Stanford wins, punches third straight MCWS ticket

STANFORD, Calif. — The Stanford Cardinal punched their ticket to the Men’s College World Series on Monday night, posting a memorable 7-6 victory over Texas in a game that ended in odd fashion.

With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Texas outfielders Dylan Campbell and Eric Kennedy lost Drew Bowser’s high fly in the twilight sky. The ball dropped about 15 feet in front of Campbell, allowing Alberto Rios to score from second base, securing the Cardinal’s third straight bid to the championship tournament in Omaha, Nebraska.

Rios was nearly thrown out at second for the third out of the ninth after his long fly to left hit off the wall just moments before the game-winning hit.

A jubilant Stanford team then jumped over the dugout railing to celebrate with teammates, a congregation that eventually settled in the outfield, as the stunned Longhorns stood and sat in silence.

“Before you ask me a question, I’m going to ask you a question,” Stanford coach David Esquer said after the win. “Have you ever seen an ending like that? Because I haven’t.”

Stanford (44-18) will advance to play top-seeded Wake Forest on Saturday. Texas (42-22), meanwhile, saw its season end just shy of its third consecutive appearance in the MCWS.

Tennessee and Southern Mississippi played for the final MCWS spot later Monday, in a game that started four hours late because of rain and lightning before the Volunteers posted a 5-0 victory.

This year’s field has its usual mix of regulars among the eight teams, but it’s a couple of relative newcomers that could provide the biggest storylines at the annual two-week party at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha.

The Demon Deacons have been the dominant team in the country since February and are the first No. 1 national seed since 2018 to reach the MCWS. Wake Forest hasn’t gone this far since its 1955 team won the national championship.

Oral Roberts is the lowest seed to make it to Omaha since Stony Brook in 2012 and is in the field for the first time since its only other appearance in 1978.

As for those familiar names, LSU is in for the 19th time, Stanford for the 18th time and Florida for the 13th. TCU will make its sixth appearance since 2010 and Virginia its sixth since 2009.

MCWS bracket play begins Friday with TCU (42-22) matched against Oral Roberts (51-12) and No. 2 Florida (50-15) against No. 7 Virginia (50-13). Saturday’s slate, aside from Wake Forest-Stanford, will also include No. 5 LSU (48-15) against Tennessee (43-20) in a clash of SEC rivals.

Wake Forest has showed no obvious weaknesses this season and is tied for sixth-most wins entering an MCWS, which was first played in 1947.

The Deacons’ pitching staff leads the nation with a season ERA of 2.84 and has struck out 79 in the tournament. Ace Rhett Lowder leads the nation in wins with his 15-0 record.

The Deacons have averaged 15 runs, hit 19 homers and batted .359 in their five NCAA tournament games. Their prodigious offense was on full display in the super regional-clinching 22-5 win over Alabama on Sunday. They tied the tournament record with nine home runs, three by projected first-round draft pick Brock Wilken.

“I think that dogpile was surreal,” he said. “Not a lot of people get to do that, and being able to do that with my best friends, that meant the world to me. Job’s not finished, but we got a huge step along the way.”

Oral Roberts is from the Summit League, one of the weakest conferences, and that is a big reason for its No. 4 regional seeding. The Golden Eagles are no joke, though. Wins in 23 of their past 24 games, including a three-game regional sweep and super regional win at Oregon, say as much.

Ryan Folmar’s Eagles are mostly a collection of transfers from junior colleges and other Division I schools. Senior first baseman Jake McMurray is the only everyday player who has been at ORU his entire career.

The star is center fielder Jonah Cox, who will enter the MCWS on a 47-game hitting streak, tied for third-longest in Division I history. He has had a hit in 62 of 63 games. Closer Cade Denton is tied for the national lead with 15 saves.

LSU features the top two prospects for next month’s amateur draft. Center fielder Dylan Crews, the projected No. 1 pick, is batting .434 for the season to lead all MCWS players. Pitcher Paul Skenes has 188 strikeouts, the most since 2011, and is threatening LSU alum Ben McDonald’s SEC record of 202 in 1989.

Florida left fielder Wyatt Langford is expected to be drafted right behind Crews and Skenes and is batting .373 with 17 homers and 24 doubles, and two-way sensation Jac Caglianone leads the nation with 31 homers and has held down the No. 3 spot in the rotation.

Catcher Kyle Teel and third baseman Jake Gelof are returning starters from Virginia’s 2021 MCWS team, and they headline an offense batting a nation-leading .335. Teel’s .418 average is best in the ACC, and Gelof has 23 homers and a conference-high 89 RBIs.

TCU goes to Omaha with an 11-game win streak, the nation’s longest, and wins in 19 of 21. The Horned Frogs are averaging 10.8 runs per game in the tournament. Second baseman Tre Richardson, never known for his power, has hit four homers since the regionals. He had two grand slams and a third homer and a tournament record-tying 11 RBIs against Arkansas.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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