Recapping Sunday's super regionals

June, 13, 2011

Day 3 of the super regionals saw four more teams run their tickets to Omaha through the scanning machine. Big props to Florida, South Carolina, Texas and Cal for adding their names to the 2011 College World Series roster.

Here's a quick swing through what we saw on this third day of the supers.

Biggest win: Cal over Dallas Baptist 6-2
There was perhaps not a more symbolic victory this entire season than what the Bears pulled off Sunday night. Everyone knows how this program was nearly shut down on a couple of different occasions this season, but the Golden Bears just kept their nose to the grindstone. For them to work through so much uncertainty and make it to Omaha is beyond storybook.

Biggest loss: Virginia's momentum
Mother Nature wasn't kind to the Cavaliers. Not at all. After Virginia raced out to a 3-0 lead that saw it taking advantage of every UC Irvine mistake, the rains washed out the next four hours and 18 minutes of the day. When the sun came out and the teams retook the field, the Cavs had lost their mojo. The Eaters would score six runs in their last three at-bats after the break and even the series with a 6-4 win.

Play of the day: Preston Tucker's three-run home run
In the eighth inning of a game full of massive momentum shifts, Mississippi State reliever Caleb Reed made the unfortunate mistake of leaving a pitch up a smidge too high, and Tucker's three-run bomb ended up being the deciding factor for Florida in a super regional for the ages.

Play of the day II: Jordan Leyland's two-run double
With a 4-3 advantage in the eighth inning, Virginia brought in All-American reliever Brandon Kline to put the hammer on the Eaters. But Kline immediately hit a batter, then allowed a stolen base to put men at second and third. That's when Leyland, seemingly Irvine's only starter who is taller than 5-foot-8, smashed his shot to the left-center gap to put UCI up for good.

Tour de force: Florida State's batting order
The Noles' incredibly patient and volatile bats were the unstoppable force Sunday, no doubt. But considering they scored 23 runs on just 16 hits, part of this honor goes to the Texas A&M pitchers, who issued 12 walks, hit four batsmen and threw four wild pitches.

Tour de force II: Matt Price, South Carolina
The bullpen bully picked up his 18th save of the season, going the final two innings of Sunday's 8-2 win over UConn, allowing the Cocks to advance on to the CWS once again. Price got strikeouts for four of the six outs he picked up, too.

Say goodbye to:

Mississippi State (38-25)
The Bulldogs got all kinds of street cred for their run in Gainesville, turning an average season into a special season. MSU was under the Mendoza Line in SEC play at 14-16 but played with confidence here and nearly sent the Gators packing.

UConn (45-20-1)
The Huskies took another big step forward, although the biggest lunge to Omaha is yet to be made. But don't look for it to happen next year, as coach Jim Penders will lose lots of big-time talents, including Matt Barnes and Elliot Glynn on the mound and George Springer at the dish.

Dallas Baptist (42-20)
It was a remarkable ride for the Pats, no doubt. To go from what some called a questionable at-large bid from the independent ranks to taking down CWS alumni in TCU and Oklahoma in the regional round, this was an amazing run. The only downside to this storybook is that coach Dan Heefner could be hot property on the coaching carousel. But DBU fans have to expect that.

Quick hits

• Only two spots remain for the College World Series' field of eight. UC Irvine and Virginia will play their third and deciding game (ESPN2, 4 p.m. ET), as will Texas A&M and Florida State (ESPN2, 7 ET). Let's see which pitching staff has the real horses here.

• Whoever thinks the bats aren't high-powered enough wasn't watching Sunday. Florida State bludgeoned Texas A&M 23-9 in a pitching embarrassment, and Florida clubbed five yard calls versus Mississippi State. Maybe we didn't dull 'em down enough?

• Despite all this talk about gorilla ball with the Gators, keep in mind that Mike Zunino, the leader of the Gators' bash barrage, laid down a perfect sac bunt in the eighth inning to get the go-ahead runs in scoring position. Yep, the SEC leader in home runs (with 18) put down a bunt.

• Every year a team makes it to Omaha because of a transcendent performance from one of its players. Even though Mississippi State didn't quite make it to the promised land, Nick Vickerson played like a man possessed this past weekend, willing his team to a near upset of the mighty Gators. After hitting the winning two-run dinger in Saturday's contest, he hit a three-run home run and an RBI single on Sunday and also made a great assist to nab Zunino at the plate on a relay throw to home.

• Did you notice Kevin O'Sullivan doing the Gator chop behind the plate soon after shaking hands with MSU head coach John Cohen, who in turn was barking back toward the Florida dugout at the same time? File that away when these two coaches face off next year.

• Just when you thought you saw a great game from Mississippi State and Florida, along come Virginia and UC Irvine to equal it. Great intensity and clutch performances in that one, too. In football vernacular, it was a tale of two halves. I loved how the camera caught Irvine staying loose and confident despite facing a 3-0 deficit during the delay. The Eaters chipped away enough to finally break through on Leyland's two-run double and shut down the Cavs the rest of the way.

• Back in October, I interviewed Cal coach Dave Esquer in his office about the impending demise of his program. It was a Friday morning, and he was in full game uniform, talking about how his team never quit and never let up in its fall practices despite its bleak future. Fast-forward eight months, and this same hardscrabble bunch from Berkeley is on its way to Omaha. That's what makes this magical run by the Bears so great in my eyes.

• There has been a repeat national title winner in each of the past five decades. This decade's first chance at that possibility is still alive, as South Carolina took down Connecticut for the second straight day 8-2 to advance to Omaha. I'm not guaranteeing a repeat, but you have to figure the Gamecocks' CWS experience will be a big advantage next week.

Eric Sorenson, who runs College Baseball Today, and Walter Villa are regular contributors to ESPN's college baseball coverage. Follow Eric on Twitter: @stitch_head

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