By Eric Olson/The Associated Press
We’re down to 16 teams in the NCAA baseball tournament, and it’ll be down to the final eight after this weekend. Here are 10 of the topics for this weekend’s best-of-three super regionals, which will determine the field for the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., starting June 15.
1. WELCOME BACK, COACH: South Carolina’s Chad Holbrook will return to his old stomping grounds for his first super regional as a head coach. The Gamecocks are playing at top-seeded North Carolina, where Holbrook was an outfielder from 1990-93 and an assistant from 1994-2008. Holbrook’s two sons were born in Chapel Hill, his sister is married to the Tar Heels’ director of baseball operations and he counts UNC basketball coach Roy Williams as one of his best friends.
2. GLENN BACK IN GOOD STANDING: LSU starting pitcher Cody Glenn’s teammates voted him back onto the team after he missed a start in regionals because of an undisclosed violation of team rules. The No. 4-seeded Tigers turned to senior left-hander Brent Bonvillain for the regional final against Louisiana-Lafayette, and he allowed three hits and no earned runs in a career-best 5 1/3 innings. Aaron Nola will start the opener against Oklahoma on Friday. Coach Paul Mainieri said Glenn, Ryan Eades and Bonvillain are options for Saturday and, if necessary, Sunday.
3. BEEN THERE, DONE THAT: Seventh-seeded Florida State is appearing in the super regionals for the sixth year in a row, the longest streak in the nation, and 13th time in 15 years. The Seminoles have won 19 straight regional games since 2008 and will be playing in their 291st NCAA tournament game on Saturday against Indiana. The Hoosiers, on the other hand, are in their first super regional and will be playing in their ninth tournament game.
4. SAM GOES BAM: The bat of Sam Travis is a big reason Indiana is the first Big Ten team since 2007 to reach a super regional. The sophomore first baseman goes into the series at Florida State with a .538 batting average in seven postseason games. He’s hit three homers and four doubles, driven in 11 runs and hasn’t struck out in 26 at-bats. He has a 1.038 slugging percentage and .618 on-base percentage.
5. FAMILIAR FOES: The UCLA and Cal State Fullerton campuses are 45 miles apart, and their baseball teams are meeting in the NCAA tournament for the fourth time in seven years. Fullerton beat the Bruins in a 2007 super regional and defeated them again in regionals the next year. The Bruins prevailed in a 2010 super regional. The teams met twice in the regular season this year, with the fifth-seeded Titans winning both meetings. Second-year Titans coach Rick Vanderhook was an assistant under UCLA coach John Savage from 2009-11.
6. RUNS, NOT STYLE POINTS: Kansas State, which plays at No. 3 seed Oregon State, is looking like a team of destiny considering how two of its biggest wins of the season came. The Wildcats clinched their first Big 12 regular-season championship on a bases-loaded passed ball in the bottom of the ninth inning against Oklahoma last month. After falling behind 3-0 in the regional final against Arkansas, they scored the tying run on a wild pitch during an intentional walk and the game-winner on another wild pitch. K-State has never reached the College World Series.
7. LEADOFF MAN EXTRAORDINAIRE: North Carolina State leadoff man Trea Turner goes into the Wolfpack’s super regional against Rice having reached base in 107 of his 114 career games. When he gets on base, the Wolfpack is 82-25. When he doesn’t reach base or doesn’t play, they are 8-9.
8. NOT JUST A TWO-MAN SHOW: Tyler Beede and Kevin Ziomek are Vanderbilt’s 1-2 pitching punch, but don’t forget sophomore lefty Philip Pfeifer. He might be coach Tim Corbin’s go-to guy if the super regional against Louisville goes to a third game. After giving up a career-high nine hits against LSU in the SEC tournament championship game, Pfeifer bounced back to throw five shutout innings in a surprise start in the regional final against Georgia Tech.
9. LATE-GAME DOMINATION: If you’re going to beat No. 6 seed Virginia, you might want to jump on the Cavaliers early. Virginia enters its home super regional against Mississippi State having given up no runs after the sixth inning in six straight games. The Cavaliers have outscored opponents 168-54 in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings this season.
10. BASEBALL-SOFTBALL DOUBLE: Oklahoma is bidding to make it to both the men’s and women’s College World Series in the same season — a feat accomplished 13 times since 2000. The most recent schools to do it were California and Florida in 2011. Oklahoma’s softball team won the national championship this week in Oklahoma City, sweeping two games from Tennessee in the WCWS finals.