College World Series remains one of sports’ hidden gems

mlough@macon.comJune 12, 2013 

As much as I like Warren Buffett and steak and stuff that corn enhances, none are the best things about Nebraska.

The College World Series is.

OK, well, the exaggeration is only slight. Mr. Buffett may adopt me at any given time and feed me steak constantly. The College World Series lasts only a dozen or so days once a year.

Every June, part of me makes the somewhat convoluted trip to Omaha, and, every June, I yearn to go back.

One visit, back in 1994 -- when LSU, of all years, goes two-and-out -- was enough to put it high on the list sports destinations.

ESPN will brutalize the charm of the College World Series, because ESPN can find a way to brutalize anything and make you hate it. The Stalking Network could quite possibly turn one against bacon, backrubs, sweet tea and pizza.

Conversely, The Stalking Network has helped college baseball grow, never more evident than this postseason when you could find any regional or super regional you wanted on TV or online and watch the whole thing.

Finally.

And for those who have opened their minds to college baseball, it was a mighty entertaining two weeks, between the regionals and super regionals. We had North Carolina and Florida Atlantic in a 13-inning instant classic right after a one-run game, and then UNC Wilmington ending a game -- and thus, Army’s season -- with a triple play.

Rain delays, extra-inning games, heartbreaking losses and finishes that had you yelling at the TV or computer, it was good stuff.

There continues to be less bombs-away scoring in college baseball, more nuance.

About 55 percent of the regional and super regional games totaled nine runs or fewer between the two teams.

More than 60 percent of the regional and super regional games had single-digit run totals. In four regionals, nobody cracked double figures.

The top winning total in Corvallis, Ore., was six runs -- three times -- and the teams in Raleigh combined for fewer than seven runs a game. There is still the teeth-rattling sound of the bats, but much less so than in recent years.

This year’s College World Series field is attractive, yet it’s missing something: a real underdog.

Everybody is from a “power” conference, although “power” is a little different for baseball. Still, the resources are of a “power” conference level for Louisville and Indiana. After all, nobody from the Big Ten has made Omaha since 1984, and the Big East is making all of its third trip to the Series.

The basketball success makes it hard to pull, per se, for the Hoosiers or Cardinals, but for college baseball, yes, they are underdogs.

It’s a bummer that we have no mid-majors, no Stony Brook or Kent State, nor even any of the mid-majors who are quasi-powers in baseball, like Cal State-Fullerton or Fresno State or Cal-Irvine or Wichita State.

We did have Liberty, Florida Atlantic, Central Arkansas, Louisiana-Lafayette, Troy, Austin Peay and Elon reach regional finals, but none could pull off the upset and make for an interesting super regional (not that things were dull in Chapel Hill or Corvallis, or after 17 innings in Raleigh).

So we can expect that to change in a year, and one serious candidate, if it remains intact, is a local group that wears orange and black.

Regardless of the colors you prefer, just be ready. If Omaha calls, answer. You’ll be forever rewarded.

Contact Michael A. Lough at 744-4626 or mlough@macon.com.

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