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Batter up! Things to know as NCAA baseball tournament enters super regionals

Super regionals are the next stop on the NCAA baseball tournament’s Road to Omaha.

Four of the best-of-three series are Friday through Sunday: Evansville (38-24) at No. 1 national seed Tennessee (53-11); UConn (35-24) at No. 8 Florida State (45-15); Kansas State (35-24) at No. 12 Virginia (44-15); and West Virginia (36-22) at No. 4 North Carolina (45-14).

The four series Saturday through Monday: No. 15 Oregon State (45-14) at No. 2 Kentucky (43-14); No. 10 North Carolina State (36-20) at No. 7 Georgia (42-15); Florida (32-28) at No. 6 Clemson (44-14); and Oregon (40-18) at No. 3 Texas A&M (47-13).

The eight winners advance to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, starting June 14.

PAC-12’S LAST STAND

Oregon and Oregon State represent the Pac-12’s last chance for glory. The soon-to-be defunct conference was the most dominant in baseball until the Southeastern Conference began its rise to power in the 1990s.

The Pac-12 has the most national titles in baseball with 29 and has had a team in all but seven CWS since 1947.

Oregon is playing for its first CWS appearance since 1954 before it heads to the Big Ten. Oregon State, which has won three titles, is going for its eighth CWS. The Beavers will play as an independent next season.

GIVE ME FIVE

The Atlantic Coast Conference matched its record with five teams making it to super regionals, all among the top 16 national seeds.

The SEC also has five teams in supers, with four of them among the top seven national seeds.

ACC teams were 18-7 (.720) in regionals, best among conferences represented in at least 10 games.

For the first time, six Nos. 3 or 4 regional seeds made it to supers. Florida, Kansas State, Oregon, UConn and West Virginia are the No. 3s. Evansville is the No. 4.

ABOUT THOSE HOMERS

Home runs per game are on a record pace for the season, but long balls in the national tournament are down so far. There were 257 homers in 100 regional games this year; 299 were hit in 101 games in 2023.

Most of the remaining 16 teams pack a wallop, though. Nine have hit at least 100 homers, and only two have hit fewer than 85.

No. 1 national seed Tennessee has hit a school-record 159, the most since LSU had 188 in 1997. Charlie Condon of No. 7 Georgia leads the nation with 36, the most since Rice’s Lance Berkman had 41 in 1997, and five other players in the top 10 are in supers.

HOME-FIELD ADVANTAGE

Since the tournament went to its current format in 1999, the team hosting a super regional on its home field has won 69.3%. That’s 131 of 189 and does not include three series that were played at neutral sites.

FSU IS BACK, AND A LOT BETTER

Florida State is in supers for a record 18th time, and the first since NCAA coaching wins leader Mike Martin’s last team made it all the way to Omaha in 2019. Martin, who retired after that season, died in February.

The Seminoles’ 22-win improvement under second-year coach Link Jarrett is the biggest in the country. Last year they went 23-31 for the first losing season in the program’s 75-year history.

FSU, which has never won a national title in baseball, is trying to reach the CWS for a 24th time.

WELCOME TO THE PARTY

Evansville and West Virginia are making their first appearances in super regionals, and both present wonderful storylines.

The Purples Aces, in their own state, play in the shadows of Big Ten programs Indiana and Purdue and Missouri Valley Conference powerhouse Indiana State. Since their previous NCAA appearance in 2006, they’ve won one MVC regular-season title (2014) and finished fourth or lower 14 of the other 17 years. This year’s conference tournament championship, which earned them the automatic NCAA bid, was their first since ‘06.

West Virginia hopes to send coach Randy Mazey into retirement with a trip to the CWS. The Mountaineers went two and out in the Big 12 Tournament before sweeping through regionals.

NOW THE BAD NEWS

As excited as Evansville must be to make a super regional, history paints a bleak outlook for the Purple Aces. No. 4 regional seeds are 0-29 all-time against No. 1 national seeds in the tournament.

Evansville has lost seven straight to SEC opponents since knocking off a nationally ranked Georgia 3-2 in the 2021 opener.

HEY, I KNOW YOU

It’s old home week for Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan. He was Clemson’s pitching coach and recruiting coordinator for nine seasons before the Gators hired him in 2007. Current Tigers coach Erik Bakich worked with O’Sullivan at Clemson for a year, when he was a volunteer assistant in 2022.

This will be the first time Florida and Clemson have met in baseball since 1983.

IT’S KIND OF DRAFTY

Ten players projected by MLB.com to be taken in the first round of the amateur draft are playing in supers.

Among them are the projected top four picks — Condon, the Georgia 3B, Oregon State 2B Travis Bazzana, Florida 1B-P Jac Caglianone and Texas A&M RF Braden Montgomery.

The others are West Virginia SS JJ Wetherholt, North Carolina CF Vance Honeycutt, Florida State 3B Cam Smith, Tennessee 3B Billy Amick, Florida State RF James Tibbs and Kansas State SS Kaelen Culpepper.

WHO IS THIS GUY?

Ashton Wilson didn’t crack Florida’s starting lineup until May 16, and that was only because regular right fielder Ty Wilson broke his wrist May 11 and the player who replaced him, Hayden Yost, suffered a season-ending knee injury in practice four days later.

Before that, the transfer from Charleston Southern had been 2 for 8 as a pinch-hitter in 11 games.

Look at him now. Wilson had three doubles and a homer in the Gators’ regional opener against Nebraska, finished 9 for 21 with five RBIs in four games in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and was voted the regional’s Most Outstanding Player.

“You need to have surprise stories at this time of the year to make a run,” coach Kevin O’Sullivan said after the Nebraska game. “What a great story it is for Ashton.”

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AP college sports: https://apnews.com/hub/college-sports

By ERIC OLSON
AP Sports Writer

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