Monday, June 5, 2017

Putting the Super in College Baseball



Super Regional bound!
The idea of combining March Madness with the NFL's Wild-Card Weekend with MLB's League Championship Series sounds like something that could never happen.

But it does, and it's called the College Baseball Super Regionals. Where Cinderalla can win (March Madness) it lasts a while but isn't overly drawn out (Wild-Card Weekend) (I'm looking at you, NBA playoffs where teams play four games in two weeks) and there's still a World Series to play when it's over (MLB).

If you're not familiar, the Super Regionals are a best-of-three played on (usually) three consecutive days, and the winner goes to the College Baseball World Series in Omaha. 16 teams make the Supers, only 8 go to the World Series. All three Super Regional games are played at the same location, but in game two the host team is the "visiting" team to make it seem slightly more fair.

Rarely does the host team breeze through. I've seen visiting teams rock home team's worlds by winning two straight (Oregon, predicted to waltz to the Series one year, lost on a walk-off in game two and hasn't sniffed Omaha since). 

As you might expect, these things are intense. Even with metal bats, they tend to be low-scoring affairs that aren't decided until late in the game. And it seems like at least four are going on at the same time, which is an additional March Madness part of the equation.

The metal bats, artificial turf and the fact that it's "college baseball" tends to make plenty of people- even big-time sports fans- ignore the Supers. That's a mistake. If you like March Madness and Bowl Games and the "amateurism" of college sports, the Supers are a ride you need to experience.

There are only two teams you should be rooting for if you're just coming into this now.

The top underdog and Cinderella this year by far is Davidson, who you may know more for college basketball and a certain best NBA 3-point shooter of all-time known as the Baby-Faced Assassin. Davidson went into the Chapel Hill regional as the four-seed after a middling season (13-11 in the A-10, not exactly a powerhouse conference and then winning the conference tourney) and given no chance. Well, they ripped through it demolishing host and number 2 overall seed North Carolina twice.

They will play at Texas A&M, who won the Houston Regional (though since Houston's about 2 hours from College Station it wasn't exactly a tough road trip) by also not dropping a game. That Super Regional will be in College Station so if Davidson is to advance it will again require winning all games on the road.

If Davidson wasn't gathering the all Cinderella headlines, Sam Houston State would be able to play the part equally well. The Bearkats (not a typo) were the 3-seed in Lubbock (Texas Tech) Regional and didn't drop a game as well to make their first-ever Super Regional. (Fun fact that will win you money: Sam Houston State is not in Houston. Instead, it's in Huntsville, Texas, about an hour north.)

So, please, do me a favor. Ignore the "ping" of the bat (hard to do, every time I hear it I exclaim "Ping!") and try on the Super Regionals. You'll be glad you did.

Bearkats "kan't kontain" their excitement
photos courtesy: charlotteobserver.com, twitter.com/bearkatsbsb