No. 2) South Florida Bulls vs No. 3) Oklahoma State Cowboys
USF 2, Oklahoma State 9
Since the NCAA began the current regional format, the regional winner has won their opening game 93% of the time. That’s good news for Oklahoma State who defeated South Florida on Friday, 9-2.
This matchup pitted the power of Oklahoma State against the on-base ability of South Florida. Coming into the game, the Cowboys had the lowest batting average in the Big 12, while South Florida had posted the 18th highest team batting average in the nation at .299. However, it was Oklahoma State who produced the offense, out-hitting the Bulls 15-7.
Strong defensive plays and a solo-opposite field home run by Chris Chatfield allowed the Bulls to take an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second, it would be the only time the Bulls led all day.
The ability of the Cowboys to produce base hits was the key difference in this game. The top four hitters in the lineup combined for nine hits, including a 3-5 day from star player, catcher Cody Simpson.
Christian Funk’s two-run home run in the top of the sixth inning made it 4-1 Oklahoma State, before a Michael Neustifter RBI-single capped off a three-run frame, ending the day for USF starting pitcher Peter Strzelecki. Strzelecki finished the day with 5.1 IP, giving up 10 hits, four earned runs, zero walks and striking five. Oklahoma State would add four more runs in the top of the ninth, including an RBI-single by Matt Kroon, a two-run double by Jon Little, and a Trevor Boone RBI-single.
USF standout hitter David Villar was limited to just one hit in four at-bats with an RBI. Carson Teel’s six innings of one-run relief helped him secure his eighth win of the season and an opening game win for his Cowboys, who now move on to the winner’s bracket.
No. 1) Stetson Hatters vs No. 4) Hartford Hawks
Stetson 8, Hartford 3
This weekend is the first time in program history that the Stetson Hatters are hosting an NCAA Regional game, and it is the first NCAA Regional appearance ever for the Hartford Hawks. It was Stetson who took their opening game of the bracket, securing their 16th-straight victory of the season and making history in the process.
Joey Gonzalez toed the rubber for the Hatters, going six dominant innings, allowing seven hits, one earned run and one walk while striking out five Hawks’ hitters. A 45-minute lightning delay in the top of the third had no effect on Gonzalez and his quality start.
Stetson scored the first run of the game on a Nick Dombkowski wild pitch. Other than that miscue, the American East Freshman and Pitcher of the Year struck out four and gave up just four hits over five innings.
The Hartford bullpen proved unable to hold off the Hatters, giving up two runs in the sixth and seventh inning, and finally three in the eighth, giving Stetson an 8-3 victory.
Senior designated hitter Brooks Wilson led the Hatters’ offense, going 2-4 at the plate with a walk and driving in three. As for Hartford, their leadoff hitter and captain, Nick Campana, was left hitless in five at-bats on the night.
South Florida and Hartford will match up in an elimination game on Saturday at 1 p.m. EST on ESPN3. Stetson and Oklahoma State will battle at 7 p.m., where Logan Gilbert is expected to start for the Hatters. Gilbert is a potential top-10 pick in Monday’s MLB Draft.