No.1 Vols, Tar Heels, Seminoles win super regional openers

Published 9:55 pm Friday, June 7, 2024

The Associated Press

Tennessee shook off upstart Evansville in the middle innings Friday and moved within a win of a third College World Series appearance in four years. But North Carolina and Florida State turned in the most eye-opening performances on the first day of NCAA super regionals.

Vance Honeycutt sent a high fly over the left-field fence for a two-run, walk-off homer after Luke Stevenson connected to tie it, and the No. 4 national seed Tar Heels stunned West Virginia 8-6 for another dramatic postseason win in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

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The No. 8 Seminoles set records for the most runs and largest winning margin in the 25-year history of the super regionals in their 24-4 victory over UConn at Dick Howser Stadium in Tallahassee, Florida. Five of FSU’s 18 hits were home runs, and six UConn pitchers combined to walk 15.

“We got boat-raced,” Huskies coach Jim Penders said before saying the lopsided final score. “I thought we were in Doak Campbell (Stadium next door) because that looked like a football score, but that doesn’t matter for tomorrow.”

The Volunteers looked every bit the part of a No. 1 national seed, launching four more home runs and getting another solid performance from AJ Causey after starter Chris Stamos was pulled early for a second straight game in an 11-6 win over Evansville.

Kansas State visited No. 12 Virginia in the other super regional Friday night.

The winners of the best-of-three series will advance to the CWS in Omaha, Nebraska, beginning next Friday.

Since the NCAA Tournament went to its current format in 1999, the winner of a super regional opener advanced to the CWS 78% of the time (148 of 190).

West Virginia’s 5-foot-9 left-handed dynamo Derek Clark was on the cusp of his fifth complete game when Stevenson launched his first pitch of the ninth out to straight-away center. Honeycutt ended the game when he took Aidan Major deep for his 25th homer of the season.

The Tar Heels have had a knack for fantastic finishes. They scored six runs in the bottom of the ninth to walk off LIU in their regional opener and then scored the tying run in the ninth and winning run in the 10th to defeat LSU in the final.

The Seminoles, who missed the NCAA Tournament last year, are trying for a 24th CWS appearance and first since all-time NCAA wins leader Mike Martin’s final team made it to Omaha in 2019.

They scored their most runs in an NCAA Tournament game since a 37-6 blowout of Ohio State in the 2009 regionals. Jaime Ferrer homered twice, Max Williams homered for the fourth time in six games and Marcus Dinges homered for the first time this postseason. DeAmez Ross, who entered as a pinch runner in the nine-run seventh, hit his second homer of the season later in the inning as FSU sent 12 to the plate.

Link Jarrett’s 2021 Notre Dame team beat Penders and UConn 26-3 in the regionals and FSU’s second-year coach was quick to remind reporters the scoreboard will be zero-zero to start Saturday’s game.

“So we have to go deliver the goods,” he said.

Evansville, which knocked out East Carolina last week as a No. 4 regional seed, was behind 5-2 early against the Vols but scored three times in the top of the fifth to tie it. Tennessee converted a walk, single, double and an error into three runs in the bottom half to take the lead for good.

“It’s hard to get punched in the gut or the mouth,” Vols coach Tony Vitello said. “We brag on our league probably too much — not just us but all the SEC folks like to do that — but it does get you used to getting hit. Gut, jaw, whatever you want to call it. You’ve got to be able to respond. This group, it’s a difference-maker how they remain calm or try and punch back in situations when the other team does damage on us.”

The Vols’ four homers increased their nation-leading total to a school-record 163.

Chris Stamos, who faced only three batters before getting the hook in the regional opener against Northern Kentucky, came out after six batters Friday. He gave up a home run and double before Causey came on and struck out eight over 4 1/3 innings. All three of the runs against Causey were unearned.

Evansville, in the super regionals for the first time, bounced back from a 19-6 loss at No. 16 national seed East Carolina on Sunday and beat the Pirates 6-5 in a second regional final Monday. The Purple Aces can lean on that experience when they return to Lindsey Nelson Stadium in Knoxville on Saturday.

“The way this team plays, we always say we want to play loose and have a lot of fun and let it fly,” second baseman Cal McGinnis said. “That’s going to ring true tomorrow.”


The four other super regionals open Saturday: 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).


Evansville center fielder Ty Rumsey left after getting injured trying to catch Blake Burke’s drive off the wall in the fifth inning.

The ball bounced off the wall and hit the diving Rumsey in the face, drawing blood near his right eye. He received medical attention on the field and stayed in to finish the inning. Brodie Peart pinch hit for Rumsey in the sixth.

ESPN reported Rumsey hurt his right shoulder on the play and that was the main concern heading into Saturday’s game. Coach Wes Carroll said he didn’t know if Rumsey would play.


North Carolina spoiled what looked to be a special night for Clark, who spent the first three years of college at Division II Northwood University in Midland, Michigan. The Tucson Regional Most Outstanding Player threw more than 120 pitches for the fifth time this season, finishing with 144. … Tennessee’s Burke, who had three singles and no RBIs in 13 at-bats over three regional games after being named MVP of the SEC Tournament, hit his 18th homer of the season and doubled in his first two trips to the plate against Evansville. … Florida State scored at least 24 runs for a fifth time in an NCAA Tournament game and it was the Seminoles’ highest total in any game since a 24-4 win over Niagara in 2020. … FSU’s 15 walks were its most since 2016 against South Florida. The Seminoles struck out just once, a season low.