The Road to Omaha Begins
LSU heads to Oregon State
LSU travels to Corvallis
College baseball geeks around the country immediately began salivating over the NCAA committee’s decision to send the LSU Tigers to Corvallis, Oregon to take on the Oregon State Beavers.
Well actually, everyone in Baton Rouge immediately starting complaining about how far the Tigers were playing from home, as if no team has ever been sent across country before. Then, everyone started salivating.
There’s nothing like a rivalry created in the previous tournament and then getting to watch it continue the next year. LSU met Oregon State last year in Omaha in a battle of heavyweights and took two straight games from the Beavers to advance to the championship round. This year LSU enters as the underdog again but will need some magic to knock off the Beavers.
It’s a different team this year that won’t have the riches of rolling out Jared Poche’ and Alex Lange. The pressure to get the Purple and Gold back to Omaha now falls on the shoulders of Zach Hess and Ma’Khail Hilliard. After that, the pitching staff gets pretty thin, pretty quick (for LSU standards). The best thing going for the Tigers is well, it’s the playoffs and this team is just a different animal at this time of the year, as witnessed last week in the SEC tournament.
Yet, before anyone can start salivating on their bar napkin, LSU will have to beat San Diego State this Friday at 3 p.m. The Aztecs are no slouch and these guys are Tony Gwynn’s last recruiting class, so believe me, this team just isn’t happy to be there, they want some victories.
Northwestern State too!
The Southland Conference is wild, man. The Northwestern State Demons, picked to finish 11th in the league, entered the conference tournament as the three seed and eventually took the title and earned their first trip to the NCAA regionals since 2005. Even better? The team watched the selection show at Chili’s and that just makes everyone’s fast-food chain-loving heart sing, right?
In an odd twist, Northwestern State’s pitching was top notch throughout the conference tournament as they usually rely on the offense to put up six or seven runs to get wins. Either way, let us not forget that Natchitoches prides itself on being the home of Meat Pies so how in the hell could you not root for that?
The Demons take on Oregon State this Friday at 9:30 p.m. #GoMeatpies
Shout out to UNO
No, the UNO Privateers did not make the NCAA tournament but the men on Lakefront made an awesome run through the Southland Conference tournament and were all tied up in the seventh inning with a trip to the NCAA regionals on the line before falling to Northwestern State.
It ended a great tournament that saw the Privateers knock off pre-season favorite Sam Houston State and, in an odd twist for a tourney, take two of three games against Houston Baptist before falling in the championship. The team ended the season with a losing record (29-32) but I promise you, with Coach Blake Dean at the helm, this team’s future is bright.
My phone blew up with the news and then social media confirmed it: the NCAA committee snubbed my hometown team growing up, the Kentucky Wildcats. It was a major mistake. Kentucky played the schedule that gets a team, even one that falters down the stretch, into the regionals. Instead of the Wildcats (and Illinois and UCF) the committee chose…Northeastern? Quick, do you know their mascot? Of course not. It was a major gaffe by the NCAA but what’s the NCAA without major gaffes, right?
Here’s my favorite stat about the Kentucky-Northeastern debacle. In March, Kentucky took two-of-three games versus Texas Tech. Two weeks later, Texas Tech not only swept Northeastern but outscored them 47-8 in the series.
On the complete opposite hand, I love when smaller teams get into the tournament. Heck, I wouldn’t even mind putting a cap on how many teams can be chosen from a single conference. That would definitely add some more fire to the mega-conference tournaments.
Red hot brackets
Speaking of fire, there are some smoking hot brackets in place for your enjoyment. Stanford, who is the two seed of the tourney, can’t be happy to host Baylor and Cal State-Fullerton. Even the four seed, Wright State, gives some bigger teams pause.
Coach David Pierce’s Texas Longhorns will have the Texas A&M Aggies and Indiana Hoosiers to deal with to make it to the Super Regionals. Doesn’t it seem like Pierce left Tulane a half-decade ago? It’s only been two years.
I’ll have my eye on the Fayetteville regional, as the Arkansas Razorbacks host two clubs that are always knocking on the door but haven’t broken through into the national limelight, the Southern Miss Golden Eagles and Dallas Baptist Patriots.
And like a fine wine with a steak dinner, every game should be accompanied by a beverage and song.
Beer Pairing: Barley Brown’s “Pallet Jack” IPA
Playlist Recommendation: The Baseball Project – “Chin Music”
Around the Way
On Monday night, the first step to the most unbelievable first season by a team in any sport was taken in the NHL Stanley Cup finals by the Vegas Knights. The Knights knocked off the Washington Capitals 6-4 in an absolutely high voltage game one in viva Las Vegas.
A ton of goals, chippy play and some controversial hits make the NHL world go around and this game did not disappoint. The Capitals find themselves in the “villain” role and look for them to play into that part in game two. Game one was fast and furious and it didn’t work out for the Capitals so look for them to take an even more physical approach, as they did when trailing the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference finals, to even the series.
Do yourself a favor and check this series out. It is going to be electric. The puck drops on Game Two on Wednesday, May 30 at 7 p.m.