The Texas A&M baseball team should be hell-bent on correcting an injustice after getting about its worst possible NCAA tournament draw.
A&M, which thought it had a resume good enough to be a regional host, was sent to the Morgantown Regional. That’s not bad when you consider the competition. Duke? Fordham? A West Virginia team that was 13-11 in the Big 12? The Aggies probably are the most talented team; the downside is being 1,300 miles from Blue Bell Park. And if the Aggies are lucky — or good enough — to win there, they’ll likely be headed to Nashville for super regionals to play Vanderbilt, which has won 22 of its last 23 games. The reality of the draw is A&M’s chances of reaching the College World Series are slimmer than slim.
It was a double kick in the gut to the Aggies on Monday with Ole Miss getting the 12th national seed. The 12th Man hadn’t gotten over Sunday night’s announcement that the Rebels were one of the 16 hosts. Most figured it was the 16th seed, maybe the 15th seed, and likely took that spot at A&M’s expense. But Ole Miss being the 12th seed was a head-scratcher.
The Rebels’ chances of hosting had been on life support heading into the Southeastern Conference tournament. But a 4-2 record in Hoover, Alabama, gave Ole Miss a draw even it couldn’t have imagined. The second and third seeds at Ole Miss are Illinois and Clemson, which are a combined 25-22 on the road. The Rebels should advance and possibly play fifth-seeded Arkansas in super regionals, and the Razorbacks slide into the tournament having lost four of six. Arkansas dropped the final regular-season series at A&M and went 1-2 in the SEC tournament, which included splitting games with Ole Miss, which won the all-important elimination game. Ole Miss also won the regular-season series at Arkansas. It wouldn’t be surprising if Ole Miss stayed hot and reached Omaha.
The same goes for 13th-seeded LSU. If the Tigers take care of business at home this weekend, they’ll likely be headed to fourth-seeded Georgia. They met in the second week of league play on Georgia’s Foley Field with the Bulldogs winning the series, but all games were competitive.
It would be doubly hard for Aggies to watch Ole Miss and LSU make runs to Omaha. In the SEC West, A&M finished a half game ahead of Ole Miss and was a half game behind LSU, yet their paths in the NCAA tournament bracket are worlds apart. You can argue that Florida, one of the last four teams to make the field, has a better draw than A&M in the Lubbock Regional. A&M would have taken a big following to Texas Tech. Win there, and the Aggies would have been headed possibly to ninth-seeded Oklahoma State. That’s another easy drive and a place the Aggies have some history. A&M’s pitching against Texas Tech or Oklahoma State would have been an interesting matchup.
There’s no doubt the NCAA selection committee didn’t do Texas A&M any favors, but the Aggies have only themselves to blame. They failed to take care of business too many times. A&M was 0-4 against Ole Miss, it went 1-2 against LSU and was 7-7-1 at home in league play. The final blow was at the SEC tournament. A&M’s dramatic 8-7 victory over Florida to open the tournament was special. All that was left to do seemingly was print the regional tickets. The Aggies, though, didn’t score a run in the next 18 innings, while Ole Miss scored big points with the selection committee, as did others, leaving the Ags’ bracket fate to the luck of the draw.
The bottom line is A&M just didn’t do enough for several months.
It opened SEC play on a roll by taking two of three from Vanderbilt, part of a 6-1 start, but by the time it lost two of three to Mississippi State to start May after getting swept at Ole Miss, the Aggies were 12-11-1 in league play — good, but not good enough.
A&M beat Arkansas to end the regular season in a must-win series, then added the must-win against Florida, only to strike out against Georgia and Ole Miss, leaving this team a long shot to reach Omaha, even longer by the luck of the draw.
The good news is A&M can do something about it. That’s more than Missouri (34-22-1), which won’t get to show anyone its frustration. The Tigers were 13-16-1 in the country’s toughest league and were ranked 31st in the NCAA RPI but didn’t make the field. Yet TCU (32-26), which was 11-13 in the Big 12 and ranked 59th in RPI, did make the field.
Missouri also has no one to blame but itself. The Tigers were swept at home by Florida to end the regular season then lost to Ole Miss 2-1 in the SEC tournament.
If only the Tigers had won that game, maybe they’d be in the tournament and the Aggies would be playing at Blue Bell Park on Friday.
Ah, come to think about it, just blame the selection committee. It was their way of showing bias against the last teams to join the SEC.