2017 In Review: Top Stories To RememberAnalysis
Brent Rooker’s magical season
What a season to remember it was for Rooker and the Bulldogs. In addition to the Bulldogs reaching the super regional round, Rooker, one of the more likable players in college baseball, had a phenomenal offensive campaign, winning the SEC Triple Crown and hitting .387 with 30 doubles, 23 homers and 82 RBIs, while also inducing 48 walks and stealing 18 bases. His performance kept us on the edge of our seats and helped set the foundation for the Andy Cannizaro era in Starkville.
Davidson’s postseason run
The Wildcats put together one of the greatest upsets in NCAA postseason history by beating righthander JB Bukauskas and North Carolina in the opening game of the Chapel Hill Regional, while also holding off the Tar Heels in the regional title game to advance to the super regional round. Dick Cooke’s Wildcats came up just short against Texas A&M in a hard-fought super, but the ultimate statement was already made. Even with the magical run, you can gain some perspective by the fact Davidson still finished the season with an RPI of 125 and needed three-straight wins in the A-10 tournament just to make the postseason.
Florida wins its first national title
The Gators have always had a solid program and have formed into one of the national powers under coach Kevin O’Sullivan. But until this past season, the Gators had still been chasing their first national title. UF fell just short against Texas in 2005 before again falling short against South Carolina under O’Sullivan. But this year, the Gators double-dipped SEC rival LSU to win the national title. It was a season to remember, and guess what? A repeat might just be in store.
TCU to Omaha four-straight seasons
Every coach in college baseball talks about how much more difficult it is to get to the College World Series than it was, say, a decade ago. Well, don’t tell that to TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle, who by the way, would totally tell you it still is very hard to get there. The Frogs made their fourth-straight trip to college baseball’s Mecca this past summer after beating Missouri State in the Fort Worth Super Regional. There’s a solid chance the Frogs make it five-straight trips to Omaha in 2018.
Oregon State’s ridiculous season
What. A. Season. The Beavers entered the season with high hopes as a Top 10 club in our preseason rankings, but I’m not sure anyone expected the onslaught the Beavs put forth in 2017. OSU didn’t lose a conference game until its fifth league series, losing to Washington in a road series opener before winning the final two games to take the series. Then, it went 27-3 in the Pac-12, won a regional and super regional and finished the season with a 56-6 overall record. Incredible indeed, but the Beavers didn’t finish the job in Omaha, thanks in part to Luke Heimlich not making the trip with the team. Early buzz from Corvallis suggests this team could be even better in ’18. Will it show in the record? We’ll find out.
Miami’s amazing postseason streak
If you finish the regular season with a 16-13 ACC record, typically, there’s a good chance you end the season in the NCAA postseason. Unfortunately for coach Jim Morris and the Hurricanes, that wasn’t the case this past season. Miami ended the regular season three games above .500 in league play and had a 31-27 overall record. Yet, with an RPI in the 40s, the ‘Canes were left at home in the postseason, snapping a magical 44-year streak … Speaking of streaks, Rice kept its postseason streak alive by winning the Conference USA tournament, and Florida State actually was in the danger zone a couple of weeks before the regular season ended, but rallied to not only reach the postseason, but also host a regional, super regional and make another trip to Omaha.
Stanford’s Mark Marquess retires
One of the more illustrious coaching careers in the history of our sport came to an end this past season as Marquess retired as the head man for the Cardinal. Marquess had an amazing career with the Cardinal, being just one of four NCAA Division I baseball coaches to achieve the 1,600 plateau (he finished with 1,627 wins), while also winning back-to-back national titles in 1987-88 and making a total of 14 trips to the College World Series. Marquess also coached more than 200 Stanford players who were drafted, including our own Kyle Peterson, who was a first-round pick to the Brewers in 1997.
NCAA decides to seed top seeds 1-16
For as long as I can remember, there have been discussions and criticism about the way the NCAA Division I Baseball Committee seeds teams in the postseason. Until now, the tradition had been to seed the top eight teams and group the regionals and such with a heavy emphasis on geography. Now, just like softball, the committee will seed the top seeds 1-16 with geography not as much of a factor. Critics say the committee can still manipulate the RPI data and more to fit their narrative and liking and still have more geographical matchups, but this certainly makes it more difficult. It was a step in the right direction for the baseball committee with chairman and San Francisco athletic director Scott Sidwell leading the charge.
You can read more on that, here.
Louisville’s Brendan McKay wins Player of the Year
While Brent Rooker had an incredible season at the plate, McKay won our premier award because of what he did both at the plate and on the mound. McKay was the guy for the Cardinals over the past few seasons. McKay finished this past season with a .341 average, 15 doubles, 18 homers and 57 RBIs, while also tallying a 2.56 ERA in 109 innings, along with 146 strikeouts and 35 walks. It truly was a season to remember for UL’s two-way star.
Power programs take over Omaha
Just a year after Coastal Carolina won the national title in a CWS filled with surprise teams, the CWS was loaded with power programs this past summer. Five of the eight national seeds (Oregon State, Florida, LSU, TCU and Louisville) ended up in Omaha, while the final three spots in the field were occupied by stalwarts such as Cal State Fullerton, Texas A&M and Florida State. While many often enjoy seeing new faces in Omaha, it also was special to see the power return to TD Ameritrade Park. What will the 2018 campaign bring us?