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  • Cooper Burke

The Case for Mid-Major College Baseball Teams Hosting Regionals

There is no sport like college baseball, which is one of the most evenly-distributed sports in terms of talent. The stars of tomorrow come from all walks of life, whether it be Georgia, LSU, Oregon State, or a school like Columbia or Bucknell, who boast Lou Gherig and Christy Mathewson, respectively.

The sport’s metal bats and 11.7 scholarships make for whacky and unlikely moments. Top players can come from every sort of school, so it only makes sense that the postseason tournament showcase the best of the sport, regardless of their conference. This means that the NCAA needs to allow more mid-major teams (outside of the power 4) to host regionals.

More often than not, a regional host advances to the super regionals, which takes the 16 winners of the 64 and pits them against each other in a best two out of three series. The top eight seeds from the regionals host a super-regional. The eight winners then advance to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.

While it may be true that college baseball is top-heavy with the power concentrated in the SEC, some of the best players come from smaller schools. Take Cal State Fullerton, for example. They boast fantastic alumni including Michael Lorenzen, Matt Chapman, J.D. Davis, and others, as well as an eye-popping four College World Series titles.

Other schools like Eastern and Coastal Carolina boast solid programs, as well as UNC-Wilmington. Their conferences are still full of talent, even if they do not get the benefit of the doubt by the committee that other schools in the SEC and ACC schools do. For example, Florida went 17-17 in conference play. Granted, they did have a series win at Georgia, the number seven team in the country, but they got in over College of Charleston, who went 41-14 overall with series wins at UNCW, Penn and Wofford, all teams in the tournament this year.

As far as hosting, the Indiana State Sycamores should have hosted a regional out of the Ohio Valley Conference. The team went an impressive 44-14, with a neutral site win over UConn, and a series win over a tournament team in Evansville. Their reward? They entered as the two-seed in the Lexington regional, home to the number two-overall seed Kentucky.

A similar thing happened in 2023, when the Sycamores earned the right to host their own regional. They advanced out of their own regional. However, their campus accommodations were deemed inadequate by the NCAA, and so they essentially lost the right to host, and did not get to host a super, either. They had to play the regional as the number-one seed 800 miles away from campus at TCU and unsurprisingly lost out in the supers when they met up with TCU.

Home field advantage is so important in college baseball. For instance, seven-seeded UGA had an away record of 8-9, while they were 31-5 at home. Had they not swept then-ranked South Carolina on the road, their host bid would have been out of the question. Thus, denying teams home field advantage can torpedo any chance of success they had in the postseason. For example, nine of 16 teams hosting a regional in 2023 made it to the supers.

It is important for more mid-major teams to get the benefit of the doubt going into the tournament, as the talent distribution is fairly even. Because of the 11.7 scholarship rule, most teams’ rosters are made up of in-state kids, and the few out of state kids are usually the best on the team, as they get the scholarships. This means that talent distribution outside of the SEC is even across most of the leagues, which is why mid-majors such as CSU Fullerton and Long Beach State can make deep runs in the NCAA tournament.

A mid-major team making the tournament, let alone hosting, does wonders for a program. Players are much more inclined to play for a program that achieves some success on the national stage, thus shifting the balance of power more towards the middle. If mid-major teams get the same benefit of the doubt SEC teams do and are held to the same standards, the tournament becomes deeper overall. It makes little sense to let a high-major team hovering around .500 into the tournament when mid majors with 40+ wins are being kept out of the tournament, even as a four seed.

Deep mid-major runs bring great stories to the forefront of college baseball, and create generational success for these programs. Without them, players like Ron Darling, Adam Ottavino and hall-of-famers Craig Biggio and Kirby Puckett would not have shone in the tournament spotlight. Mid-major programs make the sport better, and they can play with the best teams out there. Why not give them a chance to prove it in the tournament on their own turf?

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