The postseason for NCAA baseball is an oddity unto itself, but in many respects, it’s also the fairest. It’s not like the college football landscape where a room of “experts” determine the final four based on some heretofore unknown “eye test”. It’s not like college basketball where it’s a one and done tournament. Where sometimes, if not downright often, the best team doesn’t always win. No, college baseball is it’s own thing.
The postseason for baseball started last week, at 16 regional sites around the country. Four teams were invited to each, and a double elimination tourney began within each regional site. Winners have been crowned and now we’re down to eight super regionals and 16 teams, or two per site if you’re not solid at the maths. Today starts a three game series at each super regional site. Win two games first and you’re headed to Omaha, home of the College World Series where a new double-elimination tournament begins.
For Mid-American Conference fans, our hopes for a run to Omaha were dashed in the regional round when the Ohio Bobcats bowed out of the postseason after two straight losses. So it’s not as easy as just “Hey look, let’s root for that MAC squad!” because there aren’t any MAC squads left. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t find a team to support. After all, as Grease taught us, if you can’t an athlete, be an athletic supporter. Moving on.
In sort of a choose your own adventure, here’s the storylines and affiliations you need to know:
Rooting for the team that beat the MAC? That would be the Kentucky Wildcats. The Wildcats trumped Ohio in their opener, then beat NC State two straight times to advance to thr program’s first super regional in school history. Very fun squad to watch. They also feature Cup Hat Guy, photographed above. And who doesn’t love crazy hats! Kentucky also has a super regional against in-state rival Louisville.
Rooting for the best player left in the field? Though likely debatable, the Louisville Cardinals’ Brendan McKay certainly fits the bill. A three-season All-American, and former Freshman of the Year, McKay was just named the 2017 national player of the year. A significant two-way player, McKay is likely to be in the top selections of the next draft and it’s a virtual certainty that you’ll see him either for or against your favorite pro team.
Rooting for the plucky upstart? Welcome to being a Davidson or Sam Houston State fan for the week. Both programs are heading to their first super regional, but Davidson’s story to get there is eye-popping. Specifically, their three shared scholarships between the team and their defeat of top-ranked cross-state North Carolina in the regional, a feat some are calling the biggest upset in college baseball history.
Rooting for a legend in the coaching ranks? Feast your eyes on Florida State. The Noles lost their opening game in their hosted regional, but won four straight to advance out, making head coach Mike Martin a happy guy. It’s not an unknown feeling for the 73-year old. He’s coached in Tallahassee for 38 years and been to the College World Series 15 times without winning a title.
Rooting for the favorite? Grab your Beavers gear and start cheering for Oregon State. It’s easy to be a bandwagon OSU fan this year, as they have dominated the ranks. Currently 52-4 and top-ranked, Oregon State made quick work of their regional and now host Vanderbilt with a trip to Omaha on the line. If I were a betting man, it’s not a bad bet to think OSU gets it done in swift fashion this year.
Rooting for the rich to get richer? That would mean you channel your inner seersucker and become a fan of the Southeastern Conference. Six SEC teams have advanced to the super regionals, where Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, Florida, Mississippi State, and LSU join the aforementioned Kentucky. If you want to pare it down, look towards ACC entrants Wake Forest, Florida State, or Louisville to sate your rooting wares.
Rooting against an east coast or southern bias? Welcome to being a fan of Long Beach State or Cal State Fullerton. These two west coast teams.
No matter who you choose, the action to determine the Road to Omaha starts today at noon.