Notes from a soggy baseball scorebook at the NCAA tournament’s Baton Rouge regional (note to self: buy indelible pens for next year’s regional) …
-- We’ll start with a vote for a slogan for this year’s regional at Alex Box Stadium:
1. Home of the 3-hour, 15-minute rain delay.
2. Welcome to Alex Box Stadium, Skip Bertman Pond.
3. We never close.
-- If LSU eventually makes it to the College World Series, don’t expect Joe Alleva and Damani Leech to sit down to dine on a pair of Omaha’s famous steaks.
Alleva came out throwing heat after UNC-Wilmington beat Tulane to advance to the regional championship round against the Tigers — a round Leech, the NCAA’s director of baseball, called Alleva to inform wouldn’t begin until noon Monday.
Alleva, and he said LSU coach Paul Mainieri (who declined to speak to the media in a completely uncharacteristic move), were unhappy with the decision, feeling it will give the Seahawks an edge because they didn’t have to play two games Sunday after beating Tulane. Now both teams will play two games Monday if UNCW can win the first game.
“I personally hold him responsible,” Alleva said of Leech. “I’m sure he consulted with some of the members of the baseball committee in making his decision, but ultimately it’s his call.”
The prospect of a Monday scenario that helps UNCW is counterbalanced by the fact that a light rain began to fall about the time the Tigers and Seahawks would have begun play Sunday night about 10:20 p.m. It’s a game that may well have not ended until Monday afternoon anyway.
But Alleva was having none of that. He, and I’m sure Mainieri, saw LSU as having lost a competitive advantage by not playing Sunday night.
“It’s a ridiculous decision,” Alleva said bluntly.
-- So who does the postponement of Sunday’s game to Monday favor: LSU or UNC-Wilmington?
The Tigers used seven pitchers in Friday’s 10-3 win over Lehigh, then got a complete-game gem from Alex Lange to beat UNCW 2-0 on Saturday. LSU should have all of its arms available for what potentially could be two games Monday, save Lange, an important consideration.
UNCW has a better chance of being able to come back with its closer, Jordan Ramsey, who threw three strong innings against LSU but did surrender an insurance run in the ninth.
Ramsey could be better than any reliever the Tigers have, but LSU’s bullpen is better built for the long haul.
The decision certainly seems to put more pressure on LSU starter Jared Poche, who is coming off his shortest career start in the Southeastern Conference tournament. There is urgency for LSU to end UNCW’s hopes of an upset in Game 1. The Tigers know well from last year’s regional against Houston the dangers of having to go to the “if necessary” game.
-- Among the questions for the damp and huddled masses this weekend has to be whether this has been the worst weather among the 30 regionals or super regionals LSU has hosted.
Not by a long shot. There were huge weather delays back in 1986 for the first regional LSU hosted, beating Tulane to advance to its first College World Series. This after they called in a helicopter to try to dry the outfield grass.
There was the 1990 regional that featured the Tigers’ epic tug of war with Southern California. It also featured a huge storm front that blew in one day and blew over part of the outfield fence. And there was another regional in the 1990s when they filled in the worst boggy spots in the outfield with sand. It looked like a muddy golf course, or crackers floating in a bowl of grassy gumbo.
That was at the old Alex Box Stadium. The field at The Box, Part Deux drains much better.
There was standing water all over the outfield during Saturday afternoon’s deluge during the Tulane/Lehigh game, but it all drained away for the rest of that game and for the LSU/UNC-Wilmington game to be played. There are muddy spots where the outfielders typically take their marks, and the grass between home plate and the pitcher’s mound has gotten choppy, but considering all the rain and all the play, the field has held up remarkably well.
-- It didn’t matter who LSU wound up playing Monday, but the Tigers were designated as the home team after being the visiting team for Saturday’s UNCW game.
There are many arcane and ridiculous NCAA rules, but when it comes to competition, few are as wrong-headed as the decision to make the higher seeded and host team in a regional or super regional be the visiting team for any game.
LSU is the No. 2 national seed. It had 49 wins going into Saturday’s UNCW game. The Tigers, like all the national seeds and the hosts of the eight other regionals, have earned the right through their success over a long and grueling season to enjoy all the trappings of being the host team in NCAA regional.
That includes getting to be the home team in your home ballpark. The NCAA’s attempt to legislate a competitive balance is misguided and diminishes what the host teams have worked so hard to achieve.