NCAA Division I baseball tournament makes its first Super Regional pitch Friday as the field of 64 has been trimmed to 16 for the weekend series
This is the last stop before the College World Series is played in Omaha, Neb., by the Elite Eight
By Arnie Leshin
Softball has left the field, and now it’s the NCAA Division baseball tournament that makes its first pitch in the Super Regionals that begin Friday in the best-of-three series one stop before reaching Omaha, Neb., for the World Series.
One thing is certain, there will be a new champion. Last year’s winner, Coastal Carolina, failed to make the 64-school field. But it won’t be 2nd seeded North Carolina after it was stunned in its own region by surprising Davidson.
Now the Wildcats (35-24) make their first appearance in the tournament following 115 years of the program. They now have that Cinderella role that Stephen Curry brought to the school in the basketball season of 2008 when it lost by two to Kansas in the Elite Eight.
But in this sport it will be tough getting past 8th seeded Texas A & M in the Super Region at the Aggies. Davidson’s statistics don’t match-up very well with the remaining 16 teams, but it found ways to get this far, especially after just making it into the Atlantic 10 tournament and coming out of the loser’s bracket to win it.
Versus the shocked Tar Heels, the Wildcats did get quality pitching, enough hitting and fielding, to get by as the home fans moaned and groaned at what they were seeing. Forget the stats and the home crowd, it’s the W that counts most.
At a quick glance, favored to get to Omaha are top-seeded Oregon State (56-4), 3rd seeded Florida (46-17), 4th seeded LSU (46-17), 6th seeded TCU (46-16), 7th seeded Louisville (50-10), A & M (39-21), Vanderbilt (36-23) and Cal-State Fullerton (37-21). No. 8 seed Stanford was ousted in its own region.
Long Beach State (40-18) was the last team to gain the Supers after getting past Texas in the deciding game of the best-of-three played at its ballpark. It will now have to play at state-rival Cal-State Fullerton. Oregon State, now the one to beat, will be home to Vanderbilt.
Florida plays host to Wake Forest (42-18), LSU hosts Mississippi State (30-25), TCU gets a visit from Missouri State (43-18), Louisville entertains Kentucky (42-21), and Sam Houston State (44-21) plays at FSU (42-21).
Sleepers? Probably Davidson, Mississippi State, Wake Forest, Missouri State and Sam Houston State.
While it’s a first time for Davidson, Florida and Florida State have been in many, but have yet to win it. Those in this field that have are LSU, Cal-State, Oregon State, Wake Forest, Virginia and Vanderbilt.
It’s been frustration for 73-year-old Seminoles’ head coach Mike Martin. He has won more than 1,900 games in 38 years as head man, coaching it 15 times in the CWS without winning a title.
Joining Davidson as a first-timer are Kentucky and Sam Houston State.
Filling up six of the Super Region field is the SEC. The ACC has two, and there is one each from the Pac 12, Big 12, ACC and Big East. Not from these power conferences are Davidson, Sam Houston State, Long Beach State, Cal-State Fullerton and Missouri State.
But the SEC also placed a record 13 schools in the softball championship that went to Oklahoma of the Big 12. And while the yellow ball World Series was again won by the Sooners in Oklahoma City, now it’s time for the white-stitched ball to take the field for the stretch run.
. . . Only DI remains. Division II was won by West Chester (33-9), which went 3-0 through the bracket, defeating North Georgia, Linwood and Colorado Mesa before turning back UC San Diego State (34-15) by a 6-2 score in the finals. San Diego State had already lost once to St. Thomas Aquinas and needed to win twice over the Golden Rams in the double-elimination format.
. . . In Division III, it was California Lutheran (43-12), 7-3 and 12-4, over Washington & Jefferson (34-10) for its first championship. In game two, Lutheran pounded out 22 hits to finish 5-1 through the bracket. Washington & Jefferson had won four of six starts.