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Underdogs are making noise heading into NCAA regional finals

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It's been a banner NCAA Tournament for underdogs so far.

Regional finals started Sunday night, and many of the teams still playing would be considered surprises.

Jacksonville State was the lone No. 4 regional seed to reach a final. The Gamecocks, 0-8 in their previous tournament appearances, came back from a 16-2 loss to host Mississippi on Friday to win elimination games against Illinois and Clemson and earn a rematch with the Rebels on Sunday night.

Each of the last four teams awarded at-large bids made it to finals, and three of them would have to lose twice to be denied berths in super regionals next week.

One of those is Florida State, one of the top storylines because Mike Martin, the all-time wins leader in all NCAA sports, is retiring after this season and has won more chance to win his first national championship. The Seminoles are a No. 3 regional seed, the lowest in 40 tournaments under Martin, and they're playing at No. 4 national seed Georgia.

Michigan, which plays Creighton, and Duke, which plays Texas A&M, also went into the evening one win from super regionals.

TCU, the most scrutinized selection of the tournament after it got in with a No. 59 RPI and sub-.500 record in the Big 12, beat Central Connecticut State in an elimination game and would need to beat Arkansas twice to advance.

Fresno State, a No. 3 regional seed, was 2-0 entering its first final since the 2008 Bulldogs won the national championship.

Three teams from the Missouri Valley Conference made finals. Illinois State advanced this far for the first time after winning its first two games, and the Redbirds would have to lose twice to No. 7 national seed Louisville to be denied a super regional. Indiana State, which plays No. 2 national seed Vanderbilt, fought off elimination to make it to a final for the first time since the 1986 Sycamores made the College World Series. Dallas Baptist, the standard bearer for Valley baseball, is in a regional final for the fifth straight year and playing No. 8 national seed Texas Tech.

No. 1 national seed UCLA beat Baylor in an elimination game and is matched against Loyola Marymount.

Now that's grand

In the most dramatic finish of the tournament, so far, Texas A&M made it to the regional final with an 11-10 win over host West Virginia on Bryce Blaum's walk-off grand slam with two outs in the ninth inning.

Logan Foster's grand slam in the seventh started the Aggies' comeback from a 9-1 deficit, and they were down 10-7 when they loaded the base on a double and two walks. Blaum, who homered in A&M's win over Fordham on Saturday, drove Kessler's 3-2 slider over the fence in left center to set off A&M's celebration.

See ya later, Gators

Florida, which earned a No. 3 regional seed after finishing an uncharacteristic fifth in its division in the SEC, lost 9-8 to Dallas Baptist and went 1-2 in Lubbock. The Gators made their earliest exit since the 2014 team went 0-2 as the No. 2 national seed.

Big bats

  • Bryce Ball, Andres Sosa and Jimmy Glowenki each homered in Dallas Baptist's nine-run fourth inning against Florida.
  • Ryan Kreidler hit one of No. 1 national seed UCLA's four home runs and had three RBIs in an 11-6 win over Baylor.
  • Aaron Schunk's two home runs and six RBIs led Georgia past Florida Atlantic 13-0.
  • Alex Binelas homered, doubled and drove in four runs in Louisville's 9-7 win over Indiana.
  • Austin Henry homered and drove in four runs to lead TCU past Central Connecticut State 9-5.

Mound marvels

  • Georgia's Tim Elliott threw a two-hitter against FAU with no walks and eight strikeouts in his second shutout of the season.
  • East Carolina ace Jake Agnos scattered four hits and struck out nine in a 9-2 win over North Carolina State, tying the American Athletic Conference career strikeout record at 290.
  • Ben Dotzler became the first Creighton pitcher to earn his first win of the season in the NCAA Tournament, scattering seven singles and allowing one run in seven innings in a 6-1 win over Cincinnati.
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