Thursday, June 2, 2011

Play Ball, Finally

TigerBlog isn't sure if everyone heard the news yet, so he'll repeat it here for those who missed it: Jim Tressel is out as Ohio State's football coach.

What's that? Oh, you heard it?

Obviously you heard it. Everyone heard it. How could you not, what with ESPN's never-ending coverage of the story as it broke Monday morning?

TigerBlog was flipping through the channels before heading over to M&T Bank Stadium Monday for the NCAA men's lacrosse final, and on ESPN it was all Tressel, all the time. It was so completely over the top that TB didn't really understand how someone in a position of authority at ESPN didn't say "enough already, just put on one of the '30 for 30' documentaries."

The list of upcoming stories on ESPNEWS said "Memorial Day Memories" was two away, and TB thought that it was referring either 1) to something military related or 2) something lacrosse related, so he figured he'd watch it. Instead, the Tressel story just dragged on and on and on, with one commentator after another talking about the situation, which seemed to be 1) obvious and 2) inevitable.

Eventually, TB realized that he was never going to see the Memorial Day peice, so he switched the station to the NCIS marathon. TB is positive he would love the show NCIS, though he's never gotten into it. Instead, he's seen every episode of Criminal Minds.

As an aside, TB thinks a better show would be to film the writers from Criminal Minds as they talk about their storylines. "Hey," one would say, "why not have him be a cannibal in addition to just a serial killer."

After completing his first-ever episode of NCIS, TB eventually made it back to ESPN for more Tressel.

Eventually, though, TB did see something from the Worldwide Leader that he was interested in, the draw for the NCAA baseball tournament.

Way, way, way back on May 8, Princeton defeated Dartmouth 8-5 in the third game of the Ivy League championship series to clinch the league title and earn a spot in the NCAA tournament.

The gap between those two accomplishments was four weeks.

The NCAA draw was finally held Monday, and Princeton drew Texas in the opening round of a four-team regional that also includes Texas State and Kent State. The double-elimination event will produce one team that advances to next weekend's Super Regionals.

Texas, of course, is the clear favorite. The Longhorns have won nearly as many games (43) as Princeton has played (45), and there are few teams in college baseball that have the history that the Longhorns do.

In fact, no team has played in the NCAA tournament more than Texas, who will be making its 54th appearance. Princeton, for the record, will be there for the 11th time. Their all time NCAA records are 3-19 (Princeton) and 219-107 (Texas), and Texas has six NCAA titles on its resume.

Now it's time for this question: Which team has hit more home runs this year?

TB assumed Texas mashed the ball all over the place, but that's not quite true. In fact, Princeton has out-homered the Longhorns, who have hit just 13 in their 58 games, to 17 in 45 games for Princeton.

Texas makes up for it by having the No. 1 pitching staff in college baseball, with a 2.25 team ERA. Texas is also the No. 1 ranked fielding percentage team in the country and the third-ranked team in terms of sacrifice bunts.

On the one hand, playing against a team like that is difficult, because it puts pressure on every scoring opportunity Princeton gets and puts pressure on Princeton's pitchers to not give up more than a run or two.

On the other hand, it's probably not going to be 6-0 after the third inning, which means that the game will have a chance to develop and probably will be close throughout.

And, with the baseball tournament, there's always the opportunity to come back the next day should the first game be a loss.

And who knows, there is always the chance to make a run deep into the weekend.

For Princeton, that chance comes four weeks after the team last played. TB can't think of a sport where a four-week layoff at the peak of competition would be helpful, but it's worst in baseball.

Any momentum Princeton had after playing nearly 20 games in the four weeks prior to clinching the Ivy title is long gone. And intra-squad games and simulated games for pitchers only take you so far in staying sharp.

Still, at first pitch tomorrow night, none of it will matter.

The big story is that, after a 12-30 season last year, the Tigers are still playing.

Even after a four-week layoff.

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