Sixteen teams remain as college baseball enters super regional play, with four teams in play Friday taking one more step toward Omaha.
Today's losers still have a chance to move on, but they're hanging on by a thread right now. They'll have to win each of their next two games to escape these best-of-three series to avoid getting squeezed out before the College World Series.
Day 1 featured four super-regional games, with the remaining eight teams kicking off play on Saturday. After surviving regional play, and with the promised land in sight, all of these teams understand the stakes and the sense of urgency with which they must play.
Let's look at the results from Friday's play and figure out what they mean moving forward.
|2014 College Baseball Super Regionals: Day 1|
|Louisville||Kennesaw State||5-3 Louisville|
|Oklahoma State||UC Irvine||8-4 UC Irvine|
Vanderbilt 11, Stanford 6
This game had all the makings of a very unconventional blowout, then got even more strange.
Stanford shot itself in the foot repeatedly over the first three innings. John Hochstatter allowed five earned on five walks and only one hit in an inning-plus of work, then Vandy tagged Chris Viali for five more runs before Brett Hanewich settled things down.
When all the damage was done, the Commodores led 10-0. Vanderbilt did so without a single extra-base hit, and the six hits they notched the rest of the game all went for singles as well.
With Vandy generating so little power, Hanewich was able to settle in, allowing just an unearned run in 5.2 innings to finish off the game. This stabilizing effort allowed Stanford to fight back.
Wayne Taylor tripled in two to put the Cardinal on the board in the top of the fourth. One inning later, Stanford cobbled together two hits, four walks, a hit-by-pitch and a sac fly to put four more runs on the board. Suddenly this was a ball game again.
Yet Taylor's blast to center was Stanford's only extra-base hit of the day, too, and once both squads settled on steady hurlers, this high-scoring game turned into a pitching duel. Stanford could not complete the comeback effort under those conditions, never seriously threatening Vandy's lead.
The Cardinal, of course, are on the ropes now. But the Dores should not feel comfortable in this series, either.
Though Vandy likely would have yanked starter Tyler Beede sooner, had the game been closer. The hosts experienced an even more severe power outage than Stanford did. If Vandy's bats are weak again and the pitching is erratic, Stanford could turn this around with a power surge at the plate.
Of course, the same criticism counts even more for trailing Stanford, who also allowed Vandy a significant edge on the basepaths. The Dores stole five bases against Stanford, who swiped none in return. Look for that thievery to continue paying off for Vandy as this super regional progresses.
Texas 4, Houston 2
There's not much of a talent gap between these two teams and that showed in Friday's game, but there was just a little too much Texas for Houston to handle.
The Longhorns went on to win 4-2 in the opening game of their super regional against Houston, moving just one victory away from the College World Series as Texas Baseball notes:
It took no time for the Texas bats to get going. Brooks Marlow started it off with a lead-off single in the top of the first, and one batter later, Mark Payton went yard for a two-run shot that put Texas up 2-0 early.
Houston eventually found some offense in the fifth inning by putting two runs on the board. But by then, the Longhorns had already added a run in both the fourth and fifth innings to pad their lead.
From that point on, it was up to John Curtiss to close things up and he did so with ease. He came on in relief for Nathan Thornhill, and threw the final two innings while allowing just one hit.
Texas jumped all over Jake Lemoine, one of Houston's best pitchers, early on and they could never recover. Heading into Game 2, the Cougars will have to hope for a different end result or their season will be over.
Louisville 5, Kennesaw State 3
The Louisville super regional between the Cardinals and Kennsaw State had the makings of a David vs. Goliath feel, as it seemed only a matter of time until the Cardinals put an end to the Owls' season.
Well, Friday didn't exactly shape up that way—even though Louisville ended up with the 5-3 victory.
Instead, it was quite the opposite. Down the stretch of Friday's super regional Game 1, Kennesaw State was in control and looked to be in position to put themselves just one win away from the College World Series.
The fourth and fifth innings allowed the small school to be in that position. After Louisville took a 1-0 lead in the third, a two-run fourth put the Owls ahead entering the fifth.
In the fifth, the wheels started falling off for Louisville and its deficit grew as Baseball America's Aaron Fitt noted:
But the Cardinals eventually showed their championship pedigree, it just took until the eighth inning when the bat of cleanup hitter Nick Solak brought Louisville to victory. In a 3-3 game, his two-RBI double proved to be the game-winning hit and after shutting down Kennesaw State in the top of the ninth, it was over.
Louisville certainly didn't gain any style points for its comeback victory, but a win is a win and now the Cardinals are knocking on the door of Omaha. Meanwhile, it has to be crushing for the Owls to come so close to knocking off Louisville on its own diamond and they will have to regroup for Game 2.
UC Irvine 8, Oklahoma State 4
Friday in the college baseball super regionals was largely a day of top seeds and home teams asserting their dominance in one way or another.
Except in Stillwater, Okla., where UC Irvine continued its roll by stomping the Oklahoma State Cowboys, 8-4.
NCAA Baseball summed up the win:
Oklahoma State got on the board first and entered the fourth with a 1-0 lead, but that's when things turned. UC Irvine got on the board in the fourth when Adam Alcantara knocked two runs in, then the Anteaters brought three more home in the fifth before adding two more in the sixth.
In a span of three innings, UC Irvine had successfully run Oklahoma State out of its own building and put the Cowboys on the brink of elimination as they couldn't come back to make anything of Game 1.
Oklahoma State will have a chance to keep its season alive, but the Anteaters certainly made waves on Friday by becoming the only road team among the four to win. That may give them momentum heading into Game 2 on Saturday.