The Road to Quahog: D1Baseball’s NIT FieldColumns
QUAHOG, R.I.— Teams are celebrating across the nation as they see their names flashing inside D1Baseball.com’s annual NIT bracket. The teams will meet in the familiar NCAA style format before finally culminating in an eight-team final in Quahog, Rhode Island. Sponsored by the Happy-Go-Lucky Toy Factory and the Pawtucket Brewery, the NIT field has become synonymous with the best of second-tier sporting events like Russian face slapping, watching people play video games and the NFL Pro Bowl.
To be eligible for the 64 team NIT, teams need better than a .500 overallrecord, an impressive resume and a lack of representation on the NCAA Selection Committee.
While the selection criteria largely remained the same, the committee continued its trend of rotating which criteria will carry the most weight. Through the years, the fluctuating criteria have focused on animal mascot ferocity, a willingness to schedule opponents with bad records, utilized reports from Collegiate Regional Advisory Committee (CRAC) composed exclusively of members of fans of rival programs and had teams contest the games completely in the dark since that is how the teams were kept regarding the selection process. Last season the committee focused exclusively on conference records.
“We really wanted to make sure we were consistent and use some of the available data after-the-fact to validate picking our favorites,” said Committee Director of Hashtags Kendall Rogers. “If you have enough data points, eventually there will be one where your team is better than the competition. Then just use that and only that in your explanation.”
This season, the committee spun the wheel to decide which criteria would be the most meaningful when selecting this year’s field. The winner … this season each committee member got to make one uncontested pick, regardless of the team’s record, RPI or voting position on the volunteer coach.
Committee member Aaron Fitt reportedly used his uncontested pick, known as a Winning Ticket, Friend (or WTF) on Pitt, contingent on the Panthers wearing an alternate uniform with “a funky P that looks like an F” across the chest.
Rogers used his WTF selection on Florida Gulf Coast because he wanted a beach trip and this way he could write it off as a business expense. He also gave teams in that regional five days off between games to make sure the pitchers (and coincidentally the committee rep) got plenty of rest.
Committee member Eric Sorenson wasn’t able to make his WTF pick. As a volunteer committee member, he was unavailable due to vocational obligations at the Grundy County Carnival as a pixie dust spreader on the Tilt-O-Whirl in the evenings after working his days explaining epic movie lines to people too young to get the references.
Incidentally, a vote was held to allow the volunteer committee member to become full-time, allowing participation in all member activities including the WTF picks. However, even though the majority agreed it was a good idea, the committee advocate can vote however they want, apparently and took the pitch the other way.
Speaking of pitches, the NIT will experiment with a new rule. Pitchers can now throw directly at hitters and if they strike them, it is called a strike.
“We feel this is in the spirit of the rule,” said Fitt. “I mean, duh. A strike should be when you strike someone with the ball. If they didn’t intend for pitchers to strike batters, they would have called it a miss.”
Also, players who try to avoid the pitch are subject to ejection, unless they avoid the pitch in a flamboyant way which is covered under the “Let Them Play” mandate from Major League Baseball.
“We found batters were standing very close to the plate and trying to get hit by the pitch,” Rogers added. “With this rule, we are helping these hitters with their intentions. Plus, they get a free bat flip if the ball misses them. We expect crowds to triple.”
The committee managed to avoid potential super regional matchups of regional hosts from the same conferences.
“While we would love to limit how many teams from a conference (cough, Pac 12) teams get to Quahog by making them all face each other, it is really easy to slide them up or down one slot so we don’t have all these conference rematches,” said Rogers. “I could see having one or two conference matchups if you are really being strict with the seeding, although we didn’t have any. To have more than one or two, or I don’t know, like five, you kinda have to be trying to match them together.”
The committee struggled with what to do with teams like Texas State, who played only four games against teams outside the RPI 200.
“If you want an invitation to our party, you are going to have to hang with the right crowd,” Fitt explained. “UC Irvine had 21 games against teams outside the top 200. We can get a true evaluation of them. With Texas State having so few games against that metric, we don’t know how they would fare against those teams.”
As a result, UC Irvine is a host while Texas State hits the road.
When asked about Wake Forest, team that also has just four games outside the 200 but was still awarded a host, Fitt explained that was different because he said so and when you get to have a tournament you can make up the rules too.
Games begin May 32-34 with mini-Regional round. Winners advance to the Super-Duper Regionals played the next day in a sudden-death format where the home team bats exclusively in the first three innings to make sure the regular season is sufficiently rewarded. The winners of that round advance in the hallowed classic dubbed “The Road to Quahog.”
|Tucson Regional||Fort Myers Regional|
|1. Arizona 32-24 (49) [Nat 1]||1. Florida Gulf Coast 34-21 (128)|
|4. San Francisco 30-26 (127)||4. UNC Greensboro 34-20 (90)|
|2. New Mexico State 38-17 (113)||2. College of Charleston 36-21 (91)|
|3. Grand Canyon 36-24 (108)||3. North Florida 32-25 (106)|
|Columbia Regional||Boston Regional|
|1. Missouri 34-22-1 (31) [Nat 2]||1. Boston College 31-27 (55)|
|4. Austin Peay 32-25 (125)||4. Navy 39-17 (142)|
|2. Kansas 32-26 (67)||2. Bryant 40-20 (88)|
|3. Bradley 31-19 (101)||3. St. John's 31-23 (110)|
|Orlando Regional||Dayton Regional|
|1. UCF 36-22 (47) [Nat 3]||1. Wright State 42-17 (86)|
|4. Winthrop 34-23 (112)||4. Miami Ohio 37-19 (156)|
|2. Georgia Southern 35-24 (69)||2. Minnesota 29-27 (60)|
|3. Jacksonville 32-27 (78)||3. Morehead State 40-21 (87)|
|Provo Regional||Tuscaloosa Regional|
|1. BYU 36-17 (46) [Nat 4]||1. Alabama 30-26 (41)|
|4. Milwaukee 35-21-1 (145)||4. Alabama State 28-26 (264)|
|2. Washington 28-24 (71)||2. Samford 41-19 (72)|
|3. Gonzaga 31-24 (75)||3. Troy 31-29 (104)|
|Houston Regional||Arlington Regional|
|1. Houston 32-24 (42) [Nat 5]||1. UT Arlington 32-26 (93)|
|4. UT Rio Grande Valley 34-21 (115)||4. Ball State 38-19 (114)|
|2. Texas State 36-20 (52)||2. Tulane 32-26 (97)|
|3. Northwestern State 30-25 (119)||3. Central Arkansas 32-27 (130)|
|Irvine Regional||Hammond Regional|
|1. UC Irvine 37-17 (54) [Nat 6]||1. SE Louisiana 33-27 (83)|
|4. Cal Baptist 35-20 (122)||4. Pitt 21-34 (198)|
|2. St. Mary's 35-22 (63)||2. Louisiana Tech 34-24 (62)|
|3. Nevada 30-26 (118)||3. South Alabama 30-26 (105)|
|Winston Salem Regional||San Diego Regional|
|1. Wake Forest 31-26 (53) [Nat 7]||1. San Diego State 32-25 (80)|
|4. Radford 30-27 (129)||4. Incarnate Word 37-22 (109)|
|2. Old Dominion 35-21 (81)||2. Cal State Fullerton 27-26 (111)|
|3. William & Mary 33-22 (84)||3. San Diego 32-21 (94)|
|Richmond Regional||Norman Regional|
|1. VCU 39-19 (58) [Nat 8]||1. Oklahoma 33-23 (43)|
|4. Wofford 36-25 (137)||4. Iowa 31-24 (102)|
|2. Virginia 32-24 (48)||2. Sam Houston State 31-25 (76)|
|3. Elon 33-24 (99)||3. Little Rock 29-28 (98)|