Davidson, a four seed in the Chapel Hill regional, will travel to face Texas A&M, which was a three seed in the Houston regional.
This 3-game series begins on Friday, June 9 at 3 p.m. ET and will be televised on ESPN 2. They will meet again on Saturday, June 10 at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN 2. If necessary, a third game will be played on Sunday, June 11 at a time to be determined.
How They Got Here:
Davidson (35-24, 13-11) – The Davidson Wildcats finished the regular season with an overall record of 27-23 and were 13-11 in the Atlantic 10 conference. They entered the Atlantic 10 Tournament as the number six seed and upset the number three seed, St. Bonaventure, in their first game 5-2 thanks to a great pitching performance by Durin O’Linger. They took care of seventh seeded George Mason in game two 6-3, but then lost to the one seed in Virginia Commonwealth 7-3. In the loser’s bracket they won a tight 8-7 game over Saint Louis to get a rematch with VCU in the championship game. Davidson took care of VCU 8-4 in the first game, and then dismantled them in the second game 11-4 to win the Atlantic 10 championship and punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament.
Davidson stayed hot in the Chapel Hill regional as they exploded for 6 earned runs on 6 hits and 4 walks against future first round draft pick J.B. Bukauskas for North Carolina. They got another solid pitching performance from O’Linger and hung on to beat the top seeded Tar Heels 8-4 in game one of the Chapel Hill regional. Evan Roberts allowed just 1 run over 8 innings on 5 hits and 1 walk as Davidson beat Florida Gulf Coast 2-1 in their second game of the regional to advance to the regional finals. North Carolina worked its way through the loser’s bracket to get a rematch with Davidson, but the pitching for the Wildcats was lights out again as Josh Hudson only gave up 1 run on 6 hits and 2 walks over 7 innings, and O’Linger came back out to close the door the final two innings. Davidson won the Chapel Hill regional to advance to its first super regional in school history.
Texas A&M (39-21, 16-14) – The Aggies have been up-and-down all year. This was supposed to be a rebuild year for Texas A&M, but here they are in their third straight super regional. They finished the regular season with an overall record of 36-20 and entered the SEC Tournament as the number seven seed. However, they were bounced in the first day of the tournament after a 12-7 loss to Missouri.
The early exit in the conference tournament may have given Texas A&M the time to rest and prepare for the NCAA Tournament as they blazed through the Houston regional. Despite a lackluster performance from their ace Brigham Hill against Baylor, the Texas A&M offense scored five runs in the sixth inning to beat second seeded Baylor 8-5 in game one. An upset of Iowa over Houston allowed the Aggies to play the fourth seeded Hawkeyes in their second game of the Houston regional. They used a 3-run fourth inning to beat Iowa and advance to the Houston regional finals. They finally faced the host team in Houston and took a commanding 4-0 lead into the ninth inning before the Cougars made a valiant comeback attempt that fell short as Texas A&M held on to win 4-3.
Both pitching staffs were absolutely brilliant in the regionals. Davidson gave up just six runs in their three games, while Texas A&M allowed just 10. On the season, Texas A&M has a team ERA of 3.41, while Davidson has a team ERA of 4.41.
It’s pretty obvious that Davidson leans heavily on Durin O’Linger in their pitching staff. He leads the team by far with 109 innings pitched on the year. He has a 2.89 ERA with 90 strikeouts. Westin Whitmire leads the team with 13 saves. He has a 4.55 ERA in 27.2 innings pitched with 17 strikeouts. The Wildcats got by with only using five pitchers in the Chapel Hill regional. I would be very surprised if they are able to do the same against Texas A&M.
The Aggie’s offense is not nearly as potent as it was in 2016, but Braden Shewmake and Nick Choruby are two of the best hitters in the country. Shewmake is hitting .333 with 42 runs scored, 11 home runs, 67 RBI and 11 stolen bases. Choruby is hitting .317 with 53 runs scored and 11 stolen bases. It will be imperative for Davidson to make sure they come up with the bases clear.
Where Texas A&M has made its hay this year is in the pitching staff. The aforementioned Hill has been their best starter with a 3.29 ERA in 90.1 innings with 101 strikeouts. Corbin Martin had an outstanding outing against Iowa in the Houston regional and has a 2.99 ERA in 81.1 innings this year with 87 strikeouts. Stephen Kolek pitched into the ninth inning in the clinching game against Houston. He has a 3.59 ERA in 87.2 innings with 80 strikeouts.
The Aggies have two arms out of the bullpen that are very good. Kaylor Chafin pitched in all three games of the Houston regional and is their best option in relief. He has a 2.42 ERA in 67 innings with 61 strikeouts. Cason Sherrod is next up with a 2.85 ERA in 41 innings with 37 strikeouts. He came in to get the last out against Houston to help Texas A&M punch their ticket to the super regionals.
The Davidson offense is no slouch though. They have four batters in their lineup hitting over .300. Will Robertson leads the team with a .336 average, 58 runs scored, 18 home runs and 46 RBI. Brian Fortier is hitting .313 with 41 runs scored, 15 home runs and 53 RBI. These will be the two guys Texas A&M will have to focus on. Eric Jones and Alec Acosta are the two other players hitting over .300.
One thing to keep in mind during this super regional is that Davidson does not typically steal bases. They have just 17 stolen bases as a team on the year to 56 for Texas A&M. That could be something to keep an eye on in this matchup.
It’s easy to say that the team from the SEC will easily run away with this super regional, but I don’t think that will be the case. Davidson is riding a serious wave of momentum and won’t back down from anyone.
As mentioned, both pitching staffs were amazing in the regionals. The team that wins this super regional will be the one that can find ways to score on offense. While the pitching was great for both sides in the regionals, the offense wasn’t. Texas A&M scored a combined 15 runs, while Davidson scored just 12.
The Aggies have done a great job of putting up crooked numbers. Davidson will try to make sure they don’t let innings get out of hand and limit the damage when A&M threatens.
The Wildcats have to hope that O’Linger can put up a bunch of zeros in game one and maybe they can steal a win. That would obviously give them two chances to win one. If they can’t win that first game against Hill, then they have no chance.
Winner: Texas A&M