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Sorenson: Off The Top Of My Head

Columns

Welcome back StitchHeads. It’s been eight months since we were all left slack-jawed by Coastal Carolina’s magical run in Omaha, so it’s time to grit your teeth and get back into the college baseball thing. Agreed?

Then here is how I’d like to start. During the off-season, as I would think about college baseball from time to time, I made little notes to myself of things I hoped I would see from the upcoming 2017 season. I ended up with over a hundred notes and memos to myself. So here are the whittled down list of hopes for the season. The only one I’m missing is the hope that all you StitchHeads out there enjoy the next five month grind as much as I do. I’m tipping a tumbler of whiskey to you all.

Now here is what I hope for…

– First off, I hope everyone can learn from opening weekend matchups like Rice-Texas, Stanford-Fullerton and East Carolina-Ole Miss.
Remember college football’s opening weekend? It was billed as “The Greatest Opening Weekend Ever.” As opposed to our sport where we are still seeing too many Top 25 teams kick off the season with some low-major snowbelters who have yet to have an outdoor practice. That just bums me out. In fact, there is only one matchup of D1’s ranked teams this weekend. C’mon college baseball, give us more fireworks than this to start the season.

– I kind of hope that there is another rain-induced day game for the national championship.
I know, that’s almost blasphemy, especially considering the potential for triple-digit heat index, but it was kind of cool (no pun intended) to have last year’s Game 3 of the title series take place during the day and not have to be in a massive rush to get an article and pictures posted. Plus it’s better for celebratory beers if you can start at 4pm instead of 11pm.

– I hope Stanford makes it to Omaha.
It’s Mark Marquess’ final go-round on The Farm. For all he’s done for the sport, it would be great to see him walk into TD Ameritrade with his briefcase one last time.

– I hope to get invited to throw out the first pitch of a game this year.
Yep, I’m puttin’ the feelers out now, let me make an ass of myself and toss out the ceremonial first pitch. I promise to chuck it 20 feet over the catcher’s head.

… but at least it will be better than that 50-cent dude.

– I hope I don’t have to hear a coach in a press conference say “tip your cap” to another team.
Pet peeve.

– I hope to see at least one player this year who doesn’t wear any wrist bands, tape and multiple pads on his arms and elbows when at the plate.
Another pet peeve.

– I hope to go to a game where there is not a single player named “Austin.”
How is it that SO MANY parents fell in love with that name in the 90s? Why not “Omaha” for a first name instead?

– I hope to discover a new venue that serves beer.
Preferably one that hasn’t before but came to their senses and decided to make money and let adults drink what adults drink.

– I hope to not see another baseball program get shuttered.
I went through that with seeing North Dakota play the final game of its baseball program last season in Bakersfield. Just sad.

– I hope to see a 20-game winner in college baseball
Yes, it’s been a million years since we’ve seen a pitcher approach the 20-win mark, but don’t put it past a guy like Andrew Beckwith of Coastal Carolina to come close. He led the NCAA with 15 wins a year ago.

– I hope to see Creighton get back to the NCAA tournament.
Yes, I wrote it. Hey, I’m an unrepentant homer so stuff it.

– I hope to see a player wear his pants like Hunter Pence.
I still can’t believe I hadn’t seen that style of tucked-above-the-knee pants worn by a college player yet, especially with college baseball’s monkey-see, monkey-do tradition.

– I hope to see a John Lester-like ball-stuck-in-the-glove-so-I’ll-throw-the-entire-glove-to-first-to-make-the-out play.
In all my years of covering and watching college baseball, I’ve never seen it happen in the college ranks.

– I hope I get the chance to see a Division II or Division III Regional final again this year.
These things are just fun to be at. Saw Cal Poly Pomona beat Cal Baptist for a spot in the D2 College World Series and it was one of the funnest games I went to all season.

– I hope to get to see the Ivy League finals again this year.
I’ve harped on this enough in the past, but it’s just cool to be there to see a low-major championship being decided. Maybe this year will be the year I go to the Patriot League championships instead?

– I hope to see Austin Peay RHP Jordan Witcig have a successful season after starting the Big 12 championship game in 2013 for Kansas State before transferring to APU and sitting out the last two seasons due to injury. Kid deserves a break in life.

– I hope to see Cornelius Copeland of Jackson State play in person this year.
The Tigers outfielder is the top returning hitter in the NCAA with a .420 average last year.

– I hope to be at a game this year where it’s just me and a few parents and girlfriends.
Look, I get to see games played in front of 24,000 people in Omaha every year. In fact, I get two weeks of that. But once in a while it’s just really cool to be one of the few, the proud and the no-lifers who go to a college baseball game just for the joy of being there.

– I hope to go to a game where they play an Alice in Chains song on the P.A. between innings.
I tried to think of a band I have never heard at a baseball game and A.I.C. was the first one that came to my mind. I mean, we get an overfeeding of the tiresome regulars like “YMCA,” “Cotton-Eyed Joe,” “Party in the USA” and “A Little Bit of Chicken Fried” at these damn games, I want some P.A. operator to think outside the box.

– I hope to see a couple of top-flight teams race out to gaudy won-loss records with an easy schedule and then faceplant when the *real* season starts.
Happens every year and those teams deserve the ridicule.

– I hope to see things like Boston College in the Super Regionals and Utah winning the Pac 12 again.
There is just something kinda cool about snowbelt teams succeeding in warm weather conferences. Notre Dame, Washington, Washington State, Kansas, Kansas State, Pitt and yes, even you Virginia… I’m looking your direction.

– I hope I’m not correct again when I say that five or six Top 25 teams will miss the post-season.
I don’t actually take glee in this fact, but it’s always a matter of fate that a handful of teams will see their seasons go south and not live up to the expectations. For instance, seven of last years Top 25 preseason teams failed to play into June. By the way, five of those teams were from the Pac 12. You guys need to knock it off.

– I hope another first year coach makes as huge of a splash as Jay Johnson did at Arizona last year.
There are a lot of new maestros out there in college baseball, let’s see who made the best coaching hire in the off-season.

– I hope the NCAA will look into changing the name “Super Regionals”
I know I’ve said this for years but it bears repeating. It’s a dumb name that makes it sound like the NCAA peeps just ran out of ideas so they flippantly added “Super” to it and called it quits for the day. “Okay, it’s ‘Super’ and we’re done. Bartender, another round please.”

– I hope some sleeping giants wake the hell up this year.
Okay, there are some obvious programs that need a bounce-back, like Oregon State, USC, Stanford, UCLA, Baylor, UC Irvine, Texas, Arkansas and Alabama. But there are also off-the-radar programs like Maine, Stetson, Liberty, San Diego State, Wichita State and San Diego who are normally traditional winners that are also in need of a major turnaround.

– I hope I am wrong when I say there are plenty of teams who will drop off the pace this year.
The following teams took on too many losses off the roster and in the star department and will probably find the sledding a little bit tougher this year: Coastal Carolina, Louisville, Marshall, Wright State, Bryant, Cal, Texas A&M and Alabama State.

– I hope I’m right when I say these teams will be huge under-the-radar teams that make a big splash:
BYU, St. Mary’s, Indiana State, UNC-Wilmington, New Mexico, Dallas Baptist, Missouri State, Florida Atlantic, Sam Houston State. And there are two more teams that I have a sneaking suspicion that I ranked a little too low in my Top 299: UConn and Cal Poly.

– I hope the NCAA tournament is as full of upsets as it was last year.
C’mon, I know your favorite team probably got punked last June, but other than that, wasn’t June Madness a blast? Best post-season I can recall. Love to see our sport have one of the more unpredictable post-seasons around.

– I hope a non-national seed wins the national title again.
With Coastal Carolina’s national title last June an unseeded team has now won it all five straight years and 11 of the last 13 years overall. Again, this just makes our post-season so much fun. (And it also proves the RPI is still a pile of steaming dung in determining who the best teams are.)

And finally…

– I hope the NCAA starts to use other factors/metrics/formulas than just the RPI in determining their Field of 64.
It just makes sense

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