Conference USA Baseball sent four teams to NCAA Regionals. Several made deep runs, but none were able to advance to the next round of postseason play.
Old Dominion hung in until the final out, literally. The Monarchs opened their postseason with wins over Jacksonville and South Carolina, earning themselves a spot in the winner’s bracket as the remaining teams fought for redemption. Virginia made it out of the fray and ambushed Old Dominion early in their first meeting, winning 8-3. That set up a winner-take-all contest which was delayed to Tuesday because of weather in the region.
The teams traded leads in the late innings in the finale. All six runs scored in regulation were scored from the sixth inning on. Try as they might, Old Dominion couldn’t push in the final run before the game was ended in the 10th with a walk off home run from the Hoos’ Devin Ortiz.
The only Conference USA school to host in its own ballpark, Louisiana Tech (1-2) did not get the result it wanted. The Bulldogs opened with an 18-2 rout against Rider, a game that they led 9-2 entering the eighth inning before doubling their run total that frame. NC State would get the best of them in the next game, though, silencing the Tech offense in an 8-3 win.
Forced to contend through the loser’s bracket, Louisiana Tech edged Alabama 10-8 but dropped a one-sided affair to NC State, this time falling 14-7.
Southern Miss (3-2) came extremely close to making it through the loser’s bracket in a loaded quarter in Oxford. The Golde Eagles were sent to the long road with an opening loss to Florida State and quickly rebounded with a 21-0 thrashing of Southeast Missouri State.
A Will McGillis home run lifted them past Florida State in a rematch, pitting them against regional host Ole Miss as the last two teams standing. Southern Miss won the first game 10-7 to force a winner-take-all finale. Ole Miss struck first in that one, taking a commanding 9-0 lead after two innings and holding on to eliminate Southern Miss.
Charlotte (1-2) got off to a hot start in their opening game against Maryland. After falling behind 1-0 in the second, the 49ers scored in each of the next six innings including a five-run fourth and a three-run sixth to outgun the Terps 13-10. A loss to eventual regional champion East Carolina in their second game sent them to the losers bracket, where they dropped a nail-biting 2-1 decision to Maryland and were eliminated.
Head coach Robert Woodward was somber, but thankful after the loss. “I don’t know if I’ve ever been more proud to be affiliated with a baseball team than this one,” he said. “I’m so thankful for this group of players, coaching staff, support staff and administration for everything that everyone has put in to get us to this point. We certainly hate the outcome. Our players got our program to a place it hadn’t been in 10 years. Our guys absolutely laid it on the line from the first pitch against Morehead State to the last pitch here today against Maryland. I’m just so proud of these guys.”
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