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Off The Top Of My Head: Super Regionals Edition

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Man, do I ever miss baseball. Even more so, do I ever miss bagging on teams that have had a bad week of baseball. Yes, I miss the Ouch List, I admit it. I only got to do four of those columns this year, ya’ know. I guess I could’ve done a fifth round of the Ouch List back on March 15th. Here’s what it would’ve looked like… 

The Ouch List
Sunday, March 15th: 
– College Baseball

That is all.

Well to ease my penchant for pain, I’ve decided that since this weekend would’ve been Super Regionals weekend it would be a good time to look at past Supers weekends and decide which were the most painful finishes in the modern era of the NCAA Tournament for those teams that come up just short of Omaha in the “new” best-of-three showdowns.

THE TEN MOST PAINFUL FINISHES IN SUPER REGIONAL HISTORY
This is where the Ouch List becomes exponentially more painful. It is the ones that painfully end promising seasons one step short of the grand stage of college baseball.

10- Long Beach State, 2004 vs. Arizona
What Happened: A bad double whammy.
In game one, Jered Weaver was brilliant but the Beach bullpen gave up four runs in the ninth inning to lose 6-5. In game three, the Dirtbags saw their season end with an 11th-inning Wildcat rally, while also living with the fact that their rivals, Fullerton, had made the College World Series.

9- South Carolina, 2000 vs Louisiana
What Happened: David truly slayed Goliath
The Gamecocks came in with a 58-8 record and a No. 1 ranking. After winning game one 6-3, SoCar couldn’t get the bats going, losing 7-1 and 3-2 to the Cajuns, a team that was a 2-seed in the Regionals.

8- Ole Miss, 2009 vs. Virginia
What Happened: Bad way to end the 2000s.
I have to admit, the Rebels get the entry here not just for losing two of three at home vs. UVa but for the accumulation of pain levied upon them throughout the last part of the decade. Johnny Reb lost Supers in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2009. Adding to the misery, three of those happened on their home field where they won game one before dropping the last two.

7- Arizona State, 2008 vs. Fresno State
What Happened: A 4-seed beat one of the best teams of the 2000s
We all know the Wonderdogs story, but this part of it was particularly shocking. After ASU won game one 12-4, nobody really batted an eye. But for Fresno to score 20 runs over the next two nights to knock off the Devils? Wow. And that ASU team featured players like Jason Kipnis, Ike Davis, Mike Leake and Brett Wallace.

6- Long Beach State, 2017 vs. Cal State Fullerton
What Happened: Losing Supers is bad. Losing to your sworn enemy? Duuuuuude.
The Beach had just come off a pair of one-run wins to beat Texas in the Regionals, but this series vs. the Titans turned the energy up to “11.” After a pair of shutouts for both teams, Fullerton pulls off a 2-1 win in the ninth meeting between the two rivals that season.

5- Pepperdine, 2014 at TCU
What Happened: Blew a ninth-inning lead, got suicide squeezed.
The Waves were looking for their first trip back to Omaha since 1992 and seemed to have things in the bag in Game 3 in Fort Worth, leading 5-4 in the ninth. The Waves allowed the Horned Frogs three straight singles, one a big Baltimore chop and another an RBI double by Dylan Fitzgerald to tie the game at five and then had a man on third. That’s when Kyle Bacak laid down a suicide squeeze bunt to account for the go-ahead run. In the bottom of the ninth (TCU was the designated “visiting” team) Pepperdine got two men on and their All American two-way threat Aaron Brown on deck, Riley Ferrell came on to get Brian Langlois to strike out to end the game.

4- Texas A&M, 2015 at TCU
What Happened: A 16th-inning error decides the second-longest Super Regional game ever.
This was the first of back-to-back Super Regional showdowns for TCU and A&M, both of which were won by the Horned Frogs. This 2015 matchup took place at a very electric Lupton Stadium as these two former Southwest Conference rivals went into extra frames twice. Game one was a Frog cakewalk as TCU pounded A&M 13-4. Game two went to 10 innings before the Aggies tied the series with a 2-1 win

Game three saw 7,294 fans file through the turnstiles and they were treated to a classic. A&M scored two runs in the top of the ninth to tie things up at 4-4. Pitchers dominated the next few innings until the 16th when Evan Skoug hit a bouncer to Aggie third baseman Ronnie Gideon, who mishandled the ball. TCU’s Garrett Crain blew through his third base coach’s “stop” sign and rambled home. A good throw would’ve had Crain pegged by 10 feet or more but the ball was short-hopped and went to the backstop, allowing Crain to score the winning run. Throwing error.

3- Louisville, 2016 vs. UC Santa Barbara
What Happened: A backup catcher hits a grand slam. (NOT a typo)
This is the only Super Regional on this list that went just two games. But whoooooo-mercy! that game two was plenty painful for eons to come. After the Gauchos won game one 4-2, things looked like they were heading for a third game as Louisville was nursing a late 3-0 lead. All American closer Zack Burdi looked dominant in the eighth inning, shutting down the Gauchos. But in the ninth, he lost the strike zone. After giving up a single to Kevin Muno, Burdi walked the next two batters. Enter Sam Cohen, a bullpen catcher who had just 26 at-bats all season. After getting two strikes against him, he choked up on his bat and made history. Here, it’s better if you just watch it yourself instead of have me weakly try to explain…

2- UC Irvine, 2011 at Virginia
What Happened: The Anteaters are snakebitten again.
Coming just three years after complete heartbreak from a one-out-to-go collapse at LSU, the Anteaters appeared to be heading to Omaha for just the second time ever as they held a 2-1 lead and needing just one more out to advance to the CWS. Staff ace Matt Summers, making his first relief appearance of the season, gave up a single up the middle, then got an infield single off his leg and walked the bases loaded. That’s when UVa’s Chris Taylor hit a bleeder up the middle that barely evaded second-baseman Tommy Reyes’ glove and the winning runs came across to send the Cavaliers to the Promised Land. For coach Mike Gillespie and his crew, it was the second time in four seasons for a major OUCH.

1- Baylor, 2012 vs. Arkansas
What Happened: An error away from going to Omaha.
In 2011, Baylor had Cal down to its last strike before blowing a 4-run lead in the ninth inning to lose out on a chance to host the Super Regionals and possibly head to Omaha. That was hyper-painful. But a year later, it got worse.

In this Supers showdown with the Razorbacks, the Bears won game one in blowout fashion, 8-1. In game two, BU had a 4-3 lead going into the bottom of the ninth. Once there, an apparent routine double-play ball that could’ve ended the series was botched and loaded the bases. From there, a pair of RBI hit batsmen led to a 5-4 plunk-off win for the Hogs. 

In game three, it was a bitter battle with brilliant pitching and defense that ended up going into extra innings with a scoreless ledger. In the top of the 10th, Jake Wise, who entered the game in the eighth inning as a defensive replacement for the Razorbacks, stroked an RBI single to account for the first run of the night. In the bottom of the 10th, the Bears got the tying run to second base, but could not push the run across. 

By the way, during the starting lineup introductions for game three, shortstop Jake Miller, who had painfully booted the potential Supers-ending double play in game two, got a standing ovation from the Baylor fans. 

IF YOU HAD TO GUESS, WHICH COLLEGE PROGRAM HAS PRODUCED THE MOST HOME RUNS IN THE MLB OVER THE LAST 10 YEARS?
Think about all the recent home run hitters that your favorite college program has sent to the big leagues since 2010. Do you think your school has collectively produced the most major league home runs in the last decade? 

Go ahead, give it some thought and I’ll give you the answer down below…

THE GOOD NEWS: BOWLING GREEN IS BACK.
As you guys might’ve heard, the axing of the Bowling Green baseball program has been avoided. A couple weeks ago the university concluded that if $500,000 could be raised through donations, the program would be saved. As it turns out, not only did they accomplish this goal, they exceeded it, by pulling up $1.5 million in donations, so the Falcons are back on track for the 2021 season and beyond. Very cool.

THE BAD NEWS: THE MOST FAMOUS FALCON ALUM OF ALL PROBABLY DID NOT HELP
Accoring to the following article, it appears as if the most famous Falcon player of all time, Orel Hershisher, has nothing to do with the Bowling Green program. Here is the column

MEANWHILE, THERE IS NO SAVING FURMAN BASEBALL.
On the other side of our sport, the Paladins and their fans don’t look like they are going to be saving that program, even after a group of alumni bandied together with the sole purpose of doing so. Here is a column from the Greenville News on June 4…

THE FIVE COLLEGE NICKNAMES I MISS THE MOST.
While some schools have made upgrades when they have changed their nicknames – i.e., Arizona State going from Bulldogs to Sun Devils – in most cases a change of nickname is just bad bad bad. Yes, I realize most of the following names were changed due to the politically correct police, but in most cases it was unnecessary. So take that with a grain of salt as you read these… 

5- Vagabonds (Notre Dame)
New Nickname: Fighting Irish
C’mon, wouldn’t this have been cool? Nobody else has a nickname like this… as far as I know, that is. Besides, Fighting Irish is as offensive as any name I can think of in our college sports world, especially that cartoonish leprechaun with his dukes up. Egad. Now that I think of it, doesn’t “Vagabond vs. Convicts” t-shirts sound pretty cool too? I’d buy one.

4- Blackbirds (Long Island Univ.)
New Nickname: Sharks
When I am walking through my good bud’s neighborhood in Brooklyn, I see a TON more Blackbirds than I do Sharks. So change it back, people. (Oh, but I will cut LIU a large amount of slack due to the fact that they are going to become the 61st Division I hockey program in the country next season.). And yes, in case you’re wondering I do NOT see a ton of LIU t-shirts. It was a total joke.

3- Broncos (Pan American)
New Nickname: Vaqueros
Not that “Broncos” is such a gold-standard nickname, but it’s just that I don’t know what the hell a Vaquero is. So change it back, please. And while you’re at it guys, can you just go back to naming your school the much cooler “Pan American University” instead of the wildly confusing UTRGV? If they were on Jeopardy not a single soul would answer “What is the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley?” I gotta be blunt, that name sucks. 

2- Flying Dutchmen (Hofstra)
New Nickname: The Pride
Okay, okay, it took about seven or eight years before I finally heard about the reason that Hofstra decided to change their nickname. Apparently the Flying Dutchman was the name of a slave-trading ship back in the 1700s or something like that. Hell, here I was thinking they were being insensitive to the Dutch. 

1- Hurons (Eastern Michigan)
New Nickname: Eagles
Oh my Gawd. My FAVORITE nickname ever. Not kidding. And while Florida State (Seminoles), Central Michigan (Chippewas) and Bradley (Braves) among others get to keep their native American names, no problemo. So why not the Hurons? This is another case where a university pays homage to a native American group and the p.c. police says no-go bro. Ron Oestrike must be rolling over in his grave.

THE ANSWER: WHICH COLLEGE PROGRAM HAS SUPPLIED THE MOST HOME RUNS IN THE MLB THE LAST TEN YEARS?
Here you go boys and girls… 

I suppose you can expect the Hurricanes, Sun Devils, Tar Heels, Gamecocks, etc. to be on this list. But Long Beach and Cal Sate Fullerton? I find that a little surprising since these two programs have the reputation for being more station-to-station types of offenses that play in big yards where dingers are rare. And Chipola JC? Wow. I realize they are a national power in the junior college ranks but you just think about them being among the elite in all of college baseball. But, here they are. 

A MEA CULPA ON THE “TOP FIVE REGIONAL UPSETS” LIST. 
It was correctly pointed out to me via Twitter by a Mr. Dirkland Smith that I omitted a very big stunner from just a few years ago as Jackson State went to Lafayette and pulled off a jaw-dropping 1-0 win over the homestanding Louisiana Ragin Cajuns. 

A little background info before the start of the Regionals to give this game some context: 

– Louisiana was ranked No. 1 in five national polls going into the post-season. 
– They were given the No. 6 overall national seed and a home Regional.
– UL had a record of 53-7 and winners of 10 straight and 14 of its last 15 games.
– The Cajuns came in hitting .317 as a team and hadn’t been shut out in two years prior to this game.
– Louisiana had gone 12-2 in one-run games and extra inning games prior to the Regionals.
– JSU was middle-of-the-road at best in the SWAC, finishing the regular season with a 16-16 mark in conference games. 
– To their defense, the Tigers did finish with an overall record of 32-25 and that included regular season wins over South Alabama, UL-Monroe and Southeastern Louisiana.
– Prior to winning the SWAC Tournament the Tigers ended the regular season on a 4-11 skid from April 8th to May 3rd.

The Ragin Cajuns would rebound from this loss to beat San Diego State (9-2), Jackson State (11-1) and then Mississippi State twice (14-8 and 5-3) to move on to the Super Regionals.

More next week, StitchHeads.

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