By Wendell Barnhouse | firstname.lastname@example.org
Baylor and Oklahoma have reached the "sweet 16" or Super Regional level of the NCAA Baseball Championship. Both teams need two victories this weekend to advance to the College World Series.
Baylor will take on Arkansas in the Waco Super Regional while Oklahoma will face two-time defending national champion South Carolina in the Columbia Super Regional. Both teams start play Saturday.
Considering what the Bears and the Sooners accomplished to reach the Super Regionals, winning two games might seem to be a simple task.
Baylor was hosting the Waco Regional while Oklahoma was assigned to the Charlottesville Regional. Both lost their first games and had to win four consecutive contests to advance.
"I fully expected to win this thing, even after that first game," said outfielder Dan Evatt, one of five seniors who have persevered. "I know this team. We know who we are, and we've been through tough times. We know we can face adversity, and we did just that."
Baylor would have hosted a Super Regional last year but in the 2011 Rice Regional final the Bears, one strike away from a victory, allowed four runs in the bottom of the ninth in a 9-8 gut-punch loss to Cal. That defeat provided impetus and inspiration for this year's team. Baylor was picked to finish fourth but won 24 consecutive games and its first 18 in league play to win the Big 12 Conference title.
Oklahoma would probably be happy with a yearly NCAA tournament assignment in Charlottesville. In 2010, the Sooners reached the CWS by stunning Virginia on its home field in the Super Regional.
Last week, the Sooners stumbled in Game One but relied on a deep pitching staff to battle their way back through the losers' bracket. On Monday, Oklahoma beat Appalachian State twice, avenging the regional-opening loss to the Mountaineers.
Oklahoma faces a huge challenge in its Super Regional. In winning the last two national titles, South Carolina has been perfect, setting an NCAA record by winning 19 consecutive tournament games.
"Two years ago, we were going to Charlottesville and everyone was telling me that they (Virginia) hadn't lost two in a weekend," Sooners coach Sunny Golloway said. "I gave them (OU) the same message, I'm going to give them today. The only thing that matters is what the people wearing crimson think.
"We believed we could go into Virginia and win, and right now we're going to a two-time defending champ. They've won 19 straight. It's a great storyline."
Future Big 12 member TCU advanced to its third Super Regional in the last four years. Similar to Baylor and Oklahoma, the Horned Frogs lost their opener in the College Station Regional but rallied to win four in a row to advance. TCU will play in the Los Angeles Regional against top-seeded UCLA. The first game is scheduled at 7 p.m. Friday.
Waco Super Regional
Baylor (48-15) vs. Arkansas (42-19)
Game One: 4 p.m. Saturday
Game Two: 3 p.m. Sunday
Game Three*: 3 p.m. Monday
* - if necessary.
Baylor update: The Bears have reached the Super Regional for the first time since 2005. That year, Baylor won and advanced to the College World Series. ... The Bears were the top-seeded team in the Waco Regional, lost their opener but then came back to win four straight to reach the "sweet 16." ... Baylor's regional triumph was the first time in school history it won a regional after losing the opener. ... Baylor is 33-4 at Baylor Ballpark this season, a school-record for home wins ... Outfielder Dan Evatt, named the outstanding player of the Waco Regional, has an 11-game hitting streak. ... Max Muncy has reached base in 33 consecutive games.
Arkansas update: The Razorbacks went 16-14 in the Southeastern Conference and lost their first two games and were eliminated from the SEC tournament. ... Arkansas faced four Big 12 teams in nonconference games, beating Texas Tech, Missouri (twice) and losing at Oklahoma. ... The Razorbacks have a 2.86 ERA and their pitching staff is deep with a number of power arms. The top starters are Ryne Stanek and D.J. Baxendale. They have identical 7-4 records and ERAs of 2.83. ... Arkansas hits .277 as a team with junior third baseman Matt Reynolds (.343, seven home runs, 42 RBI, 15 stolen bases) and sophomore first baseman Dominic Ficociell (.300, six homers and 37 RBI) leading the way. ... Arkansas has advanced to the Super Regionals for the third time in four years.
Columbia (S.C.) Super Regional
Oklahoma vs. South Carolina
Game One: 7 p.m. Saturday
Game Two: 6 p.m. Sunday
Game Three*: 6 p.m. Monday
* - if necessary.
Oklahoma update: The Sooners have won 24 of their last 33 and are making their third trip to the Super Regionals. ... OU is 80-68 all-time in the NCAA Tournament and is currently making its eighth appearance in the last nine years and 35th overall. ... Sunny Golloway won his 300th game as Oklahoma's coach when the Sooners defeated Army in the Charlottesville Regional. ... The Sooners are 38-9 on the season when holding opponents to ﬁve runs or less and 4-14 when the opposition scores six or more. ... Shortstop Caleb Bushyhead has a season-high eight-game hitting streak and has four multi-hit games during the streak. ... Oklahoma's pitching staff has 502 strikeouts, the third-highest single-season total in school history.
South Carolina update: The Gamecocks have won 22 straight postseason games at home, including an 11-0 mark all-time at Carolina Stadium. They have reached the Super Regionals for the 10th time in 13 years. ... Freshman catcher Grayson Greiner suffered a lateral meniscus tear to his left knee before the Columbia Regional. He might be available for action as the designated hitter or pinch hitting during the super regional. The Gamecocks' attack is led by junior first baseman Christian Walker (.319, 11 home runs, 53 RBI) and junior third baseman L.B. Dantzler who has nine homers and 44 RBI. ... Senior left hander Michael Roth (6-1, 2.68 ERA) and junior right hander Colby Holmes (7-1, 3.00 ERA) are the top pitchers.