A Great Dream Comes To An End As Davidson Falls In The Super Regionals To Texas A&M

Though the effort was there and they hung with one of the best teams in the nation during both games, the Cinderella Davidson Wildcats were eliminated in the 2017 Super Regionals by the Texas A&M Aggies.

If there is one thing to be said about the run by the Atlantic 10 champions, it is that they were going to force the Aggies to take the series rather than completely give it away.

Take game one of the series for example. Texas A&M jumped to a 6-0 lead in the first five innings of play. For many teams, that is a death sentence. Davidson proved to be more than just another team in scoring three in the sixth, two in the seventh, and another run in the ninth inning to push for extra innings.

They pushed multiple times to take the lead in the game in the series, but were unable to break through in being blanked during the final six innings of the game. Westin Whitmire held the Wildcats in the game with 3.2 innings of scoreless ball, but finally gave up an RBI single to drop the opener of the three game series 7-6.

Game two of the series saw the Wildcats follow the trend of the day for the Forgotten in giving up a late lead and losing a game they should have won. Davidson held a 6-2 lead with six outs needed to send the game to a winner take all final.

Even after giving up three runs, the Wildcats had a chance to end the inning with the lead. Instead, on a popup in the infield, two defenders crashed together with the ball falling helplessly to the ground. By the time the dust settled, it was 7-6 Aggies. The SEC power added three insurance runs in the ninth to pull out a 12-6 win and move on to the College World Series.

For Davidson, it was a disappointing end to a dream season that saw them experience the NCAA tournament and Super Regionals in one single season. This was a team that entered the A-10 tournament at 27-23 and the #6 seed in the tournament. They somehow beat #1 seed twice on championship Saturday to make the NCAA tournament for the first time. The Wildcats then became the second #4 seed to ever sweep a regional, knocking off #2 national seed North Carolina twice to survive and advance.

It will be a long offseason for the Wildcats as the look to make a return trip to the NCAA tournament. Seniors graduate, juniors that are drafted make the MLB or college decision, and a new recruiting class enters the program. Davidson is losing 10 seniors from head coach Dick Cooke’s squad.

On the pitching side, replacing #1 starter Durin O’Linger (9-3, 3.16 ERA) and senior reliever Westin Whitmore (4.26 ERA, 28 appearances) will take some effort, the there is lots of talent back in 2018. Evan Roberts (4-1, 4.11 ERA) and Josh Smutzer (5-3, 4.68 ERA) combined for 26 starts with junior to be Allen Barry (3-2, 3.44 ERA) should also be ready to take a full-time starting role after making five starts this season. He will not be given a spot without a challenge as Josh Hudson (3-3, 4.71 ERA) made 10 starts in 2017. After making an appearance in 45% of their games in 2017, Austin Leonard (3.89 ERA) should be ready to break the 40 inning mark next season.

It was no surprise that the Wildcats made a run to the Super Regionals due to an offense that could hit at a high rate. Of the four .300+ batters on the roster, only Will Robertson and Brian Fortier will be lost to graduation. That doesn’t sound so bad until you realize that the duo accounted for 53 homeruns, 102 RBI, and 101 runs scored on the year. Though not the power batters of the senior duo, Eric Jones (.320 avg., 36 RBI) and Alec Acosta (.311 avg., 30 RBI) should be able to pick up some slack next season. Justin Lebek (.284 avg., 43 RBI) and Cam Johnson (.272 avg., 37 RBI) are the only other regulars from 2017 with an average over .230 in 2017 so putting together a scary lineup could be an issue.

The Wildcats will be kicking themselves for a very long time about the manner that they were eliminated, but they well exceeded expectations and turned a doormat team into Cinderella and possibly reshaped the future trajectory of the program. Congrats to the Wildcats on giving us something to cheer about this June.

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