Saturday, May 26, 2007
College baseball is kind of a wonky sport. First, unlike basketball and football, the college diamond is competing for talent with a fully functioning minor league system. Second, the season starts in February, which is great if you're in balmy Texas or Florida, but lousy if you're Boston College. Third, aluminum bats. "Ping!" just doesn't have the majesty of "crack!"
Nonetheless, at this time of year, college baseball is fun no matter where you live. Conference tournaments are wrapping up this weekend, and the NCAA tournament seedings and regional hosts will be announced at 12:30 pm on ESPN this Monday. After the jump, we'll see how Omaha is gearing up for the College World Series, and how a couple of conference tournament host cities are covering the games.
The CWS is the event in Omaha. Aside from Mutual of Omaha Insurance and Omaha Steaks, that is. The Omaha World-Herald is miles ahead of the game, laying out a whole separate section for the 2007 series.
They've even started profiling a few schools that are considered virtual locks to make the Series. Schools that never crack the top 25 in Basketball or Football. Take a moment and prepare yourself for some awesome, seldom-heard college team mascots.
The University of San Diego Toreros:
USD is often overshadowed in its own city by San Diego State and its Hall of Fame coach, Tony Gwynn. Once when the Toreros played at Fresno State, fans behind the San Diego dugout clamored all nine innings for Gwynn to emerge.
Wrong team. Wrong coach.
The Coastal Carolina University Chanticleers:
"If people give us the opportunity to compete against them, we'll compete," the coach said. "And if all of our guys pull together, if all of it works out, we actually look like we've played the game once or twice. If it doesn't, we look like the Bad News Bears." - CCU coach Gary Gilmore
The Pepperdine University Waves:
"I tell my guys all the time that there's nothing else like playing in Omaha," Rodriguez said. "I loved being there, and when I think back on it, it was one of my top experiences in baseball." - Pepperdine coach Steve Rodriguez, who played second base for the team's 1992 NCAA champs
Big money is coming into play around this game. The city is considering building a new stadium, and are stiff-arming locals who were previously allowed to rent their residential property to vendors.
The shortest trip to the CWS will probably be that of the Missouri Valley Conference winner. In fact, Creighton University is located in Omaha, and the Bluejays are facing Wichita State in the title game. I imagine they'd really like to play the rest of their games at home.
The Springfield, Missouri paper is not so much covering the tournament overall, as it is lamenting the departure of their beloved Missouri State Bears, who were beaten in the Semis.
The Bears lost 13 games by one run and six by two runs. They were the worst kind of bad — good enough to smell victory, but rarely taste it.
"We were a better team than our record showed," Mattson said.
Aren't we all, son... aren't we all. My favorite touch is that baseball coverage at the Springfield News-Leader is sponsored by Bass Pro Shops.
Probably the most uplifting bit of news is that the Conference USA tourney is being held in New Orleans. It's nice to know that some sense of normalcy and functionality has returned to the city. Maybe not as much as we could wish, but some.
The Times-Picayune (one of the all-time great newspaper names) is also lamenting the the local team's fortunes, as the University of New Orleans Privateers bowed to Middle Tennessee State's Blue Raiders in a rout. The tournament is double elimination, however, so:
The worst conference tournament loss in school history puts the Privateers (32-27) into an 11 a.m. rematch with the Blue Raiders (35-24) today, with the winner advancing to the title game against either Louisiana-Lafayette or South Alabama later in the day.
I've gone on long enough, so read up on the Big 12, ACC, and SEC, and others at the College Baseball Blog.
Now: I love small schools, and I especially love to hear about great mascots, so if you went to any of these schools, drop by College Rule Notebook and tell me what it was like!
See you in Omaha.
UPDATE: In addition, I just found out that Tarheel Mania will be live-blogging the ACC baseball tournament championship game starting at 1pm Sunday. Drop by and have a look.