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NCAA baseball supers dwindles SEC participants in half

Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel Brianna Paciorka/News Sentinel via Imagn Content Services, LLC

A lot of good baseball was played over the weekend. The Southeastern Conference had six teams vying for a ticket to Omaha. In the end, only three would make it.

Coming into the weekend, Arkansas, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, and LSU had secured spots in the NCAA super regionals. Of those six, at least one (Tennessee or LSU) would have to call it a season, meaning the SEC could get a maximum of five participants (out of eight spots) to Omaha.

The Winners

Vanderbilt: Although they played close games, Vanderbilt’s pitching carried them past East Carolina by scores of 2-0 and 4-1, meaning their first matchup in the College World Series will come against the Arizona Wildcats.

Tennessee: The Volunteers drew the LSU Tigers, who they swept earlier in the year. Each of those games, however, were won by the closest of margins and everybody expected Paul Mainieri’s club to remain competitive with the Vols in the super regionals.

Game one saw a compelling 4-2 tilt go Tennessee’s way, setting up an elimination game for the Tigers. But in game two, the Volunteers emptied the tank, hitting six home runs en route to a 15-6 lopsided win, punching their ticket to the College World Series. The Vols are yet to lose a game in this year’s tournament. They will face Virginia in their first CWS game Sunday.

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs’ matchup against Notre Dame was one that seemed like it could go either way. MSU has a competent club, but the Irish had run through their regional like the other teams didn’t even show up.

After winning game one, 9-8, Notre Dame blew the doors off Mississippi State, 9-1. That matchup set up a decisive game three in which both teams faced elimination. In the end, the SEC club’s meddle broke through when the Bulldogs won, 11-7. They will face Texas in their first CWS game Sunday.

The Losers

Arkansas: This is one we didn’t see coming. The Razorbacks drew the NC State Wolfpack for their matchup and the first game proceeded in a slaughter. Arkansas topped NC State 21-2 in game one, securing the first win of what looked like would be two easy victories.

But NC State, who carries an excellent 19-4 road record, put the work in the next two games to not only give Arkansas fits, but to ultimately eliminate them. In two one-run affairs, the Wolfpack pulled the upset of the weekend — and probably the tournament — when they beat Arkansas by scores of 6-5 and 3-2. In the Fayetteville regional, Arkansas was done, opening up a path to a championship for a number of clubs.

Ole Miss: In the Tucson super regional, the Rebels were going to have to do work against the hometown team. It took three games to decide who would advance, but Ole Miss didn’t have enough to overcome the Wildcats.

Ole Miss lost the first game, 9-3, before taking game two, 12-3. In game three, Arizona’s bats really came to life, securing a 16-3 win, ending the Rebels’ season in the process. None of those games ended up being particularly competitive, but Arizona showed their prowess against Ole Miss.

LSU: Finally, the Tigers. Having covered them already, we know what happened here. LSU came into Knoxville with hopes of an upset, but left having lost all five games to Tennessee this season. As has been the case with many opponents this season, the raucous crowd at Lindsey Nelson Stadium has been too much to overcome — that, and the onslaught of home runs.