SEC teams flop in baseball super regionals

Published 9:43 am Tuesday, June 14, 2016

All across the Southeastern Conference, they fell one by one.

First, it was the Bulldogs who went to the pound. Then the Gamecocks got plucked. Aggies were gigged and Tigers caged. The legend of the Possum was killed, and it wasn’t faking.

The super regional round of the NCAA baseball tournament was a rough one for the mighty SEC.

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Five teams from the league that perennially touts itself as the deepest, toughest, and most talented in the country entered the super regional round. One came out.

Florida shut out Florida State 7-0 on Monday night to advance to the College World Series for the fifth time in seven years and salvage an otherwise lost weekend for the SEC.

This will be the first time since 2007 that the SEC has had only one representative in the College World Series. The SEC has sent at least two teams to Omaha 15 times in the past 20 years, and had four there last season.

The last time there was a College World Series without an SEC team was 1992.

“I’m broken hearted for them that they don’t get to experience the greatest place on earth, if you’re into the sport of baseball,” said Texas A&M coach Rob Childress, whose Aggies were the No. 3 national seed in the NCAA Tournament but lost to TCU in three games in the super regional. “It’s not going to define who they are as men and what they’re going to do with the rest of their careers. At the end of the day, we didn’t get it done and I’m disappointed for myself and for our guys that it just didn’t happen.”

The most common theme among all of the SEC’s super regional flops was a lack of timely hitting — or any hitting at all, in some cases.

Mississippi State left 10 runners on base in a 1-0 loss in Game 1 of its super regional series against Arizona. In Game 2, the Bulldogs missed a chance to add to their lead when Gavin Collins hit into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded in the seventh inning. They went on to blow a 5-1 lead and Arizona won 6-5 in extra innings.

“I think there were probably two defining moments in the ballgame,” Mississippi State coach John Cohen said after Game 2. “When we have bases loaded and Gavin Collins hits the ball right to the shortstop into a double play. If he elevates the ball a little, it would have ended up on our track complex.”

LSU, the No. 8 national seed, could sympathize. The Tigers lived on the edge all season, with 21 come-from-behind victories to their credit. In the super regional against Coastal Carolina, however, they came up empty in the clutch.

After dropping Game 1 by an 11-8 score, the Tigers fell 4-3 in Game 2 on a walk-off RBI single by Coastal Carolina’s Michael Paez. LSU left eight runners on base in the last three innings of Game 2, and left 10 runners in scoring position in the game.

“It’s just real hard to say whether it was lack of experience or what,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “But I think the stage was big tonight, and you know, just some of the miscommunications and just not recognizing situations, that might have been more of an excuse with inexperience. But we’ve played 70 games or so. At this point we should be playing the game the right way and doing the little things, and I take responsibility for that. The little things make a big difference, and we didn’t do the little things we needed to do today.”

Texas A&M won Game 2 of its super regional series against TCU, but lost 4-1 in the deciding Game 3. In two losses to their in-state rival, the Aggies scored a total of three runs and had eight hits.

South Carolina scored 51 runs in five regional games a week ago, but managed only two against a red-hot Oklahoma State team and was swept on its home field in the super regional round.

Even Florida, the No. 1 national seed, was shut out in Game 1 before turning the tables on Florida State and posting shutouts of their own in Games 2 and 3.

“Baseball can be awfully cruel. It’s a cruel sport,” South Carolina coach Chad Holbrook said. “We won 46 games, with 20 in the league. We had a heck of a year. Yeah, it stinks that we weren’t able to win one more series here at home. We ran into some outstanding pitchers and a great defensive team.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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