The Numbers No Longer Matter: Time to Play – From the Bird’s Nest
We’ve talked batting averages, fielding percentages, power numbers and pitching stats.
We’ve talked about speed, strengths, weaknesses and home crowd advantage.
Now it’s time to play.
The #6 national seed Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns host the Mississippi Rebels tonight in game one of their best of three series tonight at 7 pm at M. L. “Tigue” Moore Field.
Game two of the best of three will be Sunday at 8pm. If necessary, the third and deciding game will be Monday at 6pm.
The series features the only Super Regional where both participants hosted and were a #1 seed in their respective regional tournaments. Ole Miss (44-18, 19-11 SEC) defeated Jacksonville State and Washington twice to win its region. Louisiana (57-8, 26-4 Sun Belt) lost to Jackson State before roaring through the elimination bracket with wins over San Diego State, Jackson State and finished off with a pair of wins over Mississippi State.
Tonight’s game one features two right handers: Chris Ellis (10-1, 2.16 ERA) gets the start for the Rebels, while Austin Robichaux (7-3, 2.83), gets the start for the Sun Belt Champions.
Okay, that’s the basic stuff.
All week long fans and media people alike have been trying to break down strengths, weaknesses and advantages as the Cajuns and Rebels match up.
It doesn’t matter anymore.
What matters now is very simple: The team that plays the most perfect baseball in an imperfect situation is going to Omaha.
The statistics you see are averages. You can hit .300 during the regular season (which both teams have done). Slump this weekend and the season ends.
Both teams have an ERA under 3.50. That’s an average. Get to 6.00 this weekend and the season ends.
The word for this weekend is “critical.”
Which team’s pitcher will make the critical pitch to get out of trouble?
Which team will make a critical error that costs its team a run, and maybe a game?
Which team gets a critical hit with men in scoring position in the late innings?
That really, is what this boils down to.
57 wins? Doesn’t matter. SEC vs. Sun Belt? Who cares? Record against common opponents? Means nothing now.
If we’ve learned anything during this NCAA post-season, it’s that the “best” team during the regular season doesn’t win. If that were the case, five national seeds wouldn’t have bitten the dust last week, two of them not even winning a game.
Tournament champions from the Colonial, Atlantic Sun and Sun Belt are still playing. So is the champion of the West Coast Conference and the third place team in the Big West.
You know who isn’t there? The top four teams from the Pac-12. The regular season and tournament champions from the SEC. The two division winners from the ACC and the nationally seeded champions from the Big 10.
In fact, if your favorite conference got multiple teams into the tournament, you’re looking at the carnage and wondering “what the hell happened.”
It doesn’t mean those teams or those conferences are overrated. Nor does it mean the other conferences are underrated. It doesn’t mean the Big 12 was really the best conference in America.
It means the sixteen teams that are left all have something in common.
Last weekend they played the game at a higher level than their opponents.
And, now that reality has set in, here’s what I have to say.
The eight teams that play at the higher lever of baseball this weekend are going to go to Omaha.
Best has absolutely nothing to do with it.
This weekend we crown Super Regional Champions…not Super Regional “bests.”