Top seeds, regional hosts fall in NCAA baseball regional round
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- The regional round saw a staggering amount of upsets, with five national seeds losing, as well as four regional hosts. Among the teams dismissed early were No. 1 Vanderbilt, No. 4 Texas, No. 6 Florida State, No. 7 Arkansas and No. 8 San Diego. Long Beach State, Coastal Carolina, Missouri and Virginia lost at home.
There isn't a single answer that can cover every situation. Vanderbilt, San Diego and Coastal Carolina were all in new situations and the pressure could have played a factor. Michigan, who defeated the Commodores, was probably underrated coming out of the Big Ten. Coastal Carolina was sent home by a Clemson team that went to Omaha in 2006 and expects to win this time of year. The way San Diego lost -- dropping two straight games in its regional -- is probably more surprising than being upset by a tradition-rich Cal State Fullerton program.
Florida State had struggled toward the end of the season and wasn't able to turn it around quick enough to advance to the super regional round. Coming off playing in the SEC final, Arkansas just needed to swing the bats to advance -- but couldn't get it done against Oklahoma State, a team that just weeks ago looked like a lock to be a No. 1 regional seed and host. UCLA, which bounced Long Beach, played a difficult schedule and entered the tournament under the radar. And who thought Louisville would advance? The Cardinals didn't even make the Big East final. Yet Louisville took out Missouri to set a super regional date with the Cowboys.
One of the things we learned this weekend was that it's very difficult for programs to take that next step. While top-seeded Vanderbilt might be the highest-profile example of this, Virginia loss to Oregon State also proved how hard it is to change perceptions. In pressure situations, you can almost see teams think, "Here we go again." For Virginia, which has hosted a regional three of the past four years yet has never advanced, the team only had negative memories. The defending champs, on the other hand, are still the defending champs. They know what it takes to win it all.
Outside of Vanderbilt, Texas' loss is one of the most surprising. The Horns had playoff experience in spades and boasted one of the tournament's most balanced teams. UC Irvine, on the other hand, has never been to a super regional. But the Anteaters hardly lack for experience in their coaching staff. Dave Serrano was Cal State Fullerton's pitching coach during the team's title run in 2004. He's learned from some of the best in the game -- Augie Garrido, George Horton and Rod Delmonico. Now he has UC Irvine poised to make the trip to Omaha.
The upset-filled weekend provided a bracket that has a completely different look to it. Teams you don't expect to see playing this time of year are now two wins away from the College World Series. While you always want to see a few traditional powers make the final cut, watching the mid-majors and underdogs advance is what makes this tournament so fun.
Super regional quick hits
Most surprising regional result: Vanderbilt. When you look at how the Commodores' numbers and how they came back in the SEC tournament, you just assumed that they could do it again. Although Vanderbilt has steadily improved in each of Tim Corbin's five seasons at the helm, this was Vanderbilt's best chance at a national title. The Commodores will lose the projected No. 1 pick in the MLB draft in David Price and a possible first-rounder in Casey Weathers. It is safe to assume they'll reload, but replacing those two will be very tough.
Most dominating regional performance: Arizona State. The Sun Devils' closest game was their first one, a 5-3 victory over Monmouth. Arizona State dismissed UC Riverside and Nebraska by a combined score of 28-9.
Most difficult super regional: Chapel Hill. North Carolina, one of just three national seeds remaining, is in for a rough ride. South Carolina is very strong. When I saw the Gamecocks play Florida, their offense was comparable to top teams like Texas, Arizona State and Oklahoma State. Getting left-hander Arik Hempy back from Tommy John surgery has made a huge difference in South Carolina's rotation.
Most interesting super regional: Tempe. Arizona State and Ole Miss are two teams you don't see play a lot. While each conference tends to play a different style of baseball, ASU often looks more like an SEC team than a West Coast team. The Sun Devils try to out-smoak teams.
Player to watch: Clemson's Andy D'Alessio. You don't see many seniors who make a difference on baseball teams, but the Tigers' first baseman has been a shot in the arm for Clemson. D'Alessio is the offensive leader (.317, 16 HR, 47 RBI) and could be the key to the team's postseason hopes.
Kyle Peterson was a three-time All American at Stanford, is the voice of "MVP 06 NCAA Baseball" and is a college baseball analyst for ESPN.
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