Number Crunching Down To The Wire…
May Madness is here! Most of college baseball has crossed the regular season finish line and it’s now on to postseason conference tournaments. Most people don’t know this, but American Idol actually planned its own season finale to correspond with college baseball’s conference tournament week (that may or may not be true, but it sounds good).
A good deal of this week’s installment of the notebook looks at NCAA bids & ramifications, but there’s a lot of other stuff in there as well…and Jimmy Iovine won’t be critiquing it!
3…More NCAA Tournament tickets punched over the weekend. Bethune-Cookman (MEAC), Prairie View A&M (SWAC) and Sacred Heart (Northeast) each claimed conference tournament titles to join Cornell of the Ivy League as the three teams with tickets punched to the dance so far. That leaves 26 automatic bids to be claimed in the next week before selections come out a week from today (5/29). The next bid will go to the winner of today’s Patriot League final between Army and Holy Cross. Bethune-Cookman’s title was its seventh straight.
3…Conference regular season championships to be decided this week that will determine automatic NCAA bids. The Big West, Pac-12 and West Coast Conference races have all come down to the final weekend of their regular season and none of the three leagues sponsor postseason tournaments. Cal State Fullerton (33-18, 15-6 Big West)is secure for an at-large bid when it visits Long Beach State (27-25, 14-7). San Diego (39-13) and Pepperdine (32-20) share 14-7 marks in the WCC heading into their showdown in Malibu. The Pac-12 is more complicated with Oregon (41-14, 19-8) holding a one game lead over Arizona (36-16, 18-9) and a two game lead over UCLA (38-14, 17-10), Stanford (36-14, 17-10) and Arizona State (35-18, 17-10). The Ducks are at Oregon State, Arizona hosts ASU, UCLA hosts USC, and Stanford hosts Cal this weekend. Long Beach State has the least solid footing to receive an at-large bid of any of the above mentioned teams. (Arizona State is ineligible for this year’s NCAA Tournament.)
10…Wins with no losses by UCLA in midweek games this season. The latest such win for the Bruins came with Tuesday’s 6-3 decision over Cal State Fullerton. Such wins over the likes of Pepperdine and UC Irvine (along with their Pac-12 success) have put UCLA in position for a top eight national seed next week. They put their perfect midweek record on the line when they visit UC Irvine Tuesday night.
6…SEC teams that tasted midweek defeats on the same day last week. Florida, Kentucky, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Auburn, and Tennessee each lost on Tuesday to Samford, Murray State, Arkansas State, Central Arkansas, Jacksonville State, and Middle Tennessee State, respectively.
3…Sacrifice bunts in one game by Oregon clean-up batter Brett Thomas. The sophomore leads the Ducks with a .310 average and 13 doubles, but he dropped three bunts down to help Oregon score single runs in five different innings in a 5-4 win over Seattle en-route to a series sweep.
15…Conference regular season championships for LSU, an SEC record, after taking two of three games from South Carolina to close the regular season. The Tigers (42-14, 19-11) claimed their first outright SEC crown since 2003.
5…Straight wins by Vanderbilt to close the regular season. The Commodores did not have a winning streak of more than three games prior to winning the last two games of the LSU series last week and then sweeping Ole Miss this past weekend. After starting 2012 with a 1-7 record Vanderbilt’s 29-25 overall mark (16-14 SEC) heading into the SEC Tournament guarantees a winning record, which is the minimal requirement for an NCAA at-large berth.
32…Game winning streak by Utah Valley that ended with Tuesday’s 11-10 loss at Utah. The Wolverines (43-12, 28-0) have still won 36 of their last 37 games after closing Great West Conference play with a four game sweep of Northern Colorado. Their 32 game winning streak fell two short of the Division One record shared by Texas (1977) and Florida Atlantic (1999). They have a chance for more wins this week, but with an RPI of 67 last week their NCAA future is tenuous, because the Great West Conference does not receive an automatic bid.
1…Home run hit by Florida’s Preston Tucker for his school record-setting 320th career hit in Thursday’s 6-0 win over Auburn. Tucker’s blast moved him past Mark Ellis on the Gator’s all-time hit list and also marked the second time this season he used a home run to set a school record. His home run back on Feb. 25 gave him Florida’s all-time RBI mark. Tucker and the Gators took two of three games from the Tigers to close the regular season.
19…ACC wins by North Carolina State – a school record – after Thursday’s 10-5 win over Florida State. Wolfpack freshman Carolos Rodon also improved to 9-0 to tie the school freshman record for wins in the victory, but the Seminoles still took the last two games of the series to clinch the number one seed in the ACC Tournament.
22…Straight home wins for Baylor, the longest active streak in the nation, after Thursday’s 16-5 dismantling of Texas. The 22 straight is a school record for home wins. Baylor also became the first Big 12 team to go unbeaten at home in a season with its 12-0 conference mark. The last two games of the series were played in Austin.
34…Years since the Bears had shutout the Longhorns in Austin prior to Friday’s 4-0 Baylor victory. Trent Blank (10-1) and Crayton Bare combined on the goose egg with 7.0 and 2.0 innings, respectively. Baylor has the top seed heading into the Big 12 Tournament.
27…Years since Indiana State had won a Missouri Valley Confererence championship prior to beating Missouri State 6-3 Thursday to clinch this year’s regular season crown. The Sycamores (41-15, 14-7) won the title outright, something they had never done before. They shared the 1985 championship with Wichita State. Dakota Bacus (7-3) tossed his third complete game of the season in Thursday’s clinching victory.
72 1/3…Innings without giving-up an earned run that ended for Missouri State’s Nick Petree in that loss to the Sycamores when ISU plated a first inning run en-route to the MVC clinching victory. Petree (10-3) also carried a 38.0 inning scoreless streak into the crucial game. The last earned run he had surrendered came more than two months ago – March 9 against SIU-Edwardsville. Petree did lose once during the streak when two unearned runs led to a 2-1 loss to Bradley in April. Petree missed the 2010 season due to Tommy John surgery. He has a 0.91 ERA with 102 strikeouts in 99 1/3 innings this season.
43…Wins for Stony Brook, a school record, with Saturday’s double header sweep of Maine. The Seawolves (43-11, 21-3) won 19 of their last 20 games to close the regular season to set a new high water mark for program wins for a second straight season. Stony Brook is the number one seed in the America East Tournament. They play No. 4 seed and defending tournament champ Maine in the first round on Wednesday.
17…Consecutive conference championships by Rice, a streak that dates back to 1996, after taking two of three games from Central Florida over the weekend to claim the Conference USA regular season crown. The current streak includes tournament titles. Rice has won seven straight C-USA titles since joining the league in 2006. Rice and UCF split the first two games of their series, which set-up a winner take all regular season finale on Saturday for the first time in C-USA history.
13…Years since Wake Forest swept a regular season series from ACC power Clemson prior to taking all three games from the Tigers to close the regular season. Saturday’s 7-0 win capped the sweep. It snapped a string of 98 straight games Clemson had gone without being blanked. Wake(32-22, 13-17) has an RPI of 32 in the latest Warren Nolen rankings (official NCAA RPI due out later today) and is in good shape to receive at least an at-large NCAA bid.
3…WAC regular season champions after New Mexico State, Sacramento State and Nevada finished the regular season with identical 11-7 marks in league play. New Mexico State is the No. 1 seed and Sacramento State is the No. 2 seed, with each receiving first round byes in the WAC Tournament.
613…Wins by Pat Casey at the helm of Oregon State after Sunday’s 7-5 win over Washington State. The 613 victories ties Casey with Jack Riley for the most in OSU history. Beaver Michael Conforto used a three-run home run to set the Oregon State single season record with 69 RBIs this year. He currently leads the Pac-12 and could become the first Beaver to do so since 1982.
2…Million-plus college baseball fans (paid attendance) who flocked to games in SEC stadiums in 2012. It’s the first time any conference has surpassed the two million mark in a season. LSU, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, South Carolina, and Florida drew more than 1.6 million of that total. Conference teams also averaged more than 5,000 per game for the first time ever.