The cliche the cream rises to the top is on full display at the College World Series, as the four remaining teams with national title hopes entering play Friday at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska, are all ranked in the top six nationally.
The No. 1 Oregon State Beavers and No. 4 LSU Tigers squared off as the final remaining teams in Bracket 1, while the No. 3 Florida Gators and No. 6 TCU Horned Frogs clashed as the last two standing squads in Bracket 2 in the nightcap.
Oregon State and Florida had the advantage entering play since they were both undefeated in the double-elimination tournament, meaning LSU and TCU would have to win two straight games respectively to advance to the championship series.
With that in mind, here is a look at Friday's results. The full College World Series bracket is available at NCAA.com.
No. 4 LSU Beats No. 1 Oregon State, 3-1
No. 6 TCU Beats No. 3 Florida, 9-2
LSU 3, Oregon State 1
Oregon State demolished LSU 13-1 on Monday and looked like the best team in the country. It would have been easy for the Tigers to enter Friday's contest without much hope, especially since they were tasked with winning two straight against the Beavers, but Alex Lange had other ideas.
Lange pitched brilliantly in a 3-1 victory, allowing just one run and two hits with eight strikeouts in 7.1 innings. The same Oregon State lineup that exploded for 13 runs Monday was silenced by the formidable right-hander, which prolonged the Tigers' season at least another game.
Zack Hess finished the victory with a 1.2-inning save, striking out four.
Lange didn't need much offensive support, but he received some in the second inning when Josh Smith notched an RBI single and Beau Jordan followed with a successful suicide squeeze against Oregon State starter Jake Thompson (three earned runs in 6.2 innings). Smith wasn't done, as he drilled a solo homer in the sixth to give the Tigers a critical insurance run, as NCAA Baseball shared:
NCAA Baseball @NCAACWS
BOMBS AWAY!!! 💣 Josh Smith annihilates this one to put the Tigers up 3-1 in the 7th! #CWS https://t.co/gdcBzK0oCr2017-6-23 21:13:22
Oregon State scored its lone run when Trevor Larnach worked a bases-loaded walk in the third, but Lange limited the damage when he struck out KJ Harrison with the bags still juiced.
ESPN Stats & Info noted the clutch strikeout was business as usual:
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
Opposing hitters are now 0-for-20 with 15 K and 3 runs (2 BB, HBP) with the bases loaded against Alex Lange this season. #CWS live on ESPN https://t.co/RuKmYpYE9S2017-6-23 20:16:43
Thanks to Lange's stellar performance, the Tigers and Beavers will meet Saturday in a decisive contest for a spot in the championship series.
TCU 9, Florida 2
TCU followed in LSU's footsteps and prolonged its season thanks to a commanding 9-2 victory over Florida.
The Gators handled the Horned Frogs 3-0 in their first meeting in Omaha, but TCU broke through against Florida's pitching staff Friday to earn its third straight elimination contest win. The Big 12 representative already beat Texas A&M and Louisville in must-win showdowns and will now play another Saturday after the win over Florida.
The TCU offense was dialed in from the early going. Austen Wade and Zach Humphreys started the scoring with RBI doubles in the third, Josh Watson's fourth-inning triple brought home two more and Evan Skoug blew things open with a bases-clearing double in the sixth, as NCAA Baseball highlighted:
NCAA Baseball @NCAACWS
SKOUG IS A BEAST!! Bases clearing double and the Horned Frogs have blown this one open!! 8-2 in the 6th. #CWS https://t.co/3jNdAubpF32017-6-24 02:44:37
Skoug's hit came after Florida relief pitcher Garrett Milchin left with an apparent injury and the bases loaded, and Frank Rubio couldn't escape the jam.
Florida turned to the bullpen after starter Jackson Kowar allowed four earned runs in five innings despite striking out 11. Neither starter was great with TCU's Mitchell Traver lasting just 3.2 innings (two earned runs, two hits and three walks), but the Horned Frogs' bullpen outshined its counterpart.
Charles King allowed a single hit in 3.1 shutout innings, while Dalton Brown and Trey Morris closed with two combined shutout innings. The Gators received a solo homer from Mike Rivera against Traver, but their offense went missing against the relievers.
Florida and TCU will square off Saturday for the right to play in the championship series against the victor of the Oregon State and LSU clash.