Sports

Tennessee, Notre Dame lock up spots in NCAA super regionals

Fairfield's Dan Ryan (10) celebrates with teammates after scoring against Southern in the fourth inning of an NCAA college baseball tournament regional game Saturday, June 5, 2021, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Tennessee and Notre Dame swept through their regionals in the NCAA baseball tournament to end long waits to get back to super regionals.

No. 3 national seed Tennessee got a home run for a third straight game from Drew Gilbert and beat Liberty 3-1 in Knoxville on Sunday. The Volunteers are in the supers for the first time since they made the College World Series in 2005. They’ll host Oregon or LSU in a best-of-three series this week.

No. 10 national seed Notre Dame used a third straight monster offensive performance to beat Central Michigan 14-2 in South Bend, Indiana, on Sunday. Carter Putz homered twice, including a grand slam, and Niko Kavadas went deep for the fifth time in the regional to lead the Irish to the supers for the first time since 2002, also the last time they reached the CWS.

Thirteen other regional finals were played Sunday night. Mississippi State will play VCU or Campbell on Monday after inclement weather pushed back the schedule at the Starkville Regional. The winner of that regional plays Notre Dame.

The Irish entered the regionals averaging 1.1 home runs per game. They finished with 15 in their three games this weekend.

They also batted .404 and scored 50 runs, both tournament bests. No one was better than Kavadas, who had a grand slam among his five homers and finished 6 for 10 with 13 RBIs. Ryan Cole had three homers and drove in 12 runs.

All but two of the 16 national seeds made it to regional finals in a tournament that has produced only a few surprises so far.

The biggest occurred at the Gainesville Regional, where the host Florida Gators were eliminated on Saturday and Miami got bounced Sunday.

That set up a final between No. 4 regional seed South Florida and No. 3 regional seed South Alabama. USF would have to lose Sunday night and again Monday to not become the first No. 4 to reach the best-of-three super regionals round since Davidson in 2017.

South Alabama, which won 19-1 over the No. 15 national seed Gators on Saturday, advanced by beating Miami 7-2 in another elimination game Sunday.

The other unexpected matchup is set for Austin, where No. 2 national seed Texas played Fairfield.

The 5,000-student Jesuit university in Connecticut earned national attention with its 27-0 start, and it entered the national tournament 37-3.

With the Stags coming from the lightly regarded Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and having lost twice in their league tournament, there was some question whether they would be selected to the 64-team field.

The Division I Baseball Committee made them a No. 3 regional seed, and they blew a two-run ninth-inning lead in losing to Arizona State on Friday. The Stags beat Southern on Saturday, then knocked out the Sun Devils with a 9-7 win after erasing an early five-run deficit.

“I think it justifies what we did this year,” Stags coach Bill Currier said. “Our record was only against teams in conference and sometimes wasn’t on the ears of the bigger schools they said we could never compete with. I feel like we had the justification of the year we had and the type of team that we are. And that’s an important thing to see on a national stage.”

No. 6 TCU is the other national seed that’s out. The Horned Frogs lost 3-2 to Oregon State, which will play Dallas Baptist in the final at Fort Worth.

Arkansas, the overall top seed, played Nebraska in a mentor-mentee matchup between coaches Dave Van Horn and Will Bolt.

When Van Horn took the Nebraska job in 1998, Bolt was his first recruit. Bolt was the team captain and middle infielder on the Cornhuskers’ 2001 and 2002 College World Series teams.

Bolt, nicknamed “Little DVH” as a player because his mannerisms resembled those of his coach, took over at Nebraska last year and led the Huskers to the Big Ten championship this season.

The Huskers lost 5-1 to Arkansas on Saturday and beat NJIT 18-4 to reach the final.

BIG BATS

— Freshman Drew Compton hit two of Georgia Tech’s five home runs in a 9-0 win over Indiana State.

— Michael Sandle homered twice in South Alabama’s win over Miami.

— Zach Heeke had three hits and drove in five runs in Central Michigan’s 14-9 win over Connecticut.

— Marcos Castanon doubled twice and had five RBIs in UC Santa Barbara’s 13-3 win over Oklahoma State.

— Joe Acker homered and tripled to lead Nebraska’s 18-hit attack against NJIT.

MOUND MARVELS

— Georgia Tech’s Andy Archer, who hadn’t pitched beyond the fifth inning since March 27, threw a four-hitter in his first career complete game.

— Ryan Ramsey allowed three hits and one run in eight innings in Maryland’s 2-1 win over Charlotte.

— Virginia’s Stephen Schoch allowed one walk and struck out five in 2 1/3 innings for his eighth save.

— Oregon State’s Nathan Burns struck out six in two innings and combined with three other relievers to hold TCU hitless after the fifth in a 3-2 win.

— UCLA’s Zach Pettway scattered seven hits and struck out nine in a 12-2 win over North Carolina.

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