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Florida St. and Virginia clinch spots in College World Series, Evansville’s improbable run continues

Florida State and Virginia finished two-game sweeps in their NCAA super regionals on Saturday to become the first teams to advance to the College World Series.

No. 1 national seed Tennessee will have to wait an extra day to punch its ticket to Omaha, Nebraska. If not, that means the plucky Purple Aces of Evansville will have pulled off one of the great upsets in college baseball history.

The Aces forced a deciding game in the best-of-three series with a 10-8 win in Knoxville, Tennessee. That made them the first No. 4 regional seed to beat a No. 1 national seed in the NCAA Tournament. No. 4 regional seeds had been 0-30 all-time in such matchups.

“It’ll go down, hands down, as the greatest win in our school’s history, a program I’m extremely proud of,” coach Wes Carroll said. “I bleed purple and it’s great to be able to experience that as the head coach at UE.”

Florida State followed its 24-4 beatdown of UConn on Friday with a 10-8 win in 12 innings, and Virginia finished off Kansas State with a 10-4 victory. Their wins will give the Atlantic Coast Conference at least two teams in the CWS for a second straight year.

FSU’s James Tibbs III hit his third homer of the game, a two-run shot, to break an 8-all tie in the 12th and Conner Whittaker pitched 3 1/3 innings of shutout relief.

The Seminoles will be in their 24th CWS, and first under second-year coach Link Jarrett. Last year, they finished with a losing record for the first time in program history and didn’t make the tournament.

“I couldn’t be more thankful to be here and help put Florida State baseball back on the map,” Tibbs said. “It’s been a wild ride.”

Virginia’s Casey Saucke homered in the first inning and Jacob Ference’s triple and Luke Hanson’s double highlighted a five-run ninth that broke open the game against K-State. The Cavaliers will make their second straight CWS appearance, third in four years and seventh overall under Brian O’Connor.

Florida, North Carolina State and Texas A&M won their super regional openers.

Jac Caglianone’s three-run homer highlighted a seven-run fifth inning that fueled the Gators’ 10-7 win at No. 6 Clemson.

The No. 10 Wolfpack hammered No. 7 Georgia 18-1 in Athens, with Jacob Cozart hitting two of his team’s five home runs and Noah Soles driving in five runs on two doubles in the 11-run second inning.

No. 3 Texas A&M got 7 1/3 innings of shutout relief from Chris Cortez and Evan Aschenbeck and came from behind to beat Oregon 10-6 in College Station.

Evansville didn’t force a third game without enduring some late-game tension. The Volunteers, down five runs, singled twice and drew three walks off Nick Smith to start the ninth. Shane Harris issued a one-out walk to load the bases before he struck out Cal Stark and got Christian Moore to fly out to end the game.

The Purple Aces converted four singles and a double into a 6-5 lead in the fifth. Brendan Hord, who was 0 for 18 in the tournament, and Kip Fougerousse each hit two-run homers in the sixth to make it 10-5.

Evansville has taken a nothing-to-lose attitude through their first six games in the NCAA Tournament. That changes Sunday in a winner-take-all game.

“The stakes are high for us, too,” Carroll said. “As a coach, it’s very challenging to get here. You don’t know if you’re going to get here again. It’s going to be one of those things that might be one game away (from Omaha) for the rest of my life, so I’m going to cherish it and embrace it and most importantly want to make sure our boys are ready to compete like they did today — loose and with a lot of belief.”

AGGIES’ STAR HURT

Texas A&M’s Braden Montgomery, projected to be one of the first players taken in the amateur draft, was injured on a play at the plate in the first inning and had his right in an air cast when he left the field and later was on crutches in the dugout.

Montgomery dived headfirst trying to score from second base on a hit to left field. He was tagged out and grabbed his lower right leg immediately. Coach Jim Schlossnagle said he didn’t know the exact nature of the injury but added that Montgomery won’t play again this season.

CALLING HIS SHOT

Florida State’s Tibbs, having already hit two home runs in the game, said he went up to teammate Daniel Cantu and others in the dugout before the 12th inning to tell them he was going to do it again for the win.

“That was just pure luck,” he said, “but I was confident and I was hoping I would get a pitch to hit — and luckily I did.”

AROUND THE HORN

Evansville issued 10 walks, third-most in a game this season. … Georgia managed only four hits against Sam Highfill and Andrew Shaffner, the Bulldogs’ fewest this season besides back-to-back games with three hits against Kentucky in March. … The Florida-Clemson meeting was the first since 1983 and the first at Clemson since 1930. Gators coach Kevin O’Sullivan was an assistant for nine years before he was hired at Florida after the 2007 season.

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

By ERIC OLSON
AP Sports Writer

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