Sunday Summations - March Madness reaches the diamond too

This March Madness thing is awesome. Each year I get this adrenaline rush just watching it. I just wish it didn't have to go on at the same time as college baseball. But we cant' have everything we want in this world. So we deal.

KUdancers.jpg
(Kansas dancers put a perfect accentuation on March Madness
You know, college baseball could use some dance girls too.)

Let's get quickly to our best and worst of Sunday and then dive into that beloved Ouch List, 'coz frankly, there was a lot of pain doled out today on diamonds across the country.

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THREE UP---
1- Missouri pitching.
Unbelievable. Combining today's 12-2, run-rule-shortened win to Friday and Saturday's 3-0 and 7-0 beatdowns, you get Aaron Crow, Ian Berger, Nick Tepesch and Kyle Gibson striking out 28 Baylor batters and holding the Bears to six hits this weekend. That's 26 innings and just six... freaking... hits. I don't use exclamation points often, but damn!

Mizzou is now 18-2 overall and probably still destined to get ranked too low.


2- ACC bats.
Either nobody brought a pitching staff or the ACC games today were played with only five fielders taking the field to play defense.
- Miami beat Wake 23-2.
Then the Canes led game two 9-1 in the 4th, but it was called because of lighting.
- North Carolina beat Maryland 19-1.
Fedroff and Flack combine for two grand slams and 11RBI. Heels also get a 10BBs gift as well.
- Florida State beat Virginia Tech 18-12.
Both Dennis Guinn and Tony Delmonico go 4-for-5. Guinn hits HRs 8 and 9 on the year with 5RBI.
- Virginia *only* beat Boston College 8-6.
Compared to everyone else here, Jeremy Farrell's 2-for-4, HR, 4RBI performance looks paltry.
- And then there was the Clemson-NC State game, where the two teams had the gall to finish 2-0 (CU won). Graham Stoneburner (cool name) threw a complete game 2-hitter to improve to 4-0 on the year.


3- North Carolina-Wilmington
Completed a three-game sweep of William & Mary with an 8-3 win.
The Seahawks are on a nation's best 16-game winning streak, including three straight over the vastly improved Tribe by a combined 33-10. The arm staff held the best hitting team in the CAA to a .248 average on the weekend. At 17-4, UNC-W is now off to its best start since 1985 and are now 9-0 in CAA play.

Surprisingly, the Seahawks don't have any stats that will rip the strings off your rickenbacker - .301 team average, 4.62 team ERA - but since the 1-4 start, they've been on fire. Admittedly, it's been pretty easy sailing, but with eight of the next nine games on the road, we'll get a better read on this red-hot team over the next two weeks.

I know I'm watching with interest.


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THREE DOWN---
1- Baylor.
See above. No further explanation necessary.


2- Vanderbilt's curious losses.
Lost today 10-3 at Alabama.
The Commodores discovered that the road isn't so kind, losing twice at Alabama. Plus they continue to be an unpredictable up-and-down team in general. Mostly up, sure. But today's rout means that Vandy falls to 3-3 in the SEC and 14-6 overall. But the troubling thing is when you consider the teams they've lost to. Bama just now got up to .500 with today's win (11-11). They've also lost games to Illinois-Chicago (10-7) and Iowa (6-8). Plus, throw in the gigantic losses to Arizona State and South Carolina and you see why Vanderbilt's losses are such head-scratchers.


3- The Missouri Valley Conference home teams.
All four homebodies in the MVC went down to defeat today.
Wichita State won at Illinois State 7-2
Creighton won at Missouri State 8-4
Indiana State won at Southern Illinois 15-6
Bradley won at Evansville 11-6.

The Shockers had four pitchers combine for 18Ks (starter Anthony Capra tossed 12) vs. the Redbirds and 3B Conor Gillaspie was a single short of hitting for the cycle as well. (C'mon, I'm not too smart or anything, but isn't the single the easiest to get?)


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THE OUCH LIST FOR MARCH 23RD---
It's a long one this time people, because I've got a lot of baseball to catch up on. So here we go.

- Kentucky.
Results:
Lost two of three at Auburn. (L2-0, L7-5, W9-8)
Why it hurts:
It's not a major shock or anything, but this does raise a red flag since we were all bamboozled by last year's identical 19-0 start by a big blue team with a weak schedule that didn't even make the eight team field of the SEC tournament in May. But no worries BatCats, you've got a weekend series with South Carolina up next to ease our fears.

- Duke
Results:
Lost two of three at Georgia Tech (L5-4, L4-2, W10-3)
Why it hurts:
Well, ya' know... now that I think of it, if this was any other Duke team from the last few years they probably would've gone to Atlanta and got clubbed by double-digits. So, Duke, you're off the hook. You played good, competitive baseball and you don't deserve to be on the Ouch List after all. Hell, you blew Tech out in game three anyway.

- Oklahoma
Results:
Lost two of three at Nebraska (L4-2, L4-3, T8-8)
Why it hurts:
This is another one of those cases where a team makes the Ouch List, not for a horrible weekend of baseball, but because they lost in such a painful manner. The Sooners are a good team. For six innings at the Friday game I was able to make, they were the better team. But luck wasn't on their side in Lincoln this weekend, losing on Friday's jog-off home run by Craig Corriston, stranding the tying run at third on Saturday and falling victim to the accursed travel curfew today.

- Rutgers
Results:
Lost three straight at home to St. John's (L12-5, L2-0, L12-9)
Why it hurts:
I've been giving Coach Hill's Knights some benefit of the doubt, especially after winning at Georgia Tech, at Old Dominion and at Texas A&M. But Rutgers may not be the Big East contender I thought they were going to be. Granted, I saw St. John's at Northridge and they're going to be a really good team come May and June, but I didn't expect a sweep. RU now falls to 5-12.

- Hartford
Results:
Went 1-3 at UNC-Asheville (L9-1, W11-4, L33-8) and vs. Brown (L25-9) this weekend.
Why it hurts:
The Hawks got a good win over UNC-A on Friday, but man! That Saturday DH was some kind of painful, losing to the two teams by a combined 58-17. Let's hope this isn't one of those confidence crushers that can ruin a season. Buck up Hawks!

- North Carolina Central.
Results:
Went 0-4 against schools with names like Elizabeth City State and Chowan.
Why it hurts:
First NCC fell victim to Coppin State two weeks ago, breaking the Eagles 55-game losing streak. And now this? Tsk, tsk. But the Eagles did manage to sweep two from St. Augustine's today, 3-2 and 4-0. Wait... who is St. Augustine's again?

- TCU
Results:
Lost two of three vs. New Mexico (W10-2, L7-5, L5-3)
Why it hurts:
The Frogs have dominated the MWC since joining in 2006 and were expected to do so again this season. But they will sing a different song after all, especially in light of the improved Lobos coming to Lupton Stadium and winning this series. Lobo DH Bobby Moore's grand slam accounted for Saturday's series-clinching win.

- UCLA
Results:
Lost three straight vs. Long Beach State (L13-3, L3-2, L10-3)
Why it hurts:
Just like the Beach, the previously No. 1 ranked Bruins were known for their pitching this season. But the light-hitting Dirtbags put a big bruise on the Bruin ego this weekend, garnering 32 hits in all. UCLA, now 10-8, must regroup as fast as it can since Pac 10 play is on the way. They must hope that signals redemption opportunities.

- Arizona.
Results:
Lost two of three at USC (W10-2, L5-0, L5-0)
Why it hurts:
Coupled with the 6-5 loss to arch rival Arizona State, the No. 2-ranked Wildcats went 1-3 this week. And the two blankings at the hands of the Trojans was a stunner, especially for a team that came into the week hitting a crisp .335 against pretty good competition.

- William & Mary
Result:
Was swept in three games at UNC-Wilmington (L9-2, L16-5, L8-3)
Why it hurts:
As mentioned above, this team looked legit, but now, at 16-8 on the season, I wonder. Especially after UNCW shut down their previously CAA-best offense this weekend.


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QUICK HITS---
- Dale Williams, part II.
In my haste to get my Thursday Thoughts out, I had forgotten to post a picture of ex-umpire Dale Williams. So to make amends, well, here you go... the man, the myth, the legend:

Me&DaleWilliams2.jpg

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- Pictures of the most famous pickoff in CWS history.
Also, I had found a picture montage of the famous "Phantom Pickoff" that Mr. Williams nearly blew dead. This is from the Miami media guide of 2006. Sorry that it may be a little bit small to see, but I couldn't blow the image up bigger because it would become all pixelated. But you can see where Phil Stephenson takes off toward second and gets there, only to be thrown out, much to his surprise:

1982MiamiTrickPlay.jpg

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- What ever happened to...
Oddibe McDowell?
(Also forgot this featurette from Thursday... damn basketball tournament getting me off my game in baseball coverage). The former Arizona State Sun Devil center fielder played in 1983 and '84 and was just the third Devil to have his number retired behind Bobby Winkles and Reggie Jackson. Was the Golden Spikes Award winner in '84 after hitting .405-23-74 and stealing 36 bases.

Oddibe.jpg
(Oddibe was a bad man with a cool name)


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THE WORST STRETCH OF INTERSTATE?---
Omaha to Lincoln. And back.
The 52-mile stretch of I-80 between the two cities is wrought with speed swings more fluctuating that Sybll. The mph's go like this:
60-to-65-to-75-to-60-to-75-to-55-to-65-to-60.
There are many stretches of orange construction barrels in places here and there. But there's not a single indication of any kind of construction. It almost looks like they were placed out there because there was a lack of storage space. There are also long stretches of road where you must stay in your own lane and passing is restricted.

I don't get it.


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A COUPLE OF QUICK OBSERVATIONS OF THE OMAHA REGIONAL---
And yes, I'm talking basketball here, but you might dig it. It was a great time at a great venue, but without great games. All six games I worked at the Qwest Center ended up with double-digit winning margins. But here are a few best and worst type of things you might enjoy...

1- The Qwest Center is nice. Like a cool kind of nice.
Omaha definitely wanted a first-class arena to attract a better level of entertainment and events, and, well, they hit the freakin' bullseye. It's one of the nicer facilities I've been to.

One problem: Why on earth did they insist on putting in a stadium-full of battleship-grey colored seats? The entire arena has grey seats. No color patterns to delineate upper from lower seats. No nothing. Take your grey seat and like it. It makes the surroundings look very cold and uncomfortable. They needed Queer Eye for the Straight Guy to head up the design of the chairs.


2- All the excitement of a funeral procession
Unfortunately, as I mentioned, there was no drama, no intrigue and no good games played at the Omaha Regional. I was assigned to cover a group of six games that had not a single result end in anything less than a double-digit win total. C'mon people, where is the March Madness? Damn.


3- Post game press conferences are mostly a waste of freakin' time.
There's rarely, rarely anything said that is worthy or unexpected, especially by the athletes. And it's obvious that most of them are rather not well-read. Michael Beasley looked like Sleepy and sounded like Mushmouth when he was at the dais. As great as he is to watch on the court, he's difficult to watch in a press conference. And K-State coach Frank Martin mostly used the pressers to just rail against media types who asked about his team having a cold streak after the February win over Kansas and to repeatedly refer to his players a "great bunch of kids". I mean, it's okay to say that, sure, but to constantly hammer it to the people there... makes me wonder what he's hiding about these guys.

BeasleyPressConf.jpg
(Michael Beasley after K-State was eliminated. Illuminating nothing.)


4- Really, do we NEED to call them "student-athletes"?
I was at a regional that featured Beasley, Bill Walker, O.J. Mayo, Devon Jefferson, Darrell Arthur and Brandon Rush. There's no reason for the press conference moderator or CBS play-by-play guys to refer to them as anything but athletes. There are plenty of good students in college basketball, sure. And those are the ones I salute more than anyone else. But here in the NCAA tournament, it's the teams with more athletes than just students tend to win more.


5- No wonder *most* media guys are wicked huge.
I wanted to take a picture of it, but I left my camera in press row at the time, but when I went to the media buffet on Thursday, there was all kinds of food offerings for the media members there. Pasta, sandwiches, pizza, cookies, cake, etc. But the gigantor bowl of salad? Barely a lick of it had been eaten. Nearly unmolested by the serving forks sitting next to it. (I actually loved the salad.)


6- A couple of celebrity sightings in Omaha.
Pat Riley, Larry Johnson, governor of Kansas Karen Something-or-other, former K-State football coach Bill Snyder and former ESPN baseball analyst Harold Reynolds were all spotted in the crowd this weekend. The only one I didn't see personally was Reynolds. Which reminds me, anyone know what he's doing nowadays? Ever since his repeated come-on remarks to female workers at ESPN got him railroaded out of town, I haven't heard anything about him. Then again, I don't follow pro baseball too much, so lemme know if you know.

Of the media types, I saw ESPN squawker Jay Mariotti, CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd and former Houston Cougar and current color commentator for Westwood One, Reid Gettys.

7- Do I look? Or do I not? This is awkward.
Okay, I know cheerleaders are a vital part of college basketball. But I gotta admit something I'm not comfortable with. When the guy cheerleaders hold the girls up in the air and the girl cheerleaders do that thing where they lift one leg up high and hold it with their hand, fully exposing their coochie-koo areas that are covered with nothing more than speedo-like underpants.

Now, am I supposed to look at them and cheer for this? Or, since I was sitting 15 feet from them, am I supposed to ignore them? And worse yet, on the numerous occasions when I had my camera out to take pictures of the games and the atmosphere, and the cheerleaders and dance girls were out on the court, I felt like everybody was looking at me saying, "look at that pervert with his camera out every time the cheerleaders go to perform out on the court!"

Dammit people! What am I supposed to do? I hate cheerleaders.

8- Warren Buffet's house.
I can't believe a multi-billionaire that is the richest man in America lives in this modest, two-story house with no security fence and no rabid doberman's protecting it. Apparently he bought the house just East of UNO for $31,000 in the mid-70s and has lived there ever since. Here's a pic.

WarrenBuffetHouse2.jpg
(A modest house sure, but could he afford property in Southern California?)

9- When I left Omaha at 7am on Sunday morning, it was 35 degrees. When I landed in Los Angeles at 12:45pm that same day, it was 85 degrees out. Damn Santa Ana winds... (that's where the wind blows warm air from the desert toward the coast).

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Okay, hope you enjoyed your own March Madness on the diamond. I did. I also got a huge rush of roundball madness too. I just wish there were more upsets this year. Especially in Omaha.

Oh well, maybe all those upsets will be saved for Omaha in June instead.

G'night.

Comments

I have to drive that stretch from Omaha and Lincoln a lot, and let me tell you...I couldn't agree with you more. It's just absolutely terrible...you can't set your car on cruise control that's for sure.

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Eric Sorenson Eric Sorenson
Eric Sorenson is CSTV.com's National Baseball Columnist, and also appears on CSTV as a baseball expert