Aggies keep winning in the playoffs despite ‘losing players left and right’

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

One win away from the finals in the Men’s College World Series, Texas A&M coach Jim Schlossnagle is clearly enjoying the ride. And, why not? His team has won seven straight in the NCAA baseball tournament, including a 2-0 start in the MCWS.

At the same time, questions loom. Will slugging outfielder Jace LaViolette be ready to play on Wednesday? If not, how can the coach be expected to win a national title if he’s missing both LaViolette and Braden Montgomery in the most important game of the season?

Moreover, what will he do without the services of starting pitcher Shane Sdao, who like Montgomery suffered a season-ending injury in the Super Regional round? All serious questions that will force Schlossnagle to make some big decisions over the next 36 hours.

In his postgame news conference Monday, Schlossnagle said LaViolette “tweaked” a hamstring in third-seeded A&M’s 5-1 victory over No. 2 Kentucky. He did it apparently in the sixth inning when the Aggies scored five runs.

So, what is his status for Wednesday?

“Thankfully we don’t play (Tuesday),” Schlossnagle told reporters. “So we got 48 hours to see if we can get him functional to do something on the field. Last two weeks (we’ve) been losing players left and right. Gives other guys opportunities. Hopefully it’ll make a good story.”

The loss of Sdao to injury last week against Oregon could become a major issue should the Aggies falter and lose Wednesday’s game. If they lose, they’d need to play again Thursday for the right to move into the title series.

“When you’re down a pitcher like Sdao, that’s a big hole to fill for any team,” the coach said. “At least, for our team. The fact that we get an extra day’s rest and hopefully just have to win one (is important).”

Just when he mentioned his fortuitous position in the bracket, Schlossnagle recalled an experience that he had at another school, a memory that apparently still haunts him. Eight years ago, his TCU Horned Frogs went into the CWS semifinals with a 2-0 record and failed to reach the finals.

As it turned out, Coastal Carolina won in the losers bracket and then knocked off TCU twice in the semifinals en route to winning the MCWS title, a footnote in history that should give hope to both Kentucky and Florida, who play Tuesday night for the right to meet A&M again on Wednesday.

“In 2016 we had to win one game and Coastal Carolina had to win three, and they did,” Schlossnagle said. “So, we’ve won a couple of ballgames, but we’re not where we want to be yet.”

One of the keys to A&M’s success is, obviously, talented players who aren’t playing at the moment and staying ready just in case. Kaeden Kent is one of those players. He wasn’t in the lineup at the start of the NCAA tournament but now is playing a major role.

“It’s amazing,” Kent said. “Any time you can play playoff baseball, it’s amazing. The fans are crazy, especially at Olsen Field. And my teammates, our teammates, are ultra-supportive of everybody. We have each other’s backs, and we play for each other.

“Like (pitcher) Ryan (Prager) said earlier, we have full trust in everybody in that dugout. So it’s amazing when a team can come together like we are and enjoy being around each other so much where we can win ball games, and it’s super fun to play.”

Another element of the Aggies’ run to the brink of their first championship round appearance is resilience. Sometimes, players on other teams just get hot. Sometimes, in the case of the Oregon Ducks last week, they get hot and make a good pitcher like Prager look bad.

The Ducks hammered Prager for six runs in just one and two thirds innings in the opener of the best-of-three Bryan-College Station Super Regional. On Monday night, Prager had a chance to make amends, and he did.

He carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning and finished with 6 and 2/3 innings scoreless, allowing only two hits. A strong wind blowing into hitters’ faces aided his cause, but at the same time, he kept throwing strikes and forced the Wildcats to swing early in counts.

“After last week, as soon as I came out (of the game), there was some frustration,” Prager said. “(But) once we made the last out (in the series), all of that went away. We just won an opportunity to come to Omaha. I thought that went away pretty quick.

“But the first couple of days after, there was some thinking. Maybe a little bit of over thinking. But, truly coming back to neutral and understanding what I’ve done all year has led to some success and nothing really needs to change. There doesn’t need to be a drastic change.”

Did the Aggies catch a break when they showed up Monday afternoon with the wind blowing in? Sure they did. They’ll acknowledge it and they’ll take it. Including a 3-2 victory over Florida on Saturday, A&M pitching has now allowed only three runs in two games in Omaha.

Prager did his part, going deep into the game and minimizing the role that the bullpen would need to play to finish off the victory.

“First two games we’ve been here, that’s about how we drew it up,” Schlossnagle said. “Glad to see him get a little bit of a cushion. Also glad to see him not to have to go much further than he did. Because if we’re going to have a chance to win this thing, he’s going to have to pitch again on much shorter rest.

“So, he did a great job. We played good defense behind him. Any time the wind’s blowing like it was, it gives any pitcher more confidence to throw the ball in the strike zone.”

A&M defeats Kentucky, advances undefeated into MCWS semifinals

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Jackson Appel and Hayden Schott ignited a five-run sixth inning and lefthander Ryan Prager took a no hitter into the seventh Monday night, as the Texas A&M Aggies rolled to a 5-1 victory over the Kentucky Wildcats to remain undefeated at the Men’s College World Series.

Looking for their first national title in their eighth trip to Omaha, Neb., the third-seeded Aggies have fashioned a 2-0 start in the MCWS for the first time. With wins over Florida and second-seeded Kentucky, A&M has moved into the semifinals needing only one victory to advance to the championship round.

Now with one loss in two games, Kentucky is scheduled to play Florida, also 1-1, in the losers bracket Tuesday. The winner is scheduled to get another shot at A&M on Wednesday night in the semifinals. A&M will need to be beaten twice for its opponent to reach the finals.

A&M star outfielder Jace LaViolette came out of the game against Kentucky with an apparent injury after his team broke it open in the sixth with five runs, four hits and three walks off Kentucky pitching, including four runs charged to starter Mason Moore.

LaViolette, whose catch at the wall robbed Florida of a home run in a 3-2 A&M victory on Saturday night, led off with a walk and moved to third base when Appel doubled down the right field line. It was A&M’s best scoring opportunity of the night, and the Aggies didn’t waste it.

Both LaViolette and Appel scored on Hayden Schott’s two-run single to left to make it 2-0. The first glimpse of LaViolette’s discomfort showed when he limped in from third to home plate.

Subsequently, the Aggies kept it going when Ted Burton walked. One out later, with runners at first and second, Ali Camarillo stroked an RBI double over the head of Kentucky right fielder James McCoy. A&M caught a break when McCoy appeared out of position to make the catch.

The play left A&M with a 3-0 lead and runners at second and third base. Kaeden Kent slapped a two-RBI single to left to make it 5-0.

Ryan Nicholson tied the Kentucky single-season, school record with his 23rd home run, a solo shot, off A&M reliever Josh Stewart in the bottom of the ninth.

Records

Kentucky 46-15
Texas A&M 51-13

Coming up

Tuesday: North Carolina v Florida State, 1 p.m., elimination game; Kentucky v Florida, 6 p.m., elimination game.

Wednesday’s semifinals: Tennessee v North Carolina/Florida State, 1 p.m.; Texas A&M v Kentucky/Florida, 6 p.m.

Notable

Texas A&M’s Ryan Prager bounced back from a poor outing in the Super Regional round to notch the victory over Kentucky, improving his record to 9-1. Prager worked 6 and 2/3 shut out innings, giving up only two hits. He walked one and struck out four.

In the Super Regional opener against Oregon, the redshirt sophomore from Dallas Hillcrest lasted only one and two thirds innings. He yielded six runs on seven hits, including a homer, after which the Aggies rallied for a 10-6 victory.

Offensively, Hayden Schott led the Aggies in the MCWS matchup against Kentucky.

The graduate student from Newport Beach, Calif., went three for five and had two RBI. Schott has hit safely in six of seven NCAA tournament games. He is four for eight in the CWS and has produced 13 hits in 30 at bats in the tournament.

Kaeden Kent, a sophomore from Lake Travis and the son of former major league star Jeff Kent, also continued to shine for the Aggies. Kent is eight for 15 in the tournament and seven for 13, including a grand slam in Game 1 against the Ducks, since he replaced injured Braden Montgomery in the lineup.

When LaViolette exited the Kentucky game before the bottom of the sixth, A&M coach Jim Scholossnagle inserted Jack Bell into the game at second base and moved Kent over to play third. Gavin Grahovac moved from third base to left field and freshman Caden Sorrell from left to right to take LaViolette’s position in the field.

Both Montgomery (ankle) and pitcher Shane Sdao were injured in the Oregon series and have been declared out for the MCWS. All of which makes it interesting to see whether LaViolette can return. LaViolette, whose injury was announced as a hamstring, leads A&M with 28 homers. Montgomery, considered a potential first-round draft pick, has hit 27 homers. Sdao is regarded as a key starter.

Quotable

“Give their starter credit. (Ryan) Prager. What an outing. What a time to throw a game like that. He kept us off balance. It was the fastball. The breaking ball. The changeup. He just threw an absolute great game,” Kentucky coach Nick Mingione said.

“I thought it was a great ballgame,” A&M coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “Tough conditions to hit. I thought both pitchers, Ryan was obviously outstanding. I thought Mason was outstanding for them. We just happened to get Appel’s big hit to get us into scoring position.

“And then both Hayden and Kaeden did an awesome job of staying on the baseball and using the whole field to hit.”

Tennessee beats North Carolina to remain undefeated at the MCWS

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The Tennessee Volunteers are 2-0 in the Men’s College World Series for the first time in program history after knocking off the North Carolina Tar Heels, 6-1, Sunday night.

With the win, the top-seeded Vols earned two days off and moved into the semifinals. The Tar Heels will play the Florida State Seminoles in a battle of 1-1 teams on Tuesday, with the loser eliminated and the winner moving on to meet Tennessee on Wednesday.

Tennessee won in dramatic fashion in its opening game, beating Florida State 12-11 by scoring four runs in the ninth inning. Beating North Carolina was much less stressful as Kavares Tears and Reese Chapman both hit home runs and starting pitcher Drew Beam allowed one run in five innings.

Kirby Connell and Nate Snead both pitched two scoreless innings to finish off the Tar Heels, who managed only five hits on the day.

Records

Tennessee 57-12
North Carolina 48-15

Coming up

Monday: Florida vs. NC State, 1 p.m., elimination game. Texas A&M vs. Kentucky, 6 p.m. winners bracket.

Tuesday: Florida State vs. North Carolina, 1 p.m., elimination game. Late game, TBA.

Wednesday: Tennessee vs. either Florida State or North Carolina, 1 p.m., semifinals. Late game, TBA.

Florida State wins 7-3 to eliminate Virginia at the MCWS

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Jaime Ferrer smashed two home runs to back the pitching of Carson Dorsey as the Florida State Seminoles survived to play another day at the Men’s College World Series, eliminating the Virginia Cavaliers 7-3 Sunday afternoon.

With the win, the Seminoles of the Atlantic Coast Conference improved to 6-1 in the NCAA tournament and to 1-1 in the MCWS.

Ferrer led off the fourth inning with a solo shot and added a three-run blast in the fifth for three homers in two MCWS games and five in his past four NCAA playoff games. An FSU junior from Bayamon, Puerto Rico, Ferrer is batting .324 with 22 home runs and 66 RBI for the season.

Dorsey pitched into the eighth inning to pace the Seminoles. He gave up three runs and struck out seven. In three NCAA tournament starts, Dorsey has yielded five earned runs in 21 innings while striking out 20. He is a junior lefthander from Panama City, Fla.

Records

Florida State 48-16
Virginia 46-17

Coming up

Florida State advanced to the bracket semifinals to face either the Tennessee Volunteers or the North Carolina Tar Heels.

Jace LaViolette discusses his game-saving play at the Men’s College World Series

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Around 1 a.m. on Sunday morning at Charles Schwab Stadium in Omaha, Neb., Texas A&M pitcher Evan Aschenbeck threw the pitch. Florida leadoff man Cade Kurland hit it, and the ball sailed high and deep to right field.

Six-foot-six A&M rightfielder Jace LaViolette, already playing deep to prevent anything from sailing over his head, ran slightly off line to where he needed to be on the most important play of the game at the Men’s College World Series.

Admitting to making “the total wrong read” on the ball, LaViolette said later that he also thought his position might not matter because the ball might be a home run, anyway.

“My heart kind of dropped for a second,” he told reporters on site after the game.

Then something amazing happened. The ball that looked like it might land well beyond his reach for a go-ahead, two-run homer started to come back into LaViolette’s range.

He jumped up and snatched it out of the air, robbing Kurland of a homer and propelling A&M to a 3-2 victory over the Gators on Day Two of the MCWS.

“I think the wind knocked it down a little bit,” LaViolette said. “It was a really cool play.”

A&M coach Jim Schlossnagle, in his postgame remarks, deadpanned that he is glad that LaViolette is tall.

Schlossnagle said he thought when Kurland struck the ball that it would be a home run.

“You know, I know there’s been homers hit (here), but you never know until you see it go over the fence, because of how this place plays,” said Schlossnagle. “Really, there wasn’t that much wind going, but he just hit it to the wrong spot.

“Cade’s a great hitter. Stayed on a good pitch. We were playing no doubles (positioning),” Schlossnagle said. “So, Jace was already pretty far back there. But I thought it was a homer.”

It wasn’t a homer, and it gave LaViolette a thrill of his young life.

He told a television reporter from ESPN that he might be awake for a few more hours because of the adrenaline he was feeling.

Texas A&M will play against the Kentucky Wildcats on Monday at 6 p.m. in the winners bracket. Both teams are 1-0 in their half of the eight-team MCWS tournament.

The winner there will earn a ticket to the four-team bracket finals against either North Carolina State or Florida, who will play on Monday at 1 p.m. in an elimination game.

Records

Florida 34-29
Texas A&M 50-13

Pitching, defense shine as A&M wins its MCWS opener, 3-2, over Florida

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The Texas A&M Aggies executed a few clutch, highlight-worthy defensive plays in the last few innings to back a pitching staff that struck out 16 in a riveting 3-2 victory Saturday night over the Florida Gators at the Men’s College World Series.

In a game that started more than four hours late after a weather delay, the third-seeded Aggies scored two runs in the second inning and one in the third and made it stand up for their 50th win of the season. Florida rallied for two runs in the seventh to make it close.

But the Aggies closed the door, thanks to reliever Evan Aschenbeck and defensive gems authored by second baseman Kaeden Kent and rightfielder Jace LaViolette.

In the eighth inning, the Gators had loaded the bases with two outs when Dale Thomas poked a ball that rolled slowly out to the right side. Kent hustled in to pick it up but didn’t have time to throw over-handed or side-armed to first. Instead, he under-handed it, with the ball barely beating Thomas.

Florida asked for a review on the call, but it was upheld, ending the threat and the inning. In the ninth, more drama ensued. With one out, Michael Robertson reached on an infield single. Cade Kurland stepped up and drove a pitch high and deep to right.

LaViolette leaped and caught it as it was coming down, robbing Kurland of extra bases, if not a go-ahead two-run homer. Florida star Jac Caglianone, the next batter, worked a 3-2 count and Aschenbeck walked him to put runners at first and second.

Aschenbeck, regarded as perhaps the best reliever in the nation, immediately put Ashton Wilson on the defensive. He dropped a sharp-breaking curve into the zone for strike two. On a 1-2 count, he threw another ball way wide of the strike zone. Wilson swung and missed to end the game.

The Aggies surged into a 2-0 lead in the second inning against Gators starter Liam Peterson. Caden Sorrell led off with a single and Ali Camarillo drew a walk. Kent followed with a single of his own to load the bases.

At that point, Travis Chestnut chopped a high-bouncer to third for an RBI infield single. The play seemed to rattle Peterson, as he threw a wild pitch that allowed the second run to cross.

In the third inning, Hayden Schott led off with a walk and Sorrell, a freshman from Flower Mound Marcus, sent an RBI double soaring over the center fielder’s head.

The Gators, who scored 21 runs combined in two Super Regional wins last week, failed to score until the seventh inning. Justin Lamkin pitched the first three and Chris Cortez the next three. Both notched six strikeouts.

Cortez was charged with yielding two runs in the seventh before Aschenbeck entered to end the threat. Aschenbeck pitched the remainder of the seventh, the eighth and the ninth, yielding three hits and fanning four.

Records

Florida 34-29
Texas A&M 50-13

Coming up

Sunday: Virginia vs. Florida State, 1 p.m., elimination game. North Carolina vs. Tennessee, 6 p.m., winners bracket.

Monday: North Carolina State vs. Florida, 1 p.m., elimination game. Kentucky vs. Texas A&M, 6 p.m., winners bracket.

Remembering Mickey Lashley (1954-2024) and the boys of summer at V.J. Keefe Field

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

I’ll always remember the images of young ball players in the San Antonio Dodgers’ cramped clubhouse at V.J. Keefe Field in the late 1970s. I remember distinctly that some of them, at the time, would talk about a decade-old, country-rock song by John Fogerty and Creedence Clearwater Revival.

“Lodi” was a bluesy number written in the 1960s that told the tale of a down-on-his-luck musician. One who showed up in a small, Southern California town for a one-night stand, only to spend months there, broke, and lamenting elusive good fortune on the trail to stardom.

Some of those ball players, I suppose, really did suffer from the blues.

The players who dreamed of days and nights at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, who instead seemed forever tethered to a minor-league existence that ranged from Class A Lodi in the California League to Double-A San Antonio in the Texas League. They could get down on themselves, I suppose.

But I don’t really remember that about Mickey Lashley, a one-time, eighth-round draft pick of the Dodgers. No sir. My best memory of Mickey? I remember him as an upbeat guy who brought positive energy to a minor-league clubhouse on the West Side of San Antonio in 1979.

Years later, in the 1990s, he brought the same intangibles in helping to start a fledgling baseball program at UTSA.

Sadly, as UTSA announced Saturday morning, Mickey Lashley died on June 13 at the age of 70. I didn’t know Mickey well, by any means. So, why am I writing this? Why does his passing strike such a chord with me this morning? Well, part of it is that he and I were about the same age. Born in the same year. Lashley in rural Oklahoma. Me in Midland, in dusty West Texas.

We were only passing acquaintances, sure, but we both sort of grew up together in the game, in a sense. Lashley was born in in 1954 Muskogee, Okla. Grew up in Bartlesville. Played in the mid-1970s for the University of Oklahoma Sooners, who made seemingly annual treks to the College World Series in that era.

My family moved to San Antonio in the 1960s. I played here when I was a kid and always loved the game. When I first crossed paths with Mickey at V.J. Keefe in 1979, I was a 24-year-old sports writer and he had already become a big-time presence in the game.

Me? I was driving my dad’s old Volkswagen beetle in my second year out of journalism school. Working for the old San Antonio Light newspaper, I thought I was big time, but I wasn’t, really. Man, I did well just to make it through a summer day. From home to the ball park, to the office and then back home every night. I still wonder how my stories ever made the paper.

For me, a good day started with a pre-game dinner at Church’s Fried Chicken on Culebra. It continued into the evening at V.J. Keefe, off 36th street, where if reporters were lucky, we’d have rosters for both teams and the games would end in less than three hours.

That way, I’d have the time to A) call the office and dictate the box score; B) drive fast (and probably beyond the speed limit) eastbound on Culebra, toward downtown; and then C) write six or eight paragraphs at the office for the morning newspaper.

Next day, repeat the previous. Hey, I did well just to spell all the names correctly, much less develop relationships with the players. Consequently, I didn’t know any of the players all that well. Lashley, though, was an easy-going sort and made it look pretty easy doing his thing on the pitcher’s mound, as best as I can recall.

He made appearances in 42 games that summer — all in relief — for San Antonio Dodgers manager Don “Ducky” LeJohn, according to Baseball Reference’s online records. Lashley won six games and he lost eight. He fashioned a highly respectable 3.39 earned run average.

As for my inter-actions with him in the locker room? Man, that’s just too long ago. But I do seem to recall that Lashley, as well as most of the other young guys on that team, were on many levels just happy to know that they could report to the ball park every day and play a kids’ game.

Even if, at times, their road trips on the team bus seemed endless. Or, that their pay check didn’t cover all their daily expenses. Or, that the close quarters in the dressing room at V.J. Keefe required them to be careful while putting on their jerseys, lest they accidentally back-hand a teammate at an adjacent cubicle.

When the media would come in, some players would bring up the “Lodi” song. I do remember that. I don’t remember any of them reciting the lyrics. It’s just that they knew of the song. For a refresher, I looked up the lyrics this morning. First verse goes like this:

Just about a year ago
I set out on the road
Seekin’ my fame and fortune
And lookin’ for a pot of gold
Things got bad, and things got worse
I guess you know the tune
Oh Lord, stuck in Lodi again

Such a sad song. But that was hardly the vibe in the Dodgers’ clubhouse that I remember. It was just a song. The vibe that I recall was one of hope and optimism and camaraderie. In a players’ world, there was just no time to dwell on what they didn’t have. Players had to stay positive and lean on their teammates.

If things didn’t go their way, they had to make adjustments and move on.

Mickey Lashley did just that in his career. Even though he never played in the majors, he had a significant impact on the game in San Antonio. In 1981, UTSA started an NCAA Division I athletics program. By 1992, the school added baseball. Jimmy Shankle was hired as the head coach, and Mickey Lashley worked on his staff.

By 1994, the Roadrunners enjoyed their first big year. They won enough games to qualify for the NCAA tournament. Later, after Shankle stepped down, Mickey served as head coach from 1996-2000.

Today, the program operates under the direction of head coach Pat Hallmark, and UTSA has started to make noise as one of the best teams in the American Athletic Conference. Playing at the mid-major level in Division I, the Roadrunners have won 38, 38 and 32 games in the past three seasons, respectively.

They finished second in the American this season and won weekend series against a pair of NCAA tournament teams — the East Carolina Pirates and the Tulane Green Wave. The Roadrunners went on the road and swept the Green Wave, who later won the AAC tournament.

Even though the Roadrunners sputtered at the end, going two and out in the AAC tournament at Clearwater, Fla., eyes have been opened around San Antonio for a program that holds significant promise if more improvements can be made over the next few years at their home stadium.

I’ve had the pleasure of covering that up-and-coming program in each of the last three years. It’s been a veritable pot of gold for an old ball writer who still loves the game. So, many thanks to Mickey Lashley for all the baseball memories over the years and for helping to make the UTSA program happen for all of us.

Sincerest condolences to your family, Mickey, and RIP.

Daly’s walk-off homer lifts Kentucky past NC State, 5-4

Editor’s note: The start of Saturday night’s game between Texas A&M and Florida has been delayed because of weather. – Jerry

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Another game at the Men’s College World Series. Another dramatic sequence of events in the final innings for the history books. The second-seeded Kentucky Wildcats emerged victorious Saturday afternoon, defeating the No. 10 North Carolina State Wolfpack, 5-4, scoring the winner in the bottom of the 10th on a walk-off solo homer by former University of Texas infielder Mitchell Daly.

It was the third time in two days that a game in the MCWS was decided by a walk-off winner. On opening day Friday, in another bracket, North Carolina’s Vance Honeycutt beat the Virginia Cavaliers 3-2 on a RBI single in the bottom of the ninth. In Friday’s second game, Dylan Dreiling drilled a two-out, RBI single, capping a four-run bottom of the ninth inning and lifting the top-seeded Tennessee Volunteers to a 12-11 victory over the Florida State Seminoles.

North Carolina State, which eliminated No. 7 seed Georgia in the Super Regional, battled Kentucky until the end in the opener of a two-game set Saturday. The Wolfpack tied the game in the top of the seventh inning on a two-run homer by Alec Makarewicz. In the top of the ninth, they scored a run on a wild pitch to take a 4-3 lead. Kentucky responded in the bottom of the ninth with a solo home run by Ryan Nicholson to tie.

In Kentucky’s MCWS opener, both in history and this weekend, Daly supplied the hit in the 10th that handed the victory to the Wildcats of the Southeastern Conference. Daly started at second base for Texas in the 2022 CWS. Kentucky will advance to play on Monday against either Texas A&M or Florida, who were set to play Saturday night. The tournament is being played at Charles Schwab Stadium in Omaha, Neb.

Records

Kentucky 46-14
North Carolina State 38-22

Coming up

Saturday night: No. 3 Texas A&M vs. Florida.
Sunday: Virginia vs. Florida State, 1 p.m., elimination game. North Carolina vs. Tennessee, 6 p.m., winners bracket.
Monday: North Carolina State vs. Saturday night loser, 1 p.m., elimination game. Kentucky vs. Saturday night winner, 6 p.m., winners bracket.

MCWS: No. 1 Tennessee wins 12-11 on a four-run ninth inning against Florida State

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Dylan Dreiling laced a two-out, game-winning RBI single to left-center field Friday night, capping a four-run rally in the bottom of the ninth inning, as the top-seeded Tennessee Volunteers stunned the Florida State Seminoles 12-11 on opening night in the Men’s College World Series.

Trailing 9-4 after the fourth inning and 11-7 after the seventh, the Volunteers didn’t quit. They scored one run in the eighth and four runs on five hits in the ninth to hand the eighth-seeded Seminoles their first loss in six NCAA tournament games.

In one of the school’s greatest nights in Omaha, Tennessee leadoff man Christian Moore made history with only the second cycle in CWS history. Moore went five for six and scored four runs. He tripled in the first inning, doubled in the second, singled in the fourth, homered in the sixth and doubled again in the ninth.

Sixty eight years have passed since the last time it happened, when Minnesota’s Jerry Kindall hit for the cycle in 1956 against Mississippi.

Oddly, Tennessee trailed most of the night when it produced 18 hits. That was mostly because of Florida State’s potent attack with 13 hits and also because of Tennessee pitching’s nine walks and the defense’s three errors. Through it all, the Vols were able to overcome it as Dreiling had four hits and Blake Burke three.

Controversy emerged in the ninth with with two out and Burke at the plate on a two-strike count. On a check swing, he was deemed to have held up, giving him another opportunity. If the umpire’s decision had gone the other way, the game would have been over and Florida State would have won, 11-9.

Instead, Burke took advantage of the situation, singling up the middle and bringing in two runs to tie the game.

Records

Florida State 47-16
Tennessee 56-12

Coming up

Saturday: Kentucky vs North Carolina State, 1 p.m. Texas A&M vs. Florida, 6 p.m.
Sunday: Virginia vs. Florida State in an elimination game at 1 p.m. Tennessee vs. North Carolina in the winners bracket at 6 p.m.

North Carolina beats Virginia in College World Series opener

By Jerry Briggs
For The JB Replay

The North Carolina Tar Heels edged past the Virginia Cavaliers 3-2 on Friday afternoon when Vance Honeycutt slapped an RBI single through the left side in ninth inning for a game-winning hit in the opener of the Men’s College World Series.

Pitchers Jason DeCaro, Matt Poston and Dalton Pence combined to lead Tar Heels pitching that limited the Cavaliers to five hits. Offensively, Casey Cook went three for four, scored a run and produced an RBI.

Jason Van De Brake led off the bottom of the ninth with a double for the Tar Heels and moved up to third on a sacrifice bunt. With two out, Honeycutt came to the plate without a hit in four at bats.

He and produced the RBI single, handing the Cavaliers their first loss in the NCAA tournament.

Records

North Carolina 48-14
Virginia 46-16

Coming up

Tennessee vs. Florida State, Friday at 6 p.m. The loser will face Virginia in an elimination game on Sunday at 1 p.m., while the winner will take on North Carolina in the winners bracket Sunday at 6 p.m.

Notable

In Saturday’s games, Kentucky will take on North Carolina State at 1 p.m. Texas A&M will play Florida at 6 p.m. Aggies coach Jim Schlossnagle has named Justin Lamkin as his starting pitcher against the Gators.