Tuesday, June 26, 2012

College World Series Wrap Up

By Keith Antigiovanni

The 2012 College World Series seems like it just began but it was over after the Arizona Wildcats outlasted the South Carolina Gamecocks 4-1 in game 2 after beating the Gamecocks on Sunday night. The game was tied 1-1 in the eighth inning until Arizona broke the game open to give Coach Andy Lopez his first national title since 1992 when he led the Pepperdine Waves to the CWS title.

Arizona won its first CWS title since 1986,fourth overall and represents the PAC-12 first CWS title since 1998 when USC won their most recent championship.

South Carolina under Coach Ray Tanner was striving to become the first team to win three straight titles since the USC Trojans of the early 1970's (1970-1974) but were shut down by Arizona pitcher Konnor Wade putting them behind the eight ball going into Monday night.

Arizona's victory helps put the once powerful PAC-12 back on the college baseball map after SEC domination the past two decades with LSU (6 titles), South Carolina (3 finals, 2 titles) and Georgia (2 finals and 1 title).

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Interleague Play: Is it Over Yet?

By Keith Antigiovanni

After what seems like a few months of interleague play in major league baseball I'm ready for intraleague play to begin. The two things I have finally concluded about this experiment is:

1) The American League is much better team for team, 22 games better thus far
2) There are two many interleague games (252), over 10% of all major league games.

Fortunately this year the West, Central and East teams were all matched against their interleague counterparts which made it easier to figure out when the games were on since most of the teams were in the same time zones. For anyone who follows minor league baseball all of these regional match-ups bring back memories of AAA baseball which is also regional.

The AL West vs the NL West conjures up images of the old Pacific Coast League when there teams up and down the West Coast teams in the PCL such as the Los Angeles Angels, San Francisco Seals, San Diego Padres, Oakland Oaks and Seattle Rainiers.

The AL Central vs the NL Central also brings back images of the old American Association (1902-1962, 1969-1997) which was the AAA league in the midwest that include the old Denver Bears, Minneapolis Millers, St. Paul Saints, Kansas City Blues, etc.

And finally the AL East vs the NL East brings back memories of the old majors and the eastern AAA league, the International League, when they were based in the east prior to expansion (1961). Of course there were no major league teams in Tampa Bay, Miami or Atlanta then but Toronto, Baltimore and Atlanta spent time as International League cities before they became major league towns.

The first few interleague series were interesting but the novelty has worn off and I'm eagerly awaiting the beginning of intraleague play again next week.

Monday, June 18, 2012

College World Series

By Keith Antigiovanni

Who said baseball isnt popular in the South? When people think of sports in the southern region of the United States they tend to think football or NASCAR even though college baseball and minor league professional baseball have been popular in the South since the early 1900's.

The success of the Southeastern Conference (SEC) in college football is well known among sports fans but the success of the SEC in college baseball the past 23 years has been much more subtle as the conference sent three teams to the College World Series (CWS) for the second straight year.

Eight teams qualify for the CWS in Omaha every year and since 1990 (23 years) the SEC has sent 45 teams out of a possible 184 slots which amounts to almost one quarter. In 2004 the SEC sent half the teams and have sent three teams 6 times (1996, 1997, 1998, 2011, 2012).

An SEC team are the defending back-to-back champions, South Carolina and in 2011 they defeated another SEC team, Florida in the final Series. The LSU Tigers have also been a powerhouse in that span with 12 trips to Omaha and 6 championships (1991, 1993, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2009).

Georgia is the only other SEC team to the win the title when they won in 1990 and made the final series in 2008. Every team besides Mississippi and Kentucky have made to the CWS in that time.

What are the keys to the SEC success in college baseball? It could be many things:

1) strong athletic programs
2) enthusiastic fan bases
3) carryover from the college football
4) quality stadiums

While SEC baseball fans cheer on their teams in the month of June the college football season is just over two months away. Will college baseball ever be as popular as college football in the South? Probably not but it seems to be as popular there as anywhere else in the nation.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

2012 College World Series

By Keith Antigiovanni

The NCAA's "Elite Eight" also known as the College World Series begins this friday (June 15) in Omaha, Nebraska. This will be the 66th annual College World Series and the 63rd consecutive time in Omaha.

Of the 8 finalists, 6 are no surprise (Florida, South Carolina, Florida State, UCLA, Arkansas and Arizona) but two (Kent State, Stony Brook) were not expected to be in Nebraska this weekend when the playoffs began a couple of weeks ago.

For the first time in many years almost all of the teams have not won a CWS title, with South Carolina being the exception as the defending back-to-back champions and Arizona.

Bracket one will play on friday with UCLA taking on Stony Brook and Arizona versus Florida State.
The Bruins made the final series in 2010 but lost 2-1 to South Carolina. Florida State has made numerous appearances in the College World Series but has yet to win the title.

Bracket two will play on saturday as Arkansas goes against Kent State and Florida faces South Carolina in a rematch of the Final series from last year.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

2012 NBA Finals

By Keith Antigiovanni

After a lockout in the first two months of the regular season and 23 weeks of regular/post season basketball the two participants of the NBA Finals are finally set.

Eastern Conference:
The champions of the Eastern Conference, Miami Heat are in their second consecutive NBA Finals and third in the past 7 years. The Heat had a good regular season (46-20), a first round playoff sweep of the New York Knicks and two very turbulent playoff series against the Indiana Pacers and Boston Celtics.

Since Lebron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers for Miami as a free agent almost two years ago the Heat were expected to not only win an NBA title but become a dynasty after James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh infamous press conference/ stage appearance.

Miami struggled at times in the 2010-2011 season but pulled it together in the playoffs and won the Eastern Conference only to lose against the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals. Coming into this year the pressure was even greater for the talented trio from South Beach and facing elimination twice against Boston this week Miami posted two resounding victories in games 6 and 7 to get another chance at a championship.

Western Conference:
The champions of the Western Conference, Oklahoma City Thunder are in their first NBA Finals since 1996 when they were the Seattle Sonics but first Finals' since they moved to Oklahoma four years ago.

The Thunder have improved significantly every year since 2008-2009 when they were 23-59, the following they made the playoffs but were eliminated in the first round. In 2010-2011 Oklahoma City won the Northwest and reached the Western Conference Finals but like Miami lost to the Dallas Mavericks however the Thunder appeared to be a team on the rise.

In 2011-2012 the Thunder finished tied with the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference for the best record and won the Northwest again. Oklahoma City also managed to polish off the three Western Conference powers in consecutive playoff rounds.

They swept Dallas in four in the first round, defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in five games in the second round and knocked off the venerable San Antonio Spurs in 6 games after they were down 2-0.

In the process the Thunder become the first team besides Dallas, LA and San Antonio to win the Western Conference since the Utah Jazz in 1997-1998.

Game 1 will be on Tuesday and it will match the superstar-filled Miami Heat with all the pressure in the world on them against the built-from-scratch Oklahoma City Thunder who are young, athletic and appear to have no pressure on them.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

NCAA Baseball Super Regionals

By Keith Antigiovanni

The NCAA Super Regionals, baseball's "Sweet 16" round is set and will begin play this friday between June 8 and June 11

Florida will face North Carolina State in Gainesville
South Carolina hosts Oklahoma in Columbia
Oregon plays Kent State in Eugene
Baylor takes on Arkansas in Waco
TCU travels to Los Angeles to face UCLA
LSU is at home in Baton Rouge against Stony Brook
Arizona is in Tucson to face St. John's
Florida State is also home in Tallahassee versus Stanford

The winners of the 8 Super Regionals will advance to the 63rd College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska in two weeks.