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The College World Series (CWS) again will have a strong Southeastern Conference flavor after Auburn became the fourth SEC team to make the NCAA baseball tournament's final eight.
The Tigers knocked off No. 3 national seed Oregon State 4-3 on the road Monday night to win their best-of-three super regional and lock up the last spot in the CWS.
Sonny DiChiara hit his 22nd home run and Blake Burkhalter pitched 2 2/3 innings of hitless relief for his 15th save for the Tigers.
Auburn (42-20) won the Corvallis Super Regional to advance to the CWS for the second time in the last three tournaments. The Tigers, the fourth SEC team to make the NCAA tournament’s final eight, will play Mississippi (37-22) on Saturday. Oregon State (48-18) was looking to advance to the CWS for the eighth time in school history, and seventh since 2005.
No. 2 Stanford also won the deciding game in its home super regional, beating UConn 10-5 to earn a second straight trip to the CWS.
The CWS opens at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Nebraska, on Friday with No. 5 Texas A&M (42-18) playing Oklahoma (42-22) in the afternoon and No. 9 Texas (47-20) meeting Notre Dame (40-15) at night.
Openers Saturday match Stanford (47-16) against Arkansas (43-19) and Mississippi (37-22) against No. 14 Auburn (42-20).
At least three SEC teams have made every CWS since 2014, and this will be the third time since 2015 and the fifth time overall that four have advanced.
In a year Tennessee was thought to be a lock for the CWS — Notre Dame knocked out the No. 1 Volunteers in super regionals — all four of the SEC teams (Texas A&M, Arkansas, Mississippi and Auburn) come from the West Division. The SEC has won seven national titles since 2009.
The tournament went mostly according to form in regionals, but super regionals were full of surprises. Only two of the top eight national seeds made it to Omaha, the fewest since 2014. Four of the top 16 national seeds advanced, the fewest since the NCAA expanded seeding to 16 teams in 2018.
Mississippi’s first appearance since 2014 extends the streak of at least one No. 3 regional seed making the CWS to five straight.
Notre Dame is the team that waited longest to return to Omaha. The Irish last made it in 2002 under Paul Mainieri.
Kody Huff’s grand slam in a six-run fourth inning broke open a close game for the Cardinal, who swept the Pac-12 regular-season and tournament titles and won a hard-earned regional title before taking two of three from UConn.
They've won 22 of their last 24 and are among three teams in tournament history to score at least eight runs in all three of their super regional games. Stanford has hit a tournament-leading 22 homers in eight games.
Auburn, which had a losing record last season and was picked last in the West in the SEC preseason coaches' poll, never trailed in the deciding game of the super regional.
DiChiara homered in the third inning to put Auburn in front, and it was 4-1 in the sixth when Bobby Peirce scored on a safety squeeze. After Oregon State pulled within a run in the seventh, Auburn called on Burkhalter. The star closer struck out five and allowed no hits in 2 2/3 innings.
Story by Associated Press