Friday, June 7, was the start of the College Baseball Super Regionals. The final sixteen teams standing were in the next (and final) round on their way to a berth in the College World Series.
In the first game of the day, host Louisville shellacked East Carolina, 14-1. In the second game of the day, host Texas Tech beat Oklahoma State in a close game, 8-6.
The biggest surprises of the day, however, came at night. The number one overall seed, UCLA, took on Michigan, the winner of the Corvallis regional, and lost 3-2 after a furious ninth-inning rally. The number two overall seed, Vanderbilt, got smoked 18-5 by a Duke University team that has something to prove.
So, what went wrong for UCLA and Vandy?
For UCLA, it was the offense.
There is no question that the Bruins’ pitching staff is what kept them in the game. After an early hiccup from starting pitcher Ryan Garcia, who went 7.2 innings and allowed five hits, three runs (two earned), one walk, and struck out eight batters, the Bruins settled down. Garcia only allowed two runs in the third inning, and another in the eighth.
On the other side of the ball, UCLA only recorded four hits, with the big one coming from first baseman Michael Toglia, who drove in two runs with his hit in the bottom of the ninth inning, as UCLA was mounting their comeback. The offensive production last night from UCLA was much different from their Regional round, in which they scored at least five runs in each game.
Going into tonight’s Game 2 against the Wolverines, the Bruins will need to perform ten times better as the Wolverines worked through the Corvallis regional like a piece of cake with a combination of timely offense and outstanding pitching, scoring six runs in each game and only allowing more than four runs once.
Vanderbilt, a college baseball powerhouse, had the opposite problem that UCLA did. While Vanderbilt could hit last night against Duke, mustering out eight hits, and scoring five runs along the way, they gave up eighteen runs. In the game against Duke, every pitcher who appeared for Vandy gave up at least four runs, perhaps highlighted by reliever AJ Franklin giving up six to put the game out of reach for the Commodores.
Vanderbilt, who only allowed more than two runs once in the Nashville Regional, will need better execution from their pitchers if they want to win Game 2, which is tonight at 9:00 P.M. on ESPNU.
This is the thing I love about college baseball, and college sports in general: the underdog has just as good a chance to win, especially in a round with heightened pressure like the Super Regionals. While I am pulling for both UCLA and Vandy, I know that they are not going to run away with each game. In fact, their competition did just that last night (Duke more so than Michigan).
Which schools will hit home runs, and which teams will strike out in today’s Super Regionals? Tune in to ESPN at noon to find out, as Ole Miss takes on Arkansas to start the day.