As any regular reader knows, I love college baseball, a sport that is way better than its professional counterparts. Pro baseball is all lassez-faire for a half year before getting serious for…well, seemingly another half year.
Even though there are around 50 games during the year, there’s an urgency to the college baseball season — weekend best-of-three showdowns are followed by electric midweek local matchups. It’s all good fun and drama-filled theatre. Then, for everyone except one, the season will end with a loss once the conference tournaments and NCAA regionals start. If you’re a big dog it’s time to show the world that you came to eat. If you’re a team that still has work to do, then the time is now. It’s college baseball fever, baby! Catch it!
As you read this, the conference tournaments are underway. There are a lot of Louisiana teams putting it all on the line, but I have to start with the city’s own University of New Orleans Privateers.
You’ll have to excuse UNO for being less than impressed that you’re just getting ready for the playoffs. The Privateers’ post-season unofficially kicked off during the last weekend of the regular season, where they had to sweep Northwestern State and have some things fall their way. UNO swept, Nicholls State stumbled and the Privateers (28-26-1) are now in the Southland conference tourney for the second year straight. It is yet another feather in the scrappy Privateers and their head coach, Blake Dean’s collective hat.
Entering the tournament as the seven seed in an eight-seeded tournament has its disadvantages of course. The main disadvantage is that they will open the tourney against Southeastern Louisiana (35-18), a team whose strong season will garner an at-large berth in the NCAA regionals no matter what happens in the Southland. The Lions swept the Privateers this year, but hope springs eternal in the playoffs and the Privateers’ ace Shawn Semple held the hot-hitting Lions to five scoreless innings earlier this year. Anything can happen in the playoffs, folks!
The Privateers play the Lions at high noon, May 24. The game will be streamed on WatchESPN.
Tulane Green Wave
Speaking of anything can happen, go ahead and try to figure out what’s going to transpire in the American Athletic Conference tourney this week. I’ll wait.
First, the league’s number one seed, the #23 UCF Knights (38-18) were picked to finish last in the preseason poll. For all of their hard work, UCF gets to face the eight-seed, East Carolina Pirates (29-27), the team that was picked to finish first and some had going all the way to Omaha. The second-seeded Houston Cougars (36-19) are without their permanently suspended pitcher, Seth Romero, a move that hasn’t hurt during the regular season but will probably dull ache its way into a, “What could’ve been,” playoffs.
Tulane (27-29) has been Tulane. All up’s and down’s and what’s going to happen next. The Green Wave opens the AAC tourney versus the USF Bulls (40-15), over whom they own a series victory. The Green Wave also enter winning four out of their last five and baseball tournaments are nothing if not which team has the good mojo going. On the other hand, USF was picked to finish sixth in the AAC, before ending the season with 40 victories and ranked eighteenth in the RPI.
Tulane will take on South Florida today at 2:30 p.m. The game will be streamed on the CBS Sports Network.
The sky has fallen 10 times over Baton Rouge, yet again. After a season which had the Tiger faithful, once again, asking where their beloved baseball program was heading, the #8 LSU Tigers (39-17), under coach Paul Mainieri, finish their 2017 regular season campaign on a 12-2 run with sweeps over the ranked #20 Auburn Tigers and #18 Mississippi State Bulldogs. LSU won the SEC West and a successful weekend in Hoover, Alabama will have the Tigers playing all of their games in the friendly confines of Alex Box Stadium, with a chance to get to Omaha and play for it all. Again.
LSU will play the winner of the Texas A&M (36-20)-Missouri (35-21) elimination game on May 24. The game will be streamed on WatchESPN.
And On and On…
It’s tournament baseball so there are games to watch absolutely everywhere. McNeese State (36-18) will be playing this week in Southland conference tournament after winning their first regular season title since 2006. With a win, McNeese and Southeastern should get at-large bids into the NCAA regionals, unless they win it all of course. Louisiana Tech, in Conference USA, is looking solid for a NCAA regional bid as well.
On the flip side, the University of Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns (35-20-1) need to make some noise in the Sun Belt tournament. One win won’t suffice for a team that has ridden the NCAA tournament bubble the entire second half of the season. The Ragin’ Cajuns kick off their postseason versus Georgia Southern, a team they lost a weekend series to, on May 24, 6:30 p.m.
And like a fine wine with a steak dinner, every game should be accompanied by a beverage and song.
Beer Pairing: Bayou Teche Brewing’s “Acadie” French Farmhouse Ale
Playlist Recommendation: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – “Rise or Fall”
*Photo credits: facebook.com/GreenWaveBaseball ; lsusports.net