The Super Regional round of the NCAA Baseball Championship came to a close last night and 300+ baseball teams’ seasons are over. #bitter But 8 teams remain alive and at-large. Their destination is known. It is Omaha.
8 teams have moved on to the the Mecca of college baseball: the College World Series held in Omaha, Nebraska. 5 teams had already earned their way as of this weekend and last night the last 3 joined the fray. TCU overcame a tough Pepperdine squad to survive the decisive contest of their 3-game series and also to become the first national seed to make the 8 team finale. The Maryland Terrapins, hoping to become the lone Cinderella amongst a very stout Omaha crowd, had their dreams fall just shy of realization. They lost in a blowout last night to Virginia, the second national seed to qualify for Omaha. Louisiana-Lafayette fought hard all night long but simply could not overcome Ole Miss’ pitching and hitting depth. Ole Miss will arrive in Omaha this weekend for the first time in a very long time–and that, not without constant reminder as Ole Miss is well known for it’s Super Regional woes. Those teams join UC Irvine, Louisville, Texas, Vanderbilt, and Texas Tech in the field of eight.
There appears to be no overall favorite, no dominant team that strikes fear in the heart of little-ball teams everywhere. Texas is by far the most versed in Omaha-legend as they have 30 more visits to the CWS than any other program there this year. They are also the only club that has won a Championship there, like ever, and have done so 6 times–second most in NCAA history (tied with LSU, actually, so there). Virginia has had the most year-long consistency and also holds the top RPI spot. But, they showed against Maryland that they have some fairly obvious weak spots and therefore shouldn’t scare anyone too much. TCU has won 9 of their last 10 games but they had a really tough time with Pepperdine until finally making a push late Monday night. All 8 teams are from the top 3 RPI-rated conferences (SEC, Big 12 and ACC) except for Louisville (AAC) and UC Irvine (Big West). But that shouldn’t scare UC Irvine, as the Anteaters are no stranger to postseason play and have a long history of baseball prowess. Although, Irvine is the only team in Omaha with a losing record against top 50 opponents. Louisville, on the other hand, who knows what to expect from these guys in Omaha. This is the program’s third trip to THE MECCA! and they hail from a conference with the worst remaining conference RPI (7th…just below the Missouri Valley Conference). They’ve won 80% of their conference games but they’ve only won 50% of their games against top 50 opponents. Ole Miss, despite their Super Regional failures in the last decade, has a strong baseball history as well and will be making their fifth trip to the CWS. Vanderbilt, despite having a poor showing in the SEC Tournament has shown tremendous resiliency in making their way directly to the final with no real hiccups.
Finally, Texas Tech arrives in Omaha somewhat unexpectedly. They were not given a magic eight seed. They were not given a home regional. They were barely allowed to bring College of Charleston into Lubbock for sacrificial passage into the final 8 tournament. None-the-less, here the Red Raiders are and they’re a fairly decent team. They’ve played in the second best conference (RPI-wise) in which they won nearly 60 percent of their games; they’ve played the 9th toughest non-conference schedule in the country and, despite having likely the least bothersome pitching staff (with a 3.43 team ERA), boast nearly a .300 team batting average and the best fielding percentage of any of the CWS participants coming into the NCAA Tournament. They’ve also done all of those things rather quietly. It should be fun to watch the Red Raiders. If only they weren’t from Texas, I might consider rooting for them as an underdog, but alas…