Skip to content

Kentucky advances to 1st-ever College World Series

Icon Sportswire / Getty

Kentucky finally made it to a College World Series, and the Wildcats will be joined by at least three other Southeastern Conference teams on college baseball’s biggest stage.

Tennessee, Florida and Texas A&M also punched their tickets Sunday, joining Atlantic Coast Conference teams North Carolina, Florida State and Virginia when the CWS begins Friday in Omaha, Nebraska.

The last spot will be filled Monday when the SEC’s Georgia and ACC’s North Carolina State meet in Game 3 of their NCAA super regional in Athens, Georgia.

For the first time since the CWS went to an eight-team format in 1950, only two conferences will be represented. That it’s the SEC and ACC is no surprise. They were by far the top two conferences in the power rankings.

Kentucky beat Oregon State 3-2 to complete the program’s climb to its first CWS and put a bow on the Pac-12.

About an hour before the Wildcats won, Texas A&M finished its sweep of Oregon with a 15-9 victory. Those were the final two competitions for the Pac-12, which has won a record 29 national titles in baseball. Oregon will play in the Big Ten next season and Oregon State will play baseball as an independent.

Nolan McCarthy scored Kentucky’s go-ahead run on a wild pitch in the seventh inning and five pitchers combined on a two-hitter, albeit with nine walks.

“It’s been the best two weeks of my life,” said Wildcats coach Nick Mingione, whose team swept through regionals and super regionals. “I just want to keep it going.”

Tennessee homered seven times in the first five innings and went on to a 12-1 victory over Evansville after the Purple Aces knocked off the No. 1 national seed Volunteers a day earlier to extend their best-of-three super regional to a third game.

Michael Robertson, Florida’s No. 9 hitter, sliced a ball into the left-center gap to bring home two runs in the 13th inning and deliver an 11-10 walk-off win. The Gators have won nine straight super regionals under Kevin O’Sullivan since 2010.

Tennessee and Florida are in the CWS for a second straight year, and Texas A&M is in for the second time in three years after Kaeden Kent’s grand slam in the nine-run seventh inning carried the Aggies past Oregon 15-9.

Georgia forced a third game against North Carolina State by bouncing back from a 17-run loss Saturday to beat the Wolfpack 11-2.

The last time Tennessee was the No. 1 national seed, in 2022, it lost a three-game super regional to Notre Dame in Knoxville. The Volunteers weren’t going to let that happen against the No. 4 regional seed Purple Aces.

They unleashed the power that has made them the top home run-hitting team in the nation, with Christian Moore connecting for his 34th leading off the bottom of the first and Dean Curley and Dalton Bargo going back-to-back in the second. Bargo and Moore went deep again and Billy Amick and Cal Stark also homered before the barrage ended. The seven homers were a Tennessee postseason single-game record.

Bargo, the Vols’ sophomore designated hitter, will be returning to his hometown for the CWS after transferring from Missouri.

“This is why I made the decision I did, to come here and win and get back home, and that’s exactly what we did, and I expected nothing less,” Bargo said. “We still got a couple more weeks of baseball to play and it’s time to bring home a natty.”

Florida prevailed in its 5-hour, 3-minute game after the Tigers’ Cam Cannarella kept it going with a tying homer in the ninth and the defensive play of the tournament in the 10th. Alden Mathes hit a go-ahead home run in the top of the 13th.

The Gators led 9-6 with one out in the ninth when Cannarella came to bat with two runners on. Cannarella launched Brandon Neely’s first pitch out to right to tie it.

The next inning, Cannarella made an inning-ending over-the-shoulder basket catch on Ashton Wilson’s deep fly to center. Cannarella, who was playing shallow, turned and gave chase and the ball deflected off the heel of his glove into his chest as he left his feet to hit the wall. He was able to hang on to the ball and delay Florida’s celebration.

The Gators, the national runners-up last year, had to win their last regular-season series at Georgia to achieve a winning record and qualify as an at-large selection for the tournament. As a No. 3 regional seed, they went to Stillwater, Oklahoma, and beat host Oklahoma State twice to advance. Their sweep at Clemson came in the programs’ first meeting since 1983.

“Going through the struggles and having every game matter the last two or three weeks of the year probably toughed us up a little bit,” O’Sullivan said.


Clemson first baseman Jack Crighton, coach Erik Bakich and volunteer coach Jack Leggett were ejected in connection with two separate incidents.

There was an 18-minute delay in the second inning when benches cleared after Gators pitcher Jac Caglianone fielded a grounder and collided with Nolan Nawrocki on the first-base line as he applied the tag.

Crighton, who had doubled before Nawrocki came to bat, was ejected for leaving second base to join teammates at the site of the confrontation, according to NCAA secretary-rules editor Randy Bruns. Bakich, during an in-game television interview, expressed confusion because the play ended the inning and Crighton was on his way back to the dugout. The teams’ confrontation occurred in front of Clemson’s dugout.

Bakich and Leggett, who led Clemson to six CWS as head coach from 1994-2015, were thrown out in the 13th for their conduct after Mathes’ home run. Mathes threw down his bat, as if to spike it, before beginning his trot around the bases but was not ejected for excessive celebration. An NCAA spokesman said Bakich and Leggett were tossed because of how they expressed their disagreement about umpires huddling after the bat spike to discuss if it met the threshold for being unsportsmanlike.


Florida’s .548 winning percentage (34-28) is tied for lowest for a team entering the CWS. Bradley was 17-14 entering the 1950 CWS. ... Oregon State was tied 2-2 with Kentucky in the sixth despite having no hits. The Beavers turned four walks and an error into two runs in the fourth. ... Corey Collins hit his 20th homer of the season for Georgia, giving the Bulldogs two players with at least 20 for the first time in program history. Charlie Condon leads the nation with 36.


This story was updated to correct details of Florida’s winning streak in super regionals. Florida has won nine straight under Kevin O’Sullivan since 2010.


AP college sports:

Daily Newsletter

Get the latest trending sports news daily in your inbox