D-I College World Series Super Regionals Tallahassee Super Regional: UConn vs. Florida State


NCAA.COM – Today, the Florida State Seminoles are hosting UCONN with a World Series berth at stake. Here are five reasons to tune into the Tallahassee Super Regional.


1. Jamie Arnold.
Now that Wake Forest’s Chase Burns, ECU’s Trey Yesavage, Arkansas’ Hagen Smith and DBU’s Ryan Johnson have been knocked out of the postseason, Arnold is the undisputed top pitcher left standing in the NCAA tournament, and he shortens a best-of-three series significantly because the Seminoles can count on him to give them length and put them in a terrific position to win. Arnold, a sophomore lefthander with a low slot and a Chris Sale-ish look to his operation, is 11-3, 2.45 with 146 strikeouts (fourth in the nation behind Burns, Smith and Johnson) against just 22 walks in 95.1 innings this year. His mid-90s fastball explodes on hitters and is tough to handle even when you know it’s coming, but he also has a putaway slider and a useful changeup. He’s the real deal.

2. UConn’s grit.
The Huskies have their share of talent, but nowhere near the level of Florida State’s sheer talent. If the Huskies win this thing, it will be because of their heart, their toughness, and their discipline. This is a very mature roster that features nine players who transferred from the Division III ranks and play with a chip on their shoulders. It’s a classic blue-collar club that feels like a perfect match for head coach Jim Penders and longtime assistants Jeff Hourigan and Josh McDonald, a group that has a long track record of producing tough players who know how to execute. This team feels a little like an old-school Big West club, the kind of teams we’ve seen pull off road upsets before, because they play ironclad defense, string together competitive at-bats, throw lots of strikes and execute in all phases of the game. The Huskies will not be intimidated.

3. Cam Smith and James Tibbs.
The Seminoles have two players in the heart of the order who will both likely be selected in the first round this summer in sophomore third baseman Cam Smith and junior right fielder James Tibbs. It’s hard to find a more dangerous duo anywhere in college baseball. Tibbs, a potential top-10 overall pick, combines huge lefthanded power that plays to all fields with remarkable control of the strike zone. For much of the season, he had more home runs than Ks, although now he has 25 homers against 30 strikeouts — to go along with 51 walks and a .362/.486/.781 slash line. Smith has a longer, more projectable frame than Tibbs (who is built like a tank and has a compact swing), and as a freshman the length in his swing got exploited, but he has dramatically improved his approach and plate discipline this year. Now he leads FSU in batting (.396) and OBP (.490) while slugging .462. He offers real power from the right side, with 16 homers and 20 doubles, and his defense has improved markedly at third base. There are threats throughout FSU’s lineup, but none bigger than these two.

4. Stephen Quigley and the UConn pitching staff.
Superb pitching played a huge role in UConn’s triumph in the Norman Regional, led by veteran righthander Stephen Quigley, who held host Oklahoma to one run over eight innings in Saturday’s winners’ bracket game, then worked 1.2 strong innings of relief in Monday’s clincher. It’s hard to find teams that have three reliable workhorse starters in this era, but UConn does with Quigley, power righty Ian Cooke and big-bodied warrior lefty Garrett Coe. Add in lefty Gabe Van Emon (an accomplished D-III transfer who had an up and down year but came through in a huge way in the regional final with 7.1 innings of shutout ball), and UConn has four arms capable of providing significant length, so they can piggyback one after the other if they need to. And lefty Braden Quinn plus righty Brady Afthim give UConn two very good bullpen options in the left inning, with swing-and-miss breaking balls that help them get big strikeouts in tight spots. The UConn arms have their work cut out for them against this Seminole lineup, but this pitching staff has a real chance to rein in that FSU offense enough to give the Huskies a chance to pull off the upset.

5. Can Carson Dorsey run it back?
A big key for Florida State is getting the guys behind Arnold on the pitching staff to deliver. There’s plenty of talent on that staff, but it’s been an up-and-down ride, and the bullpen has been vulnerable at times. And once injuries struck Cam Leiter and Conner Whittaker (who is now back in action and continues to build up toward full strength), FSU had to remake its rotation on the fly. Dorsey, a high-profile juco transfer lefty, has proven to be a better fit as a starter than he was at the back end, and he lasted 5.2 innings or longer four times in five starts between April 20 and May 17. He struggled in two outings at the ACC tournament, then bounced back with 8.2 innings of strong work against Stetson in the regional, allowing just two runs (one earned). With a lively fastball that averages 93 and the ability to miss some bats with both his slider and changeup, Dorsey has plenty of stuff. If he can maintain his composure and his command, he’s very tough to beat — but he’ll be tested by a disciplined UConn lineup stuffed with salty veterans who know how to execute, and can get in a pitcher’s head with the inside game.

Athens Super Regional: Georgia vs. NC State

Georgia baseball

Here are the five reasons to watch the Athens Super Regional:

1. Potential No. 1.
The Golden Spikes finalists were announced Wednesday. The announcement of Charlie Condon as your 2024 Golden Spikes Award winner won’t happen until June 22, but everyone knows who has been college baseball’s best player. Condon is hitting .445/.566/1.036 with 36 homers and 77 RBI. He leads the nation in batting average, slugging percentage, hits, home runs and total bases. He’s also third in on-base percentage (with teammate Corey Collins leading the nation). Condon has nearly as many home runs (36) as strikeouts (39) and far more walks (55). His 36 home runs are a record in the BBCOR-era of college baseball. 

It’s nearly a guarantee you’ll see one home run after he homered in all but one weekend series after the opening weekend. The one weekend he didn’t homer — against Kentucky — he still reached base six times. When he didn’t homer opening weekend, Condon reached 10 times with multiple hits, including an extra-base hit, every game.

And when the 6-foot-6, 216-pound monster hits a home run, he demolishes baseballs, topping out with an exit velocity peak so far this season of 118 mph! He could also become the No. 1 pick in July’s draft, which is remarkable when you consider Condon was a walk-on that redshirted his first season at Georgia.

2. Drought-Snapping Déjà Vu?
Georgia defeated Georgia Tech in the regional final and then battled NC State, winning the Athens Super Regional in three games with the winning team scoring double-digit runs in each game. That was 2008 when the Bulldogs eventually advanced to the College World Series Finals only to fall a game shy of a national title.

The Bulldogs will face a similar path if they want to break a 16-year Omaha drought. They beat Georgia Tech to advance to the supers and now take on the Wolfpack.

While the Wolfpack have been to the College World Series twice since then, they would like to exorcise their own demons. The handful of players remaining from the 2021 team still remember the pain of having to exit Omaha without having been eliminated after they were forced to forfeit due to not having enough players available after a COVID-19 outbreak amongst the team.

3. Newness vs. Experience.
A year ago Wednesday, Wes Johnson was hired as the Georgia head coach. It was his first head coaching gig since 2007 when he was leading Abundant Life High in his hometown of Sherwood, Arkansas. And yet, already, he has the Bulldogs on the precipice of something that hasn’t happened in 16 years. 

Johnson went into the portal and found guys that can hit the ball out of the ballpark, especially with the homer-friendly confines of Foley Field, His transfer portal pickups have combined for 73 home runs this season, including Mississippi State transfer Slate Alford’s 16 long balls and 17 from Baylor transfer Kolby Branch. Johnson also added a couple key pieces on the mound in Christian Mracna from George Mason and Brian Zeldin from Penn. Though some of the transfers are older, it’s been a year of newness for Georgia.

On the other side, Elliott Avent has been the head coach at NC State for a full decade longer than when Johnson got his first job coaching at the college level. Avent has seen it all during his time at NC State, where he has racked up more than 1,000 wins and taken his team to regionals in 16 of the last 20 years. This is his sixth super regional appearance and the fifth time his Wolfpack will be on the road.

This is the first true postseason for most of the Georgia players. A handful of the Bulldogs’ transfers have made it to the postseason with varying degrees of personal success (catcher Logan Jordan entered this postseason with 3 HR and 8 RBI in two regionals), but former Stanford pitcher Brandt Pancer and Dillon Carter, previously at Texas Tech, are the only two that have made it to this point in the season previously and know how much the intensity cranks up. NC State still has players that played in the MCWS in 2021. Sam Highfill was a Wolfpack hero after giving up three earned runs in three postseason starts, including outdueling No. 2 overall pick Jack Leiter in a 1-0 win in Omaha. Garrett Payne became a legend when he went five innings, giving up one run on two hits in his first career start in the infamous #Pack13 game. Then there was NC State’s offseason addition of Alec Makarewicz, who never made it to Omaha with East Carolina but has racked up 59 NCAA tournament at-bats after being Raleigh Regional Most Outstanding Player last weekend.

4. Battle for Ks.
Who can win the strikeout battle could ultimately determine the outcome of this super regional. NC State’s offense has struck out only 364 times this season, the fewest whiffs of any Power Four conference team. (Rutgers and Michigan State had fewer, if you expand to Power Five.)

Georgia’s pitching is built around striking out hitters. The Bulldogs are eighth in the nation in strikeouts per nine innings with 10.8. Their three postseason starters last weekend each average more than a strikeout per inning, led by Kolten Smith’s 13.6 strikeouts per nine. George Mason transfer Christian Mracna, who has been used in a variety of roles making 10 starts and 10 relief appearances, has a team-best 14.4 strikeouts per nine. But the Bulldogs also have a propensity to give away some freebies. They were last in the SEC with 4.88 walks allowed per nine innings, which was No. 176 in the nation.

Last weekend, Georgia struck out 29 batters but also walked 26. Giving NC State free baserunners is a recipe for disaster. The Wolfpack have been one of the more opportunistic teams in the nation. They are No. 125 in the nation in hits and 114 in batting average, but they are No. 62 in scoring. They take walks (No. 27 in the nation) and any other freebies that come their way and maximize them. NC State’s hitters put the ball in play and that leads to both productive outs and hits. They were an impressive 38 for 68 (55.9 percent) on advancement opportunities in the Raleigh Regional. 

5. ACC vs. SEC.
Both teams advanced through home regionals having to knock off a team from their rival conference. Georgia had to beat its own rival, Georgia Tech, in the regional final while NC State defeated South Carolina in the 1-0 game. Georgia went 4-0 against ACC teams this season, winning all three matchups with Georgia Tech and beating Clemson in their lone face-off. The Wolfpack’s only game against SEC competition was the 6-4 win over South Carolina last week.

The Athens Super Regional is one of two ACC versus SEC matchups. Florida will travel to Clemson in the other. But the two conferences are no strangers to each other. Since the last time Georgia and NC State met, the ACC and SEC conferences have matched up in the super regional round most every year for 22 total matchups since 2008. The SEC holds a slight edge with a 12-10 advantage.

The ACC won the lone matchup last year as Wake Forest defeated Alabama in two games, but the SEC got revenge in Omaha as LSU won two out of three against the Demon Deacons to advance to the national championship series where it beat Florida for its seventh national title.

NC State has gone 2-1 in its super regional matchups — all against the SEC — since 2008, winning one at home and splitting a pair on the road. You’d think the home teams would have a significant advantage in the matchups, but it’s fairly even as the super regional host has gone 12-10 in ACC vs SEC battles since 2008.

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Bryan-College Station Super Regional: Texas A&M vs. Oregon

Texas A&M baseball

Here are the five reasons to watch the Bryan-College Station Super Regional:

1. Texas A&M’s Big Three.
As an opposing coach said in our scouting report at the bottom of this story, there’s nothing better in college baseball than the trio of Gavin Grahovac, Braden Montgomery and Jace LaViolette. If they were a band, they’d be known as the dream killers. They’re that good. The trio has combined for 77 of Texas A&M’s 130 home runs. And while they all took a slight step back the final couple of weeks of the regular season, they were locked in to end the College Station Regional. That could be bad news for Blake Hawksworth’s Oregon pitching staff this weekend. Stay tuned. 

2. Oregon’s Jacob Walsh and Mason Neville.
Both Walsh and Neville certainly have a lot of swing and miss entering the weekend against the Aggies, but I’m excited to see these two at the plate for one big reason — they are finally playing in hot and windy temperatures — something sluggers from the Pacific Northwest seldom see during the college baseball season. A&M could very well shut both of these guys down, but something tells me the combination of heat and wind will make this dangerous duo giddy this weekend. It will be an X-factor for sure. 

3. Texas A&M’s Chris Cortez and Evan Aschenbeck.
If the A&M starting pitchers can hand the ball over to Cortez or Aschenbeck with a lead late in the game, chances are very good Jim Schlossnagle’s club is winning that particular game. Cortez was outrageously good over the weekend against Louisiana, sitting 98-100 mph with his fastball, while also shoving with an 89-90 mph slider and an upper-80s changeup. He can get off course command-wise at times, but more often than not this season, he has been able to recalibrate his stuff. As for Aschenbeck, he is Mr. Aggie Baseball. The lefty dumps a ton of breaking balls in there that are very difficult to square up. 

4. Oregon’s rotation against A&M’s lineup
The Ducks are outmatched in this series on paper, but on paper means nothing in a Super Regional setting like this. With that said, UO will need incredible games from their starting pitchers to win this series. RJ Gordon is a consummate battler and has a 4.73 ERA in 91.1 innings of work, while Grayson Grinsell is a talented young arm I loved earlier this season. He commands his breaking stuff very well at times and has a 3.82 ERA in 75.1 innings, while teams are hitting .185 against him. Then, there’s Kevin Seitter, who pitched great last weekend and has a .242 OBA. Oregon’s rotation against A&M’s offense is the matchup of the weekend. 

5. Texas A&M’s offense.
The Aggies have one of the premier offensive lineups in college baseball, but there’s no doubt they were iffy down the stretch in the SEC regular season. A&M was solid against Grambling, shut down by Lebarron Johnson and Texas on Saturday and finished off the College Station Regional with a vintage showing from an offensive standpoint. The question now is will we see the A&M offense before the LSU series this weekend in the Super Regional, or will we see the one that scuffled down the stretch? With hot and somewhat windy conditions expected this weekend, my feeling is we see a lot more of the former. 

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Chapel Hill Super Regional: North Carolina vs. West Virginia

Vance Honeycutt UNC baseball

Here are the five reasons to watch the Chapel Hill Super Regional:

1. Super-duper star power: WVU’s JJ Wetherholt and UNC’s Vance Honeycutt.
This super regional will showcase the two most dynamic power/speed talents in all of college baseball in Wetherholt and Honeycutt, both of whom will be drafted in the first round this summer. Wetherholt entered the spring as one of the VERY top contenders for the No. 1 overall pick, but an early-season hamstring injury cost him 24 games, and he returned at far less than 100 percent, but he’s gotten stronger down the stretch. He’s an athletic playmaker at short with top-of-the-scales speed, serious bat speed, and a better hit tool than Honeycutt. But Honeycutt is also an 80 runner, and he is the best defensive player in all of college baseball, with unmatched range and instincts in center field. And of course, he’s also UNC’s all-time home run king. It will be a treat to watch these two dynamic talents battle it out this weekend, and either one of them is capable of changing the series on his own, as Honeycutt did with two home runs in Saturday’s win against LSU.

2. The heart & soul of West Virginia’s Derek Clark.
Clark is something special. After spending his first three seasons at Division II Northwood, he transferred to West Virginia and emerged as a true ace after overcoming an early injury. He’s 8-1, 2.82 on the season with 83 strikeouts against 20 walks in 89.1 innings, and he was money in the Tucson Regional, holding a potent Dallas Baptist offense to one run in a complete-game victory Friday, then getting the final two outs in the regional clincher Sunday. He’s a joy to watch, and an inspiration to undersized guys everywhere. It will be fascinating to watch him take on the explosive and balanced North Carolina offense this weekend, but his advanced feel for both his changeup and slider gives him weapons against hitters from both sides, which is crucial against a UNC order that goes right/left/right all the way through. Here’s what I wrote about West Virginia ace lefthander Derek Clark after seeing him throw a complete game in a win against UCF in April:

Clark is the ultimate “pitchability lefty,” with an easy three-quarters arm action that produces good run on his 88-90 fastball, along with superb feel for his deceptive, tumbling changeup at 77-79 and his sharp slider at 77-80. And he’ll drop down to sidearm to throw a 74-76 sweeper just to give hitters one more thing to think about. At 5-foot-8, 170 pounds (or 5-9, 190, depending where you look), Clark isn’t built like a traditional innings-eater, but that just makes his accomplishments that much more special.

3. Randy Maze’s last ride.
Over 12 seasons as West Virginia’s head coach, Mazey transformed the Mountaineers from Big East also-ran to regular Big 12 contender, despite disadvantages with weather and in-state talent relative to WVU’s Big 12 peers. In 2017, he led WVU to its first regional in 21 years, and in 2019 the Mountaineers hosted a regional for the first time. They made another regional in 2023, and now they have reached their first-ever super regional, after winning the Tucson Regional as the No. 3 seed. Mazey will retire after this season, but his legacy will endure, because he was the architect of a very unlikely success story in Morgantown. Can the Mountaineers carry their coach to Omaha in his final weeks at the helm? It would be a compelling story — and you can be sure the West Virginia faithful will travel in significant numbers to Chapel Hill this weekend to will their team to victory.

4. That Bosh Magic.
Boshamer Stadium doesn’t have a reputation as a particularly intimidating venue for road teams, but the UNC fans really show up in the postseason, and the Tar Heels have a long history of producing memorable and dramatic postseason victories at home, fueled by the energy in the stands. We saw that again in Monday’s regional clincher against LSU, when the Tar Heels rallied from behind in the ninth inning to tie the game, then won it in the 10th — prompting coach Scott Forbes to invoke that “Bosh magic” in his postgame press conference, adding that when Alex Madera delivered the game-winning single in the 10th, “that might be the loudest I’ve ever heard Boshamer Stadium.” The Tar Heels have been superb at home all season long, going 34-2 at the Bosh, and they will be tough to beat in a three-game series in Chapel Hill this weekend.

5. Which gritty role players will play the hero?
On Monday, Wilkerson and Madera came up with the big hits from the bottom of the order to propel UNC past LSU, providing a reminder that star power is far from the only thing that matters in college baseball. On paper, UNC is a strong favorite in this matchup — it ranks 17th in the nation in OPS and 15th in ERA, while West Virginia ranks 129th in OPS and 51st in ERA. But some valuable qualities can’t be quantified, and both of these teams have shown toughness and character in spades. In April, Mazey said “this has been the most injured team I have ever coached”, alluding to extended absences by Wetherholt, catcher Logan Sauve, middle infielder Brodie Kresser and first baseman Grant Hussey. But WVU kept grinding, and then got healthier in the second half, and now this battle-hardened group appears ready for anything.

UNC, meanwhile, had to withstand the losses of two Friday night starters — expected ace Jake Knapp in the preseason, and then freshman ace Folger Boaz nine weeks into the year. But the Heels remade their rotation on the fly, as super-talented freshman righty Jason DeCaro assumed the Friday job and rock-solid lefty Shea Sprague served as a rock on Saturdays all year long.

So both of these teams have overcome their share of adversity, and whichever team loses this weekend, it won’t be for a lack of heart or toughness. At some point this weekend, a lesser-known player will deliver some special performance in a huge moment. And it’s anyone’s guess who that hero will be.

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Charlottesville Super Regional: Virginia vs. Kansas State

Tyson Neighbors KSU baseball

Here are the five reasons to watch the Charlottesville Super Regional:

1. The shortstop show: Kansas State’s Kaelen Culpepper and Virginia’s Griff O’Ferrall.
Two of the nation’s premier shortstops will battle it out this weekend in Culpepper and O’Ferrall, and they are also two of the most dynamic talents in college baseball, period. Both are likely Day One draft picks, and both are a joy to watch. O’Ferrall is the best defensive shortstop in Division I, a true wizard with incredible instincts, range, hands, footwork and overall actions. He can make the dazzling play, and he makes every routine play, while also serving as the engine that makes Virginia’s fearsome offense go. Culpepper is a less polished defender, but he has the athleticism to range deep into the hole and the bazooka arm strength to make any throw a shortstop might ever need to make. He can make your jaw drop on defense at times, and he has considerably more strength than O’Ferrall, with 11 homers and a .570 slugging percentage. He hit for the cycle in K-State’s regional opener against Louisiana Tech, then led the Wildcats to a win against Arkansas superstar Hagen Smith with a three-run homer Saturday.

2. Jacob Ference vs. the Kansas State running game.
Coach Pete Hughes’ Wildcats love to push the action with an aggressive running game, ranking 10th in the nation in stolen bases. Center fielder Brendan Jones (38-for-40) is the biggest threat, and he has taken a huge step forward with the bat this year, helping him get on base more often to utilize his wheels — his OBP has climbed from .374 last year to .441 this year. But Culpepper (17 SB), second baseman Brady Day (16) and third baseman Danniel Rivera (10) are all very good runners as well, and even first baseman David Bishop (15), outfielders Nick English (10) and Chuck Ingram (9) are threats to run. That means Virginia’s pitching staff is going to have to be very diligent with runners on base, picking over liberally and varying their hold times, but it also means catcher Jacob Ference will see his arm tested. On the season, Ference has thrown out 11 of 50 basestealers (22 percent), so this feels like an advantage K-State might be able to exploit.

Ference is also a player to watch offensively, because he has put together an All-America caliber campaign as a transfer from Division III Salisbury, mostly relegating preseason All-America catcher Ethan Anderson to DH duties. In this star-studded Virginia lineup, it is Ference that has the best OPS (1.203), slashing .362/.469/.734 with 17 homers, 13 doubles and 41 RBIs. Ference showed good power in the fall, hitting six or seven homers in scrimmage action, but nobody could have seen THIS coming.

3. The Virginia offensive juggernaut.
The Cavaliers are dangerous on offense every single year, because longtime associate head coach Kevin McMullan and the other coaches do such a great job instilling a disciplined offensive approach throughout the lineup. But this year’s UVa lineup is as good as any the Cavaliers have had in the two-plus decades of the O’Connor/McMullan era. Virginia ranks fourth in the nation in OPS (1.006) and third in scoring (9.5 runs per game). Nine Virginia players with at least 150 plate appearances are hitting above .300, and two others are hitting above .290. And the Cavaliers have more power than ever; historically they have been more of a doubles offense, taking advantage of one of the ACC’s more spacious home fields, but this year’s club has 114 homers, 12th-most in the nation. Kansas State will have its hands full against this unit.

4. The Tyson Neighbors experience.
Neither one of these teams is built around exceptional pitching, although both staffs have coalesced pretty well when it matters most. Lefty Owen Boerema and cutter specialist Jackson Wentworth give Kansas State two solid starters who will need to provide some length this weekend and prevent Virginia’s dangerous offense from racing out to a big early lead. But Neighbors is by far the most talented arm in this entire super regional, and he looms in the late innings if Kansas State can establish a lead in the middle of the game. With a mid-to-upper-90s fastball that averages 95, along with a hammer curveball and wicked slider at are both legit plus offerings on the major league scale, Neighbors has the stuff to dominate anybody, and he has 60 strikeouts in 36.2 innings this year. If his command is sharp, good luck.

5. Jay Woolfolk: Virginia’s X-Factor.
Woolfolk is one of the more famous names in the ACC, having arrived in Charlottesville as a football quarterback who doubled as an electric bullpen weapon for the baseball team. He eventually left the gridiron behind to focus on the diamond, and expectations for him were high heading into his junior year, but he had an up and down campaign, starting the year in the rotation but winding up back in the bullpen by March. Finally, in Sunday’s regional final against Mississippi State, Woolfolk made his first start since March 17 — and turned in the best outing of his career, limiting the Bulldogs to two runs over eight innings of work. That performance surely gave Virginia the confidence to hand the ball to Woolfolk again when the stakes are high this weekend, either as a starter or in a high-leverage situation out of the bullpen earlier in the weekend. With a 91-96 fastball that averages 92.4, a swing-and-miss slider and a quality changeup, Woolfolk has always had the stuff to succeed, and if he can locate like he did last week, he’ll be tough to beat.

Click or tap here for the full super regional breakdown

Clemson Super Regional: Clemson vs. Florida

Clemson baseball

Here are the five reasons to watch the Clemson Super Regional:

1. The Jac Caglianone factor.
At most, we have a couple more weeks of watching Jac Caglianone in college baseball, and if Clemson wins this super regional, this would be our final weekend of Cags at Florida, so we need to appreciate what we have left. At .410/.526/.847 with 31 home runs, he’s as dynamic a force at the plate as he was last season, and with 48 walks compared to 23 strikeouts, he’s also done a better job this season of taking free passes when opposing teams pitch him extra carefully. Doug Kingsmore Stadium can play small, but then again, Caglianone makes just about every ballpark he bats in look small.

2. The atmosphere will be electric and tense.
Clemson always has a great home atmosphere, but last weekend in the regional, the atmosphere was on another level. With the Tigers in their first super regional since 2010, expect it to be even crazier this weekend. But in addition to it being a loud and engaged crowd, look for there to also be some tension in the ballpark. Clemson last weekend broke a streak of five straight home regional eliminations, but that scar tissue of being eliminated on your home field doesn’t just go away, so if this series comes down to a deciding third game, look for the electricity in the ballpark to be laced with anxiety.

3. Freshman starters Aidan Knaak and Liam Peterson.
This super regional will treat fans with looks at two of the most talented freshman pitchers in the country, one of whom has been a star from the jump this season and one who took some time to get there. Knaak has been a rotation mainstay since day one at Clemson and continues to go strong. He has a 2.96 ERA, a .220 opponent batting average and 103 strikeouts compared to 26 walks in 79 innings. He has a fastball that will reach the mid 90s, but the real showstopper for him is a changeup that he can use as an out pitch to lefthanded and righthanded batters. Peterson got off to a slow start this season, but Florida helped him work through those growing pains and now he’s come out the other side looking like a future staff ace. In his last three outings against Kentucky, Georgia and Nebraska, he’s gone at least 5.1 innings and he’s given up a total of six runs. Before this run of form, he had gone more than five innings in an outing just once. Like Knaak, he has big-time stuff, including a fastball that has been up to 98 mph this season, and three other pitches that have whiff rates greater than 40%.

4. Cam Cannarella in a point guard role.
Clemson’s center fielder Cam Cannarella is a little like a point guard in basketball in that when things are going well, everything seems to run through him and when things are going poorly, everyone looks to him to do something to turn the tide. Some of that is just his natural charisma on the field, but mostly, it’s because he does a lot of things well. He’s batting .343/.423/.564 with 16 doubles, 10 home runs and 56 RBIs, and he showed a flair for coming up big in clutch moments last weekend, when he drove in three of Clemson’s four runs in a winner’s bracket game victory over Coastal Carolina. On top of his offensive exploits, he’s also among the rangiest center fielders in the country.

5. Can Florida continue to get production from its role players?
Florida has long needed players to step up in a lineup that has been somewhat depleted by injuries to Ty Evans and Hayden Yost, and it had struggled to find such players up until last weekend, when Ashton Wilson ran into the breach. In the regional, Wilson went 9-for-21 with three doubles, a home run and six RBIs. On the mound, it also got strong work from somewhat lesser-used pitchers like Jake Clemente, Frank Menendez and even Landon Russell, a two-way  player who made just his fourth appearance as a pitcher in an elimination game win over Nebraska. The Gators will need that same kind of production from the full roster to come out on top this weekend in Clemson.

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Knoxville Super Regional: Tennessee vs. Evansville

Evansville Mark Shallenberger

Here are the five reasons to watch the Knoxville Super Regional:

1. Tennessee’s College World Series journey through Rocky Top.
Yes, Tennessee advanced to the College World Series last year, but it did so on the road, winning the Clemson Regional and the Hattiesburg Super Regional to advance. Additionally, it advanced to the 2021 CWS playing the regional and super regional rounds at home. It still feels like the Vols have some unfinished business in Knoxville, however, after they lost to Notre Dame in the super regional round that ended their remarkable 2022 season. For all of the success Tony Vitello has enjoyed in such a short period of time as Tennessee’s head coach, he’s especially motivated to guide his team to a national championship after entering the postseason as the No. 1 overall seed for the second time in three years.

2. Does Evansville have another Ace up its sleeve?
Evansville has been playing spoiler as of late. Although they lost their in-season series against Indiana State, which followed a loss to the Sycamores last year in the championship game of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, the Purple Aces got redemption by beating ISU in the MVC tourney this year. In doing so Evansville ruined Indiana State’s opportunity to host a regional (Indiana State’s season came to a close at the Lexington Regional last weekend) and earned its first postseason berth since 2006, and its fourth overall in program history. They continued to rock the boat at the Greenville Regional, going 3-1 with a pair of wins against host East Carolina, which includes Monday’s thrilling 6-5 regional title-clinching win.

3. Volunteer power.
Tennessee broke its program record for home runs hit in a season when it slugged five in a 12-3 win against Southern Miss on Sunday. The previous record of 158 home runs was set two years ago, and this year’s group of Volunteers now has 159 dingers, a number that is expected to climb given how dangerous their lineup is. Those 159 homers are also the most in the entire nation, and six of the nine regulars in their starting lineup—Christian Moore, Billy Amick, Dylan Dreiling, Kavares Tears, Blake Burke and Dean Curley—are in double digits, led by Moore’s 29. The Vols are slashing an astonishing .311/.417/.604 as a team.

4. A pair of powerful Aces.
Evansville can’t match Tennessee’s lethal lineup one through nine, but they do have a pair of sluggers that have been especially hot down the stretch. Mark Shallenberger’s three-run home run in the sixth inning against ECU on Monday proved to be the game-winner, quickly turning a 5-3 deficit into a 6-5 lead that Evansville wouldn’t relinquish. That home run was his 17th of the year and his second in as many days against the Pirates. Kip Fougerousse has hit a home run in his last six games with eight in his last nine games, 10 in his last 13 games and 12 in his last 15 games. He is batting 27-for-61 (.443) during that stretch with 29 RBIs, leap-frogging Shallenberger for the team lead in home runs (21). There is no shortage of hot-hitting Evansville batters in the Aces’ lineup for a squad slashing .301/.410/.509 as a team, so there could be plenty of fireworks in Knoxville.

5. Can Evansville’s staff hold steady?
Tennessee’s team ERA is 3.80, the third-best mark in the nation and the best of any team whose season is still alive. Evansville’s staff ERA is 5.95, and the Aces allowed VCU and East Carolina to score 11 and 19 runs during Saturday’s and Sunday’s games at the Greenville Regional (a win and a loss, respectively). The Purple Aces are going to need some of their arms to step forward because trying to outscore the Vols isn’t an especially wise approach. Getting another big outing out of lefthanded freshman ace Kenton Deverman, who moved to 9-1 on the season last Friday by limiting ECU to just one run on three hits over eight innings, is paramount to UE’s success in this best-of-three series.

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Lexington Super Regional: Oregon State vs. Kentucky

Travis Bazzana OSU baseball

Here are the five reasons to watch the Lexington Super Regional:

1. Travis Bazzana.
Bazzana is must-see television, plain and simple. A Golden Spikes Award finalist, he’s ranked fifth in the country in average (.415), second in OBP (.575), second in slugging (.937), second in walks (74) and sixth in home runs (28). The Pac-12 Player of the Year from Sydney, Australia continued to show out last weekend, going 4-for-11 with a pair of homers while being named the Most Outstanding Player in the Corvallis Regional. Kentucky has shut down premier players before, most notably against Georgia’s Charlie Condon early in the SEC season where they swept the Bulldogs and held Condon 1-for-8 without a homer, albeit with five walks. Gavin Turley (1.013 OPS, 19 HR) and Elijah Hainline (.964, 11 HR) have shown the ability to hurt opposing teams that try to work around Bazzana.

2. Ryan Waldschmidt.
Although he doesn’t grab the national headlines that Bazzana does, Waldschmidt is a budding star in his own right. The Cats’ table-setter was illogically left off the All-SEC team after slashing .405/.510/.757 with 12 doubles and 19 steals against the best conference in college baseball. Something tells me that neither Waldschmidt nor his teammates have lost too much sleep over the snub, as this unselfish Wildcats team is focused on getting to Omaha. Coach Mingione remarked last weekend that when ‘Waldy’ returned to full strength following an ACL injury sustained last summer, that’s when this Kentucky offense took off. One group where Waldschmidt hasn’t been flying under the radar is in the scouting community, a few of which remarked over the weekend that they believe he’ll come off the board in the first 50 picks in next month’s draft, and they wouldn’t be shocked if he snuck into the first round.

3. Battle of the Beanball.
‘We do not move’ has become a somewhat of a rally cry for this Kentucky team over the last few years. The motto’s derivation is that life, baseball, and anything worthwhile is hard, and that it’s best to take on challenges head on. It extends beyond standing tall in the box and wearing a low-90s heater off your backside, but it certainly still applies. One way that Kentucky applies pressure on opposing defenses is getting on base via the hit-by-pitch, which is an essential part of their offensive approach. It’s something they practice, and it shows. The Wildcats have done it 113 times this season which is ranked 2nd in the SEC and 19th in the country. Conversely, Oregon State pitchers have hit 86 batters this season, tops in the Pac-12. Although he’s allowing opposing hitters to a paltry .148 average against him, Beavers all-conference closer Bridger Holmes (1.97, 13 SVs) has accounted for 17 of them in 32 innings. A sidewinding righthander who threw in all three games last weekend, that could set the stage for some late inning drama this weekend.

4. Oregon State has experience on its side.
Although #2 overall seed Kentucky rolled through last weekend unscathed to secure back-to-back regional titles in front of a home crowd, they’ve not yet made it to Omaha. The Wildcats are the only SEC team that has never reached the College World Series. Meanwhile, in the other dugout, the Beavers have seven trips to Omaha under their belt and three national titles. The most recent championship came in 2018 Pat Casey’s final season in Corvallis, although Mitch Canham played on the 2006 and 2007 national championship teams, and has taken the Beavers to four regionals in four tries as a head coach. He, like Mingione – two rising stars among the coaching ranks in our sport – is looking to punch his first ticket into the final eight.

5. Can pitchers on both sides stay hot?
While the position player groups from either squad might garner the attention and rightly so, the pitching staffs from both squads came up big in the regional round. Aiden May (7-0, 2.88, 27.6% K-rate) has been Oregon State’s most consistent pitcher after missing a month early in the year. He was up to 96 mph last weekend and punched out nine hitters in five and two-thirds against Tulane. Jacob Kmatz (7-2, 3.29) has been great this postseason, combining for 17 punchouts and two earned runs over 13 innings against Arizona and UC Irvine the last two weekends. For Kentucky, Trey Pooser (6-1, 3.77) gave the Wildcats a shot in the arm after transitioning from the pen to the rotation in mid-March. He earned a spot on the All-Regional team last weekend after going allowing one run on five hits over seven innings against Illinois. Mason Moore was masterful in the regional clincher last weekend (6IP, 4H, 0R, 3BB, 6K), and is riding a 20.1 inning NCAA Tournament scoreless streak (.147 average against) that started last June.

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