June 1, 2013 11:30:38 PM
Matthew Stevens - firstname.lastname@example.org
STARKVILLE -- The Southeastern Conference wasn't feeling too strong about its contingent of teams after the first afternoon of NCAA regional play.
On Friday, four schools suffered losses to mid-major competition. The University of Mississippi, the University of Alabama, the University of Florida, and Texas A&M University all lost in the regional games featuring the second- and third-seeded teams. The SEC's four schools that earned the chance to play host to regionals all won Friday night, but all the schools that played away from home were forced into elimination games Saturday afternoon.
On Saturday, Valparaiso University ended Florida's season with a 5-4 victory. Ole Miss, Arkansas, and Texas A&M won to keep their seasons alive.
"It's been a top-heavy league all year, with two elite teams, a few very good teams, and a bunch of average teams," Baseball America national college baseball writer Aaron Fitt said. "Friday backed that up."
William & Mary, making its third NCAA appearance, and its first as an at-large team, earned the program's first NCAA tournament victory with a 4-2 decision against Ole Miss. The victory was William & Mary's fourth against a SEC team.
"We took advantage of some mistakes by them in the fifth inning, and it's so important to win game one," William & Mary coach Jamie Pinzino said. "Our pitching and defense just took control of the rest of the afternoon."
Sophomore left-hander Jason Inghram (9-6) worked eight innings and allowed only two earned runs on eight hits. He struck out three and walked one.
Michael Davis lifted a go-ahead three-run home run over the wall in left-center field to lead No. 2 seed Austin Peay State University, the Ohio Valley Conference champion, past Florida 4-3 to extend its winning streak to 16 games.
Troy University, the Sun Belt Conference regular season champion, spotted Alabama a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third but roared back with a five-run fourth inning, highlighted by a three-run home run by Trae Santos. Ali Knowles added a two-run single.
"Seeing all four of their two-seeds losing was quite a surprise, but the five losing teams combined for just 12 runs," SEBaseball.com publisher Mark Etheridge said.
Austin Pettibone scattered two runs on seven hits in 7 2/3 innings to help the University of California at Santa Barbara beat Texas A&M 6-4. The Gauchos (35-24) went up 1-0 in the second inning before adding two runs in the third on a hit-and-run RBI single by Woody Woodward and an error by Texas A&M center fielder Krey Bratsen.
The Aggies (32-28) scored on Mikey Reynolds' RBI double, but the Gauchos chased ace Daniel Mengden (8-4) in the fourth with two more runs to take a 5-1 lead after four.
"We've had our backs up against the wall and here we go again," Texas A&M coach Rob Childress said. "We had our opportunities but Santa Barbara was simply better than us. Period."
Mississippi State to play Missouri, Tennessee, and Georgia in 2014 SEC baseball schedule
The Southeastern Conference released its approved baseball schedule for the 2014 season Friday afternoon.
Mississippi State University will replace Florida, the University of South Carolina, and the University of Kentucky with schools that finished in the bottom three spots of the league -- the University of Missouri, the University of Tennessee, and the University of Georgia.
According to the Ratings Percentage Index, MSU (43-17) played the most difficult SEC schedule in 2013. MSU coach John Cohen has used the RPI to defend his team's résumé and to argue it deserved to play host to a regional.
"I kind of view it like The Constitution (of The United States of America)," Cohen said Monday of the RPI. "If the RPI is broken, you fix it. You make amendments to it. You change it. The NCAA's done a great job. The baseball committee's done a great job of amending through the years the recipe of the RPI."
Due to its difficult SEC slate, MSU posted the seventh-best strength of schedule in the country, which made it easier for it to get its first regional host spot in a decade. MSU's 2013 résumé included a RPI of 10 and a 21-15 record against schools in the top 50 of the RPI. The Bulldogs played the toughest SEC schedule this season, with its 10 opponents owning an average RPI rank of 25.1. All of those teams are in the top 50.
MSU hopes it will be able to counter what could be a less difficult SEC slate with a trip to 2012 national champion University of Arizona in early March.
"If the RPI is not important, then why go to all the trouble of creating it," Cohen said. "I think RPI should matter, and if you're going to take all that time to create that secret sauce, secret recipe, then you ought to adhere to it a little bit."