Walk-off win highlights Pac-12 baseball teams' perfect start in NCAA regionals

Pac-12 baseball flexed its muscles on the first day of the 2013 NCAA Baseball Tournament, sweeping all four of its games. With that, Arizona State, Oregon State, UCLA, and Oregon all power forward into the winners' brackets of their double-elimination regionals after a quartet of hotly contested victories.
The first game of any regional is crucial, as the loser is forced to claw back through the loser's bracket with no margin for error. Every Pac-12 team is thus in prime position to do serious damage this weekend, and Saturday's winners' bracket games will provide the conference an excellent chance to send another strong message. Here's a look through the action:

 


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Arizona State ace Trevor Williams handcuffed the nation's best offense over 7.2 three-run innings to lead his Sun Devils to a 4-3 victory over New Mexico. The Lobos entered the game leading the NCAA in almost all significant offensive categories, but two defensive miscues led to early runs for the Fork. The Sun Devils' James McDonald then plastered a two-run screamer past the right field fence, and that provided the difference on a day that Arizona State's defense registered a spectacular game. The one hard knock on Tim Esmay's club has come because of its struggles with the gloves (.964 fielding percentage), but if Friday's excellent defensive work is any indication, the Sun Devils are legitimate contenders in the brutal Fullerton Regional. They play the home team at 8 p.m. PT tomorrow.

 


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Oregon State's dramatic 5-4 walk-off victory over Texas-San Antonio was anything but a routine win against an overmatched no. 4 seed. The Roadrunners pushed the Beavers to the very brink of defeat at Goss Stadium behind a disciplined offensive approach that capitalized on Kavin Kayes' error to score the go-ahead run in the seventh. Down to their final two outs, the Beavers turned to one of their seven all-conference stalwarts: Dylan Davis sent a two-run rocket into the right center field gap. Let the subsequent bedlam be known as the Corvallis craze. The home crowd went home happy; they'll be back tomorrow at 5 p.m. PT to see Pat Casey's club take on UC Santa Barbara.

The Beavers should not lack confidence moving forward on their home turf.

 


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San Diego State waltzed into Westwood as winners of four consecutive elimination games, and Tony Gwynn's Aztecs proved they were still hot when they took an early 1-0 lead. But Pat Gallagher's two-run single single reversed the momentum to Baby Blue's favor, and UCLA ace Adam Plutko (7 IP, 1 ER, 5-0, 0.97 postseason ERA) made the advantage last to the tune of a 5-3 Bruins' victory. San Diego State third baseman Tyler France, who finished a spectacular 16-for-21 in last week's Mountain West Tournament, collected two more hits. But Plutko silenced the rest of the Aztec lineup, and Pac-12 pitcher of the year David Berg sent the Bruins into the winners' bracket. They'll face Cal Poly, a team fresh off their first-ever NCAA Tournament win, tomorrow at 6 p.m. PT.

The Bruins, who have struggled offensively at times this season, can go far in this tournament if they can maintain similar production with the bats. Given a healthy lead to work with, the pitching and defense is downright lethal in Los Angeles.

 


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Two total hits were enough in a 2-1 win for the Ducks, who finished the Pac-12's perfect 4-0 start to the NCAA Tournament with the second dramatic late-inning comeback of the day in the state of Oregon. South Dakota State starter Layne Somsen one-hit Oregon through seven, but George Horton's offense played its trademark small ball to set the table against the Jackrabbits' bullpen in the eighth. Ryon Healy has been the Quack Attack's centerpiece all year long, and his two-run double sparked euphoria in Eugene. Similar to Dylan Davis' clutch Corvallis hit just 20 minutes earlier, Healy's boom tied the game and also gave the Ducks the lead. Jimmy Sherfy slammed the door and propelled Oregon into a showdown with Rice at 6 p.m. PT tomorrow.

Expect the Ducks to make similar close games a regularity in this tournament: given their excellent pitching and defensive play, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

David Lombardi has covered Pac-12 baseball since 2007. He’s a play-by-play voice and on-air reporter in the San Francisco Bay Area. He’s on Twitter @DavidMLombardi.

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