Just to let you guys know and to put your minds at ease, I have officially fully decompressed from the contact high I got from five months of writing, covering, mainlining and re-covering college baseball. Yeah, it usually takes a few days.
And since the baseball season comes to such a sudden screeching halt, here is a little bit of a let-you-down-easy piece for you to read. The best-of and worst-of from this 2012 college baseball seasonâ€¦ ‘coz fans need to decompress slowly too.
BEST MOMENT OF THE SEASON.
– When Kent State’s Derek Toadvine scored the winning run over Oregon.
The fact that Kent State joined Stony Brook to make it two of eight for the Northern schools in the College World Series, it proved more than once that Big 10 commissioner Jim Delaney was a bigger buffoon than we ever imagined. Remember last year when he suggested that two spots in the CWS be added for Northern teams? Well there you go idjit. Two Northern teams got the two spots and the Flashes and Seawolves proved it didn’t require any charity to get there. (The dude’s embarrassing.)
WORST MOMENT OF THE SEASON
– Mark Etheridge’s house fire.
The guru of SEBaseball.com didn’t publicly make much hay about the second floor of his house catching fire back in early March, but it was an unfortunate accident – though thankfully no one was harmed in the fire. And sure, this may sound a little self-centered, but one of the many downsides to that terrible accident is the fact that Eth wasn’t able to do much writing this year and was part of what caused him to miss Omaha as well. Hopefully he’ll be able to make amends in 2013.
– Getting sick on opening day of 2012.
Stupid 24-hour bug. Had to stay in bed all day when I should’ve been feeding my monstrous addiction with an opening day game along the sunny shores of Malibu seeing Pepperdine play Oklahoma.
I could’ve gone with teams like Purdue, Baylor, Kentucky, Oregon, Florida State or even Utah Valley for this accolade. But you have to consider that the Camels won just 17 games in 2011, plus I had them pegged to finish 11th/last in their new home, the Atlantic Sun Conference (as did Collegiate Baseball and Baseball America). Then they went out and won a school-record 41 games, which included a school-best 18 consecutive wins and a school-best 22-3 start. Hot damnâ€¦ coach Greg Goff’s four-year tenure has led the Camels to an oasis of success.
- North Dakota State.
40 wins?â€¦ In freaking Fargo? Wow. The Bison deserve a huge shout across the rooftops too. And don’t forget, coach Tod Brown and his charges also beat national champion Arizona 8-2 in the opening weekend of the season. Amazing.
– Utah Valley’s lack of inclusion to the NCAAs.
I think this has been well-documented by now. Just want to add that with the successes of the aforementioned Northerners like Kent State and Stony Brook, you never know how well the Wolverines could’ve done, especially with 40 wins in their final 41 games, most of them in blowout fashion. And as I mentioned last column, they went 1-1 vs. Arizona, while defending national champion South Carolina went 0-2 vs. the Cats. I know, I’ve beaten this point to death. I’ll stop now.
BIGGEST SURPRISE NOT TO SEE IN THE CWS.
For the first month of the season, I thought the Cardinal rivaled Florida as the best team in the country, going 16-3 including sweeps of Vanderbilt and Texas and near-sweeps of Rice, Fresno State and USC. They also entered the Supers vs. Florida State on a 19-5 run. Seeing them lose at FSU wasn’t as stunning as seeing them lose two games by a combined 35-to-8. With all that All American pitchingâ€¦ Gah!
COACH WHO DESERVES A RAISE.
– Scott Stricklin, Kent State, and Matt Senk, Stony Brook.
Yep, again, choosing these two was easy peezy. And I believe both DID get a raise since their appearances in Omaha. Good thing too, ‘coz I’m sure there are a lot of warm weather programs that would like to back a Brinks truck up to their door.
– LSU-Stony Brook, game one.
In case you happened to miss it – and I don’t really see how you could’ve – the Seawolves seemed primed to pull off a game one stunner, but the Tigers kept coming back, answering Seawolf runs with three consecutive solo-shot home runs (take that “bats-need-re-juicing” proponents) in the 9th, 10th and 11th innings, before scoring the game-winning, jog-off run in the bottom of the 12th the next morning (Damn that rain).
And of course, the even more incredible part of that 4-3, 12-inning loss, was the fact that SBU was still able to come back, regroup, and then beat the Tigers twice in their own den. As Bill Raferty would say, “ONIONS!”
– Utah’s 11-10 win over Utah Valley on May 15th.
As I mentioned during that week, I had all the plans set to go up to Ogden, Utah and watch the Wolverines set the NCAA consecutive wins streak two nights later vs. New York Tech, if not for this white-knuckle loss to the Utes. But not only that, a lot of the people I talked to seemed to agree that had UVU beaten UU that night and then gone on to set the new win-streak mark, they very well might not have been snubbed by the NCAA Selection Committee. How could they have denied the Valley had they won?
WORST DAY OF THE SEASON.
– Sunday, February 19th.
The first Sunday of the 2012 season was pretty bad. A full 22 games in Division 1 were either postponed or cancelled altogether, the highest amount all season. Though ironically, there wasn’t a single Top 35 game affected. By the way, the second worst day of the season? Yep, Saturday, February 18th. It was just a bad opening weekend all the way around.
BEST PLAY OF THE SEASON.
– When Kent State’s Michael Clark got Kentucky’s Thomas McCarthy to strike out in the 21st inning of their Gary Regional opener.
That whiff mercifully ended the 2nd longest NCAA tournament game in history, giving the Flashes a 7-6 win which took 6-hours, 37-minutes to complete. In fact, my good bud Jerry Palm was there for the first few innings, had to leave to go coach his kid’s baseball practice, then returned to not only see the marathon game hadn’t ended yet, but then had to watch nine more innings before it did. The best part was when Jerry told me the fans started booing each time the teams’ went to another inning, especially in the 18th frame when the two teams traded runs.
WORST PLAY OF THE SEASON.
– Baylor’s botched double play vs. Arkansas
(And no, I’m not playing favorites by putting this play here Arkansas fans, just bear with meâ€¦ no pun intended). After Baylor lost the 2011 Regional finals to Cal in such a legendary faceplant fashion, you almost hoped it couldn’t get any more painful for coach Smith and crew. But then to see they were just a simple double-play away from getting to Omaha, that’s turning the cruelty meter to 11.
– Provo, Utah (Really?)
From what I can find, BYU is the only team in the country who did not have a single game moved, postponed or cancelled because of weather.
NEWEST STADIUM TO ADD TO MY BEER LIST.
– UNLV’s Earl Wilson Field.
It was great to sit back and enjoy a brew or two during the Mountain West tournament.
LATEST STADIUM TO CROSS OFF MY BUCKET LIST.
– McKethan Stadium, University of Florida.
As you might recall I was able to catch the Friday night game between LSU and Florida while I was in the Sunshine State for the Frozen Four college hockey finals. A little surprised at how laissez faire the Gator fans were, even going as far as pulling the “L.A. thing” by showing up fashionably late. But still a pretty good venue to catch a game.
BEST NEW STADIUM EXPERIENCE.
Spent about 30 minutes at the Fairleigh-Dickinson/Quinnipiac game while in Connecticut for the Hockey Regionals. And what an old-school cool venue this was. Great setting too, with the hills surrounding the campus. There were only a two small sets of temporary bleachers behind home plate, but beyond each dugout there were numerous amounts of people down each foul line with picnic chairs, coolers and blankets laid out to watch the game. No fences. No mesh netting. Just cool.
BEST SIDE TRIP.
– South By Southwest Music Festival, Austin.
During my swing through the Lone Star State in March, not only was I able to catch games at Dallas Baptist, Rice, Texas State and Baylor, but I also saw J.D. McPherson, Andrew W.K., Fun, Of Monsters and Men and Jesse Malinâ€¦ all in one day during the festival. Cool event to take in. Definitely make it there for SXSW at some point in your life.
MOST DEPRESSING SITE.
– Seeing the Southern Utah field being torn down.
One of my favorite road trips over the years has been driving up to the Beehive State and checking out a game at SUU. Alas, with the Thunderbird program going the way of the buffalo, T-Bird Field will now become a soccer field. On my drive up to Omaha for the CWS I happened to catch this pic of the field as it was being dismantled, minus the dugouts and backstopâ€¦ Piss!
MOST STUNNING POST-SEASON COACHING MOVE.
– Erik Bakich going from Maryland to Michigan.
How big is this for the Wolverine program? One of the nation’s premiere recruiters (as an assistant at Vanderbilt and head coach at UMd) moves in and is hell-bent on bringing this program back to prominence. You just don’t normally see a hot-property on the coaching carousel going further North, but I can dig it.
BIGGEST GAFFE ON MY PART.
– Leaving early from the San Diego State-TCU game at the MWC tournament.
I needed to get another battery charger for my camera. TCU was up 14-4. It was the 9th inning. What could go wrong?
So yep, I decided to cut out of the game at that time, so I could go buy a battery charger at the nearest Best Buy and still get back in time for the start of the day’s second game. Wouldn’t you know it, the Aztecs come back and score 11 runs in the 9th inning, then lose it when the Frogs plated two runs in the bottom of the frame to win 16-15. And I missed it all.
BIGGEST GAFFE IN MY PRESEASON RANKINGS.
I think everyone took a huge swing-and-miss on these guys. I had the Dolphins at No. 25 in my Top 25. With All Americans Adam Brett Walker and Daniel Gulbransen in the batting order and three starters back on the mound, it was a no-brainer. In fact, had they finished the season in Omaha, nobody would’ve thought it too unreasonable. But the Big Green ended up the season in stunning manner, finishing dead last in the Atlantic Sun Conference with a 7-20 mark. Overall, the Dolphins went from 37 wins in 2011 to 18 in 2012.
- Utah Valley
Though I appreciate all the things I get as lagniappe from coaches and teams (I’m looking your direction Maine hockey coach Tim Whitehead), it was hard to beat Utah Valley sending me a couple shirts, a hat and a team-signed baseball. So yes, I can now say that I am a proud owner of a Goose Kallunki-signed ball.