been a solid program for a long time now, with a 2003 College World Series appearance to show for it, but they’ve found another gear over the last few years. With geography and conference affiliation putting them at a disadvantage compared to many of the teams they go up against in postseason play, going to two super regionals in three seasons, as they have, is quite a feat.
Florida State 19 Sam Houston State 0 (FSU Wins 2-0, Advances to CWS)
On Sunday, in their blowout win over the Bearkats, we saw exactly why the Seminoles are not going to be any fun to play in Omaha. Sure, SHSU starter Heath Donica never settled in and things snowballed quickly, but the FSU offense can score runs in bunches, putting you well behind the eight ball before you even realize what hit you.
In this game specifically, Taylor Walls got things going with a solo home run to lead off the game. Three batters later, Cal Raleigh double home a run to make it 2-0. Two batters after that, Matt Henderson dropped a bloop double into left field to bring home two runs, and just like that, it was 4-0.
In the second, four batters into the inning, Jackson Lueck singled home a run, and the next batter, Quincy Nieporte, connected for a three-run blast to make it 8-0. The rout was officially on.
The Seminoles did bang out 13 hits on the way to their 19 runs, but the SHSU pitching staff didn’t do themselves any favors by issuing 12 walks and hitting seven batters. Seven SHSU pitchers threw, with only Jordan Cannon, who tossed two scoreless innings to finish it out, escaping without allowing a run.
Lost in the rout was the outstanding pitching that FSU enjoyed. Starting pitcher Drew Parrish threw five innings, giving up two hits and one walk with nine strikeouts. Cole Sands came on in relief beginning in the fourth inning and threw three scoreless innings, and Andrew Karp closed things out with a scoreless ninth.
It took them most of the way through the season, but finally, it appears that the Seminoles are reaching their immense potential.
LSU 14 Mississippi State 4 (LSU Wins 2-0, Advances to CWS)
Through four innings, you had a heck of a game between LSU and MSU.
LSU took a 3-0 lead after two innings on Antoine Duplantis and Greg Deichmann RBI singles in the first and a balk that scored Michael Papierski in the second. MSU came roaring back in the third and plated four runs on a Harrison Bragg two-run homer and RBI singles from Jake Mangum and Elijah MacNamee.
By that point, both teams had gone to the bullpen and it looked like we were in for a long, tense ballgame.
But two things changed that.
One was a six-run top of the fifth inning that gave the Tigers a 9-4 lead. Papierski, Jake Slaughter, and Kramer Robertson had RBI hits in the inning, to go along with runs scored on a wild pitch and on a Hunter Stovall error. Five runs scored in the ninth brought us to the 14-4 final.
The other was the pitching performance of LSU’s Caleb Gilbert. After starter Jared Poche was chased after just 2.1 innings, Gilbert came on and settling things down by throwing 5.2 scoreless innings, giving up just two hits and a walk with six strikeouts along the way.
Compare that with Mississippi State having to use eight pitchers, with only Cole Gordon lasting more than 1.1 innings and every pitcher except Trysten Barlow coming away with runs on their stat line. For much of the season, the Bulldogs were able to overcome the rash of pitching injuries they sustained, but against a tough offense like LSU’s, it made their staff perilously thin.
This will be LSU’s third trip to Omaha in five seasons. There’s no doubt that they’ll have their eye on the program’s first national title since 2009.