When I was sitting at lunch today, a co-worker and I were discussing the hosting a regional/traveling to a regional possibilities. We both agreed that we could win a regional and a super if our hitting would come around because our starting pitching has been decent as of late. After looking at a couple of different break-downs of the baseball happenings across the country last weekend, I cannot help but think our regional hosting chances are diminishing. Let's run through a couple of scenarios through which our path to Omaha could go. (Note: I'll be using Kendall Rogers' regional projections from last week as a basis. They can be found here)
First, let's assume that we win two this weekend and have a decent showing in Hoover. That would make us a regional host. More than likely, we would be paired with Coastal Carolina, Louisville, Texas, or TCU.
If we get paired with Texas, we have little to no chance of making it out of a super regional. As far as Louisville is concerned, we've already lost 2 of 3 to them. However, I'd like our chances. With TCU and Coastal, their level of competition isn't very high so it is possible that we could out-talent them. I respect Coastal and their undefeated conference record, but I still like our chances. Any other pairing with the likes of Virginia or ASU would be certain death.
This is not really the game I wanted to play though. Let's assume that we lost two of three against Auburn. With that in mind, I think of ways that we could luck our way into Omaha. Remember 2006 when Miami went to national seeded Nebraska's regional and won it without ever having to play Nebraska? We deserve that type of luck in our own regional. With a little luck and Pomeranz and Barrett going back-to-back, I think we could make it to game 3 of a regional.
Let the what-ifs begin....
What if we got into the Louisville Regional? Let's be honest here... I love Dan McDonnell. However, he isn't even first in the Big East!!! Friday night, his team lost the opener to St. John's. The point is that they are not invincible. We pitch Drew on Friday to beat a #3 seed that's something like La-Lafayette, and we use Barrett to beat Louisville like we did in Oxford. Then we'd pray Goforth could get us the win on Sunday. Hey, it could happen.
What if we were sent to the Coastal Carolina regional? Well, we'd match up against #3 seed Elon or something of the sort. They usually have a good club, but we shouldn't lose to them. What happens with game 2 against Coastal? I think this is when we need #4 seed James Madison to knock them off in an upset in round one.
What about another trip to Coral Gables? Can we beat Miami? Miami is an interesting case this season. We would be facing them in game two granted we win in game one. The've only lost one game 2 all season (@ NC State), and it would be really hard to win that one. Plus, Miami Coach Jim Morris can flat out coach in the post season.
How about a different host site in the Sunshine State? Tallahassee maybe? Kendall had Auburn as the two seed in the Tallahassee regional. Since this scenario has them taking two from us, I think they'll be hosting and not on the road. That means that we could fill in the #2 seed at FSU. We would have to beat a pretty good South Alabama club to get a shot at host FSU. FSU has had their share of post-season collapses recently (see 2007 versus MS State), and it might do the trick for Bianco's club. The down-side of being in this regional is that Florida is the more than likely super regional destination. Even though we are the only team to which Florida has lost a series all year, I don't see us winning two series against them.
Is a trip out West a death sentence? In short, yes. Tim Esmay has done an outstanding job at Arizona State this season. As interim coach, he has guided them to being in the top three in every poll. I don't see how they could lose their own regional. It would take a Fresno State-like 4 seed to do something of that sort. I don't see us getting sent out west because so few western host sites causes western teams to be shipped across the country because of a lack of space in local regionals. It's more likely that we stay within a twelve hour radius of Oxford.
What it comes down to is... being good enough to host a super regional. We had our fare share of chances, but we squandered them. The only other alternative at this point is getting hot at the right time. It happens to someone every year (MS State 2007, Fresno State 2008, Southern Miss 2009). Why can't we be the hot, lucky team?
Your thoughts are welcome...