Gold: Stanford, Oregon represent for Pac-12, get favorable Super Regional draws
Five entered, and only 2 remain: The Pac-12’s best baseball team and its hottest baseball team.
While Arizona, Washington and Oregon State bid goodbye in the just-completed regionals, Stanford and Oregon move on to the Super Regionals after contrasting performances that highlighted the Cardinal’s overwhelming talent and the Ducks’ continued scorching streak.
In some ways, the conference is ruing missed opportunities, as Washington could have met Oregon in a Super Regional — guaranteeing the Pac-12 a spot in the College World Series. Instead, the league will have to win its way to Omaha.
Ultimately, the league should feel lucky it is still standing, with a more-than-reasonable shot to land 2 teams in Omaha.
Here are my takeaways from the NCAA Tournament Regionals that were and the road ahead for 2 remaining Pac-12 squads that will host Super Regionals this weekend. …
Stanford survives a scare
After losing to Texas A&M on Saturday, Stanford’s back was against the wall. The Cardinal pitched themselves out of the jam, though.
After beating the Aggies 13-5 Sunday, Stanford eliminated them with a 7-1 win on Monday behind a terrific effort from 4 pitchers.
Matt Scott started with 3 innings of 1-run ball, followed Drew Dowd, who made up for a bad outing in Stanford’s Saturday loss to throw 1 clutch inning before giving way to Quinn Mathews. Mathews, one of the top starters in the game, threw 4 innings and struck out 5 while allowing no runs on 4 hits and picking up the win.
While shutting down Texas A&M, the Cardinal displayed some pop that they’ll need in the Super Regionals against visiting Texas, which emerged from a tough Coral Gables Regional that included No. 9 overall seed Miami, Louisiana and Maine.
Braden Montgomery went 3-for-4 with a solo home run, Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Malcolm Moore hit a 2-run jack and Saborn Campbell went 3-for-4 with a triple, 2 runs and an RBI.
If the heart of the Stanford lineup can continue to produce at a prodigious rate, the Cardinal will end up in the College World Series. They’ll have to get past a Longhorn lineup with 5 hitters with double-digit homers.
Ducks get Super Regionals’ best draw
Only a single No. 4 seed made it through its 4-team gauntlet, Oral Roberts — which bested the Stillwater field that included No. 11 national seed Oklahoma State, Dallas Baptist, Washington and Oral Roberts.
An NCAA Tournament question mark as late as early May, Oregon was thorough in its Regional, beating Xavier, host Vanderbilt and Xavier again in a 3-day stretch. The wins were the 7th, 8th and 9th in a row for the Ducks, who turned on the jets in the Pac-12 Tournament, prevailing in Scottsdale to hoist the trophy as a No. 6-seed.
The Ducks have been driven by the hot bats at the top of the lineup, as leadoff hitter Rikuu Nishida and No. 3 hitter Drew Cowley went a combined 12-for-26 in the regional with 10 runs scored. In the decisive 11-2 win over the Musketeers on Sunday, Nishida went 2-for-4 with 3 RBI and 3 runs while Cowley went 2-for-5 with 4 RBIs.
They’ll need them to stay hot against the No. 4 regional seed that wasn’t, 49-11 Oral Roberts. The Golden Eagles are back in the Super Regionals for the 1st time since 2006 after steamrolling the Summit League with a 23-1 record in conference play. They’re riding a 23-game winning streak, blitzing Oklahoma State, Washington and Dallas Baptist in rather easy fashion. All 3 teams were impressive, but the Golden Eagles got it done when it mattered, holding DBU to 1 run in the first 5 innings before outlasting the Patriots, 6-5, in the elimination game on Sunday.
ORU is led by Jonah Cox and his .424 batting average, 27 steals and 66 runs scored, as well as a pitching staff featuring 3 starters with sub-4.00 ERAs in 9-1 Brooks Fowler, 8-3 Jakob Hall and 10-1 Harley Gollert.
Huskies miss their shot
While the Golden Eagles’ RPI is rising, up to No. 62 in the nation, they still were a 4-seed and the Huskies had fought through a much tougher conference season. That all means little in June, though, as Washington dropped back-to-back games as its pitching staff stalled out.
After beating Dallas Baptist in an impressive tournament-opening win, the Huskies allowed 24 runs over their 2 games, a 15-12 loss to Oral Roberts and a 9-1 loss to DBU that ended their season with a whimper. Washington went out in a game with 5 hits and 11 strikeouts, not at all the kind of exit the Huskies desired. They made great strides under first-year coach Jason Kelly, one of the foremost pitching coaches in college baseball, but the Washington arms failed them in Stillwater.
Beavers’ pitching staff done in by loaded LSU lineup
A second straight Super Regionals berth was not in the cards for Oregon State, which spent much of the year as the conference’s No. 2 squad.
In a season-ending 13-7 loss to host LSU on Monday, the Beavers used 8 pitchers, 6 of whom surrendered at least 1 run. Eight of LSU’s nine batters finished with multiple hits, while Oregon State’s normally reliable Travis Bazzana, Garret Forrester and Micah McDowell combined for 1 hit in the loss.
“As you go down the lineup, there’s guys that can do damage,” OSU coach Mitch Canham said of the Tigers. “We preach a lot of zone control. I think they do a lot of that as well. There’s guys that are very competitive; 1 through 9, you’ve got to be on point. And when we were successful, we were pitching down in the zone, just executing our game plan. When we were losing sight of that a little bit maybe going to effort instead of conviction on that location, then it got us into trouble.”