OMAHA—After a rain delay of nearly two hours, Wednesday's College World Series elimination game between Kent State and South Carolina was postponed until 11 a.m. CT on Thursday. That sets up a CWS tripleheader, as the winner of the morning game will have to face Arkansas in the day's third game.
There is an open day built into the schedule on Saturday. The NCAA could have chosen to play the Kent State-South Carolina and Arizona-Florida State games on Thursday, then push the Arkansas-Kent State/South Carolina winner game to Friday. If another game became necessary, it could have been played Saturday. Instead, this schedule creates a significant disadvantage for the Kent State-South Carolina winner, which must play twice in one day.
An NCAA official said playing on the open day is a last resort in case of a weather disaster, and they make every effort to avoid using that day if they can help it. He also acknowledged that ESPN programming considerations played a role in the decision. Considering the forecast at weather.com calls for 0 percent chance of precipitation each day from Thursday through Sunday, it seems likely that ESPN's interests were the driving force behind the decision, rather than the need to preserve an off day in case of bad weather.
On the preserved off-day Saturday, ESPN's schedule includes two soccer games, two WNBA games, a "Title IX USA Softball event" featuring the U.S. vs. Canada, and a NASCAR Nationwide Series event. Apparently, there's no room for the CWS. ESPN's involvement in the CWS is a wonderful thing for college baseball, but sometimes it's a shame how much college baseball is forced to bend to the will of its broadcast "partner."
So for the fourth straight year, Omaha received wet weather on June 20 (last year, frighteningly dark skies and high winds on the same date forced a press box evacuation, in an event lovingly nicknamed TD Ameritragedy by some media members). But this time around, it impacts the equity of the CWS in a way it hasn't in the past.
Kent State coach Scott Stricklin said Thursday nigh that he will stick with No. 3 starter Tyler Skulina in the morning game, but the Gamecocks did not announce who they will start. Both teams were planning to go with their No. 3 starters—Jordan Montgomery and Skulina—on Wednesday, but the rainout gives ace Michael Roth an extra day of rest, putting him back in the mix.
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