NCAA Baseball Begins Postseason


By Benjamin Chase

Major League Baseball has entered its third full month of the season, full-season minor league teams have been operating for nearly as long, and the first complex league, the Dominican Summer League, begins play today.

With all that baseball, who could fit in more?!

Enter the NCAA baseball regional finals, with 16 host sites and 64 teams in action this past weekend.

Making the Field

The NCAA received quite a bit of heat this year when the field was announced last week, with the frustration primarily directed at the use of RPI as a primary indicator for teams.

Discussions are underway to revamp RPI in the future, but the influence of RPI on the choice of host sites bled through as eight of the 16 host sites came from one conference - the Southeastern Conference (SEC).

Regional Play Surprises

Every year, there are teams that surprise late in the year. Last season's College World Series champion Ole Miss barely made it into the tournament, with many arguing before regional play that a team with a sub-.500 record in the conference (Mississippi was 14-16 in SEC play during the season) should need to win the conference tourney to make it. Instead, the Rebels were bumped in the SEC tourney by Vanderbilt.

All Ole Miss did after that was defeat five top-ten schools and lose only one game on its way to a championship in Omaha, eventually defeating Oklahoma twice to win the title.

This year, four host teams did not even make the regional championship game, including consensus top-five team Clemson along with Auburn, Oklahoma State, and Vanderbilt. Multiple other site host teams lost in the regional championship, leaving the field up for grabs going forward.

One of the big surprises was Oral Roberts, seeded fourth in the Stillwater (Oklahoma State) region. The Golden Eagles stormed through the Summit League this year with a 26-1 conference record and had impressive non-conference wins, yet the RPI still placed them as a regional four seed. They then stormed through the region, going undefeated and earning a spot in super regionals this coming weekend.

Top Performers

Every year, a number of draft prospects from the college ranks end up making a big splash in the College World Series. A few of the elite college draft prospects, like shortstops Jacob Wilson, Jacob Gonzalez, Luke Keaschall, and Brice Matthews, all likely to go in the first three rounds of July's draft, played on teams that did not make it at all.

Other players that are looking to build up status ended up on teams that were eliminated during regional play. Outfielder Chase Davis at the University of Arizona could have used a deep run to show his exceptional talent, but he was only able to go 1-7 with a double and a walk in two games before Arizona was knocked out.

Matt Shaw of Maryland is in the middle of a strong shortstop grouping, and he potentially could have pushed himself into top 10 discussions in the draft with a strong regional, but Maryland was eliminated in three games. In those games, Shaw went 3-13 with a home run, stolen base, and scored five runs.

Vanderbilt's Enrique Bradfield, Jr. also could have used more time to display his impressive athleticism and climb into the top half of the first round. However, Bradfield was only able to go 2-13 with a double over three games before the Commodores went home.

Now What?

Come back tomorrow as we look at the teams who won regionals and the top draft prospects that will be headed on to super regionals to take place June 9-12 in order to qualify for the College World Series beginning June 16 in Omaha.

Benjamin Chase is a newspaper reporter in rural South Dakota with a huge love for baseball. He is an editor for Here’s the Pitch, does a weekly podcast on the Pallazzo Podcast network, and writes for Rotoballer, among others. He can be found on Twitter @biggentleben.

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