Saturday, June 30, 2007

June power rankings

It's the end of month No. 3 of the Major League Baseball season. So let's rank the teams in each league. As the All-Star break approaches, here's how the American League rankings look:

1. Boston -- By a hair over the Angels. Sox need to find their missing offense.

2. Los Angeles -- Swept at home by the Royals, but bounce back in Charm City.

3. Detroit -- No shame in getting handled by Santana -- by Texas' staff is another thing altogether.

4. Cleveland -- Indians have great last at-bat karma.

5. Seattle -- Maybe a little high, but they own the Red Sox at Safeco (eight straight Ws).

6. Oakland -- Good thing teams aren't limited to number of DL trips.

7. Minnesota -- Santana starting his summer surge.

8. New York -- Who will The Boss allow Brian Cashman to trade for this year?

9. Toronto -- Consistently inconsistent.

10. Baltimore -- How in the world did Aubrey Huff hit a triple?

11. Tampa Bay -- Every time they get close to .500, Rays slide right back.

12. Texas -- Rangers showing signs of life three months too late.

13. Kansas City -- Royals snap skid of 22 straight losing months with 15-win (and counting) June.

14. Chicago -- Please keep Ozzie Guillen. He's the one entertaining part of this team.

And now for the NL

1. Milwaukee -- The Brewers are back in their happy place -- playing the rest of the NL Central.

2. Los Angeles -- Sure would be nice for Ned Colletti to add an impact bat before the deadline.

3. San Diego -- Ditto for Kevin Towers, but Petco Park could swallow most impact bats whole.

4. New York -- Mets right themselves in homer-happy Philadelphia.

5. Philadelphia -- Rollins can't live down offseason comments.

6. Arizona -- The arms are there. The bats may be a year away.

7. Atlanta -- These Braves are much Saltier than the past.

8. Chicago -- Streaking Cubs have Brewers looking over their shoulder.

9. Florida -- Not out of it so D-Train will likely stay on South Florida route.

10. St. Louis -- Treading water until Carpenter, Mulder are healthy.

11. Colorado -- That sweep of the Yankees feels like a lifetime ago.

12. Houston -- Back-to-back extra-inning wins give Astros hope, no matter how faint.

13. San Francisco -- Go ahead, put Bonds in the All-Star Game.

14. Pittsburgh -- Sellers again.

15. Washington -- Countdown to 2008 almost half over.

16. Cincinnati -- Do Dunn or Griffey a favor and deal 'em already.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Deportes disappointment

The Shreveport Sports had a chance to win the first-half South title in the American Association.

Emphasis on the word had.

The Sports were swept at El Paso and the Diablos, not the Sports, are first-half champions.

Truth be told, the Diablos were the better team in the first half. In fact, that the Sports were in the hunt for the title in the final week with five players hung up on visa problems - by the way, if you don't have a visa by now, you're probably not getting one before the end of the season - is an accomplishment in itself.

Unfortunately for the Sports there was neither magic nor miracle in the big El Paso series.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Bags and Bidge together again

As Craig Biggio continues his chase for 3,000 hits, he was joined Thursday by a familiar face.

Jeff Bagwell, who with Biggio were the original Killer Bs in Houston, was in the booth on FSN Houston for Biggio's second at-bat against Colorado on Thursday. And wouldn't you know, Biggio delivered a solid single, moving him to within two hits of the magical mark.

Guess Biggio can still lean on Bagwell, arthritic shoulder and all, after all.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Great, more Yankees on ESPN

The 2007 New York Yankees haven't exactly played up to their potential this season. Granted, there's still three months to go and therefore time to make a playoff run.

The Yanks still are a staple of ESPN's baseball broadcasts because of ratings, interest, national fan base, yada, yada, yada.

So with the Bombers struggling what does the Worldwide Leader do? It breaks out a Yankees' mini-series of course. During the course of its baseball coverage, ESPN has been rolling out preview of "The Bronx is Burning," which is based on the the 1977 Yankees.

Is it just me or did George Steinbrenner discreetly buy a controlling share of ESPN? Sure seems like it.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Baker, Rangers reborn

This week is exactly why it's fun to watch semi-serious baseball fans wig out and overreact at the slightest sign of good or bad play.

Take the Texas Rangers as a whole. Sure they're pretty much eliminated from postseason contention already, but with nine wins in their last 12 games the Rangers are proving to be better than the worst team in the American League, a title they held for a while.

Then, on the individual side, there's Scott Baker. The former Captain Shreve star struggled in his last couple of starts for Minnesota. So, facing Toronto on Tuesday, what does Baker do? Seven innings of one-run ball. More importantly, the Twins won the game, though Baker didn't factor in the decision. Add in the fact Baker made Frank Thomas, he of the 499 career home runs, look silly for most of the game.

Looks like there's a great summer of stories shaping up.

Monday, June 25, 2007

No more interleague thankfully

Interleague play has come and gone. Let me among the first to say thank goodness.

When Major League Baseball instituted interleague play in 1997, it was regarded as an interest-booster -- something to bring fans, who had been slow to return after the 1994 strike, back to the game.

Ten years later, it seems to have run its course. Sure attendance was boosted 15 percent over noninterleague games, but most of that could feasibly be attributed to geographic rivalries such as Cubs-White Sox, A's-Giants, Yankees-Mets and Astros-Rangers. With the notable exception of the Cubs and Yankees, the other teams got a nice bump in attendance over playing say, the Royals or the Reds.

Interleague was a neat little concept when it first started, but it's time Bud Selig and his cronies did away with it.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Beavers? You better believe it

A year ago, the little program that could catapulted itself to a national championship.

Sunday night, Oregon State did it again. Two years, two titles for a school not really on the college baseball map as little as five years ago.

It's hard to tell which title was more surprising. Was it the one where the Beavers battled back from the elimination bracket then dropped the first game of the best-of-three title series? Or was it this one -- the one where the team wasn't sure it was even NCAA Tournament-worthy until Memorial Day?

Either way, the Beavers are the first repeat College World Series champs since LSU in 1996-97. Those two programs could not be more dissimilar.

Back then, LSU rode into Omaha and opponents cringed. The power numbers. The baseball players with football-like builds. Skip Bertman. Gorilla Ball. And on and on.

Prior to 2006, Oregon State hadn't won a CWS game in half a century. There was no big home run threat. No overly impressive physical specimen. Instead, it was a team of doggedly determined bulldogs who scratched and clawed their way to the title.

Even with an almost entirely new cast of characters, coach Pat Casey and the Beavers did it again. And now it's increasingly harder not to be a Beaver Believer.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Beavers one win away

So we're one win away from seeing the first back-to-back college baseball champion since LSU turned the trick in 1996-97.

Oregon State moved to the brink of their second straight title with an 11-4 victory over North Carolina. Sunday should be interesting.

For the last two days all we've heard about is how the roles have been reversed. This time it was the Beavers who cruised through their College World Series bracket while the Tar Heels scrapped and clawed their way to the title series.

Last year, UNC won the opening game by a run then lost the next two. While it would fit the pattern for the Heels to turn the tables on OSU and win two straight, I don't see it happening with the arms the Beavers have rested and ready.

Then again, last year the Heels had a first-round draft pick ready to go on Saturday so ...

Friday, June 22, 2007

No more Omaha? Hardly

Great column on the possibility of the College World Series on (find it here).

It's hard to believe the event would leave Omaha, a place that has become synonymous with college baseball. It's not quite as hard to believe it would leave Rosenblatt Stadium for some new yet-to-be-built downtown digs.

At either rate, here's hoping neither happens. Yes, Rosenblatt is old and the stadium's innards are in need of refurbishing. Heck, they needed work seven years ago when I was there.

The bottom line, however, is when you're at a game in the ballpark on the bluff, you're not worried about how the concession stands look. Losing the CWS would be a devastating blow to Omaha and college baseball fans.

Let's hope it doesn't happen.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Wells will be missed

Alabama baseball coach Jim Wells is no longer the man in charge of the Crimson Tide.

The Bossier City native and former NSU and Loyola College Prep head coach stepped down after 13 years at the Capstone. In that time he made the Tide a perennial postseason team and played for the 1997 national championship.

Wells' hard-nosed attitude and determined coaching style became legendary around here, but turning around the Tide probably was Wells' most impressive achievement. Doing it in the shadows of Skip Bertman's LSU juggernaut only added to Wells' credentials.

It will be interesting to see not only who the Tide replaces Wells with, but if said coach will continue the productive pipeline Wells had built into Louisiana.

About the only coach who would seem to fit those criteria would be John Cohen at Kentucky, another former NSU coach who, oh by the way, is a Tuscaloosa native.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Talkin' steroids

Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks told a Dallas-Fort Worth TV station earlier this month, "Juan Gonzalez for $24 million after he came off steroids, probably, we just gave that money away.''

On Wednesday, Hicks told The Associated Press via e-mail, "I have no knowledge that Juan used steriods. His number of injuries and early retirement just makes me suspicious.''

OK, so Hicks calls out a former player. Then he backs away from his original statement.

Hicks may not realize this, but some of the public thinks the owners are as much of a problem with steroids as the players. Here is the thinking: Owners want packed parks. Fans want to see players hit home runs. Owners turn the other way while players do steroids.

No one in Major League Baseball has the high ground on this topic.

A little sadness

The College World Series is usually the best NCAA national event in which fans of mid-majors can truly feel their chosen team has a chance.

That reasoning is why watching UC Irvine get knocked out of the CWS on Wednesday night made it a little sadder than just your run-of-the-mill elimination.

With the Anteaters headed home to the OC, there are no true mid-majors left. Face it, in baseball, Rice, a member of Conference USA, is a power, not a Cinderella.

Now with three teams remaining in Omaha we have the defending champ (Oregon State), the runner-up from a year ago (North Carolina) and a champ of recent vintage (Rice, 2003).

Oh well, looks like Cinderella's gonna have to wait again.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Can't stop the Eaters

The last three years I've taken this week -- College World Series week -- as a vacation week.

I've watched CWS games while on trips to San Diego, San Francisco and a couple of stops in Texas in the past three years. After Tuesday night, let me say I'm glad I didn't take vacation this year.

If I had, I would have missed one of the most entertaining CWS games in memory. I was in Omaha in 2000 when Rick Haydel scored from first on a squeeze bunt and throwing error as Louisiana-Lafayette eliminated Clemson.

I thought that game was one of the best I'd seen at the CWS. That is until Tuesday night. Thanks to another mid-major making its CWS debut, Omaha has another classic.

UC Irvine has done it again, stunning Arizona State in 10 innings to become the first team in CWS history to win consecutive extra-inning games. By doing so, the Anteaters added to their giant-killing list. The last four teams Irvine has eliminated in the NCAA Tournament are Texas, Wichita State, Cal State Fullerton and Arizona State. Total championships between those teams: 16. Total NCAA Tournament appearances for Irvine including 2007: 3.

Yes, Cinderella lives. And she's taken the form of an Anteater.

What are the Rangers doing?

For building a last-place team with one of the worst records in all of baseball, the Texas Rangers gave general manager Jon Daniels an extension today on his contract.

Boy, that will keep teams from coming after the Boy Genius.

Just exactly what has Daniels done to earn a contract extension?

He had a team that was 80-82 last year. This year, well, 80-82 would take a couple of strong months to get there.

I understand stability. But why contractually lock up a guy who hasn't proven anything?

Remember,just last year Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky was a genius. This year, not so much.

But at least Krivsky had last year. Daniels, we're still waiting.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Cinderella lives on

The UC Irvine Anteaters quickly are becoming my favorite team in the College World Series. Well, sentimentally at least.

And, if I had to guess, the scrappy bunch of kids from the OC already have left an impression on the Heartland this week.

The Anteaters knocked off Texas and Wichita State in the regionals and super regionals en route to their first CWS appearance. Now they're playing giant killer again.

Monday, the 'Eaters survived the longest game in CWS history -- 5 hours, 40 minutes -- to send four-time CWS champ Cal State Fullerton home. I blogged earlier in the CWS about how never to count out Oregon State. I'm beginning to feel the same way about Irvine.

Should the 'Eaters and Beavers meet, we may see a game that never ends.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Rice the new favorite?

With only three national seeds advancing to the College World Series, it was easy to tab them as favorites entering the event.

After three days, it's hard to not look at Rice and think the Owls are the favorites.

Sure they survived a rough opener, defeating Lousiville 15-10. The Owls then disembowled North Carolina, 14-4, on Sunday night. The offense that was a question mark last season in Omaha now looks like an exclamation point.

The only thing Rice must do now is forget about last season. It was at this point the Owls were steamrolled by destiny's darlings from the Pacific Northwest. As much of a pedigree as North Carolina has, the Heels are no Oregon State circa 2006.

And Louisville? Yes, the Cardinals are playing the role of Louisville Sluggers. At some point, though, the aluminum has to cool. The Cards have arms, but with a rested Rice staff the deck appears stacked against Louisville and UNC both.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Don't bet against the Beavers

Repeat after me, "I will never count out Oregon State in the postseason."

Yes, I am as guilty as anyone when it comes to thinking the Beavers' continued postseason success will end sometime soon. After a 13-inning loss in the second game of the Charlottesville Regional, I figured the third-seeded Beavers were done. Oops.

Then, when Michigan's Zach Putnam nearly no-hit OSU in Game 1 of the Corvallis Super Regional, I thought the Beavers were done. Oops again.

Now the Beavers have to face perennial national title contender Cal State Fullerton in Omaha? No chance, right? Oops a third time.

At some point, I'll learn. I'm just glad I've put no money on the Beavers -- win or lose.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Welcome back, Gorilla Ball

Uh oh. I can hear it now.

In the mid- to late-1990s, college baseball was decried as a strictly offensive game. Those comments came in force whenever the College World Series rolled around.

Not that anyone could blame them when some national championship games resembled football games as far as the score went.

But since 1999, when the NCAA imposed new bat restrictions, scores in Omaha have fallen and some schools (Texas, Oregon State) have won national titles with small-ball tactics.

If Day 1 of the 2007 CWS is any indication, the Omaha cycle has shifted back to the hitters. Louisville held five-run and six-run leads and lost by five, 15-10, to Rice. North Carolina spotted Mississippi State four runs. Big deal. The Heels answered with eight straight to win 8-5.

As much as pitching performances have grabbed recent CWS headlines, it appears June in Omaha is once again a hitter's haven.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Interesting move at Florida

A couple of days ago I was online and saw Baseball America's John Manuel was online. We instant messaged back and forth and the topic of Pat McMahon's firing and his eventual replacement came up.

I know Kevin O'Sullivan's name never came up in our discussion, but, on Thursday, O'Sullivan, the pitching coach at Clemson, was named Florida's new head coach.

It makes for an interesting choice by athletic director Jeremy Foley. Maybe he watched Vanderbilt build its program behind a former Clemson assistant in Tim Corbin.

Maybe he felt it was necessary to avoid coaches with connections to McMahon (Kentucky's John Cohen, an ex-NSU head coach, comes to mind).

Whatever the reason, it was certainly an out-of-the-box hire for an AD who has been right on the money with his biggest hire (football coach Urban Meyer) and on target with several other moves (welcoming Billy Donovan back with open arms and an open wallet).

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Fire sale time, Texas style

The news out of Arlington, Texas, this week was status quo, which for the 2007 Texas Rangers means bad news.

First baseman Mark Teixeira is on the DL for the first time in his career and there are rumors of his and first-year manager Ron Washington's relationship being beyond repair.

Maybe it's time for the Rangers' brass to find a direction for this team and stick with it. Texas has a nice corps of young infielders, but the Rangers have undermined themselves with a total lack of pitching and an outfield that is showing its age quickly.

With no other team in the AL West anywhere near as bad as the Rangers this season, it's past time for Texas to send what little bit of trade bait -- Teixeira, Kenny Lofton, Brad Wilkerson -- packing and get something resembling major league pitching in return. Otherwise settle in for a long summer and potentially longer offseason.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Good baseball can still be found

College baseball season has ended for teams in Louisiana, but not for players.

Summer leagues have begun and the Shreveport area has a team full of college players working on their game in the sticky heat and humidity summers here are known for.

The Gametime Academy Rockies won't play any of their Cotton States League games here, but I would guess the team will play several more midweek games against other Gametime teams like they did Tuesday night at LSUS.

If the Sports aren't in town, these games offer quality baseball and even a chance for you to say "I saw him when ..."

Monday, June 11, 2007

CWS field set

So Oregon State is back in Omaha. The Beavers infiltrating the nation's heartland is becoming a yearly happening.

Now the College World Series field is set. A quick look at the eight teams through the eyes of an optimist and a cynic.

Optimistic look: Joe Savery and the Owls practically live in Omaha in June. This is the year they live up to their high billing.
Cynic says: No Humber-Niemann-Rice rotation, no chance. The Owls better hope they swing the sticks at Rosenblatt.
Optimistic look: The nothing-to-lose Cinderella Cardinals let it all hang out and run their way to a surprise showing in their maiden CWS trip.
Cynic says: The Cardinals finally face some true NCAA postseason-caliber pitching. Let's see how they handle it.
North Carolina
Optimistic look: The Heels have the moxie, the pitching and the impetus to finish the job this year.
Cynic says: Those two first-round draft picks of a year ago aren't pitching. Chad Flack hasn't been himself. And can you count on a guy who sounds like a Shrek character (Fronk)?
Mississippi State
Optimistic look: The Bulldogs keep taking advantage of their second chance and give Ron Polk his first national title.
Cynic says: Come on, how long can the Bulldogs, who don't dominate in any one category, keep this ruse up?
Arizona State
Optimistic look: The best offense in America meets college baseball's hitters' haven. Even a little pitching will win it.
Cynic says: Pat Murphy's teams keep coming up short in Omaha for different reasons. What's this year's excuse?
Cal State Fullerton
Optimistic look: They still have George Horton in the dugout and Wes Roemer on the mound. And there's always that Fullerton magic.
Cynic says: Do you see a Kurt Suzuki or Jason Windsor in Titan blue and orange this year?
Oregon State
Optimistic look: To quote catcher/rap rhyme writer Mitch Canham, "This is how the ring look." That's right, the Beavers are still the champs.
Cynic says: The Beavers almost got no-hit by Michigan. Imagine what a real pitching staff can do to them.
UC Irvine
Optimistic look: The Anteaters have won 5 straight postseason games at Texas and at Wichita State. Who else will scare these guys? Plus, great haircut story involving first baseman Taylor Holiday.
Cynic says: They didn't hit really well against Wichita State. They're the West Coast Cinderella, battling the really big boys of the sport. They'll be lucky not to go 2 and 'cue.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Baseball gods love SoCal

Thank goodness UC Irvine defeated Wichita State 3-2. The Anteaters deserved it.

Not only did Irvine win its fifth straight postseason game -- three at Texas, two at Wichita State -- they did it despite having an out literally taken away from them.

Working with a 2-0 lead in the ninth, Irvine saw Wichita State's Derek Schermerhorn lead off with a single. The next batter, Damon Sublett, rolls a ball to shortstop. The throw to first baseman Taylor Holiday nearly pulled Holiday off the bag. The initial call was out and replays showed it to be correct.

However, the umpires, coerced by longtime Shockers coach Gene Stephenson, gathered and overruled the call, leaving the Shockers with first and second and no outs. The Shockers tied the game with two outs, but, thankfully, Irvine won it in its half of the ninth.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

State of mind? Omaha

Mississippi State is the first team to punch its College World Series ticket. Tip your cap to Ron Polk.

After all, this is a team that weathered a storm of criticism about its rightful place in the tournament. Now it will be one of the final eight teams left and one of the few to go 5-0 in order to reach Omaha.

State's first trip to Omaha since 1998 will be a feel-good story for coach Polk, the NCAA's biggest critic. Polk has railed against the NCAA to no avail for years, but always has been entertainning in his rants.

Now if a couple more tradition-laden programs -- Oklahoma State, Wichita State -- can pull out Super Regional victories, the CWS will have a good old-school feel to it.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Super regionals, Day 1

The Mississippi State Bulldogs are forcefully quieting their critics.

State, which many pundits thought didn't deserve to be in the NCAA Tournament, is one win away from a College World Series berth. And the Bulldogs did by beating the pitcher drafted No. 4 overall Thursday.

This may be a down year for the SEC in baseball, but it hasn't been a dark one.

Cinderella still lives in the tournament as Louisville -- yes Louisville -- needs one win to make its maiden trip to Rosenblatt Stadium. The Cardinals again proved good pitching beats good hitting by roping Oklahoma State 9-0.

Meanwhile, old standbys Rice and North Carolina rallied to win Game 1 of their respective Super Regionals at home. The Tar Heels and Owls were both victims of Oregon State's stunning CWS championship run a year ago and you can bet both teams want a happier ending in Omaha this year.

An inexact science

All professional sports drafts are inexact sciences.

But baseball's 50-round marathon makes you scratch your head sometimes.

Take Captain Shreve pitcher Austin Ross.

He's right-handed, which in the world of baseball scouting is a strike against him. That's because seemingly everyone is right-handed.

He throws an 88-92 mph fastball. That puts him a rather large group of pitchers.

He signed with LSU, which apparently meant pro scouts figured him to be headed school. Because no one drafted Ross this week. No one.

So while I realize right-handed, high school pitchers who throw 88-92 are virtually a dime and dozen, you would think his knowledge of pitching and command of his pitches would have counted for something.

I am not going out on a limb here, but I'm guessing in three years the situation will be a little different for Austin Ross.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Rike to rake for Rockies

The Colorado Rockies grabbed Louisiana Tech outfielder Brian Rike with the 72nd pick in the draft (2nd round).

Though Rike was expecting to hear his name called between the second and fourth rounds he was happily surprised it came when it did. Rike soon will be on the road to a hitter's haven and, given his time at Tech's smallish J.C. Love Field, he should feel right at home.

The Rockies' minor league system is filled with hitter-friendly parks from low Class A Asheville all the way to the big leagues.

Rike's college coach, Wade Simoneaux, paid him the ultimate compliment, calling him "an all-around baseball kid."

No wonder the scouts enjoyed Rike's meteoric rise almost as much as he did.

Draft on TV

It may not have been scintillating television, but at least Major League Baseball joined the rest of the professional sports world in having its draft televised.

The televised version of the draft is a much slower version than in the past. Even with teams only having five minutes to pick as opposed to 15 in the NFL.

And ESPN could have done a better job with the draft. For example, instead of telling me that the last time the Cleveland Indians held the No. 13 pick in the draft they took Manny Ramirez, how about telling me more than just a scouting report on some of the potential draftees.

While there may be work to be done in that area, this is at least a start. It's a long way from the days of having to track down draft information through the players.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Race cards played in MLB

Less than two months ago baseball celebrated the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's breaking the color line. Now we've got Gary Sheffield taking shots at Latin players and Ozzie Guillen taking shots at MLB's steroid policy.

Seems like we'll never learn. Sheffield said Latin players were more easily "controlled" than black players, which explained why fewer blacks were in the majors now than at almost any time in the past. Now he says he's shocked at the stir his comments caused.

Sheffield's Latin teammates Carlos Guillen and Pudge Rodriguez came to his defense, but that doesn't make his comments right.

Same goes for Ozzie Guillen's comments regarding steroids. To be fair, Ozzie did make a video in Spanish to help young Latin players understand what they're dealing with. The number of Latin players suspended for steroids and other performance-enhancing substances is heavy compared to the rest of those suspended for steroid use. But Latins aren't alone.

I seem to recall several American and Asian players being on those suspended lists as well. But at least Ozzie is trying to do something about it, which puts him far ahead of Sheffield in my book.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

"Super" regionals, not so much

So the first round of the NCAA Baseball Tournament is finally in the books.

And I may have to revoke the praise I gave the selection committee a little more than a week ago. Or maybe we all should accept the greater measure of parity in the sport.

Since the committee began handing out national seeds, no No. 1 seed has won a national title. This year's No. 1 seed, Vanderbilt, is at home after being stunned by Michigan. That's right, Michigan. The Wolverines haven't been relevant in college baseball since the last time Huey Lewis and the News were near the top of the charts.

Five national seeds are at home. For those who want to compare this to March Madness, think of a Sweet 16 with one No. 1 seed remaining. The team with the easiest road to Omaha look to be defending national champ Oregon State, which will host Michigan in a Super Regional. The other seven Supers look to be just that -- super.

There are old-school rivalries (Rice-Texas A&M), border wars (North Carolina-South Carolina), a dual Cinderella story (all-hitting Oklahoma State vs. all-pitching Louisville) and one mega-conference battle at one of the sport's shrines (Clemson at Mississippi State).

All in all it looks like a great weekend of college baseball, but woe be to anyone who tries to predict what will happen.

Monday, June 4, 2007

The regionals that just won't end

There will be college baseball played Tuesday.

Thanks to the remnants of Tropical Storm Barry and the Virginia bullpen, the Cavaliers will play Oregon State again tonight in Charlottesville for the final spot in the Super Regionals.

Baseball season in Louisiana, however, is over. Louisiana-Lafayette lost its second straight game to Texas A&M on Monday, keeping the Cajuns out of the Super Regionals. ULL last made the round of 16 in 2000 when it made the lone College World Series trip in school history.

Early Super Regional predictions: Cal State Fullerton over UCLA; Arizona State over Ole Miss; Wichita State over UC Irvine; Rice over Texas A&M; Oklahoma State over Louisville; Mississippi State over Clemson and South Carolina in an upset over North Carolina. Just for fun: Virginia to defeat Oregon State then take down Michigan.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Cut-throat SEC claims another victim

In his 18 years at Tennessee, Rod Delmonico helped put Volunteers baseball on the map.

He groomed future major leaguers such as Todd Helton, R.A. Dickey and Chris Burke. He led Tennessee to three College World Series trips.

And, on Sunday, he was ushered out of his job. The Volunteers advanced to the SEC Tournament, but not to the NCAA Regionals.

Of course, seeing Delmonico and the word fired in the same sentence isn't all that surprising. The SEC remains one of the deepest baseball conferences in the country and, sometimes, it means staying competitive no matter the cost.

In 2004, I was in the same elevator as Helton and I asked him what he thought about Delmonico's job security. The response: He had better get to Omaha (in 2005).

Delmonico did, thanks in large part to pitcher Luke Hochevar, who become the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2006. But, in what has become treacherous turf, Delmonico was always on shaky ground the last seven or eight years.

Now he finds himself having to start over after giving nearly two decades of service to the university.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Regionals, Day 2

First a belated kudos to the University of New Orleans and to Matt Pilgreen.

UNO stunned No. 1 seed Wichita State on Friday night while Pilgreen dodged the Times curse and picked up the win in Louisiana-Lafayette's 5-4 victory over Ohio State.

So the state is guaranteed both teams will stay alive until Sunday, but last year's surprise of the tournament -- Oral Roberts -- is history.

The Golden Eagles were a Super Regional team a year ago and threw a major scare into last year's No. 1 national seed Clemson at Clemson. Now, the last team to wear the Mid-Continent Conference logo in the NCAA is done.

ORU had the bad fortune to draw an angry Wichita State team at Wichita. The Shockers promptly dispatched the Golden Eagles leaving the tournament wondering who could duplicate ORU's success from a year ago.

The short list: UNO, Illinois-Chicago and Fresno State, all of which stunned No. 1 seeds on Friday.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Favorites' day

So far it's been an as-expected day in the NCAA Regionals. No upsets have happened. Granted it's early in the day, but on paper the tournament is starting much like the Big Dance did in March.

Louisiana-Lafayette is off to a good start, scratching out a run in the ninth to beat Ohio State and set up a second-round game against the winner of tonight's LeMoyne-Texas A&M game. If Louisiana as a whole is to start the regionals 2-0, New Orleans will have to buck the early favorite trend as it faces No. 4 Wichita State at 7.

Check back later this evening and throughout the tournament for more blog entries about the regionals, super regionals and College World Series.