College baseball: UNC, Evansville, Florida, Oregon State advance in regional championship games

Published 11:18 pm Monday, June 3, 2024

By ERIC OLSON AP Sports Writer

Those pesky Purple Aces of Evansville earned their first NCAA regional title Monday, and their reward is a weekend trip to No. 1 national seed Tennessee for the next round.

They weren’t concerned about what’s next. They were too busy celebrating the biggest win in the program’s 100-year history.

Evansville became the ninth No. 4 regional seed since 1999 to reach a super regional when it bounced back from a 13-run loss to East Carolina on Sunday to beat the No. 16 Pirates 6-5 on their home field in Greenville, North Carolina.

Also locking up regionals on Monday were North Carolina, Florida and Oregon State. UConn met Oklahoma in a winner-take-all final Monday night.

The eight best-of-three super regionals open Friday and Saturday. The NCAA will announce the schedule and hosts on Tuesday, though the higher seeded team typically plays on its home field.

The matchups, with national seeds: Evansville (38-24) vs. No. 1 Tennessee (53-11); No. 9 Oklahoma (40-20) or UConn (34-24) vs. No. 8 Florida State (45-15); Kansas State (35-24) vs. No. 12 Virginia (44-15); West Virginia (36-22) vs. No. 4 North Carolina (45-14); No. 15 Oregon State (45-14) vs. No. 2 Kentucky (43-14); No. 10 North Carolina State (36-20) vs. No. 7 Georgia (42-15); Florida (32-28) vs. No. 6 Clemson (44-14); Oregon (40-18) vs. No. 3 Texas A&M (47-13).

Mark Shallenberger’s three-run homer in the sixth inning gave Evansville the lead against East Carolina, and relievers Max Hansmann and Shane Harris combined to hold the Pirates to one hit and one walk the rest of the way.

Coach Wes Carroll said the program’s milestone victory was achieved through recent facilities upgrades, recruiting and strong administrative support. It was especially emotional for Carroll, who grew up 15 minutes from campus, played for the Aces from 1998-2001 and became head coach in 2009.

“John Stanley hired me, taking a chance on a 28-year-old who just bled purple and believed in this place,” Carroll said, referring to the former athletic director. “Sixteen years in, it’s been a journey, one that has been so joyful just because of the people I’ve been able to be around and work with. Over the past five or six years I really struck gold with people who cared about me and cared about our baseball program and we started to build something. We got people to believe in a vision.”

North Carolina knocked out defending national champion LSU with a 4-3 win in 10 innings.

The Tar Heels’ Colby Wilkerson singled in the tying run in the ninth, and Alex Madera’s two-out base hit brought in the go-ahead run in the 10th after right fielder Jake Brown misplayed a fly ball to keep the inning alive. Dalton Pence pitched a perfect bottom half against the top of the LSU order to send the Tar Heels to their second super regional in three years.

Florida beat No. 11 Oklahoma State 4-2 for its second win over the Cowboys in two days. The Gators continued their improbable late-season run while Oklahoma State failed for a third straight year to advance as a regional host.

The Gators needed a winning record to be eligible for an NCAA at-large bid, and they secured that requirement by winning at Georgia on the last day of the regular season. They went one-and-out at the SEC Tournament and went to Stillwater, Oklahoma, as the No. 3 regional seed.

The Gators won three straight after losing 7-1 to the Cowboys on Saturday, and now the 2023 national runners-up are in supers for the second straight year.

“The vibes just kind of switched,” Florida two-way star Jac Caglianone said. “Everybody was amped up and enjoying themselves and playing baseball. We got away from that for a little bit. We found that spark once again and it showed today.”

Oregon State beat UC Irvine 11-6 in a game that resumed Monday after it was suspended because of rain in the fourth inning Sunday night. Elijah Hainline homered and drove in three runs for the Beavers, who advanced for the second time in three years.