College baseball thunders toward World Series
Scratch your head. Blink your eyes. Pace in small circles. When the college baseball season began, who’d’a thunk it?
Miami’s Hurricanes had been to 43 consecutive national tournaments. Well, the ‘Canes of coach Jim Morris won’t be going anywhere but home to Coral Gables after having to win 11 straight games near the tail end of the season just get over the .500 mark at 28-26, and after losing in the ACC tournament, left on the curb as the selection committee took 33 at-large teams to the national tournament.
Texas Christian’s Horned Frogs, coached by Jim Schlossnaugle, were among the pre-season favorites in the Big 12. But when the purple and white finished three games under .500 in the conference race and couldn’t win the conference tournament, they were left in Fort Worth to mull over what went wrong.
Tournament selectors had 31 conference champions they were forced to accept into the 64-team field. And then came all the at-large entries, most all of them from the SEC, Atlantic Coast, Big 12, Big 10 or Pac-12.
The top eight seeds in order are: Florida, Stanford, Oregon State, Ole Miss, Arkansas, North Carolina, Florida State and Georgia.
Eight more teams – Texas, Clemson, Coastal Carolina, Stetson, East Carolina, Texas Tech, Minnesota and North Carolina State – also get to host a four-team Regional.
Schools from the five major conferences that made the field are Duke, Indiana, Texas A&M, LSU, Washington, Oklahoma State, South Carolina, Ohio State, Louisville, UCLA, Auburn, Baylor, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, Oklahoma and Purdue.
Just like the NCAA Division I basketball tournament, where a No. 16 seed (University of Maryland-Baltimore County) beat a No. 1 seed (Virginia) in the opening round for the first time, there are a number of baseball teams whose upset ways would shock the establishment to its foundation should they win any of the 16 Regionals. And if any of them would actually win the Omaha-based College World Series, it would be the Cinderella story of the ages.
Should Campbell, Texas Southern, Morehead State, Northwestern State, LIU Brooklyn, Hartford, Columbia, UNC-Wilmington, Kent State, Gonzaga, Canisius, St. Louis, Northeastern, Army, Wright State, Samford or North Carolina A&T actually win the national championship, midnight would never come for Cinderella, and the horse-drawn carriage would never turn back into a pumpkin.
Miami won’t win it all. Neither will Texas Christian University.
Florida State is in the tournament once more, making the field again for the 41st straight time. But the Seminoles have never tasted the sweet Midwestern fruit of eventual victory, having never won any national titles.