And then there were two.
The pews must have been full of praying Pack fans Sunday morning. If not God, then at least the baseball gods were smiling on the Pack. State eliminated UNCW in resounding fashion and stretched the regional to a deciding Monday matchup by getting even with Vanderbilt, and those of us among the faithful that are not above rooting against our rivals even when we're not playing them (me included) got an added bonus when upstart St. John's tarred and feathered the Tarholes.
The Holes eliminated EZU earlier in the day, so just 2 teams from the Old North State are still swinging. Appalachian State notched its second one-run victory, holding off UVA 6-5 to capture its program-record 41st win. Oklahoma eliminated the Wahoos in the nightcap and will have to beat the Mountaineers twice on Monday to advance.
(Much more after the jump.)
The story for the Pack has been offense, and lots of it. State has run up a school regional record 47 runs so far, and will likely need to keep swinging hot sticks to advance, as the pitching staff has been taxed by 4 games in 3 days. First pitch in the regional deciding rubber match with Vandy is slated for 7 p.m. My guess is that freshperson Logan Jernigan (5-1, 4.88 ERA) toes the rubber for the Pack. Jernigan's .175 opponents' batting average against would be second in the nation if he had enough innings to qualify. However, Jernigan's command makes Anthony Tzamtzis look like Greg Maddux. Jernigan has issued 6.2 free passes per 9 innings, hit 7 batters, and uncorked 10 wild pitches in 48 frames. If Jernigan goes, I really hope to see Brett Austin behind the dish. Regardless of who starts, the Pack's pen is actually in decent shape thanks to their starters working fairly deep in games throughout the tournament. Closer Chris Overman was little used on the weekend, so I would expect to see him for multiple innings late in the game regardless of the score.
Unless the Dores opt for a Johnny Wholestaff approach, Tyler Beede (1-5, 4.48 ERA) would appear to be the one to get the starting nod. Beede has notched more starts (11) than anyone that hasn't thrown yet in the series. The Pack will of course miss ace Sam Selman, who threw against them Saturday, and Drew VerHagen, one of the Dores' top arms out of the pen, is likely unavailable after throwing a ton of pitches over the last two games.
To tide us over until Monday night, let's look at some of the hitting heroes through 4 games of regional action. It is hard not to begin with homer happy Ryan Mathews, but Matt Bergquist tops this list due to his game-winning RBI in the must-win contest against Vanderbilt. Bergquist LED THE TEAM in RBI a year ago, but slumped to barely over .200 this year and lost a bit of playing time in the process. In two games Sunday, the resurgent second baseman went 5-for-8, doubled, homered, drove in a whopping 7 runs (giving him 9 in 3 regional starts), and swiped a bag for good measure. Keep it going, son!
Others of note:
Trea Turner 6-for-21, 6 runs, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 1 HR
Chris Diaz 5-for-19, 5 runs, 5 RBI, 1 BB, 1 SB
Ryan Mathews 8-for-18, 7 runs, 8 RBI, 3 HR
Danny Canela 5-for-10, 6 runs, 1 RBI, 8 BB
Andrew Ciencin 9-for-17, 5 runs, 5 RBI, 1 BB, 1 SB, 1 HR
Jake Fincher 6-for-17, 3 runs, 2 RBI, 2 SB
Brett Austin 8-for-16, 5 runs, 6 RBI
Turner has been OK at the top, but it's a bit shocking to get almost 12 runs a game without your table setter setting the world on fire. I would be remiss not to note the coming out party for Austin, who was absolutely locked in over the weekend. And senior Ciencin, who has faded over the last two seasons after stellar freshperson and sophomore campaigns, is going out with a blaze of glory. Here's hoping that he, and the rest of the crew, ain't done for at least one more weekend.