EUGENE, Ore. — The Oregon Ducks are within a win of just the second College World Series appearance in program history, 69 years after the first.
All it took to get to this point was the biggest comeback in NCAA Division I baseball super regional history.
Bennett Thompson hit two home runs, Drew Cowley singled in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning, and Oregon rallied from an eight-run deficit to beat Oral Roberts 9-8 on Friday night, snapping the Golden Eagles' winning streak after 21 games, which was the longest active run in the country.
Last weekend, Oregon (41-20), which was not among the 16 national seeds in the NCAA tournament's 64-team field, won the Nashville Regional hosted by No. 6 seed Vanderbilt — the Southeastern Conference tourney champion — for the second regional title in program history.
Now the Ducks have a chance to earn their spot among the final eight teams at the CWS next week in Omaha, Nebraska, with a win Saturday over Oral Roberts (49-12) in the best-of-three series. The Golden Eagles won the Stillwater Regional hosted by No. 11 seed Oklahoma State but are suddenly facing what would be a sudden end to their amazing run; they would need to win Saturday and again Sunday to earn their second CWS berth and first since 1978.
Since the NCAA tournament went to its current format in 1999, the winner of a super regional opener advanced to the CWS 78% of the time (144-of-182).
Oregon went 0-2 at the 1954 CWS and has been waiting a very long time for another chance.
Matt Hogan hit a three-run home run in the third inning for Oral Roberts, and Jake McMurray capped the eight-run outburst with a three-run single. Oregon answered with home runs from Jacob Walsh and Thompson leading off the bottom of the inning.
Thompson hit a three-run homer in the fourth to pull the Ducks within 8-5. Drew Smith hit a solo shot in the sixth, and Cowley and Tanner Smith added RBI singles in the seventh to tie it at 8.
No. 9 hitter Gavin Grant and Rikuu Nishida drew walks to lead off the ninth. A fielder's choice forced Grant out at third before Cowley delivered his winning hit, scoring Nishida.
Before Friday, teams that trailed by eight runs or more in a super regional game were 0-96. But this wasn't even the Ducks' biggest comeback of the season. They trailed Arizona 10-0 after two innings on April 1 and rallied to win 13-11.
Oregon pitcher Josh Mollerus (3-2) got the last four outs Friday to earn the victory.
Dalton Patten (4-2) took the loss for Oral Roberts, which was a No. 4 regional seed as the automatic qualifier from the Summit League, which ranked 28th out of 30 conferences in RPI this year.
Florida 5, South Carolina 4
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — BT Riopelle hit a go-ahead home run in the sixth inning and No. 2 seed Florida got two other home runs in a tight win victory over No. 15 South Carolina in the weather-delayed opening game of the Gainesville Super Regional.
After a 2-hour, 37-minute weather delay to the matchup of SEC programs, South Carolina's Will McGillis hit the second pitch of the game for a home run. Gavin Casas added an RBI-single for a 2-0 lead, but the Gators tied it in the bottom of the first on a two-out home run by Josh Rivera.
McGillis came to bat again with one out in the second and delivered an RBI single for a 3-2 lead.
Florida (49-15) tied it in the fifth on a leadoff home run by Tyler Shelnut and went ahead in the sixth on Riopelle's deep drive to straightaway center field. Rivera scored from second on a two-out single by Shelnut in the eighth inning.
After South Carolina's three early runs, the Gamecocks were shut down by Brandon Sproat (8-3) and Cade Fisher as the two did not allow a runner past second base in the next six innings. Brandon Neely came in to pitch the ninth and allowed a two-out home run by McGillis — his third RBI of the game — before Braylen Wimmer grounded out to end it.
Sproat allowed three runs on nine hits with seven strikeouts and two walks in six innings. Fisher allowed one hit in two innings and Neely picked up his 13th save of the season despite giving up the home run to McGillis.
Will Sanders (4-4), who gave up Riopelle's home run, took the loss for South Carolina (42-20).
Game 2 is Saturday, with South Carolina playing as the home team.
TCU 4, Indiana State 1
FORT WORTH, Texas — Kole Klecker pitched seven scoreless innings and was backed by two third-inning home runs, leading unseeded TCU past No. 14 seed Indiana State in the opening game of the Fort Worth Super Regional.
Game 2 is set for Saturday, with TCU (40-22) playing as the home team.
Klecker allowed three hits, struck out nine batters and walked one. He allowed only three runners to reach second base. Luke Savage came on in relief to open the eighth, and after allowing a leadoff walk, he got out of the inning with a double-play grounder and a flyout. He allowed a two-out solo home run by Keegan Watson in the ninth.
Austin Davis put TCU ahead 1-0 with a leadoff home run in the third, and Cole Fontenelle belted a two-run homer to straightaway center field later in the inning.
With the exception of the third inning, Indiana State's Matt Jachec kept pace with Klecker for the most part. Jachec pitched eight-plus innings, coming out of the game after allowing a leadoff double to Fontenelle in the ninth. After Fontenelle later came around to score, Jachec was charged with four runs on seven hits with seven strikeouts and three walks.
Zach Davidson finished for Indiana State (45-15), which play as the home team in Game 2 on Saturday.
Duke 5, Virginia 4
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Damon Lux hit a two-run homer, Luke Storm drove in the go-ahead run with an eighth-inning single, and unseeded Duke defeated No. 7 Virginia in the opening game of the Charlottesville Super Regional.
Duke (39-22) trailed 4-3 entering the eighth inning before Jay Beshears led off with a single and later scored the tying run on a bases-loaded grounder by Tyler Albright. Storm then singled to left field, scoring Giovanni DiGiacomo for the final margin in a matchup of Atlantic Coast Conference teams.
Virginia (48-13) threatened with two outs in the ninth when Griff O'Ferrall singled and Ethan O'Donnell drew a walk, but Duke reliever James Tallon got Jake Gelof to fly out.
Duke's Fran Oschell III, who has a 0.69 ERA, struck out three batters in 2 2/3 innings of relief and improved to 6-0. Tallon, who has a 1.64 ERA, pitched the ninth and picked up his 12th save this year.
The home run by Lux gave Duke a 2-0 lead in the third. Virginia later went ahead 4-3 with three runs in the sixth when Gelof scored on a single by Kyle Teel, Anthony Stephan had a bases-loaded groundout and Henry Godbout added a sacrifice fly.
Virginia's Jay Woolfolk (2-1), who entered in relief in the top of the eighth, gave up two hits and two runs in one-third of an inning.
Game 2 is Saturday, with Duke playing as the home team.
The four other super regionals open Saturday: No. 16 seed Alabama (43-19) at No. 1 Wake Forest (50-10); Texas (41-20) at No. 8 Stanford (42-17); No. 12 Kentucky (40-19) at No. 5 LSU (46-15); and Tennessee (41-19) at Southern Mississippi (45-18).