It was a good day for the nationally seeded Southeastern Conference teams in the NCAA Tournament — well, for all except Florida.
No. 1 Arkansas, No. 3 Tennessee, No. 4 Vanderbilt, No. 7 Mississippi State and No. 12 Mississippi all won Saturday.
As for No. 15 Florida, the team that started the season as the consensus No. 1 ended it with an embarrassingly fast exit from the NCAA Tournament.
South Alabama beat the Gators 19-1 in the Gainesville Regional on Saturday, the most runs scored against Florida in 15 years. The Jaguars of the Sun Belt Conference had 21 hits, with 10 coming in succession.
The Gators, who lost 5-3 to South Florida on Friday, went two games and out for the first time since 2014, when they also went 0-2 in Gainesville.
The 18-run margin of defeat was the largest for an SEC team in NCAA Tournament history, according to ESPN.
“It’s just one of those days,” coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “Unfortunately, it’s the last game of the year for us. That’s something we got to live with.”
Arkansas advanced to its fourth straight regional final with a 5-1 win over Nebraska. Matt Goodheart led off the bottom of the first with a home run and Kevin Kobbs worked four shutout innings for the save.
Tennessee’s Liam Spence and Luc Lipcius each homered twice in a 9-3 win over Liberty, Jack Leiter struck out 11 in six innings as Vanderbilt beat Georgia Tech 4-3, Mississippi State broke open a 16-4 win over VCU with a nine-run sixth inning, and Doug Nikhazy tied the school record with 16 strikeouts in a 4-3 win over Florida State.
LSU, a No. 3 regional seed, kept coach Paul Mainieri’s career going for at least one more day. Giovanni DiGiacomo’s bases-loaded single up the middle in the bottom of the 10th inning gave the Tigers a 6-5 win over Central Connecticut State in an elimination game. Mainieri, the active career wins leader, announced last week this would be his final season.
“We get to play another day and take them one game at a time,” he said, “and I’m just happy that I get to keep working.”
Florida came into the season ranked first in every poll after returning seven of eight position players and 16 of 18 pitchers. But the Gators were up and down all season, losing their opening series to Miami at home and finishing third in the SEC East behind Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
South Alabama led 4-1 before stringing together 10 straight hits in a 10-run sixth inning, which prompted volunteer assistant Lars Davis to put pencil to paper while the Gators were waiting out a long rain delay in the seventh.
“I think he came up with like a 1 in 934,000 chance for 10 consecutive hits like that, considering their individual batting averages,” O’Sullivan said. “Credit their hitters. We didn’t walk anybody. We didn’t make any errors that inning. It’s just one of those crazy things about this game that makes it so good.”
South Florida is the first No. 4 regional seed to open the tournament 2-0 since Davidson in 2017. The Bulls beat Miami 10-2 and are one win away from their first super regional.
GOOD STUFF, HUFF
Stanford’s Kody Huff hit two grand slams in a 12-4 win over UC Irvine. His first slam came after Irvine committed three straight infield errors in the second inning.
Niko Kavadas followed his two-run, four-RBI game against Central Michigan on Friday with a grand slam, three-run homer and eight RBIs in Notre Dame’s 26-3 win over Connecticut.
The Irish have hit 10 homers in two games and outscored their opponents 36-3.
DEVIL OF A GAME
Duke’s RJ Schreck homered three times and doubled to lead the Blue Devils past Wright State 14-6 in an elimination game. When Wright State loaded the bases in the sixth, Schreck reached above the fence to rob Tyler Black of a grand slam.
“Best game I’ve ever played,” Schreck said.
HIGH FIVES FOR HIGHLANDERS
NJIT, one of four first-time participants in the tournament, picked up the school’s first NCAA Division I postseason win in any sport with a 3-2 victory over Northeastern.
Hours later, as they walked to their seats to watch the Nebraska-Arkansas game, players were greeted by Razorbacks fans who stood to applaud and high-five them.
— Christopher Sargent hit three of Southern Mississippi’s six home runs and Gabe Montenegro and Reed Trimble had five hits apiece in a 21-0 win over Southeast Missouri State.
— Bobby Zmarzlak hit two of Maryland’s season-high seven homers in a 16-0 win over Norfolk State.
— Kyle Dernedde, batting ninth, tied the Oregon State postseason record with six RBIs on two bases-loaded doubles in a 10-5 win over McNeese State.
— Arizona’s Garrett Irvin pitched a three-hitter in a 4-0 win over UC Santa Barbara, striking out a career-high 10 in his second complete game in three weeks and first shutout.
— Indiana State senior Zach Frey scattered five hits, walked one and struck out 10 against Presbyterian in the first complete game of his career.
— Dylan Smith pitched his first career complete game and Alabama’s first since 2019, allowing one run on seven hits in a 3-1 win over Rider.