South Carolina claims regional title
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- First-year South Carolina coach Chad Holbrook felt an increased energy in the Gamecocks dugout at the NCAA tournament's Columbia Regional that he hadn't seen all year.
"I got kind of mad, to be honest with you," Holbrook said. "We played a lot of important games before this. Why now?"
Because it's the NCAA tournament. And few teams are better at home in the postseason the past decade than the Gamecocks, who won their 27th straight on their home field Monday in defeating Liberty 6-4 and reaching the best-of-3 super regional round for the fourth straight season.
The streak began in 2002 at defunct Sarge Frye Field with a five-run rally in the ninth to oust baseball power Miami. After 10 additional victories at "The Sarge," the success moved over to $36.5 million Carolina Stadium the past four seasons with 16 more victories.
"They're near impossible to beat here," Liberty second baseman Bryan Aanderud said.
The Gamecocks (42-18) hope they get a chance to keep that going in the supers. The Columbia Regional champion was matched with the Chapel Hill Regional winner hosted by the tournament's No. 1 overall seed in North Carolina.
The Tar Heels, though, have a deciding game Monday evening against Florida Atlantic. A win by the Owls would mean more baseball where the Gamecocks like it best -- at home. Holbrook saw that up close in 2003 as a North Carolina assistant when the Gamecocks beat the Tar Heels two straight to advance to the College World Series. He got an even better look since leaving his alma mater to join Ray Tanner's staff in 2009. As the Gamecocks head coach, Holbrook's glad he's on the right side of whatever mojo the program has going here.
"That's ridiculous," he said. "We've put ourselves in the position to play at home and sometimes it seems like our fans won't let us lose."
Designated hitter LB Dantzler drove in two runs Sunday as South Carolina built a 4-2 lead before the suspension.
Liberty (36-29) did what it could to end the streak when the game, which had been suspended because of rain Sunday night, resumed in the middle of the fifth. After the Gamecocks moved in front 6-2 on RBI hits by Graham Saiko and Tanner English, the Flames rallied with runs in the eighth and ninth. They had two on and two out when reliever Tyler Webb struck out Justin Sizemore to end things.
Liberty needed to win this to force a deciding final game, yet the Big South Conference tournament champs came up short.
"I thought there was a chance," Liberty coach Jim Toman said. "I thought it could happen tonight."
Liberty did win twice over South Carolina's rival, Clemson, and ended a 13-year drought between NCAA tournament victories.
The Flames, though, struggled to hold down the Gamecocks, who won a winner's bracket contest Saturday night between the schools, 19-3.
Colby Holmes (5-2) was on the mound when the game was halted last night and returned for just three batters Monday, but still picked up the victory. Webb earned his 17th save.
South Carolina reached the super regionals for the 11th time in the 14 years the NCAA's held the format. Only Florida State has played in more super regionals.
Holbrook had been under a big microscope much of the season with fans waiting to see if he could duplicate the success of Tanner, who won the College World Series in 2010 and 2011, and finished second in Omaha last year. The journey hasn't always been easy, Holbrook said, but has a taken a familiar direction.
Holbrook says he's been embraced by former South Carolina players who he never coached. "It's a special, special program," Holbrook said. "It means a heck of a lot that we get to play at home. You don't want to finish playing in the super regional, you want to keep going. And we're two wins away from playing in the College World Series."
North Carolina 12, Florida Atlantic 11
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Cody Stubbs singled with the bases loaded in the 13th inning to help No. 1 overall seed North Carolina avoid a huge upset by edging Florida Atlantic 12-11 on Monday night in a wild regional championship game.
Stubbs' hit down the left-field line scored Landon Lassiter from third base to cap a game filled with momentum swings, sending the Tar Heels (55-9) spilling onto the field in a mad dash to celebrate.
UNC took a 6-2 lead into the ninth inning but gave up six runs -- including a grand slam by Tyler Rocklein -- to trail 8-6. However, the Tar Heels tied it to send it to extras, then fell behind again in the 12th after the second-seeded Owls (42-22) got a three-run homer by Levi Meyer in the top of the inning.
The Tar Heels came back yet again and then won it to advance to the best-of-three super regionals against South Carolina, starting Friday at Chapel Hill.The win came barely a week after North Carolina needed 18 innings to beat rival North Carolina State in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. On this night, the Tar Heels used six pitchers -- including regional-game starters Kent Emanuel, Benton Moss and Hobbs Johnson -- before reliever Reilly Hovis (4-0) earned the win by striking out Rocklein to end the top of the 13th.
The Tar Heels started the year 39-2 and won the ACC tournament title but barely avoided suffering consecutive losses for the first time all season. Florida Atlantic edged North Carolina 3-2 on Sunday to force Monday night's decisive game.
Vanderbilt 7, Georgia Tech 1
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Philip Pfeifer threw five scoreless innings and Xavier Turner drove in three runs to lead No. 2 overall seed Vanderbilt to a 7-1 victory over Georgia Tech in an NCAA regional championship game Monday night.
Vanderbilt (54-10) tied the program record for wins in a season while claiming its fourth regional championship, and third in four years. The Commodores advance to host Louisville in a super regional.
Pfeifer (4-0) scattered four hits and handed the ball over to closer Brian Miller, who allowed one run and no hits in four innings for his 16th save.
Twelve of Vanderbilt's 13 hits were singles, including five off Georgia Tech starter Buck Farmer (9-5).
Vanderbilt outfielder Mike Yastrzemski, grandson of Hall of Famer, Carl Yastrzemski, was selected tournament MVP.
The Yellow Jackets (37-27) won three straight elimination games to force a second championship game against Vanderbilt after blanking the Commodores 5-0 on Sunday.
Rice 11, Oregon 4
EUGENE, Ore. -- Hunter Kopycinski had four hits and four RBIs, and Rice scored seven runs in the first three innings in the Owls' 11-4 victory against Oregon on Monday night to win the NCAA tournament's Eugene Regional.
Rice (44-18) advances to its first super regional since 2009 with the upset of the eighth-seeded Ducks (48-16) and will play at North Carolina State this weekend.
Kopycinski, who also scored twice, led the Owls' 15-hit attack. Ford Stainback also had three hits.
Playing for the fourth time in as many days, the Owls gave Zech Lemond his first start of the season, and the sophomore closer delivered with an eight-hit, four-run performance over 6 2/3 innings that included seven strikeouts and one walk.
Mississippi State 6, Central Arkansas 1
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Hunter Renfroe had three hits and two RBIs, Alex Detz and Adam Frazier each added two hits and Mississippi State easily beat Central Arkansas 6-1 on Monday night to win an NCAA regional championship.
Mississippi State (46-18) scored in four of the first six innings thanks to timely hitting and three errors by Central Arkansas (42-22).
Chad Girodo (7-1) pitched 6 2/3 innings of stellar relief, striking out a career-high 12 batters.
Bryce Biggerstaff (6-5) took the loss for the Bears, giving up five runs in 3 2/3 innings. The right-hander was coming off short rest, having thrown 74 pitches Saturday in a win against Mercer.
Central Arkansas managed just six hits and struck out 17 times.
It's the second time in three seasons Mississippi State has advanced to the super regional round. The Bulldogs will travel to face No. 6 national seed Virginia.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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