Regional review: Poythress sets tone for Georgia

Kendall Rogers
Yahoo! Sports

Where Georgia junior first baseman Rich Poythress goes, the rest of the team follows.

Poythress struggled down the stretch in the regular season. In turn, the Bulldogs closed out SEC play with series losses to Ole Miss, Florida, Vanderbilt and South Carolina.

On Friday, Poythress had one of the best offensive days of his career in a first-round win over Ohio State at the Tallahassee Regional. And almost like a perfect script, the rest of the team followed suit and crushed the Buckeyes on the way to a 24-8 victory.

Georgia coach Dave Perno certainly isn't ready to proclaim that Poythress and his team are back to the same dominant ways they enjoyed earlier this season, but there's no doubt Friday's win over the Buckeyes was a huge step in the right direction.

Just a week ago at the SEC tournament, the Bulldogs scored just 10 runs in four games. In the regional opener, the Bulldogs could've scored 40 runs with a few more innings.

Ohio State ace pitcher Alex Wimmers proved to be little match for Poythress and the Bulldogs. Now it's Florida State's turn to take them on.

Georgia will be following the same script.

Surprise, surprise

The NCAA selection committee surprised everyone earlier this week by giving Oral Roberts the No. 2 seed at the Tempe Regional. Well, perhaps the committee knew something we didn't. Oral Roberts used a crop of good offensive performances and a solid start from Jerry Sullivan to beat Cal Poly 13-3 in opening-round action. Colby Price, Juan Martinez and Seth Fumanek each hit a home run.

Baylor's inclusion to the NCAA postseason was a hot topic earlier in the week. The Bears, though, showed what they're capable of in a 5-0 win over Minnesota. BU starting pitcher Willie Kempf struck out six and allowed just three hits in six shutout innings. Craig Fritsch and Logan Verrett also threw well in relief. It will be interesting to see how the Bears fare against top seeded LSU on Saturday.

You absolutely knew this was destined to happen. Oklahoma State has been the subject of criticism all week for the NCAA including it in the regional field. Well, the Cowboys made a huge statement against Alabama with eight runs in the first three innings on the way to an impressive 10-6 triumph. OSU shortstop Tom Belza had a pair of homers and six RBIs in the game. Reliever Randy McCurry threw 3 1/3 scoreless innings.

The WCC underachieved this season but don't dare throw Gonzaga into that mold. The Bulldogs made a huge statement in the Fullerton Regional opener against Georgia Southern, scoring 19 runs on 18 hits en route to a dominant 19-10 win. The Bulldogs only failed to score in one inning. Ryan Wiegand went 2-for-5 with a home run, three runs and three RBIs and Mark Castellitto went 3-for-6 with a home run, three runs and three RBIs. Can Gonzaga find a way to upset No. 3 national seed Cal State Fullerton? We'll find out Saturday.

Around the bases

Here's something you don't see very often. Elon scored in eight of nine innings against Southern Mississippi, but still managed to lose 17-14. Oh yeah, third baseman Bennett Davis also had three homers. So, how did the Eagles do it? Well, they scored eight runs in the second inning, three in the seventh and five in the ninth. USM leadoff hitter Bo Davis had an outstanding day at the plate, going 3-for-5 with a pair of homers, two runs and four RBIs. What a wild first game it was in Atlanta.

Don't ever doubt Boston College. At the Austin Regional, the Eagles were down 5-2 to Texas State entering the top of the ninth inning. However, with three outs left, the Eagles awoke and tallied six runs in the inning. Oh yeah, they also enjoyed a three-run homer from the bat of nine-hole hitter John Spatola on the way to an 8-7 victory.

Kansas State coach Brad Hill gambled in his team's Houston Regional opener against Xavier. Instead of throwing staff ace A.J. Morris against the Musketeers, Hill decided to go with No. 2 starter Lance Hoge. The moved paid off. Hoge gave the Wildcats five strong innings and the offense took care of the rest on the way to an impressive 16-8 win. Justin Bloxom led the K-State charge at the plate.

It was a fabulous day for the Sun Belt Conference. In action earlier in the day, Middle Tennessee State used a strong performance by starting pitcher Kenneth Roberts to beat Nashville-area foe Vanderbilt 5-4 in the Louisville regional. Later in the day, Missouri gambled and didn't throw staff ace Kyle Gibson against Western Kentucky. That moved backfired and the Hilltoppers crushed the Tigers 11-5. WKU catcher Matt Rice led the way at the plate with a home run and three hits.

Things will get interesting at the Chapel Hill Regional on Saturday. Coastal Carolina played Kansas in the first game and tore into KU's pitching staff on the way to an impressive 11-3 victory. David Anderson and Daniel Bowman led the Chanticleers at the plate and starting pitcher Nick McCully allowed three runs in 7 1/3 innings. Coastal will meet North Carolina in the winner's bracket game. The Tar Heels didn't look particularly good at the plate against Dartmouth, but their pitching was solid in a 5-2 victory. Saturday's game between the Chanticleers and Tar Heels is a rematch of last year's Cary Super Regional series. UNC swept Coastal Carolina in that series.

We said earlier this week that Georgia returning to its old form would be bad news for the other three teams in the Tallahassee Regional. Ohio State found that out the hard way on Friday, as the Bulldogs torched them on the way to a 24-8 victory. Georgia first baseman Rich Poythress went 4-for-4 with three homers, four runs and seven RBIs. Oh yeah, Matt Cerione and Joey Lewis also had a pair of homers in the game. What an impressive afternoon it was for the Bulldogs. Opponents beware.

Down 3-1 to Washington State in the bottom of the eighth inning, things looked pretty bleak for Arkansas. But the Razorbacks awoke and scored nine runs in the inning. They defeated the Cougars 10-3 to advance to the winner's bracket of the Norman Regional. Ben Tschepikow, Andy Wilkins and Scott Lyons led the Hogs at the plate. Mike Bolsinger, meanwhile, threw two hitless innings to get his fifth win.

Indiana stormed through the Big Ten tournament and appeared to be a perfect Cinderella candidate entering NCAA regional play. The Hoosiers, though, must run the table the rest of the weekend to make that story play out. Louisville pitcher Justin Marks struck out eight batters and allowed just two runs on four hits in seven innings, as the Cardinals defeated the Hoosiers 8-2.

San Diego State coach Tony Gwynn pondered the idea of starting another pitcher besides ace Stephen Strasburg earlier in the week. Gwynn decided to go with Strasburg against No. 2 seed Virginia, but it still didn't matter. Strasburg struck out 15 and allowed two runs on eight hits in seven innings. He was, however, tabbed with a loss as the Cavaliers defeated the Aztecs 5-1. Virginia starting pitcher Robert Morey struck out nine batters and allowed just five hits in six shutout innings.

Florida played with fire against Bethune-Cookman on Friday, but the Gators somehow avoided getting burned. The Gators trailed 4-2 going to the bottom of the seventh inning, but scored a run in the seventh, two in the eighth and three in the ninth to beat the Wildcats 8-7. Freshman Preston Tucker went 3-for-5 with a home run, two runs and two RBIs to lead the Gators.

Clemson also played with fire on Friday, and like the Gators, the Tigers avoided getting burned by scoring two runs on a Jeff Schaus double in the bottom of the ninth inning to beat Tennessee Tech 5-4. Schaus finished the game 2-for-5 with a run and three RBIs. CU reliever Graham Stoneburner rose to the occasion and allowed just two hits in 4 2/3 innings. He also struck out five batters.

Oklahoma joins the list of top seeds that struggled with four seeds, but as with Clemson and Florida, the Sooners prevailed over Wichita State by a score of 5-4. OU starting pitcher Andrew Doyle allowed four runs in just 2 2/3 innings. But reliever Chase Anderson rose to the occasion and allowed just one hit in 5 1/3 innings. Ryan Duke closed the game out with a scoreless ninth to earn a save.

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