Sunday, June 17, 2007

What's Next in Omaha

Well kids, the first round of the CWS is over and the Tar Heels took out the Bulldogs. Rice won the "fight of the fowl" with Louisville. The Sun Devils needed a comeback to beat the Anteaters, and the reigning champs of OSU (that's not the Buckeyes) got past the Titans of Cal St. Fullerton. That's as close to chalk as you can get. Now comes the interesting part.

The CWS is the only tournament that you can lose twice and still win the National Championship. In the setup, there are 2 brackets where 4 teams play double elimination. This means that the losers of the first round play each other, and the winners do as well. With one more loss the seasons of the MSU, Louisville, UC Irvine, and Cal St. Fullerton will be over. It looks like this:

Game 5 -- Louisville (46-23) vs. Mississippi State (38-21)
Game 6 -- Rice (55-12) vs. North Carolina (54-13)
Game 7 -- UC Irvine (45-16-1) vs. Cal State Fullerton (38-24)
Game 8 -- Arizona State (47-13) vs. Oregon State (45-18)

with the Winner of Game 5 vs. Loser of Game 6 and the Winner of Game 7 vs. Loser of Game 8.

Winning the first 2 games for a team is most important, because they have in all probability used less of their bullpens than the loser's bracket teams. Which leads to my prediction that Carolina wins it all.

Sitting with a SEC fan, I hear "there's no way the Tar Heels take it all." The starter in their first game got yanked early in the game, which some would argue is a bad thing. However he will be able to come back at any point to relieve a starter, or even start himself. Sometimes the ball bounces in a funny way, and that's just what it does in Omaha. It brings to light the pressure of all 27 outs. All 4 winners were losing at some point in their first round games and came back with the defense making mistakes, or just not performing up to snuff. Yes there has to be offense, but like the Rice coach says, make the other team make the plays in the field.

The Beavers look as if they have no thought as to leave the trophy in Omaha with another institution, but we'll let the baseball gods see to that.

Today's match-ups will narrow the field by 2, and Monday games, another 2. That's 4 out of 8.

So what do I mean by losing twice and still winning the CWS. After double elimination play has whittled the teams to 2; those 2 teams play a best of 3 series. Just like last year, the Tar Heels won the first game and were just a few outs from winning the second game, but as Omaha would have it the Beavers rallied and went on to win the CWS. Some would say that the Tar Heels choked, but I say they just had the wheels fell off. Momentum is the biggest force in baseball, and twice that in the collegiate ranks.

Last year, the Professor and I were watching as the field turned to sludge for the Tar Heels, and the Beavers went on a power surge. Let's see who the pressure gets to today, and we'll talk later.

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