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Louisiana teams fight to get into NCAA regionals
I spent Sunday at Turchin Stadium, watching the final home game of the Tulane Green Wave, a 3-2 loss to the Memphis Tigers. I was dealing with lingering symptoms from Saturday night’s wild dinner at Pascal’s Manale. Even if not for that Martini-filled dream, I would have most likely been just as quiet, as I’m no fan of college baseball season’s end.
But, before the end, there will be the drama of soul crushing losses and exuberant conference championship victories with the hope of of achieving one common goal. Until then, it will be all anxiousness as teams battle to bounce off the bubble and into the NCAA regionals.
You couldn’t ask for a better weekend if you’re a UNO Privateers (24-28) baseball fan. Right when the team’s back was against the wall, and their postseason chances were in doubt, Coach Blake Dean’s ball club sweeps through Nicholls State and all but locked up a spot in the Southland Conference tournament.
The Privateers would trail in every game of the series, not taking the lead until the seventh (an 8-3 win) and eighth innings (a 2-0 win) of the first two games respectively. In the last game of the series, UNO would have to dig itself out of a 5-0 hole in the first inning before their bats lit up and the team chalked up 10 runs in the first four innings on the way to an easy 12-5 victory for the sweep.
Owen Magee led the attack, going 7-for-12 with 5 RBIs on the weekend. Magee hit for the ever-so-rare cycle in the opening game.
There’s more work to do. UNO will host Northwestern State (31-20), a tough ball club, this weekend needing one win to clinch the post season berth. They can also advance with losses by Nicholls State and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. Get out to Maestri Field and root this team into the tournament!
Tulane Green Wave
On the plus side, the Tulane Green Wave (24-28) won the series versus the hapless Memphis Tigers (18-34) to clinch a spot in the American Athletic Conference tournament. It was their third conference series win. Yet, one can only get a little excited when a team qualifies for an eight-team tournament in a nine-team conference. Also, Tulane faces Louisiana-Lafayette and Central Florida this week, so the specter of a second straight losing season under Coach Travis Jewett hangs heavily over Uptown.
It will be Tulane’s first back-to-back losing seasons since 1963. Ouch.
Or maybe they sweep out the regular season and win the conference tournament and go to the NCAA regionals. Which is the only hope they have of going to the national tournament.
College baseball is brutal. There will be plenty of really good teams not playing in the NCAA regionals. Hell, if LSU wasn’t LSU, I would tell you they’re actually on the bubble (because they are).
If my memory serves correctly, there will be 33 at-large bids handed out for the NCAA regionals. Considering that the SEC and ACC will gobble up half of those bids you’re left with everyone else competing for about 15 invites. Those odds add up to a ton of 30-win teams sitting at home unless they win their conference tournament.
Look no further than Louisiana Tech (35-18) who had a massive series win over Southern Miss but, with an RPI floating around 50, could be watching the regionals from home. All I can say is they better sweep Old Dominion (RPI 248) this weekend and at least get to the championship game in Conference USA.
One very good team from the Southland Conference will not make this tournament. Sam Houston State (reached last year’s Super Regionals) and Southeastern Louisiana (at-large bid two past seasons) are great programs but the Southland will be a one-bid conference this year. Fact of the matter is that these teams are weighed down by playing in the Southland Conference, which results in too many games against teams with RPIs over 150. And once you add some spice and note the fact that the top seed in the tournament has only won it once since 2012, then, in the end, they both could be watching the tourney on ESPN3.
Another team on the bubble is Louisiana-Lafayette (29-23) with an RPI of 57 and a perfect example of how hard it is to get into the NCAA regionals. The Ragin’ Cajuns can count victories over the likes of LSU (twice), Texas and Vanderbilt. They split with Southern Miss and won their series versus Coastal Carolina. All of those teams should make the regionals but Louisiana might be left behind. Unfortunately for Louisiana their last four games of the regular season are against Tulane (RPI 90) and Louisiana-Monroe (RPI 191). That’s not much help in the RPI department.
So, we’re heading into the last week of the regular season with everything on the line for a lot of teams. Some need to finish this week strong while others are looking forward to a last gasp attempt at winning a conference tournament to keep their season alive. Which is why college baseball is such a wonderful affair.
And like a fine wine with a steak dinner, every game should be accompanied by a beverage and song.
Beer Pairing: Courtyard Brewery’s “Revolving Narratives” Sour Beer
Playlist Recommendation: The Baseball Project – “The Day Dock Went Hunting Heads”
Around the Way
Here’s to everyone pulling for the St. Peter’s Peacocks winning their conference tournament to qualify for the NCAA regionals. Who is this team, you ask? The Peacocks are a scrappy bunch of college kids in New Jersey who just won their first game in two years to snap a 77-game losing streak. That is not a misprint.
During this season’s 38-game losing streak, the Peacocks have zero one-run losses. They have been beaten by 10 or more runs 20 times. They were once shut out for four straight games. That’s a lot of character building, folks. After their magnificent 7-1 victory over Iona (16-31) they returned to earth the next day, and got back on brand, by losing 19-2 to the Gaels.