A quick recap of how the College World Series works before we get going: each team is placed into a "regional" where they play a double elimination round robin with the three other teams in the regional. The winner advances to the "Super Regional" where they play the winner of the paired regional with them in a best of three series the next weekend. The winner of the Super Regional advances on to the College World Series, which at this point is down to 8 teams. So 64 teams this weekend has been quickly wittled down to 16 teams playing for a chance at one of the eight spots in Omaha for more double elimination round robin play to get down to 2 teams for the best of three championship series. A bit of back and forth with how you can get eliminated, but you definitely eliminate the "one great game" aspect of it that could potentially knock out an otherwise great team.
After one long (and wet) weekend of college baseball for some, we finally have the Super Regionals set. In case you missed the regional breakdown from last weekend, we previewed here each regional to give you a sense of who is playing who and where they are playing. In total, five Big Ten teams played this weekend with Illinois (National 6 seed), Michigan, Iowa, Maryland, and Indiana all vying for a chance to move on.
Los Angeles Regional
In the Los Angles Regional, National 1 seed UCLA was paired with Maryland, Ole Miss, and CSU Bakersfield. Maryland opened things up with a strong performance on Friday, beating Ole Miss 3-1 behind a strong performance by All American pitcher Mike Shawaryn. UCLA did the same behind a strong performance by their dominant pitching staff, defeating CSU Bakersfield 7-2, setting up a matchup with Maryland the next night after the elimination game on the losers side of the bracket.
I caught the last half of this game after work, which is surprising given the 11pm EST start, watching Maryland defeat UCLA 4-1. UCLA got the bats going early, putting up a run in the top of the first inning, which is never good against their pitching staff. UCLA generally doesn't beat you with bats, they get a small lead and never give it up. Maryland responded in the bottom of the second inning after LaMonte Wade bailed them out of the top of the second with an amazing throwout at the plate to prevent UCLA from going up 2-0. Maryland put two on base, and then on a miss from UCLA on a diving play by an outfielder, Maryland scored two on a two-run triple. That would prove all they needed, but nevertheless picked up two more insurance runs to defeat UCLA 4-1. In a bit of bad news, they probably lost their starting pitcher from this game for the remainder of the world series pending the results of an MRI after being pulled due to forearm stiffness.
UCLA went on to defeat CSU Bakersfield the next day, who had won the elimination game the day prior to eliminate Ole Miss from the tournament. UCLA thoroughly handled CSU Bakersfield 9-1 and moved on to play Maryland again in the second half of the double header. This time UCLA played small ball and got some runs on the board and their dominant pitching staff held the Terps to 2 runs, defeating Maryland 4-2 to setup the elimination game the next night to move on to the Super Regional. I didn't catch these games as they were super late games for me, going until 2am in the morning, but Maryland moved on last night despite three errors committed, stunning UCLA 2-1 and advancing to the Super Regional for a Super Regional re-match from last year with Virginia. At least these games won't be on west coast time.
Illinois hosted a regional, joined by Notre Dame, Wright State, and Ohio. Things started off great for the Illini, blasting Ohio 10-4 to open up the regional for them. Notre Dame did much of the same to Wright State, 13-7. Illinois then blanked Notre Dame to send them down to the "losers" bracket to play Wright State, who had eliminated Ohio. You would think, given Notre Dame's performance against Wright States' ace pitcher that they'd be back to playing Illinois for the championship, but Wright State came out strong and blanked Notre Dame 4-0 in the second half of the double header (sucks being the loser). That sent Wright State to play Illinois the next day for the chance to move on. Illinois came out with a strong offense, putting up 8 runs on Wright State, who could not keep up with the hot Illinois bats. In the end, Illinois won 8-4, sweeping their regional and advancing on to the Super Regionals.
Iowa traveled to Springfield, Missouri as the 2 seed against Missouri State, Oregon, and Canisius. Iowa started things off great, defeating a strong 3 seed Oregon 3-1. The second game of the day was postponed, so Missouri State played Canisius the following morning and thoroughly defeated the 4 seed 14-1. Ouch. Canisius played almost right after that in a double header against Oregon, getting blasted for a second time in the day 12-6 to be eliminated from the tournament. In the second game of Missouri State's double header they took on Iowa, defeating the Hawkeyes 5-3 to send them to take on Oregon again for the chance to play in the championship game. Iowa went to extra innings in that game with Oregon before finally winning 2-1 in 11 innings. So naturally, that meant a double header right after it with Missouri State, because who doesn't want to play in a double header after going 11 innings? Iowa kept it close but ultimately lost 3-2 to Missouri State, who they would have needed to beat twice to advance.
Winner: Missouri State (Iowa knocked out)
Indiana traveled as the 3 seed to Nashville to take on Vanderbilt, Radford, and Lipscomb. Indiana started off great, winning 7-2 over Radford and turning a rare triple play in the process. Vanderbilt unsurprisingly took down Lipscomb 9-1 to move on as well. Lipscomb was eliminated the following morning in a very easy win for Radford while Indiana lost 6-4 to Vanderbilt, who had a game winning homer in the bottom of the eighth inning followed by a great play in the field to preserve the lead. It was crazy for sure as Indiana for a minute looked like they could take down Vanderbilt and need to lose twice on Sunday to be eliminated but lost at the end of the game. The following day Radford eliminated Indiana 5-3, ending the tournament for Indiana who was two innings away the night before from needing to lose twice to not advance. And then....um, Vanderbilt decided that Radford should never want to play baseball again. They blanked Radford 21-0 in the championship game of the regional. Convincing, right?L
Winner: Vanderbilt (Indiana knocked out)
The final Big Ten team of the tournament, Michigan, traveled to Louisville to take on Louisville, Bradley, and Morehead State. Keeping with the pattern, Michigan started off well, defeating Bradley 10-5 on the first day while Louisville also kept with the pattern of the 1 thoroughly defeating the 4 seed 7-2. Morehead State was eliminated the following day by Bradley while Michigan lost a close one to Louisville 4-3, setting up a rematch with Bradley to play Louisville again. Michigan won again, moving on to the championship game of the regional where they needed to defeat Louisville twice to move on. Louisville was having none of that as they took down Michigan 13-4 in thoroughly convincing fashion.
Winner: Louisville (Michigan knocked out)
That about does it for the Big Ten teams that made it this year. Maryland took down the National 1 seed in UCLA to move on to the Super Regionals while National 6 seed Illinois swept their regional to move on to the Super Regionals. Maryland will take on unseeded Virginia in the Super Regional, a rematch of last year's Super Regional where Virginia defeated Maryland to move on to the CWS. Illinois is taking on a very good Vanderbilt team that will thoroughly test the Illinois rotation.
Later this week, Jesse, Doc1028 and I will have a preview of all of the Super Regional series and the probability that one or both of the Big Ten teams remaining will move on to Omaha. Indiana was the last Big Ten team to do it, but you have to like the chances of both teams remaining.