This was a long day full of amazing cliffhangers. My nerves can barely take it.
Harmlessly, it started in my own bed this morning. My dog jumped up, scaled the mattress and licked my nose to wake me up at 8:05am Pacific time. Two minutes later, I picked up my servant bell off the silver salver on my nightstand and rang it. I then asked Jeeves to bring me my laptop. At 8:09 I turned on my computer. At 8:11 I read a “thank you” Email from Maine’s baseball coach. At 8:13am I opened up the scoreboard page on Jeremy Mills’ site and saw that Florida State was beating Georgia Tech 4-0 in the 7th inning.
I scanned down Jeremy’s scoreboard a bit more to find that Samford and Appalachian State were already in the 9th inning of their elimination game, with the Bulldogs up 2-1. Man, a lot happens while I’m sleeping. WTF? Guess I better stop sleeping so much, right?
But that’s the dichotomy of good and bad of college baseball during tournament time.
The Good: it’s wall-to-wall ball from early in the morning to late late at night.
The Bad: Jesus Christ people, we’re deciding conference champions at 6am?! (Pacific). These poor boys.
Anyway, it was still an interesting day in college baseball today. We’ll see what Sunday brings as the last few spots of the conference tournaments will be contested for and the NCAA will also announce their 16 Regional sites.
Here’s a few notes about what happened today and what it all means.
– THREE UP.
The very good things that took place today.
Took down Florida in game one today, 4-3.
Talk about pulling out all the stops. Georgia did everything it could to get that much-needed win over the Gators and qualify for the NCAA tournament. Even their fallen counterpart, paralyzed outfielder Jonathan Taylor, made his way over from Atlanta to be in the Dogs dugout and provide some inspiration. Thankfully, one of my favorite writers this side of Hank Moody was at the SEC tourney and did a great job of surmising what was a special day at the Hoover Met. Check his very honest and heartfelt column concerning these two rivals as only Eth can describe.
2- TREVOR BAUER, UCLA
Let’s just go ahead and save a “Three Up” spot for him EVERY Saturday, okay?
Geez. The teflon phenom threw his 8th straight complete game as UCLA downed Arizona State for the second straight day, 7-0 in Tempe. This time Bauer struck out a stunning 14 Sun Devils and relinquished only five hits to improve to 12-2 on the year. I have to say, with Cole throwing as well as he did on Friday night and Bauer becoming an instant W on Saturdays, the Bruins are a beyond-dangerous No. 2 seed for the NCAA tournament. Anybody wanna volunteer to have them play at their Regional site next week?… (crickets… crickets)… that’s what I thought.
3- THE CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS, of course.
The Bluejays win the Missouri Valley auto-bid by downing Wichita State 3-1.
The defensively-sound Jays win their second-ever MVC title and also take both the regular season and tournament titles for the first time in school history. Coach Ed Servais, Kyle Peterson’s vote for the most underrated coach in the country, used a parade of five pitchers, including weekend starters Jonas Dufek and Ty Blach for the first 6.1 innings and also some sound defensive play to suppress the Shockers.
- KENT STATE.
The Flashes pulled through the loser’s bracket and won the MAC title with a pair of resounding shutouts, 8-0 over Eastern Michigan and 11-0 win over Toledo. This was State’s fourth straight MAC title. Although, as I tweeted earlier, I kinda wanted to see Kent State lose, just to see if the selection committee would screw them or not. But they deserve it, so I’m glad for them.
The Jaspers will go to the NCAAs for just the second time in their 54 year history as a program with tonight’s 5-1 win over Siena. Starting pitcher Mike Giordano threw a 13-K effort and head coach Kevin Leighton earned win No. 200 with the W. Considering I saw a game at Manhattan’s less-than-luxurious Van Cortlandt Park, it’s pretty impressive that this program can make its way to the Big Dance. But as Assistant Coach Ryan Darcy wrote to me after my visit there in late March, this team doesn’t give a damn about having glitzy digs, they just go out there and work their asses off. It’s working guys.
Now let’s see if the Big Green can make the regional final like they did in the Lincoln Regional in 2006.
- AUSTIN PEAY.
The Governors beat Jacksonville State 7-3 to win Ohio Valley title.
The top-seeded Govs win their fourth OVC title in the last seven years, all of which came under the guidance of head coach Gary McClure. I’d be willing to bet my left nut that AP will end up back in Nashville for the Regionals again. It was in 2007 that they they nearly pulled off a stunning upset of No. 1 ranked Vanderbilt in the opening round, losing 2-1.
Downed Richmond 9-4 to breeze through the Atlantic 10 tournament.
The 49ers won all three games they played the last few days, outscoring their opponents by a 20-6 count.
How about those 6th-seeded Bruins? Raise a mug to them.
As the lowest seed of the A-Sun tournament, they put a serious hurtin’ on everyone’s ego this week. They opened the tourney with a huge blowout of top-seeded Stetson by a ridiculous 15-3 score. They followed that up by eliminating Kennesaw State and capped things with a pair of two-run wins over a very good Mercer team, including today’s 9-7 conquest.
- COASTAL CAROLINA
Took down Gardner-Webb 6-1 today to bust through the Big South field.
Well it’s for sure now, the Big South is a one-bid league once again. The Chants won their fifth straight BSC title with today’s win. Jordan Coons went 7.0 innings on the mound and improved to 5-2 and lowered his ERA to just 1.21 on the year. Rich Witten and Daniel Bowman kept up the Chanticleer tradition by going yard today and supplying all the run support that Coons would need.
- TEXAS STATE.
Bubble teams everywhere also cheered the Bobcats after they won a 1-vs-2 matchup with Stephen F. Austin tonight, 9-0. And it’s historically rare for the cutthroat Southland to have its regular season champion win the tourney title too. To wit, the ‘Cats have won the last three regular season crowns but this was the first time they added the tourney title. To the surprise of no one, the Bobcats will almost certainly head to Austin for the Regionals. Though unlikely, they could also head to either Texas A&M or Rice. We’ll see. Speaking of Rice…
Owls continue to own Houston, beating the Cougars 4-3 in 10 innings.
Tonight’s win sends the Owls to the NCAA tournament for the 17th straight time. I think the bitchinest part of the whole deal is the stat that CBS put up on the screen during the telecast:
Total program wins for Rice from 1913 to 1991: 838.
Rice wins from 1992 until now (under Wayne Graham): 910
The Ole General is definitely the Bill Snyder of college baseball. Incredible. Now you see why I hope the sumbitch coaches for another 20 years or so.
- FRESNO STATE
Took down arch-nemesis Hawaii by a rugged 15-4 score.
Bubble teams everywhere ring their approval since it’s likely that the much-deserving Warriors probably won’t make the NCAA field of 64, despite my saying that they should… EASILY. Slugger Jordan Ribera has definitely come out of his slouch with a 3-for-6, 4RBI day. His last two weeks have been smokin’ hot. I’m just sayin’ it here to give people fair warning, just like in ’08, I wouldn’t want to have to play the ‘Dogs right now.
The Illini pounded Michigan State 9-1 to win the Big 10 Tournament.
For just the fourth time in program history the Illini will be going to the Big Dance after dominating Bubba Smith U. at Huntington Park tonight. Matt Dittman, who hit the jog-off home run to clinch the regular season title for Illinois went out and hit a grand slam today to cement a big time win and send the navy and orange to June Madness for the first time since 2000.
Beat No. 13 Oregon State for the second day in a row.
With today’s 4-1 win over the Beavers in the Civil War series, I’ve got something for you to consider… what about Oregon for a late charge at an at-large bid? I know, I know, bare with me for a second. The Ducks are now 32-26 and have weekend wins over the Beavers and No. 20 Stanford, along with a pair of shutout wins over (potential) WCC champion Gonzaga in their last 11 games. Also, their RPI jumped from No. 90 two weeks ago up to No. 65 after their game one win here (I’m sure it’ll jump up more tomorrow morning too). Coach George Horton told The Oregonian’s Lindsay Schnell that he thought if they swept OSU they’d have a chance at getting an at-large bid.
One thing that is working against them, big time, is that 10-16 Pac 10 record. Oh yeah, and despite being the No. 1 rated conference in the ISR, the Pac 10 is *only* the No. 4 conference in the RPI.
- UTAH VALLEY
Won the Great West tournament title with a 5-1 win over Houston Baptist.
I have to give a shout out to the Wolverines here. They finish up a 34-22 campaign by sweeping through the Great West field and winning their second straight dual titles of regular season and post-season. Nobody dominated their conference more this season as UVU went 22-2 in regular season play and 4-0 in the tourney. Unfortunately, this is one of those weird rules where the young conference isn’t given an auto-bid yet.
- NORTHERN BASEBALL ATTENDANCE.
There were just under 7,000 fans at the Missouri Valley Championship game for WSU-Creighton at the new downtown stadium. The Civil War game between OSU and Oregon drew the second biggest crowd in PK Park’s short history with 3,629.
– THREE DOWN
These are the no-bueno things from college baseball on Saturday.
1- THE INJURY TO FLORIDA’s BRIAN JOHNSON
It was a freakish thing, but it was also a scary thing. As touched on above in Mark Ethridge’s write-up of the Florida-Georgia game, Johnson was beaned by a ball thrown by his own catcher in the 1st inning of the Gators’ game with the Bulldogs. Here’s how things looked.
2- FLORIDA ATLANTIC.
Lost 5-3 to Arkansas-Little Rock
I hate to write this because I like coach McCormack and the Owls. But with today’s loss, they drop to 0-and-3 in the Sun Belt tournament, crushing their post-season plans for making the NCAAs. Odd thing is, the Blue Waves started the week at No. 56 in the RPI, but according to Boyd’s World, their RPI had climbed up to No. 49 prior to today’s loss. Still, at 32-25, I can’t imagine the selection committee would give ‘em enough rope here.
3- KANSAS STATE.
Lost to Texas A&M 9-8 in 11 innings.
The Wildcats really needed this one. Gah! With an RPI at No. 41 coming into the day, a win and advancement to the Big 12 title game would’ve spoken volumes to their hopes, win or lose in the title round. Now, they’ll fall short of Sunday and hope their 36-23 record is enough to sway the committee. That’s some shaky ground there.
Lost to Rice for the 15th straight time, tonight by a score of 4-3. And even more painful is the fact that they lost it in 10 innings and it also denied the Cougars a spot in the NCAA tournament. Ouch. Mound starter Jared Ray did an admirable job of keeping the Coogs in the game (8.0 innings of one earned-run ball), but a 10th inning RBI single by Rice’s Craig Manuel did them in.
The Gators did no favors for the bubble teams out there by losing that first game to Georgia 4-3. They came back to win game two and advance to Sunday’s SEC title game with Vanderbilt, but the damage was already done. Had the Fighting O’Sullivans taken care of biz in game one, Georgia would be sitting at home with a .500 record and bubble teams everywhere would’ve exalted.
- ARIZONA STATE
With tonight’s 7-0 loss to UCLA, the Sun Devils fell out of contention for the Pac 10 crown, ending a string of four years where they’ve sat at the top of the standings. The tough part is that ASU may have fallen out of the national seed discussion, having dropped three straight games and five of their last eight.
- AND BY THE WAY…
I got a couple of Emails and read reports about an Arizona State assistant going into the stands in order to angrily chase after a heckling fan after the game. According to what I heard, that tussle with the drunken fan in the grandstand continued out in the parking lot afterward. If that’s true, dude, that’s an incredibly large no-no in any administrators book.
I hope the reports I’m hearing just ain’t true. That’s not cool on either side.
OH, ABOUT THAT ‘VERTIGO’ HEADLINE.
After a complete day of reading, writing and watching wall-to-wall college baseball, it was time for me to go out and get away from the stitched ball news and take in some culture. And by “culture” I don’t mean another night on the Sunset Strip seeing a punk band you’ve never heard of (although it was a thought). No, tonight I went with a bunch of buds to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery where they show old vintage movies under the stars, outside, on the side of a giant wall of a mausoleum. Tonight they were featuring the Alfred Hitchcock classic “Vertigo” starring Jimmie Stewart and Kim Novak from 1959.
A great, classic movie under the stars and palm trees. A perfect way to end a long day of college baseball. (Well, that is, until I came home and stayed up ’til 3:30am to write this garb, but it’s a labor of love, ya’ know.)