NC State, Texas, Tennessee, Arizona lock up College World Series bids; Hogs out
Published 7:12 am Monday, June 14, 2021
By Eric Olson, AP Sports Writer
North Carolina State, Texas, Tennessee and Arizona locked up spots in the College World Series on Sunday, with the Wolfpack knocking out No. 1 national seed Arkansas.
Two days after losing its NCAA super regional opener by 19 runs, Jose Torres hit a tiebreaking home run in the top of the ninth inning off SEC pitcher of the year Kevin Kopps and NC State beat the Razorbacks 3-2 in the deciding Game 3.
Tennessee defeated LSU 15-6 and Texas beat South Florida 12-4 to complete two-game sweeps, and Arizona won a three-game series with a 16-3 victory over Mississippi.
Virginia beat Dallas Baptist 4-0 and Notre Dame defeated Mississippi State 9-1 to force deciding third games Monday.
No. 2 Vanderbilt and No. 9 Stanford were the first teams to claim spots in the CWS, which opens Saturday in Omaha, Nebraska.
Two CWS openers are set: NC State-Stanford and Arizona-Vanderbilt. Texas will play Notre Dame or Mississippi State and Tennessee faces Dallas Baptist or Virginia.
This marks the 21st straight NCAA Tournament the No. 1 seed will not win the national title. It’s the eighth time since the tournament went to its current format in 1999 that the top seed hasn’t reached the CWS.
Arkansas (51-13) had been the consensus No. 1 team in the polls most of the season, hadn’t lost a best-of-three series since May 2019 and swept the SEC regular-season and tournament championships.
But NC State (35-18), which lost 21-2 on Friday, held down the Razorbacks’ potent offense while winning two straight one-run games in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Two pitchers held the Hogs to four hits in a 6-5 win Saturday, and three pitchers combined to limit them to four hits again Sunday.
Torres homered in all three games for the Wolfpack, who opened 1-8 in Atlantic Coast Conference play and 4-9 overall. They made it to the ACC Tournament final and were a No. 2 regional seed in Ruston, Louisiana, where they swept three games by a combined 30-11.
“They’re a really good group of players and committed to one another,” coach Elliott Avent said. “They’ve been together and lived together four years now, and when you live together, go to class together, study together and do all the social things, you become bonded.
“They believed early on when we were 1-8 that we could rebound, and they stuck with it.”
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn made a surprising move when he gave Kopps his first start of the season Sunday. Kopps had worked long, middle and short relief for the Hogs this season and hadn’t allowed a run in 15 1/3 innings in regionals and super regionals.
“We talked about how many pitches Kevin could throw, how many innings he could throw,” Van Horn said. “Could we bring him in as early as the second inning? If we could, why not start him? He wanted to start, so that’s what we did.”
Kopps allowed Jonny Butler’s two-run homer and six other hits before giving up Torres’ ninth-inning homer with his 118th pitch. Kopps threw 324 pitches in 23 1/3 innings over five appearances in 10 days.
No. 2 national seed Texas erased an early two-run deficit with four runs in the second inning and two more in the third to go up 6-2 against South Florida, and fans in Austin stood and chanted “OM-A-HA, OM-A-HA” before the Longhorns got the last out.
Texas (47-15), which will be making a record 37th CWS appearance, got a home run from Cam Williams and two doubles from Trey Faltine. South Florida was playing in its first super regional, advancing as a No. 4 regional seed.
No. 3 national seed Tennessee (50-16) will head to the CWS for the first time since 2005. Tony Vitello has established a strong bond with fans since he was hired four years ago, and the excitement level around his program is unprecedented.
“I wanted to get this thing to where people were proud of it,” Vitello said. “The crowd here and the people on the street speaks volumes to where it’s at.”
After hitting no home runs in its 4-2 win Saturday, Tennessee continued its late-season power surge. Jake Rucker went deep twice, and the Vols matched their season high with six homers, increasing their NCAA Tournament total to 16 in five games.
No. 5 Arizona (45-22), which will be in the CWS for the 18th time, scored seven runs off three pitchers in the fourth inning to break open its game. Ole Miss started its closer, Taylor Broadway, and he left after giving up Ryan Holgate’s homer and two singles to open the fourth.
The Wildcats’ 16 runs were the second-most allowed by Ole Miss in 115 all-time NCAA Tournament games.
Virginia’s Griff McGarry struck out 10 in seven innings and combined with Brandon Neeck and Kyle Whitten on the four-hit shutout in Columbia, South Carolina. The Cavaliers (34-25) scored all their runs in the eighth inning against the Patriots (41-17), with Zack Gelof leading off with a homer and Alex Tappen hitting a three-run homer.
David LaManna’s three-run homer in the fourth inning broke open the game for Notre Dame (34-12). Aidan Tyrell held host Mississippi State (44-16) to one run on five hits in 7 1/3 innings.