Saturday Wrap: The Good And BadAnalysis
As of this writing, we are about 32 hours away from opening on a sweeping shot of the ESPN studios in Bristol and seeing Papa Bear (Kyle Peterson) sitting there in all his glory and telling us who made the NCAA Tournament and where they are going to play.
Isn’t that the moment we all have been waiting for from when the first pitch is thrown on Thursday February 16th at the UC Santa Barbara-LMU game? Well we still have one more day of action to go through, so strap in one last time and lets see what kind of manic celebrations take place.
But before we get to all that, let’s do a little rewind on Saturday’s happenings on the college baseball diamonds across the country.
Here are the teams who locked up an NCAA Tournament bid with wins Saturday in their respective conference tournaments…
– Oral Roberts
Make that three for three. Oral Roberts has long been the big tormentor of the poor brow-beaten teams of the Summit League. They took a short hiatus to go to the Southland Conference, where they didn’t win a single regular season title. Then, the Eagles came back to the Summit three years ago and, wouldn’t you know it, they have now won three straight titles again. Shocking, I know. Today, Miguel Ausua tossed a complete-game shutout as ORU posted a breezy 7-0 win over North Dakota State. Ausua, the Summit League Pitcher of the Year, threw just 88 pitches, giving up five hits in all.
The Flames took down Wright State 4-2, keyed by a go-ahead two-run triple by David Cronin in the fifth inning. UIC breezed through the Horizon League field in three straight games, not committing a single error on defense and holding opposing batters to a .187 average and four total runs. The 39 wins ties the school record for wins in a season established in 2002 and 2003.
UIC head coach Mike Dee had words of praise for his worthy opponent after today’s game, “Wright State is a tremendous team. They deserve to be in the NCAA Tournament, it’s a shame that’s not gonna happen. But there’s no way you can convince me they aren’t one of the best 64 teams in the country.”
Keep in mind, Wright State won a series at Clemson and also beat South Carolina in Columbia in the first few weeks of the season.
With its 5-1 win over Iona, the Red Foxes earned their first NCAA bid since 2009. They scored three runs in the second inning, initiated by Andrew Rouse’s solo home run, and that’s all the Foxes would need. Starting pitcher Scott Boches went 8.2 innings (c’mon coach, you couldn’t let him get one more out for the complete game? Gah!), scattering eight hits and striking out 10 Gael batters in all to improve to 6-5. Earlier in the day the Gaels eliminated MAAC regular season champions Fairfield in a 7-6 white-knuckler, thanks to Jared Finkel’s school-record 11th save of the season.
A nine-run first inning by the Blue Hens against UNC Wilmington made this one a boat race from the get-go. Fourteen DU batters went to the plate in that opening frame and earned six hits, three walks, one hit batsman and one error to pace the Hens to a 9-1 lead. Eventually they would go on to a 10-3 victory, marking their first CAA baseball championship in program history. It will be the first Big Dance for the Blue Hens since 2001 as they went 4-0 this week, outscoring their opponents 38-14.
– Florida Gulf Coast
Ahhhh, nothing like a fingernail-biting, extra-inning win before the dogpile commences. That’s what the Eagles got today as they took down Jacksonville 4-3 in 10 innings. This is the first-ever A-Sun title for the FGCU program. On the opposite side of the coin, the painful part for J’ville is that the Dolphins allowed two runs to score in the top of the ninth inning to send the game to extra frames, and then gave up the game-winning run on a wild pitch in the top of the 10th. Ouchie.
– Tennessee Tech
The Eagles, who reached the 40-win mark with the 16-4 win over Belmont, scored three runs in the third inning to break a 1-1 tie and turn this one into a laugher. Tech DH Ryan Flick contributed a home run and five RBI to pace the 19-hit attack. And get this, reliever Kit Fowler threw just 4.0 innings but got 10 of his 12 outs via the strikeout. Impressive. The nation’s No. 1 home run hitting team hit five yard calls in all as the Eagles earned their first NCAA bid since 2009.
– Sam Houston State
The Bearkats have seen their RPI dip down into the 60s and 70s the last few weeks, so they knew this was a win-or-else situation for getting to the Big Dance. Facing off with Central Arkansas, they didn’t waste much time in turning this one into a yawner, racing out to a 4-0 lead after four innings. When the Bears made it 4-2 with runs in the fifth and sixth inning, SHSU capitalized with three runs in the seventh and two runs in the eighth to keep it a comfortable margin.
Holy freakin’ Toledo. The Cougars went out and took a pair of games vs. Gonzaga to win the WCC auto-bid in a bludgeoning fashion, 10-3 and 16-3. If you’re not good at math that means they beat the Zags by a combined 26-6 in two successive games on Saturday. BYU lost its first game in the WCC tourney back on Thursday to LMU, but since then the Cougs scored 49 runs in five games to take the crown.
– Sacramento State
For the first three games of the WAC tournament the Hornets used their offense to put the beatdown on their opponents, taking down Seattle 11-1, Bakersfield 10-6 and Northern Colorado 10-1. On Saturday, the Green and Gold turned to their pitching. Three pitchers combined on a four-hitter with just one walk as they beat Cal State Bakersfield for the second time this week, 5-0. I can’t imagine the Hornets being sent anywhere other than Palo Alto for next week’s regionals.
Wow, what a 24-hour tour of history-making baseball for Davidson. First they lost to VCU on Friday afternoon, 7-3. Then, with their backs against the wall in three straight games, they beat Saint Louis 8-7 and on Saturday and they beat the top-seeded VCU Rams twice, 8-4 and 11-4. These wins allowed the Cats to win their first-ever A-10 title and advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history. Yes, in 115 years of competition, DC is finally going dancing. The Wildcats spent 74 years in the Southern Conference before joining the A-10 in 2014.
THE LATE RISERS.
These guys just keep on ballin’. Yesterday I wrote about these three traditional powers who, as of a week ago, were way far off the radar. But they just keep on winning and 24 hours later all three are still alive in pursuit of an NCAA bid. Keep an eye on these guys (and their RPIs) on Sunday.
– Oklahoma State
Today: beat West Virginia 4-3 in 10 innings
Tomorrow: Will play Texas for the Big 12 title.
Obviously, this game means everything. The Pokes just hope to win to know for sure they’ll get into the NCAA Tournament. The Longhorns, now sitting at No. 15 in the RPI, are playing for a home regional next weekend. A win for the Cowboys will bring plenty of relief and also earn them their 30th win of the season. They have gained 13 slots in the RPI since last Sunday night. Man, it’d be a bummer to lose on Sunday and have them fall out of the at-large field. We’ll see.
Today: beat Florida Atlantic 13-2
RPI: No. 47
Tomorrow: vs. Southern Miss
Just like the Cowboys above, the Owls earned their 30th win today with a 13-2 rout of Florida Atlantic today, improving their mark to 3-0 in CUSA tournament games. In the process, they probably knocked the Blue Wave out of NCAA consideration as well, sinking them down to No. 55 in the RPI. Now, with the showdown vs. Southern Miss set for Sunday, the Owls will hope to obtain their 23rd straight year of playing in the NCAA tournament.
By the way, I love how Conference USA baseball SID Russ Anderson put it, saying this is the “fifth time in the last nine years this ornithological matchup has taken place in the final game.”
Today: Lost 12-4 to North Carolina
Unlike their cohorts above, the Hurricanes found themselves on the wrong side of the won-loss ledger today. But the key is that they lost to the No. 2-ranked RPI team in the country. So with that The U sees its RPI go from No. 39 to just No. 40. So that’s not a big drop. With their campaign now officially done and sitting at 30-27, we’ll see how cruel or kind the Selection Committee is to them on Monday.
WHO ELSE HELPED THEIR CAUSE.
The teams who helped their dreams get a little bit closer today.
With today’s 10-1 blowout win, the Bruins take the series at Oregon and see their RPI bounce back up to No. 52, which is well within range for a Pac 12 team. Especially since the Bruins finish with the Pac 12 rigors with 19 wins in conference play. Sophomore righty Jon Olsen threw 8.0 innings of four-hit, one-run work with eight Ks to improve to 7-1 on the season. Olsen will be a huge key to how far the Bruins go in the post-season… assuming they make it.
All it took was the longest game in Big 10 tournament history, four-hours, 53-minutes, but the Hawkeyes find themselves in the Big 10 finals for the second year in a row after outlasting Minnesota 7-5 in 13 innings. Hawkeyes catcher Tyler Cropley hit a pair of home runs, including a solo dinger in the 13th as the difference-maker. The Black and Gold have the luxury of knowing they’ll have the chance to kick-back while they wait for Maryland and Northwestern fight it out at 9am Eastern time to see who they will play for the Big 10 title.
– Long Beach State
With tonight’s hard-fought, grease-under-the-nails 1-0 win at Cal State Fullerton the Dirtbags wrapped up the regular season title in Big West play at 20-4, the first 20-win season in conference play since 1998. In addition, the Beach also jumped up to No. 14 in the RPI, which is well within range of hosting a Regional next weekend.
With a grueling trek to the Palouse to take on Washington State staring them in the face this weekend, the Cardinal came through with flying colors, pillaging and plundering the Cougars in three straight games, culminating in Saturday’s 15-1 white-washing. The Cardinal are on a very impressive 21-2 sprint to the end of the season, which is a reminder to the selection committee that they have that hot finish they love to reward so much. Now we’ll see if Mark Marquess and Co. get that National seed they are in contention for.
WHO HURT THEIR CAUSE.
The teams that saw their hopes and dreams take a hit on Saturday.
– South Carolina
Well here we are. The Gamecocks did not make it to the SEC title round, getting their noses rubbed in the dirt by LSU, 11-0 on Saturday afternoon. The pitching just couldn’t last. As Gabe Gross said, “this game was over by the third pitch of the game.” Kramer Robertson’s leadoff home run set the LSU offense into motion and it never stopped as the Tigers slammed 14 hits in seven innings of play. The Cocks still sit at No. 31 in the RPI, which normally would be good enough to get an NCAA sniff. But that ugly 13-17 record in conference play just sits there like a bad wart.
Oh man. This is NOT what the Wildcats needed. On Saturday night, a 9-6 loss at home to Cal in which Cameron Ming took the loss was a punch to the ego, including a real killshot on the Wildcats home Regional hosting chances as they saw their RPI dip down to No. 18 and their Pac 12 mark dropped to 16-12. But there are two positives to the Wildcats have going into the final game of the regular season: 1- Since they finished fourth in the Pac 12, third place UCLA is nearly assured of landing an at-large slot in the Big Dance. And 2- the committee should recognize how much better UofA was than their RPI last season, going into the month of June.
Damn. Just… damn. Tony Kornheiser U. came into the week with an RPI at No. 44, well within striking distance of an at-large bid. But lo and behold, an accursed 0-and-2 performance in the America East this week is a definite NO-NO. Today they dropped an 8-3 decision to Maine to finish their season at 30-13. Worse yet though, the Bearcats spiraled down to No. 59 in the RPI. That’s definitely not going to be good enough to get a bid to the Big Dance, even though the Cats are probably better than many of the 64 teams that reach the NCAA tournament.
TEAM OF THE DAY
– Fresno State
Somebody throw a pail of water on the Bulldogs. Fresno took down New Mexico 11-5 and then run-ruled San Diego State 12-1 to forge their way to the Mountain West title game rematch with the Aztecs on Sunday. In the two games today the Red, White and Blue notched 33 hits in plastering their two opponents. Now we’ll see if they can keep it going for Sunday and earn their first NCAA bid since 2012. On the mound, Rickey Ramirez tossed a complete-game six hitter to pick up just his third win on the year.
“We swung the bats aggressively,” said Fresno State head coach Mike Batesole. “With what Rickey did and what our defense did was fantastic. And if we are going to get it done tomorrow, then it’s going to be all about pitching and defense.”