Heavy Atlantic Sun Conference favorite Stetson was pounded by Belmont 18-5 tonight, eliminating the Hatters from the tournament. The Hatters have a strong case for an at-large bid because of a good RPI (30) and quality nonconference series wins against Louisiana State, Southern Illinois, Louisville and Central Michigan, but their poor finish could submarine them. Stetson lost seven of its final 11 games. Still, with the SEC unlikely to get more than seven bids and maybe just six, Stetson is probably OK.
Here are some quick thoughts on some of Friday’s developments:
Defending Big Ten Conference champion Michigan has been eliminated from the conference tournament after losing its second straight game. The Wolverines were in the hole after losing to Ohio State 4-2 yesterday, and Penn State showed them the door this afternoon with a 6-5 victory. Michigan trailed 5-2 heading into the ninth before scoring three runs to tie it up, but the Nittany Lions answered with a run in the 10th on Cory Wine’s solo home run. [...] Continue Reading »
We mentioned Jess Todd’s masterful performance for Arkansas last night, but that wasn’t the only standout pitching performance Thursday. In the Atlantic-10 Conference alone, there were three gems.
Charlotte righthander Adam Mills turned in a performance that would have stood out for most other pitchers; for Mills it was, well, run of the mill. The 49ers’ junior ace picked up his school-record 13th win of the season in an 11-1 romp against Rhode Island, allowing just a run on five hits while striking out four over eight innings. [...] Continue Reading »
I’ve mentioned a number of times this week that Florida needed to win two SEC tournament games to finish at .500 and qualify for the NCAA tournament. Well, one of our astute readers pointed out in a comment here on the College Blog that a team must actually finish above .500 to qualify. I checked with J.D. Hamilton of the NCAA, and sure enough, “To be eligible for selection, a team must have a better than .500 Division I record.”
So what does this mean for Florida? The Gators must win two more games to finish with a winning record and qualify for the tournament. First on the docket is a repeat engagement with South Carolina (which beat Florida 4-3 on Wednesday). If the Gators survive that elimination game, they’ll face a rested Arkansas club that has yet to lose this week. The Razorbacks will have righthander Duke Welker ready to go, but Florida’s pitching will be drained should it survive long enough to play its fourth game in four days.
I’ve gotten a few questions today about the ACC tournament format and tie-breaker procedures, particularly after North Carolina slugged its way to a 14-5 win against North Carolina State late last night. In North Carolina’s side of the bracket, only the Tar Heels and Virginia can advance to the championship game because of tie-breaker procedures. Here’s how it works: if two teams tie for the best record in their pool, the team that won the head-to-head game in pool play would advance. So if UNC beats UVa. on Saturday, both teams will be 2-1 in pool play, but the Tar Heels will have won the head-to-head meeting, so they would advance. But here’s where it gets complicated. Georgia Tech, like North Carolina, is 1-1 in pool play so far, and the Yellow Jackets can tie UNC and Virginia at 2-1 if they beat N.C. State on Saturday. But in the event of a three-way tie, the team with the best overall conference winning percentage in the regular season would advance. That would be North Carolina. Of course, Virginia can nullify all of these questions with a win against the Tar Heels, because the Cavaliers would be a perfect 3-0. UNC will send freshman righty Alex White to the mound against Virginia senior lefty Casey Lambert, who closed for most of the season before moving to the rotation to replace struggling freshman Matt Packer. North Carolina is overflowing with talented lefthanded bats, so the southpaw LambertÂ could give the Cavaliers a slight edge. Not that most of those lefthanded UNC bats have too much trouble hitting lefthanded pitching. [...] Continue Reading »
Jess Todd is a stud. Arkansas’ junior righthander set a school record and an SEC tournament record by striking out 17 batters while allowing just two hits over eight shutout innings against South Carolina tonight. Todd has always possessed an electric 90-94 mph fastball and a hard, biting slider, but apparently tonight he expanded his arsenal.
“Today was the first day all year I had command of all three of my pitches,” Todd said. “I got ahead of the count and it really helped me out deep in the game.”
The Hogs’ 6-0 win also puts them back into the discussion for a national seed. At the very least, Arkansas is safe as a regional host and No. 1 seed.
GREENVILLE, N.C.–It looked like East Carolina was going to run itself out of Thursday’s prime-time Conference USA tournament game against Southern Mississippi. In the end, the Pirate baserunning was indeed the difference. ECU leadoff man Harrison Eldridge stole home to break a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the 10th inning and propel the Pirates to a huge victory over a fellow contender for a regional No. 2 seed.
The Pirates had a golden opportunity slip through their fingers in the eighth inning, when they had two runners erased in rundowns near third base on the same play. Southern Miss carried a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the ninth, when the Pirates pushed across the tying run but left the bases loaded. ECU loaded the bases again in the 10th, but this time the result was different. Pirates coach Billy Godwin called for a suicide squeeze, and as the fleet-footed Eldrige broke for home and the batter squared to bunt, Golden Eagles reliever Tyler Conn unleashed a pitch in the dirt, allowing Eldrige to score easily. He was credited with a stolen base. [...] Continue Reading »
As the ACC tournament game between North Carolina and North Carolina State finally gets underway following a long rain delay, I thought I’d turn my attention to Jacksonville with an impromptu mini-mailbag:
Question…Clemson’s pitching staff is pretty deep…still, how much impact will having to go 13 innings have on them and/or Miami? I mean, if FSU chases their starters early (which could easily happen)…the Noles could end up putting 20 on the board. And that’s not good news for the Tigers since Bryan Henry will be on the mound Saturday night…
I think Wednesday’s 13-inning marathon between Clemson and Miami (a 5-4 Clemson win) might have some effect on the Tigers, but they still only used three pitchers. Righty Alan Farina, who worked 3 2/3 very strong innings of relief late in the game for Clemson, is probably burned for Saturday, but Jack Leggett could probably bring closer Stephen Clyne (1 2/3 innings Wednesday) back, he’s still got righties P.J. Zocchi, Matt Vaughn and D.J. Mitchell back there, assuming he starts Ryan Hinson and David Kopp. The Hurricanes could be in worse trouble, because closer Danny Gil went three scoreless, hitless innings, and they don’t have an awful lot else back there that they can rely on. Fortunately for both teams, neither had to play today.
One other note from the Clemson-Miami game, which the Tigers won on a suicide squeeze: preseason All-American center fielder Brad Chalk was back in action for Clemson after missing the past 15 games with a back injury. Chalk went 1-for-4 with an RBI double as a DH out of the leadoff spot, and he could provide Clemson with a crucial spark against Florida State.
Upsets happen every year at conference tournaments, so it shouldn’t be too stunning to see favorites get bounced. Still, today has seen more than its share of surprises.
In Wilmington, N.C., defending Colonial Athletic Association champion and tournament host UNC Wilmington is headed home after going two and ‘cue. (Fortunately for the Seahawks, the barbecue is very good here in North Carolina. Small consolation, I suspect.) Top-seeded Old Dominion remained unbeaten in the CAA after doing in UNCW 13-3. With an RPI of 81, Wilmington’s season is almost certainly over. [...] Continue Reading »
GREENVILLE, N.C.–Top-seeded Rice is in the catbird seat here at the Conference USA tournament after topping Memphis 7-5 in the winner’s bracket. The victory earned the Owls a day off tomorrow before resuming play Saturday against the winner of the Memphis-Central Florida loser’s bracket game tomorrow. Rice coach Wayne Graham said his plan is to hold back lefthander Joe Savery until the Owls face their first elimination game, which means Graham will hand the ball to righthander Chris Kelley on Saturday and save Savery for Sunday. The idea is to keep Savery’s bat fresh, and the plan is working nicely so far, as Savery launched an opposite-field home run in the first inning to give Rice an early 2-0 lead. [...] Continue Reading »
College of Charleston could be off the hook. The top-seeded Cougars were eliminated from the Southern Conference tournament earlier today, seemingly opening the door for second-seeded Western Carolina to snatch an at-large regional bid away from CofC by winning a couple of games. But WCU couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity, as Georgia Southern scored a run in the bottom of the ninth against Catamounts closer Greg Holland to bounce Western from the tournament.
Comparing Western’s at-large resume with Charleston’s, two things stick out. First, the Catamounts have much better nonconference wins under their belts, including single wins against Georgia Tech, Clemson, North Carolina State and Georgia and a pair of victories against Ohio State. The two teams are very close in the RPI, but College of Charleston swept the head-to-head series against WCU, winning two of the games by one run. That series might ultimately be the difference, trumping WCU’s more impressive nonconference resume.
Alabama and Mississippi State are the first two teams to be eliminated from the Southeastern Conference tournament. Florida got a huge performance from third-team preseason All-American righthander Bryan Augenstien against the Crimson Tide to even its overall record at 29-29 and preserve its NCAA tournament aspirations. Augenstien struck out eight and allowed just two runs in a complete-game victory. The Crimson Tide fell to 31-26 on the season and could be slipping toward the wrong side of the bubble. If Florida can win one more game, it will be assured of finishing with a .500 record and qualifying for a regional, and the Gators will almost certainly get an at-large bid over Alabama. The Tide could still become the SEC’s eighth NCAA tournament team thanks to its strong finish in the regular season, when it won three of its final four series, but the two-and-’cue showing in Hoover means Alabama’s fate is really up in the air. Of course, Florida still has to come up with a victory against the loser of the South Carolina-Arkansas game–no small order. If the Gators lose, Alabama is likely to get in as the SEC’s seventh regional team. [...] Continue Reading »
Top-seeded College of Charleston has been bounced out of the Southern Conference tournament. The Cougars led Appalachian State 10-5 after five innings, but the fourth-seeded Mountaineers scored two runs in the sixth and four more in the eighth to steal an 11-10 victory. Appalachian State has now won nine of its last 12 games and is in good position to run through the SoCon tournament and earn an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament. CofC, meanwhile, might find itself left out of a regional despite winning the SoCon’s regular-season crown and having a strong RPI (33). If Western Carolina wins a game or two but does not win the conference tournament, the Catamounts could get an at-large bid out of the SoCon, but three bids seems too ambitious. [...] Continue Reading »
For the rest of the week, I’m going to blog from the Conference USA tournament in Greenville, N.C., with an eye on what’s going on nationally as well. But first, here’s my quick take on some of the more significant developments in Wednesday’s conference tournaments:
In the SEC, Vanderbilt put itself behind the eight ball in its efforts to secure the No. 1 national seed by losing its opener against Tennessee. Texas and Rice both won their tournament openers in convincing fashion, and those teams probably have the inside track at the top seed now. Give credit to Tennessee lefty James Adkins, who carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning against the mighty Commodores–very impressive stuff. [...] Continue Reading »
The 10-team field is now set for the 50th annual NJCAA Division I World Series. The championships will run from May 26-June 2 and will be played at Sam Suplizio Field in Grand Junction, Colo. It’s the 49th year in a row the Series has been held in Grand Junction.
No. 1 New Mexico JC (51-6-1) seems to be the tournament favorite as it advanced to the Series by knocking off North Central Texas College 3-0 in the Southwestern district. The top-ranked Thunderbirds will face East Central district champ Young Harris (Ga.) College (45-20) in game three Saturday at Sam Suplizio Field. Young Harris clinched a spot in the series by upsetting third-ranked Chattanooga State (Tenn.) Tech CC, winning 5-4 in the East Central district finals. [...] Continue Reading »
Rich Alday, the winningest coach in New Mexico history, resigned Monday after 18 at the helm. Alday, 59, has guided the Lobos to a 513-511-3 record since 1990, but this year’s team is just 26-28. Alday might take another job within the UNM athletics department, but the Lobos will begin searching for his replacement immediately.
Interestingly, New Mexico might go head-to-head against its next coach in the first round of the Mountain West Conference tournament on Wednesday in Las Vegas. The Lobos will face San Diego State, whose second-year assistant Mark Martinez figures to be a strong candidate to succeed Alday. The highly regarded Martinez spent 17 years as an assistant at New Mexico before jumping to San Diego State in 2005. [...] Continue Reading »
In Division I, teams want to get to Omaha, synonymous with the College World Series. In Division II, Omaha is coming to the College World Series.
The University of Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks are headed to Montgomery. The Mavericks capped off an unprecedented run by going 4-0 in the Central Regional this past weekend, which included the sweep of the three highest-seeded teams in the region. Nebraska-Omaha (36-22) advanced to the Division II World Series for the first time in school history Sunday by defeating tournament veteran Central Missouri 9-4 in Warrensburg, Mo. UNOâ€™s Evan Porter claimed Central Regional Tournament MVP honors after batting .471 (8-for-17) to go along with his two homers and seven RBIs. Six Mavericks were named to the all-regional team.
The rest of the D-II field includes Kutztown (Pa.), Cal State-Los Angeles, Angelo State (Texas), Franklin Pierce (N.H.), Columbus State (Ga.), Southern Indiana and defending national champion Tampa. [...] Continue Reading »
The final two spots in the NCAA Division III baseball finals were claimed Sunday by Emory (Ga.) and Eastern Connecticut State. They will join Carthage (Wis.), Chapman (Calif.), Kean (N.J.), Marietta (Ohio), SUNY-Cortland and Wisconsin-Stevens Point in the eight-team D-III World Series that begins with four games Friday.
Strike One: Heading To Hoover
It took until the very last day of the regular season, but we finally have some answers in the Southeastern Conference. Here’s what materialized in a wild final weekend as teams fought to earn a place in the conference tournament in Hoover, Ala.:
Vanderbilt put an exclamation point on its first SEC regular-season championship, sweeping Louisiana State. Beyond the practical implications of the weekend–Vanderbilt all but assured itself a national seed in the NCAA tournament–the series was ripe with symbolic meaning. As the Commodores ascended to the top of the SEC for the first time, perennial conference power LSU was swept out of the conference tournament field for the first time in 22 years. [...] Continue Reading »
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