It’s tournament time in college baseball. What was once a field of 64 has now been pared down to 16 in a weekend that saw many of the regular season’s top teams make an early exit. Let’s take a trip around the bases, shall we?
1. At this point, you have to admit that 2018 just wasn’t a great year for Louisiana baseball. Tulane and UL-Lafayette went nowhere; the University of New Orleans lost the Southland Conference championship and LSU made an uncharacteristic early exit from the NCAA regionals.
And it wasn’t just that LSU got bounced out of the NCAA regionals in the first weekend. They were destroyed twice by Oregon State. Coach Paul Mainieri apologized to some TV announcers for their 14-1 loss to the Beavers but, unfortunately, followed that defeat up with a 12-0 loss to Oregon State. Ouch.
2. I guess the season wasn’t all bad for Louisiana teams as the Northwestern State Demons made the tournament after winning the Southland Conference. The Demons lost to Oregon State and were eliminated by LSU but did knock out San Diego State for their only win in the tournament. The Demons held their own in all of matchups and represented the Southland Conference well over the weekend.
3. Mississippi State had an absolutely wild weekend. The Bulldogs opened the NCAA regionals by getting blown out by the Oklahoma Sooners in a 20-10 loss. But, instead of rolling over and dying the Bulldogs doubled down and fought their way out of the loser’s bracket by eliminating Florida State and Samford to earn a rematch with the Sooners. Mississippi State put the pedal to the metal and stormed past the Sooners, taking two games by the score of 13-5 and 8-1 to reach the Super Regionals.
4. The ACC had a weekend it would like to forget. Florida State, Clemson and North Carolina State were all top seeds in their brackets but sent packing on the first weekend of the tournament. The NCAA regionals are a rough tournament to get through but having three number-one seeds go down in the first weekend isn’t a good look for the conference.
5. Even worse was the performance by the American Athletic Conference, who will have no teams in the Super Regionals. East Carolina was the conference’s best team this year but couldn’t get past North Carolina-Wilmington. UConn had a golden opportunity to move on to the Super Regionals after beating Coastal Carolina but couldn’t hold off the Washington Huskies in a 9-6 loss.
6. Six of the final 16 teams are from the SEC but only three will move on to the College World Series as the teams are matched up in the Super Regionals. Florida, the top seed of the entire tournament, will battle the Auburn Tigers. The Gators took two-of-three from the Tigers earlier this year. The Razorbacks of Arkansas will battle the South Carolina Gamecocks. Arkansas took the regular season series, shutting out South Carolina in back-to-back games. The Vanderbilt Commodores quietly had a super-impressive weekend, winning all of their games to take the Clemson regional. The Commodores blanked St. John’s before beating Clemson twice. The Commodores will play Mississippi State, a team they swept earlier this season.
7. For Tulane fans, it has to be bittersweet to watch their former coach David Pierce lead the Texas Longhorns to the Super Regionals. What could have been, right? Pierce’s Longhorns knocked off archrival Texas A&M and advanced on the back of 3-2 victory over Indiana. The Longhorns played in front of packed houses all weekend and Pierce deserves all the credit in the world in resurrecting the Texas program. It would just be a lot cooler if he were leading the Olive and Blue into the Super Regionals.
8. Texas will match up with Tennessee Tech in the Super Regionals. A classic underdog, Tennessee Tech is out of the Ohio Valley Conference and not usually associated with the blue bloods of college baseball. Fortunately for Tennessee Tech they carry a big stick as in this team hits home runs like they’re going out of style. Ole Miss got a taste this weekend in Oxford as Tennessee Tech went yard a few times to win the Oxford regional. If you like rooting for the little guy, this is your team.
And now we’re on to the Super Regionals, which features eight matchups pitting two teams in a best-of-three series. Only the strong will survive and, as a viewer, it’s best to expect the unexpected when a trip to the College World Series is on the line.
And like a fine wine with a steak dinner, every game should be accompanied by a beverage and song.
Beer Pairing: Wayward Owl Brewing’s “Privateer” Pale Ale
Playlist Recommendation: Joey Scarbury – “Believe it or not”
Around the Way
All teams need speed on the base paths, the gridiron and, of course, the track. Congrats to Dillard University’s Darrien Shepherd who posted his best time of the year in the 100-meter dash. Shepherd, only a sophomore, ran the race in 10.88 seconds finishing sixth in his heat at the NAIA championships. That’s fast, y’all.