Friday's opening regional action in the 2013 College World Series was one of the more action-filled Day 1s in recent memory.
It was a 32-game marathon across the country that boasted walk-off home runs, dominant pitching performances and the occasional 31-run donnybrook between Kansas State and Wichita State, a game that by only sheer miracle did not shatter the scoreboard in Manhattan.
And the best part is that everyone got to wake up and do it all over again Saturday. Well, maybe that's not great for the players. But the road to Omaha stops for no one, and Day 2 of the regional action certainly had a lot to live up to.
That being said, Saturday's matchups had tension bubbling for half the field that wasn't looming over teams 24 hours prior—the prospect of elimination. The double-elimination format of these mini-tournaments going on across 16 cities is captivating for audiences, but puts teams in situations where they cannot have a major slip-up.
One bad pitching performance, one critical strikeout or one managerial gaffe can create a seismic shift in a team's season. Errors, both mental and on the field, can be the difference between a national championship run and starting summer early.
And that pressure is especially looming for host schools like Virginia Tech, which put its back against the wall after being the only host school to lose on Day 1. The soul-crushing heartbreak of being eliminated from a life-altering experience is one thing. Doing so before a raucous cheering section of adoring friends and family is another.
With that super-pleasant preview out of the way, let's take a look at how Saturday's action shook out, highlighting the day's most notable results.
Losers' Bracket Results*
|Winner (Seed)||Loser (Seed)||Score||Region|
|(2) Alabama||(4) Savannah State||10-0||Tallahassee|
|(3) Oklahoma State||(4) Bowling Green||7-3||Louisville|
|(2) Florida Atlantic||(4) Canisius||14-6||Chapel Hill|
|(1) Virginia Tech||(3) Coastal Carolina||9-1||Blacksburg|
|(4) Valparaiso||(3) Florida||5-4||Bloomington|
|(2) UNC Wilmington||(4) Army||9-5||Charlottesville|
|(2) Mississippi||(4) Binghamton||8-4||Raleigh|
|(2) Clemson||(4) Saint Louis||10-2||Columbia|
|(2) Texas A&M||(4) UTSA||6-1||Corvallis|
|(2) Louisiana-Lafayette||(4) Jackson State||15-1||Baton Rouge|
|(2) Arkansas||(4) Wichita State||3-1||Manhattan|
* All teams who lost in this bracket are eliminated from the 2013 NCAA tournament. All results courtesy of NCAA.com.
Winners' Bracket Results*
|Winner (Seed)||Loser (Seed)||Score||Region|
*All teams who lost in this bracket will go on to face the winner of the losers' bracket matchup in their region. Results will be added throughout the day as games finish.
Top-Seeded Virginia Tech Staves Off Elimination
Hosting this weekend's action in Blacksburg, top-seeded Virginia Tech saw itself facing elimination on Day 2—a result that left many Hokies faithful shell-shocked. Fourth-seeded Connecticut played the role of bad host on Friday, taking advantage of erratic pitching from Joe Mantiply and watching as Virginia Tech's vaunted bats fell silent.
Coastal Carolina didn't get so lucky. Though the Hokies bats again fell silent in the early innings, they roared to action in the homestretch, defeating the third-seeded Chanticleers, 9-1, in the early game in Blacksburg on Saturday.
Both teams went scoreless through the first five innings, as starters Devin Burke (Virginia Tech) and Ben Smith (Coastal Carolina) both started off firing gems. But where Burke continued pelting the strike zone to the tune of a 121-pitch complete game, the wheels started falling off for Smith and the Chanticleers.
Virginia Tech small-balled its way to a run in the sixth and then started turning on the jets in the seventh. First, it was Andrew Rash popping a home run on his way to going 3-for-5 with three RBI. And then, Coastal Carolina's defense started cratering, allowing a passed ball that eventually resulted in a run on an Alex Perez single.
With Smith having been knocked out of the game after throwing 6.1 innings, the Hokies started pouring it on against Coastal Carolina's bullpen. The contest culminated in a five-run ninth inning, as Virginia Tech sent 12 batters to the plate, crushing Coastal Carolina reliever Seth Lamando for all five earned.
The Hokies, hosting a regional for the first time, will continue on to play on Sunday. For Coastal Carolina, the team's season ends—but at least it wasn't all for naught. Cleanup hitter Alex Buccilli sent social media abuzz for his, umm, let's say unique batting stance.
MLB's FanCave Twitter had a shot:
That being said, the team lost its two games by a combined score of 16-4. Not everything can have a rosy ending.
Valparaiso Rallies Late, Eliminates Florida
Had Valparaiso picked up its bags and simply gone home following Friday's crushing loss to Indiana, it would have been understandable. The fourth-seeded Crusaders pushed the top-seeded Hoosiers to the limit on their home field, taking a 4-1 lead into the bottom of the ninth.
With closer Karch Kowalczyk, so dominant in the regular season, on the mound, an upset seemed like destiny. And then, everything broke loose. Indiana rallied against the dominant reliever, recording four hits in five batters faced. The offensive assault culminated with a two-run, walk-off homer by Chad Clark, who had exactly one dinger all season coming into the matchup.
On Saturday, it was Valparaiso's turn to play the spoiler. Much like Indiana a day prior, Valparaiso won a game it probably didn't deserve, coming from behind to eliminate third-seeded Florida with a 5-4 victory.
Yahoo! Sports' Pat Forde noted what an upset the result was:
Valparaiso just eliminated Florida from NCAA baseball tourney. Based on geography and athletic budgets alone, that's an upset.— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) June 1, 2013
The Crusaders were spurred by a four-run seventh inning that saw control issues take center stage for the Gators. Starter Johnny Magliozzi, who had gone six strong to that point, started the inning by allowing two singles and a walk, leading to his exit from the contest.
Reliever Daniel Gibson fared far, far worse. After fielding an error-plated one run with his first batter, Gibson walked the next two, allowing Valpo to tie up the game with just those two hits. Ryan Harris came in and held the damage to a minimum—he gave up a run on a fielder's choice on his first batter—but the Gators could not make a comeback.
Kyle Wormington got the win after closing out the final three innings for the Crusaders, but it wasn't without issue. Florida got five runners on base against Wormington, continually failing to come through with runners in scoring position.
The loss for Florida was a shocker, even as a No. 3 seed. As pointed out by ESPN Stats & Information, the Gators had made the College World Series each of the last three years:
Florida baseball: 1st time 0-2 in the NCAA Tournament since 2008... Gators had reached CWS in the previous 3 seasons (2010-12)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 1, 2013
As for Valpo, the team marches on to Sunday. It's unclear what the final result will be for this team, but the process will undoubtedly be captivating.
Louisiana-Lafayette Pulverizes Jackson State, Stays Afloat
There weren't all that many down-to-the wire finishes early on Saturday, as Valparaiso-Florida continued to stand out as the afternoon's outlier. Higher seeds continuously pulled out victories, proving the selection committee right time and again for its selections. (Though, as an aside, it's a bit weird to see so many No. 2 seeds taking on the lowly No. 4s.)
No team better exemplified the excellence of the higher seeds on Saturday than second-seeded Louisiana-Lafayette, which delivered the baseball embodiment of a curb stomp to Jackson State, winning 15-1.
Starting pitcher Austin Robichaux threw eight innings strong, spraying eight hits and giving up one earned run. Robichaux struck out a batter an inning, but it took him 117 pitches to make it though the eighth frame due to juuust a bit of a control problem. Tim Buckley of The Daily Advertiser has the stat:
In the sixth, Austin Robichaux hits his fourth Jackson State batter.— Tim Buckley (@TDARaginCajuns) June 1, 2013
Other than, you know, pelting the opponent with fastballs thing, the rest of the game went quite swimmingly for UL Lafayette. The Ragin' Cajuns had nine different batters record an RBI on Saturday, eviscerating just about anyone Jackson State put on the mound. Desmond Russell gave up nine runs and 12 hits over 7.2 innings, while Andre Rodriguez needed 0.1 innings to give up five runs.
Third baseman Tyler Girouard was the star of the show for UL-Lafayette, going 3-for-4 at the dish en route to driving in three runs. Leadoff hitter Dex Kjerstad went 3-for-6 and scored three runs on the day, upping his batting average for the season to .401.
It was the type of utter dominance you see every once in a while at these events. The giant, just awoken by an upset, comes up against a team just happy to be invited to the party. These things never go well.
It will be interesting to see how UL-Lafayette carries this momentum into its second elimination game in as many days Sunday.
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