Super Regional Saturday is indisputably one of the best days on the college baseball calendar each year. All eight super regional matchups play a game, some teams will almost certainly advance to Omaha, some series will be forced to a third game, and in those that are just beginning, we get those tasty opening game pitching matchups.
This year’s version of Super Regional Saturday delivered. Let’s take a spin through the results with the help of some superlatives.
Best Individual Pitching Performance: Tommy Wilson, Cal State Fullerton
One day after Washington pounded out 12 hits against Colton Eastman, Wilson silenced the Huskies on the way to a 5-2 Titans win, forcing a decisive third game in this series to be played Sunday. Wilson’s development into a solid complement to Eastman in the rotation has been huge for Cal State Fullerton, and he stepped up in a big way on Saturday. He threw seven innings, giving up three hits and one run with one walk and three strikeouts. The only blemish on his line came thanks to a solo homer off the bat of UW slugger Joe Wainhouse, and given how well Wainhouse has been swinging the bat lately, that’s excusable.
- Honorable Mention: Ethan Roberts, Tennessee Tech- Roberts came on in relief of starter Marcus Evey and carried the Golden Eagles over the finish line of their 5-4 win, moving them to within one win of advancing to Omaha. Roberts threw four innings in relief, giving up one hit and one run with one walk and four strikeouts.
Best Team Pitching Performance: Oregon State
The word “gritty” might apply better here, but OSU deserves kudos for what they accomplished on Saturday against Minnesota, one day after Luke Heimlich shut down the Gophers’ offense.
Starter Bryce Fehmel was clearly not at his sharpest. Most innings were filled with stressful pitches and runners on base, and there were several points during the middle innings when he didn’t look long for the game. He battled through, though, and ended up giving his team six-plus innings, giving up six hits and three runs with three walks and six strikeouts. From there, Christian Chamberlain came on and struck out five of the six batters he retired, and Jake Mulholland struck out the side in the ninth to close out the 6-3 win that sends the Beavers to the College World Series.
Best Individual Hitting Performance: Gabe Holt, Texas Tech
Sometimes you’re the best hitter in a game because you fill up the box score. Sometimes you’re the best hitter in a game because you come up big in the biggest moment. And sometimes you’re the best hitter in a game for both reasons. On Friday, Mississippi State’s Elijah MacNamee was both, and on Saturday’s Texas Tech’s Gabe Holt was both.
The box score shows that he went 3-for-5 with two RBI and two runs scored out of the leadoff spot in Texas Tech’s 6-4 win over Duke to kick off the Lubbock Super Regional. He also came up in the biggest spot. In the bottom of the eighth, with the game tied 4-4, Holt stepped to the plate and singled into right field, scoring Cody Farhat with the go-ahead run and bringing up Brian Klein, who doubled Holt home to give the Red Raiders an insurance run.
Somewhat quietly, Holt has been an incredible spark plug in the TTU lineup. Including Saturday’s big day, he’s hitting .345/.439/.482 on the year. Combined with some of the big power bats in the order, Holt helps give the Red Raiders one of the most dangerous offenses left playing.
Best Team Hitting Performance: Florida
The buzz ahead of game one between Auburn and Florida on Saturday was all about the next round in the heavyweight pitching battle between first-round picks Casey Mize and Brady Singer. Singer battled himself and some batted ball luck early on, but eventually found a groove and mostly held up his end of the bargain, but Florida was all over Casey Mize as the game moved into the middle innings.
Part of the issue was that Mize wasn’t his usual self, as he walked a season-high four batters and hit a batter, but UF also just blitzed him. Mize ended up throwing five innings, giving up seven hits and six runs with four walks and five strikeouts. Trailing 2-0 at the time, Florida plated four runs in the third off of Mize, two on a Wil Dalton single, one on a fielder’s choice RBI off the bat of Austin Langworthy, and another on a Keenan Bell RBI single. In the fifth, they took advantage of a Will Holland error to score a run and then grabbed a second run thanks to a Blake Reese RBI single.
Singer may have come out on top between the two starters on Saturday, but the star of the show was a relentless Florida offense that would win them plenty of games even if they didn’t boast the elite pitching they have at their disposal.
- Honorable Mention: North Carolina- For the second day in a row, the Tar Heels did damage to a Stetson pitcher that hadn’t been hit around all that much during the course of the 2018 season. On Friday, that pitcher was Logan Gilbert, as UNC plated four runs off of the first-round pick in 5.1 innings on the way to a 7-4 win. On Saturday, they had success against Jack Perkins, who came into the game with a 2.34 ERA and as a newly-minted 11th-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Phillies. Carolina rang up six runs on nine hits in 2.1 innings against Perkins, getting them off to a quick start in a game that eventually ended in a 7-5 UNC win, moving them to the College World Series for the first time since 2013. The Tar Heels boast the most dangerous offense they’ve had in a while, and that bodes well for their chances in Omaha.
Best Game: Mississippi State/Vanderbilt
What drama we’ve gotten from this series over the first two days. On Friday, MSU walked off with a win on an Elijah MacNamee two-run homer. On Saturday, it was Vanderbilt’s turn, as they walked off with a 4-3 win thanks to a solo homer from J.J. Bleday in the bottom of the ninth. Prior to that, it was a back and forth affair, albeit a slightly cleaner one than what we witnessed on Friday.
The Bulldogs led 2-0 and then 3-1, but by the end of the eighth inning, it was tied 3-3 thanks to a Ty Duvall RBI single in the sixth and an Ethan Paul RBI single in the eighth. Vandy’s Patrick Raby only gave them four innings, but the trio of Jackson Gillis (3 IP, 3 H, 0 R), Reid Schaller (1 IP, 0 H, 0 R), and Chandler Day (1 IP, 0 H, 0 R) did a fantastic job of keeping the Commodores in the game and giving the offense a chance to get to work.
With the way the first two games have gone in this series, prepare yourself for a wild finale on Sunday.
- Honorable Mention: Tennessee Tech/Texas- There was a little bit of everything in this one. You had Tennessee Tech flexing their muscles a little bit offensively. You had Texas’ Jake McKenzie serving as something of a surprising offensive catalyst. You had great relief performances from Tennessee Tech’s Roberts and the Texas pair of Josh Sawyer and Parker Joe Robinson. You had Kody Clemens doing Kody Clemens things with a long home run to right. You had scorching-hot temperatures and you had some rain. You had the Cinderella element, even if Tennessee Tech is probably too highly-ranked and has been too successful this season to truly be considered a Cinderella. And most of all, you had a tight game. Travis Moths, who correctly predicted that TTU would win the Oxford Regional, will be on the mound in game two of the super regional on Sunday, pitching against a Texas team that will be champing at the bit to get back out there and even things up. That’s going to be fun.