I didn’t think the Division I baseball committee could make an at-large choice much more egregious than taking Oklahoma last year, but at least it got the other 63 teams right in 2008. On the whole, that was a very well constructed field.
The committee really outdid itself this year, taking both Baylor (10-16 in the Big 12) and Oklahoma State (9-16 in the Big 12). These choices are irresponsible and indefensible, and I’m embarrassed for the committee and for college baseball.
I’m certain committee chairman Tim Weiser will use the Ratings Percentage Index as a fig leaf in his conference call with media this afternoon. The Cowboys rank 25th in the RPI, according to warrennnolan.com, while the Bears rank 31st.
But the RPI is a crutch for the lazy and the ignorant, and it’s time for the committee to start doing its homework. Baylor lost 12 of its last 14 regular-season games. The Bears were swept in their last three series, including a horrendous sweep at the hands of last-place Nebraska last weekend when they were desperate for a series win to salvage their regional hopes. I understand the Big 12 is a strong league—I have been banging that drum all year—but Baylor finished 10-16 in that league and was swept by a Nebraska team that entered that weekend with a 5-19 conference record. [...] Continue Reading »
Here are the 64 teams for the NCAA Division I national tournament. National seeds are indicated in parenthesis after the team name.
|Austin, Texas||Fort Worth, Texas||Atlanta, Ga.||Gainesville, Fla.|
|1. Texas (1)||1. TCU||1. Georgia Tech||1. Florida (8)|
|2. Texas St.||2. Texas A&M||2. Elon||2. Miami (Fla.)|
|3. Boston College||3. Oregon State||3. Southern Miss||3. Jacksonville|
|4. Army||4. Wright State||4. Georgia State||4. Bethune-Cookman|
|Austin winner will face Fort Worth winner||Atlanta winner will face Gainesville winner|
|Tempe, Ariz.||Clemson, S.C.||Greenville, N.C.||Chapel Hill, N.C.|
|1. Arizona State (5)||1. Clemson||1. East Carolina||1. North Carolina (4)|
|2. Oral Roberts||2. Alabama||2. South Carolina||2. Coastal Carolina|
|3. Cal Poly||3. Oklahoma State||3. George Mason||3. Kansas|
|4. Kent State||4. Tennessee Tech||4. Binghamton||4. Dartmouth|
|Tempe winner will face Clemson winner||Greenville winner will face Chapel Hill winner|
|Fullerton, Calif.||Louisville, Ky.||Tallahassee, Fla.||Norman, Okla.|
|1. CS Fullerton (2)||1. Louisville||1. Florida State||1. Oklahoma (7)|
|2. Georgia Southern||2. Middle Tennesee||2. Georgia||2. Arkansas|
|3. Gonzaga||3. Vanderbilt||3. Ohio State||3. Washington State|
|4. Utah||4. Indiana||4. Marist||4. Wichita State|
|Fullerton winner will face Louisville winner||Tallahassee winner will face Norman winner|
|Irvine, Calif.||Oxford, Miss.||Houston||Baton Rouge, La.|
|1. UC Irvine (6)||1. Mississippi||1. Rice||1. LSU (3)|
|2. Virginia||2. Missouri||2. Kansas State||2. Minnesota|
|3. San Diego State||3. Western Kentucky||3. Xavier||3. Baylor|
|4. Fresno State||4. Monmouth||4. Sam Houston State||4. Southern|
|Irvine Winner will face Oxford winner||Houston winner will face Baton Rouge winner|
I’ll keep updating this post with instant reactions:
• National Seeds:
2. Cal State Fullerton
3. Louisiana State
4. North Carolina
5. Arizona State
6. UC Irvine
The only surprise here is Oklahoma over Florida State, which won the ACC’s regular-season title and reached the conference tournament finals. I also don’t like Fullerton being higher than Irvine, which won the Big West by five games.
• Oklahoma State is a horrendous, horrendous choice as an at-large bid. I’ll have plenty more on this shortly, I promise you. [...] Continue Reading »
If you lightly penciled in New Mexico State for a regional bid this evening (yes, I’m guilty), you’d better get out your eraser. It turns out Fresno State will have the opportunity to defend its national title in the NCAA tournament after all.
The Bulldogs needed to win back-to-back games against unbeaten New Mexico State to get back to regionals, and they trailed 7-4 after seven innings in the first game, at which point I published my final regional projection with the Aggies in the field, and the Bulldogs out (albeit with a caveat that Fresno was technically still alive). But the Wonderdogs rallied for five runs over the final two innings to win 9-7. Then, in the decisive nightcap, Jordan Ribera broke a 3-3 tie with a two-run homer in the eighth inning to propel Fresno into the NCAA tournament.
You just can’t ever count those guys out, even after a horribly disappointing regular season, during which Fresno went just 28-27. In case you were wondering, the Bulldogs went 33-27 in the regular season last year, but they wound up with a 47-31 overall mark by time the 2009 postseason ended.
On the eve of the NCAA tournament selection (which will be broadcast at 12:30 p.m. ET on Monday on ESPN), let’s take one final crack at predicting the field of 64. National seeds are in parentheses, with regional hosts denoted by ^ and automatic qualifiers denoted by *. The eight regionals at the top of this list are on the left side of the bracket, and the eight regionals at the bottom are on the right side of the bracket. [...] Continue Reading »
CARY, N.C. — After two games of defense-heavy baseball, we finally had some fireworks at the Division II World Series.
Lynn University put up seven runs and 13 hits in defeating West Chester 7-3 in the final first-round game. The game included two home runs, first a solo shot from West Chester in the first inning, then a two-run bomb from Lynn.
Lynn had at least one runner on base in every single inning, adding five walks with its 13 hits. That’s nothing new for the Fighting Knights, who have recorded double-digit walks eight times this year. [...] Continue Reading »
DURHAM, N.C.—Kevin Arico froze Stephen Cardullo with a fastball over the outside corner, then spiked his glove into the ground and let out a yell. Within seconds, Arico was mobbed by Virginia teammates in a jubilant dog-pile. Virginia had completed a perfect 4-0 run to the ACC tournament championship with a 6-3 win against Florida State.
The press corps expected a meager crowd for the title game after North Carolina and Clemson were eliminated, but I was very impressed with the boisterous, rather large crowd on hand to see UVa. and Florida State. The Cavaliers, in particular, traveled very well and were quite loud all day.
The fans were treated to an excellent game, as Virginia took advantage of two FSU errors and a passed ball to break a 3-3 tie with three runs in the eighth. Virginia’s bullpen was outstanding in relief of starter Andrew Carraway, as Matt Packer, Tyler Wilson and Arico combined to allow just four hits over 6 1/3 shutout innings.
Virginia will not be hosting a regional, but this team looks entirely capable of breaking through and winning a regional on the road. The Cavaliers are strong in all phases of the game, and their bullpen has really solidified down the stretch, addressing a significant concern earlier in the year. Don’t be shocked if UVa. earns a No. 1 seed in Louisville or Greenville after winning the ACC tournament.
Some other teams that won automatic bids today: [...] Continue Reading »
CARY, N.C. — Gabriel Duran brought home not only the first upset of the Division II World Series, but also the first complete game of the series.
Dowling’s sophomore starter tossed a three-hitter as he shut down top-ranked UC San Diego (39-14), allowing just one run in No. 21 Dowling’s 3-1 victory. Duran used mostly a fastball and slider, mixing in the occasional changeup to baffle UCSD hitters all game.
For the year, Duran is now 10-2, and he was the Eastern Conference pitcher of the year. [...] Continue Reading »
The NCAA has announced its 16 regional hosts, and there is only one variation from my final prediction late last night: East Carolina will host instead of South Carolina. The Pirates are a defensible choice, but I find it hard to make a case for them over the Gamecocks. One stat just leaps out at me: South Carolina is 18-14 against top 50 RPI teams, while East Carolina is just 5-6. Sure, ECU won the Conference USA regular-season title, but it’s a down year for that league, and the Pirates lost the head-to-head series against the two teams that finished second and third in the league (Rice and Tulane). Then, the Pirates went 1-2 in the CUSA tournament, losing to Southern Mississippi and Tulane. I figured that would cost them a host site, but apparently I was wrong.
Here are the hosts, by conference:
ACC (4): North Carolina, Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech
SEC (3): Louisiana State, Florida, Mississippi
Big 12 (2): Texas, Oklahoma
CUSA (2): Rice, East Carolina
Big West (2): UC Irvine, Cal State Fullerton
Big East (1): Louisville
MWC (1): Texas Christian
Pac-10 (1): Arizona State
Favorites have come up big in the early games today, giving some hope to fringe at-large contenders. We’ll break down the bubble teams at the bottom of this post, but first here’s a look at today’s big news:
• Middle Tennessee State has won the Sun Belt Conference tournament with a 3-1 win over Louisiana-Monroe, ensuring the Sun Belt will be no more than a two-bid league (if Western Kentucky gets in—which is very much in question, in light of WKU’s 1-6 record against the top 50 RPI teams).
• In the Big East, Louisville cruised to an 11-3 win over Connecticut, which will probably make the Big East a one-bid league, though Notre Dame does have a shot at an at-large berth.
• Rice held off a late Southern Mississippi rally to win the Conference USA title 8-6. The Owls might have earned the eighth national seed with their strong week. Southern Miss is right on the bubble, but its strong week and slightly better RPI might give it the edge over Tulane for Conference USA’s third bid (though I think Tulane is more deserving, for reasons stated in my comment at the bottom of this post). It’s hard to see CUSA getting four bids with so many other strong at-large candidates floating around. [...] Continue Reading »
Earlier I posted a look at teams that won automatic bids on Saturday, as well as my final prediction for regional hosts. America East favorite Binghamton also punched its ticket late Saturday night with a blowout win against Albany to avoid an if-necessary game Sunday. Wichita State also reached regionals for the eighth straight year with a 4-2 win over Creighton in the Missouri Valley Conference finals. Here’s a sneak peek at what’s left to be decided Sunday:
• Virginia plays Florida State for the ACC championship.
• The Atlantic Sun title game between Jacksonville and Lipscomb was suspended in the second inning Saturday with the Bisons leading 1-0. Play will resume at 10 a.m.
• Texas A&M topped Texas Tech 11-4 Saturday night, sending Missouri to the Big 12 title game against Texas via tiebreakers.
• Louisville faces Connecticut for the Big East championship. That’s a big one for bubble teams to watch, as Louisville will get an at-large bid if it loses, but UConn likely will not (though it has an outside shot). [...] Continue Reading »
DURHAM, N.C.—For a while tonight, Duke looked to be on its way to the ACC championship game tomorrow against Florida State. Freshman lefthander Eric Pfisterer (5 IP, 2 ER, 6 K) was in control, but the Duke bullpen couldn’t hold a 4-2 lead, as Virginia took advantage of several Blue Devil miscues to explode for seven runs in the seventh inning en route to an 11-7 win. Virginia has used big innings to win each of its last three games, and the UVa. bats look like more than a match for Florida State’s tomorrow. The Cavs will throw senior righty Andrew Carraway (who threw 4 1/3 innings of relief Thursday against Clemson) against FSU sophomore righty Mike McGee.
Duke coach Sean McNally said afterward that he was holding out hope for a regional bid, but in reality the Blue Devils’ run is over. They availed themselves very well this week, but Boston College wrapped up the ACC’s seventh bid yesterday, and Duke is very unlikely to beat out fellow bubble teams Missouri State, Eastern Illinois, Southern Mississippi and Rhode Island, among others. The Bears, Panthers and Rams, in particular, all challenged themselves in nonconference play, while Duke did not. The Blue Devils took a huge step forward as a program this season and can hold their heads high, but missed opportunities (in series losses to Wake Forest, Maryland and Virginia) will prove their undoing with the selection committee.
Virginia missed plenty of opportunities early in the year, losing tight series against Miami and North Carolina. I thought the Cavs looked impressive in defeat in Chapel Hill back in March, but the difference now is that they look impressive in victory. The offense has been a strength all year long, but the pitching staff is in much better shape now, with Tyler Wilson setting up Kevin Arico in the back of the bullpen. And UVa. is staying patient offensively and getting timely hits when it needs them most. This team will be very dangerous in the NCAA tournament.
The question is, where will Virginia’s postseason begin? Will the Cavaliers host a regional? [...] Continue Reading »
Here’s a look at the teams that have won automatic bids to the NCAA tournament today:
• Xavier needed to win back-to-back games against unbeaten Rhode Island to win the Atlantic 10 tournament, and the Musketeers pulled it off. They hung eight runs on 11 hits over 6 2/3 innings against URI ace Eric Smith to win the first game 9-7, then cruised to a 10-1 win in the second game. Rhode Island deserves an at-large bid and just might get one.
• Top-seeded and heavily favored Coastal Carolina topped Winthrop 7-1 to win the Big South tournament and prevent another at-large bid from being gobbled up.
• Second-seeded Georgia State continued its remarkable run, topping defending champion and host UNC Wilmington 12-10 to win the CAA tournament. The Panthers rallied from five runs down to earn the first trip to regionals in school history. "Things looked bleak for a while, but I never thought we were out of the game, and neither did our players," Georgia State coach Greg Frady said. "We’ve got 11 wonderful seniors, and they played like champions." [...] Continue Reading »
CARY, N.C.—I headed to the Team USA Baseball Training Complex on Saturday afternoon for the Division II College World Series game between the Emporia State Hornets (46-13) and the Grand Valley State Lakers (45-14-1).
I had spent a great deal of time at the ACC tournament this week. So, I was struck by the atmosphere most of all. The venue was much smaller, with fewer fans. The announcer quickly asked that all foul balls be "returned to the first base dugout." Emporia State’s jerseys simply read E-State. [...] Continue Reading »
DURHAM, N.C.—A cheer rose up from the Duke players watching in the left-field party pavilion as Wilson Boyd cranked a three-and-two fastball off the giant "Wilson Boyd" sign displayed on the Blue Monster video board. A much louder roar came from the orange-clad fans behind the first-base dugout, and Clemson’s players bounded out of the dugout to mob Mike Freeman, who crossed the plate with the winning run.
In a tournament largely devoid of that kind of excitement, today’s 4-3 Clemson win against North Carolina in 11 innings was far and away the best game of the week.
"Well, it was a really, really good college baseball game," Clemson coach Jack Leggett said. "It was a good battle, one of those epic, classic baseball games. That’s what we needed to see going into next weekend."
DURHAM, N.C.—There have been quite a few lop-sided games here at the ACC tournament, but we’ve finally got a good one on our hands now between North Carolina and Clemson. The atmosphere is electric, as the crowd of 6,956 is the largest ever to attend a college baseball game in North Carolina.
Righthander Matt Harvey (6 IP, 3 R, 2 ER) turned in his second straight solid outing for UNC, but Clemson lefthander Casey Harman (7.1 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 10 K) was better, and the Tigers led 3-2 heading into the ninth. North Carolina tied the score with a run in the ninth to force extra innings, and the Tar Heels threatened to take the lead in the 10th, but Mark Fleury was thrown out at the plate by Clemson left fielder Jeff Schaus to end the inning. It was a very close play, and it looked to me like Fleury touched the plate with his right foot just before John Nestor applied the tag, but the umpire saw it differently. It’s still 3-3 heading into the 11th.
CARY, N.C.—The Mesa State Mavericks might be the top seed in the Division II World Series, but they found themselves at a distinct disadvantage Saturday afternoon at the USA Baseball Training Complex.
The problem? Mesa State is from lofty Grand Junction, Colo., where the thin air lets balls sail out of parks with regularity and the heat is dry. To compete in the World Series, they had to travel 1,910 miles to the humidity of North Carolina and the expansive ballpark at Cary.
The adjustment showed as Mesa State quickly fell behind to Belmont (N.C) Abbey 2-0. Mesa State starter Brent Lamaster complained of moisture on his fingers and struggled in the opening inning.
But it didn’t take long for the Mavericks to adjust, and the Cinderella bid from Belmont Abbey fizzled out with two home runs from Craig Lanzarotta and Mike Provencher, as Mesa State pulled out the 7-2 win. [...] Continue Reading »
Another mid-major top seed has been eliminated from its conference tournament. George Mason won its first two CAA tournament games but lost twice today, faling 9-3 to Georgia State and 5-3 to UNC Wilmington. Expect the Patriots to earn an at-large bid, making the CAA a two-bid league and eliminating another spot for a bubble team like Duke, Stanford, Oregon State, Hawaii or South Florida.
A few bubble teams have already been eliminated from their conference tournaments and likely lost their chances at an at-large bid, such as Troy, Florida International, College of Charleston, Western Carolina, Illinois, New Mexico, Indiana State Southeastern Louisiana. All of those teams probably needed to make deeper runs than they did this week to get at-large spots, especially after the departures of top seeds Eastern Illinois and George Mason likely ate up two at-large spots (though neither EIU nor Mason is a lock). [...] Continue Reading »
North Carolina righthander Alex White looked great in the first inning tonight against Virginia, pumping fastballs in the 94-97 mph range, according to a National League scout on hand.
That was the highlight of White’s outing. Virginia chased him in a 10-run third inning, eight of which were charged to White (though three of those runs were inherited by Brian Moran, who was hit harder than he’s been hit since the 2008 College World Series).
UNC’s Levi Michael just hit a home run over the Blue Monster in left field that appeared to peg a beverage cup belonging to a fan standing above the wall, cutting the UVa. lead to 10-1. Assuming this lead holds up (and I’m going to go ahead and assume it will), the Cavaliers can clinch their second straight trip to the ACC championship game with a win tomorrow against Duke or a UNC loss tomorrow against Clemson. The Tar Heels can still win the pool with a win against Clemson and a UVa. loss. Duke can win the pool with a win against Virginia and a UNC loss.
DURHAM, N.C.—Two teams needed to do some work at the ACC tournament in order to secure at-large berths. Boston College took care of business, beating Georgia Tech and Miami to essentially wrap up a bid. That put even more pressure on Duke, which lost its opener to North Carolina yesterday. But the Devils responded with a 10-4 win against Clemson behind a strong start from senior righty Andrew Wolcott (7.1 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 2 ER). With a win tomorrow against Clemson combined with North Carolina losses tonight and tomorrow, the Blue Devils can earn a trip to the championship game against Florida State.
Wolcott improved to 5-0, 2.66 against top 25 teams this year (though I can’t confirm all those matchups were against teams in the BA rankings). He’s the epitome of a big-game pitcher, and he was the big difference today against Clemson. As Tigers coach Jack Leggett pointed out after the game, Clemson had as many hits in the game as Duke (11 apiece), but Duke got the big hits when it mattered most, and Clemson did not. Buckling down with runners on base is the mark of a winner. [...] Continue Reading »
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