College Baseball season wrap-up
As we roll into July and creep closer to the start of college football season, I think it is only appropriate I provide my final thoughts on the 2018 college baseball season. First, I want to again reiterate my greatness in getting both teams in the Finals, AND picking the winner correctly as well as the 2-1 series win correctly. And yes, I know that Arkansas was one strike and a catch of a pop up away from making me dead wrong. However, Arkansas didn't catch the pop up, and the Beavers came through with a game-tying single, followed by a 2-run blast to go from the "agony of defeat" to the "thrill of victory." Sometimes that is the breaks; I have to go way back to the regional when my Seminoles were eliminated by Miss. State on a walk-off HR in their own park when the batter was down to his last strike with 2 outs in the 9th to remember something crushing like that happening in the college baseball postseason. However, having it happen when you literally are one strike from being crowned national champion is soul-crushing. It couldn't happen to a nicer conference. As I like to say when the superior sports conference comes up short (really in any sport, but particularly in one of the 3 major sports), you can't spell SECOND without SEC.
I do want to give special recognition to freshman pitcher Kevin Abel for Oregon State. The kid became the first pitcher to win both games of the College World Series Championship Series and the first pitcher to pitch 10 innings without giving up a run. He was dominant and did I mention he was a freshman? I also want to commend the pitching on both teams (see, I can say nice things about the SEC when actually warranted). Despite getting some spotty starting pitching on both sides at times, the bullpens were great generally and gave both teams a real chance to win. With that being said, my opinion is still the same about the sport this year. From having watched a lot of the postseason, this just seemed like a down year for college baseball. I consistently saw good to "great" teams make major errors or mental mistakes repeatedly. From the Beaver player who failed to slide in Game 1 resulting in a run being taken off the scoreboard (and the runner being stranded), to bunting into double plays, to untimely walks and hit by pitches, to the ultimate blunder by missing the popup that would have made Arkansas the champ, I just thought it looked like single-A baseball most of the time. You saw glimpses of terrific arms like Knight of Arkansas and Abel of Oregon State, but even the other "aces" that pitched did not look good. Hey, it's not always easy to play well when so much is on the line, but I really wouldn't expect so many mistakes in such big games.
As for the season itself, it might help SEC fanatics to know that I agree the SEC was the best conference in college baseball this year. The ACC had a down year with Miami and Virginia left home, and FSU, Clemson, and NC State not even making it out of home regionals. Although not the best conference this year, the Pac-12 was better than advertised in my opinion, and we know that now after having seen Oregon State win it all, Washington make the CWS and acquit themselves very well, and with Stanford having hovered in the top 2-3 almost all year (despite ultimately losing to their nemesis, Fullerton State, in a home regional). It also goes to show that just because your conference has the national champion, it does NOT necessarily mean that it is the best conference; this is a concept SEC fanatics have a hard time comprehending when the conference has a team win a championship (oh well, denial is a river that runs through most SEC towns). All in all, and not deliberately taking a shot here, the SEC was the strongest and has to be upset that with 10 teams in the tournament, 3 in the "Final Four," and Arkansas a strike away, the conference comes up empty here. Chances are the ACC will be better next year, the Pac-12 looks to be on an uptick, and although the SEC will be very good again, this is a year that got away from them.
My final thought of the season is for fellow FSU alums/fans. For all of you wanting Mike Martin gone, hang in there as we now know he has ONE MORE YEAR. I am NOT as anxious to get rid of him as most are. Did he make a huge mistake by bringing Parrish back in after such a long rain delay and making so many pitches? Yes, I believe so. Did it backfire despite being one strike away from it being a non-issue? Yes. However, the man is a legend and this program is the most consistent winner in the history of the sport. It's not really an opinion, the stats show it is fact. Yes, I would love for FSU to win it all, but if Arkansas can lose in the cruel fashion they lost, is it really the coach's fault if a team makes mistakes in big spots (as FSU has done repeatedly in the past)? I am sure Dave Van Horn told this guys to "catch it." Anyways, be careful what you wish for. I just don't see anyone keeping the program as consistently good as Martin, because NO ONE ELSE HAS. So, I will root like heck for him to win it next year (but he probably won't), then cross my fingers that we get lucky and get a coach that's even half as good as him. Peace out, college baseball!