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Cornhuskers advance to super regionals

Lincoln Regional

1. Nebraska (51-13) -- automatic berth, shared Big 12 regular season title and won tournament, No. 3 national seed, ninth NCAA tournament
2. NC State (40-17) -- at-large berth, sixth place Atlantic Coast, 19th NCAA tournament, third consecutive appearance
3. Creighton (46-15) -- at-large berth, won Missouri Valley regular season, seventh NCAA tournament
4. Illinois-Chicago (38-19) -- automatic berth, won Horizon regular season and tournament, second NCAA tournament

Lincoln Regional schedule
At Hawks Field at Haymarket Park
Lincoln, Neb.
Friday, June 3

Game 1 -- Nebraska 8, Illinois-Chicago 6
Game 2 -- Creighton 8, NC State 3
Saturday, June 4
Game 3 -- NC State 9, Chicago-Illinois 7, Chicago-Illinois eliminated
Game 4 -- Nebraska 10, Creighton 8
Sunday, June 5
Game 5 -- Creighton 11, NC State 9, NC State eliminated
Game 6 -- Nebraska 10, Creighton 2, Creighton eliminated
Nebraska (54-13) advances to super regional

Player To Watch

Alex Gordon (.386/.530/.750) entered the season with the nation's best player mantle and didn't allow anyone to wrest it from him. The junior third baseman produces a Barry Bonds-like effect on Nebraska's lineup, influencing the at-bats of everyone around him even while being pitched around enough to rank 14th nationally with .875 walks per game. His 23 steals in 26 tries leads the team.

The Favorite

Gordon makes the Nebraska offense go, but the Cornhuskers' biggest strength lies on the mound. Nebraska's 2.51 ERA ranks second nationally, and no starter has compiled an ERA above 2.68. Newcomers Johnny Dorn, a freshman with a 10-1, 1.86 record, and Joba Chamberlain, a sophomore who transferred in to go 8-2, 2.56 while ranking third in the league with 109 strikeouts, lead a deep, diverse staff. Senior first baseman Curtis Ledbetter (.328-13-52) protects Gordon, and the duo has driven in 30 percent of the team's runs, often scored by a deep group of interchangeable parts in the outfield.

On The Other Hand

NC State might boast the two best pitchers in this regional with junior closer Joey Devine (4-3, 2.25 with 12 saves) and 6-foot-10 freshman right-hander Andrew Brackman (4-0, 1.38), who has emerged as the staff ace and one of the ACC's best starters since joining the baseball team after his basketball season ended in the Sweet 16. Both work in the low to mid 90s with strong command. Sophomore first baseman Aaron Bates (.420-12-62) holds large leads in the triple crown categories, with no other Wolfpack batter hitting better than .333 or totaling more than four homers in a scrappy attack.

Bracket Buster

Creighton has led the NCAA in double plays for the last two seasons and ranks among the national leaders in fielding percentage this year after posting the second-best mark of all-time in 2004. But the Bluejays need to score to win, and they accomplish that with little fanfare. They neither hit a lot of home runs (Zach Dages and Tony Daniel lead the team with eight each) nor steal a lot of bases (Tony Roth tops the team with 12), but they will hit-and-run and double opponents to death (2.3 per game ranks No. 15 nationally). Relievers Brandon Bird (1.51 ERA, 10 saves) and Scott Reese (11-0, 2.64 with five saves) are the staff strength.

Don't Forget About Us

Sophomore right-handers Zach Peterson (10-1, 3.18) and Ryan Zink (8-5, 3.56) lead an Illinois-Chicago staff that permitted a shocking .305 opponents average. That's the same average the Flames hitters posted as a group, led by sophomore outfielder Larry Gempp Jr. (.358-8-39 with 12 steals). Gempp rates as one of five Flames with double-digit bags; they stole 93 as a team.

Will Kimmey covers college baseball for Baseball America.