As part of our NCAA Super Regionals coverage, we take an inside look at Friday's action around the country.
GAINESVILLE SUPER REGIONAL
MISSISSIPPI STATE AT FLORIDA
The skinny: The Gators were the national title favorite before the season and that still appears to be the case after the opener of the Gainesville Super Regional. Florida was smoking hot against Mississippi State, grabbing a dominant 11-1 triumph to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series. Florida starting pitcher Hudson Randall once again put together a fantastic start, striking out eight and allowing just six hits and a run in eight innings. While Randall led the way at the plate, catcher Mike Zunino, shortstop Nolan Fontana, outfielder Bryson Smith and second baseman Josh Adams had very productive days at the plate.
Turning point: Mississippi State coach John Cohen decided to start freshman right-hander Evan Mitchell against the Gators. Mitchell had thrown solidly the past few weeks, so Cohen was riding the hot hand. Well, Mitchell was nervous to start and had a rough start, allowing four runs in the first inning before allowing two runs in the second inning. He finished the afternoon striking out just two batters and allowing seven runs on five hits in two innings. The Bulldogs desperately needed Mitchell to get them off to a fast start. Now they're in a huge hole.
Player of the game: C Mike Zunino, Florida -- The Gators wanted to get off to a hot start against Mississippi State, and they did just that with the sophomore stud catcher leading the charge. Zunino had a key two-RBI single in the first inning and finished the afternoon 2-for-4 with a home run, two runs scored and three RBIs. Zunino was named the SEC Player of the Year a few weeks ago, and this is just another example of why that was the case.
Looking ahead: Mississippi State enters Saturday's contest with its back against the wall. Lose and the Bulldogs are headed home for the summer. Florida, meanwhile, has a chance to earn back-to-back trips to the College World Series with one more victory. State will send junior Nick Routt (3-3, 3.78) to the mound while the Gators will counter with freshman sensation Karsten Whitson (8-0, 2.42).
Florida leads Mississippi State 1-0
CHAPEL HILL SUPER REGIONAL
STANFORD AT NORTH CAROLINA
The skinny: With Stanford's Mark Appel and North Carolina's Patrick Johnson on the mound Friday, you know you'd be treated to a solid pitching matchup. Both pitchers put on a solid display, with Johnson getting the upper hand in the end with a solid 5-2 triumph. While Johnson was fantastic on the mound, center fielder Ben Bunting recorded three hits and right fielder Seth Baldwin recorded two hits (one a home run) and three RBIs. As for Appel, the hard-throwing right-hander struck out three and allowed three runs (two earned) on seven hits in six innings.
Turning point: Stanford right-handed pitcher Mark Appel dealt for much of Friday's game against the Tar Heels. But the biggest moment of the game came in the seventh with the Heels clinging to a close 1-0 lead. That's when outfielder Seth Baldwin cranked a two-run home run to left field to give UNC a 3-0 advantage. The three-run cushion took much pressure of the Heels the rest of the way.
Player of the game: P Patrick Johnson, North Carolina -- The Tar Heels said earlier this season Johnson's level of play essentially was the key to the season. He needed to adequately replace Matt Harvey as the staff ace. Well, Johnson has done that and more this season. The talented righty struck out seven batters and allowed just a run on five hits in 7 2/3 innings against the Cardinal. He once again rose to the occasion when needed most.
Looking ahead: Stanford is a relatively young team with its back against the wall, so it'll be interesting to see how loose it plays in Game 2 on Saturday. For the Cardinal, it's either win or go home, while the Tar Heels need just one win to get back to Omaha after missing the event last season. The Cardinal will send Jordan Pries, who was fantastic against Cal State Fullerton last weekend, to the mound, while the Tar Heels will counter with freshman left-hander Kent Emanuel, one of the nation's best young pitchers.
North Carolina leads Stanford 1-0
NASHVILLE SUPER REGIONAL
OREGON STATE AT VANDERBILT
The skinny: In what was expected to be a pitcher's duel between Oregon State's Sam Gaviglio and Vanderbilt's Sonny Gray was anything but that, at least on one side. Gaviglio had his worst start of the season, allowing 10 runs on nine hits in 5 1/3 innings in the 11-1 loss to the Commodores. Gray, meanwhile, struck out four and allowed just a run on four hits in 6 2/3 innings to earn his 12th win of the season. Vandy reliever Corey Williams also worked in the game, striking out three and allowing no hits in 2 1/3 innings of work.
Turning point: Vanderbilt wasted little time making a statement against the Beavers. The Commodores touched up OSU starting pitcher Sam Gaviglio for 10 runs overall and four in just the first inning. The Commodores never looked back. Runs in the first inning were scored on hits by Mike Yastrzemski, Jason Esposito and Conor Harrell. The Beavers simply were unable to rebound from the bad start.
Player of the game: OF Mike Yazstrzemski, Vanderbilt -- The Commodores had a huge night at the plate and Yazstrzemski led the charge. The talented outfielder went 2-for-4 with a home run, two runs scored and four RBIs. It's also worth noting third baseman Jason Esposito went 2-for-4 with a home run, two runs scored and three RBIs.
Looking ahead: Oregon State put together its worst possible performance on Friday in a blowout loss to the Commodores. And now, with two wins needed to reach the College World Series, the Beavers, with limited pitching, must find a way to defeat Vanderbilt left-handed pitcher Grayson Garvin. Garvin has been fantastic this season, entering the contest with a 2.37 ERA in 102 1/3 innings. Teams are hitting the lefty at a .228 clip.
Vanderbilt leads Oregon State 1-0
AUSTIN SUPER REGIONAL
ARIZONA STATE AT TEXAS
The skinny: Despite losing to Kent State last week, Texas enters Friday's contest with the advantage with right-handed pitcher Taylor Jungmann on the mound. Jungmann, though, was shaky early and ended up putting together a solid start. The Longhorns, though, dropped a disappointing 3-1 decision to Arizona State. Jungmann allowed three runs on three hits in 7 1/3 innings, while ASU starting pitcher Brady Rodgers put together an impressive performance. ASU third baseman Riccio Torrez and shortstop Deven Marrero were fantastic in the field, while sophomore sensation Joey DiMichele led the way at the plate with a pair of hits and two RBIs.
Turning point: Arizona State scored a run in the eighth inning to provide some cushion for its pitching staff with a 3-1 lead. But the game was won in the top of the third inning. Zack MacPhee began the inning with a groundout, while Andrew Aplin reached base on a field error by first baseman Tant Shepherd. Johnny Ruettiger then walked before Deven Marrero reached on a fielder's choice for the second out. UT pitcher Taylor Jungmann then had communication issues with middle infielders Brandon Loy and Jordan Etier on a throw to second base, allowing ASU to score its first run of the game. Joey DiMichele then hit an RBI double to make it 2-0. The Sun Devils never looked back.
Player of the game: P Brady Rodgers, Arizona State -- The Sun Devils starting pitcher was raised in the State of Texas, but decided to head to ASU for his collegiate career. He didn't disappoint in his return to the Lone Star State, striking out four and allowing just a run on eight hits in 6 2/3 innings in the winning cause. The win was Rodgers' ninth of the season.
Looking ahead: The Sun Devils are a win away from returning to the College World Series. They'll send Kramer Champlin to the mound Saturday. Champlin has been consistent this season and enters the contest with a 2.93 ERA in 110 2/3 innings. The 'Horns, meanwhile, will counter with senior right-hander Cole Green, who has a 3.09 ERA in 99 innings with teams hitting him at a .213 clip.
Arizona State leads Texas 1-0