Sam Houston State had made it to the NCAA baseball regional finals three times and lost each time.
On Monday, the Bearkats broke through.
Seeded third in the Lubbock Regional, Sam Houston State beat No. 5 national seed Texas Tech 4-3 for its second win in two days over the Red Raiders.
“We played this whole week like we were not afraid to lose,” catcher Robie Rojas said. “We knew no matter what we loved each other and we’ve had a great run. So when you play (without) the fear of … crashing and burning, you’re going to do things like this.”
Also clinching regionals Monday were No. 3 national seed Florida, No. 6 TCU, Long Beach State, Mississippi State, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Missouri State, Florida State and Texas A&M. No. 1 national seed Oregon State, No. 4 LSU and No. 7 Louisville wrapped up regionals Sunday along with Davidson and Wake Forest, and Cal State Fullerton won Saturday.
The Southeastern Conference had six of its eight tournament qualifiers move on; the Atlantic Coast Conference had three of its seven advance.
Sam Houston State is the second surprise team to move on in the NCAA Tournament, joining No. 4 regional seed Davidson, which knocked out No. 2 national seed North Carolina on Sunday. Kentucky also is headed to its first super regional.
Sam Houston State is in the national tournament for the 11th time, getting an automatic bid as Southland Conference Tournament champion.
The Bearkats from Huntsville, Texas, had to beat 2016 national runner-up Arizona twice and Texas Tech twice to advance to super regionals.
“I’ve been talking about us being a David in a land full of Goliaths,” third-year coach Matt Deggs said.
The Bearkats’ winning run was unearned, coming after Tech second baseman Brian Klein threw wildly to first on Lance Miles’ grounder. That allowed Hunter Hearn to score from first.
Sam Houston State used 11 pitchers in the regional, five on Monday. Riley Cooper pitched 4 2/3 innings of relief for the win and Nick Mikolajchak worked the ninth for his 13th save.
The Bearkats also went to regional finals in 2007, 2012 and 2014. Their current run came after they beat nine teams in the regular season that made the NCAA Tournament, including Houston three times and Texas A&M.
“We talked all week leading up to this that it’s only impossible until somebody does it. Once somebody does it, it’s not impossible,” Deggs said. “This is the first team in Sam Houston State history that’s ever advanced to the Super Regional, and first team out of the Southland Conference to advance to the super regional, and we’re very proud to represent that conference.”
A look around the country:
Sites for the best-of-three super regionals starting Friday or Saturday will be announced Tuesday. National seeds are assured of playing at home.
Vanderbilt (36-23-1) at No. 1 Oregon State (52-4); Wake Forest (42-18) at No. 3 Florida (45-17); Mississippi State (40-25) at No. 4 LSU (46-17); Missouri State (43-18) at No. 6 TCU (45-16); Kentucky (43-21) at No. 7 Louisville (50-10); Long Beach State (41-18-1) vs. Cal State Fullerton (37-21); Sam Houston State (43-21) vs. Florida State (43-21); Davidson (35-24) vs. Texas A&M (39-21).
HIS TIME TO SHINE
Freshman two-way player Austin Langworthy starred with his arm and bat as host Florida beat Bethune-Cookman 6-1. He allowed one run and two singles in four innings of relief in his first pitching appearance since April 11. He started the game in left field, went 2 for 4 and hit a three-run homer to open the scoring in the sixth inning. It was his third homer of the season and first since March 3.
Texas A&M’s Baine Schoenvogel hit his second pinch-hit home run of the season in the top of the ninth inning, and it turned out to be the winner in a 4-3 victory over host Houston.
MARVELOUS ON MOUND
— Will Zirzow led Florida State past Auburn 6-0 with the best outing of his career. The junior allowed two singles, hit a batter, walked none and struck out 11 in his first complete game. Used mostly as a reliever, Zirzow had never pitched more than five innings.
— Vanderbilt, which beat Clemson 8-0, called on Matt Ruppenthal to start. The junior gave up three hits in six shutout innings in his first appearance since May 6.
— Long Beach State’s Dave Smith followed up his complete-game shutout against San Diego State on Friday with four innings of one-hit ball against Texas on Monday.
— Missouri State’s Jeremy Eierman, whose two-out homer in the ninth gave the Bears a walk-off win over Oklahoma State on Friday, hit a two-run shot in the sixth inning to give his team the lead in a 3-2 win over host Arkansas. It was his third of the regional.
— Vanderbilt’s Will Toffey, who homered twice and drove in five runs against Clemson, continues to be one of the hottest hitters in the country. In four regional games he was 9 for 19 (.473) with 10 RBIs, eight runs and three homers. In his last 10 games he’s 24 for 48 (.500) with 22 RBIs, 17 runs and six homers.
— Dallas Baptist led the regional participants with 13 home runs. Austin Listi connected four times to give him 24 for the season, tying Josh Causey (2002) for the school record.