Minn. coach: SB, Kent St. 'beat unbelievable odds'
OMAHA, Neb. -- Kent State coach Scott Stricklin says his team and fellow College World Series newcomer Stony Brook have "put some holes" in the argument that the NCAA baseball structure is patently unfair to cold-weather programs.
Minnesota coach John Anderson, however, isn't backing down from his belief that northern schools should consider banding together to form their own association and play for their own championship.
"Those two teams beat unbelievable odds," Anderson said Thursday. "Good for them. I'm happy for them and wish them luck. Yes, Stony Brook and Kent State give us some hope, but is it sustainable? That is the question."
Anderson, the winningest baseball coach in Big Ten history, suggested in February that his conference and others in the North should break away from the NCAA's traditional February-to-June schedule and play when the weather in the northern climes is more favorable. Purdue coach Doug Schreiber has proposed that the NCAA allow teams to play 14-18 fall games whose results would carry over to the spring, when the season would resume.
Because of snow and cold, some northern teams must play their first 20 games on the road. Losing home-field advantage early in the season can lead to losses that negatively affect RPI, one of the main tools used for selecting teams for the NCAA tournament.
Anderson said some northern schools have been reluctant to put resources into baseball because of the lack of national-level success -- which creates further distance between the haves and have-nots in the sport.
Kent State and Stony Brook made it to Omaha despite having to play on the road for regionals and super regionals.
Before this year, the last cold-weather school in the CWS was Nebraska in 2005, though some would argue 2006-07 champion Oregon State fits the bill as a northern team even though it is on the West Coast.
Either way, northern representation has been spotty since the NCAA tournament discontinued a true regional format in 1987.
Stricklin said Kent State and Stony Brook have proved cold weather is not insurmountable, noting both have built the core of their programs with players from their regions.
"We develop a toughness about ourselves and develop a chip on our shoulder," Stricklin said. "It is possible to get here. For two teams to do it this year is pretty ironic because of the steam that was coming around with that argument. It does put some holes in that. We're thrilled to be here, thrilled to represent the North and hope it opens some doors for other schools."
Stony Brook coach Matt Senk, whose team was left out of the national tournament last year despite winning 42 games, said northern teams have a better chance to grab the selection committee's attention if they are not one-year wonders.
"What will make the most change is the Stony Brooks, St. John's and UConns doing it on a consistent basis," he said.
RANGERS SUPPORT SEAWOLVES: A good number of Texas Rangers wore Stony Brook caps during batting practice before their game against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday night.
Rangers reliever Joe Nathan is Stony Brook's most famous baseball alum. Problem was, there weren't enough Seawolves caps to go around, and Nathan was one of the players who didn't wear one.
PITCHING AND DEFENSE: New bat standards have put pitching and defense at a premium in college baseball. Close, low-scoring games are the norm now -- a far cry from the 1990s.
"I never thought I'd see it like it is today," South Carolina coach Ray Tanner said. "Although four, five years ago the talk was that the bats were going to change, I wasn't so sure that it would be like it is today."
As of midseason, the Division I batting average was .275 with 5.47 runs a game. Those were the lowest numbers since the average was .273 and 5.38 in 1975, the year after colleges went to aluminum bats.
"The hitting, regardless of how good a lineup any of these teams have had, we've all been through a two- or three-week stretch where we haven't hit or executed offensively," Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "Speaking with coaches, the teams that were able to stay above water were the ones that were able to pitch and play defense on a day to day basis."
HOGS RELY ON ARMS: Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn says one of his regrets about the 2009 team that made it to the CWS is that it didn't have enough pitching to make a run at the title.
That's not the case this year.
The Razorbacks' team ERA is 2.90, and the staff has a 2.00 ERA in the NCAA tournament. Nine pitchers have thrown 31 or more innings.
FEEL LIKE A CHAMP: Coaches Mike Martin of Florida State and Andy Lopez of Arizona have been friends for decades. They first met in California in 1993, the year after Lopez coached Pepperdine to the national championship.
Lopez said: "He came out to Malibu for some reason."
Martin, without missing a beat, said: "Came out to see what it was like to win a national championship."
Martin has brought Florida State to the CWS 14 previous times, and the Seminoles have been to Omaha 21 times overall. They've never won the title -- the longest string of frustration for any team that has ever made it to the CWS so many times.
STONY BROOK SUPER FAN: Evelyn Scalise showed up for Stony Brook's public practice with a red umbrella and red cape.
No, it wasn't Superwoman. She's just a super fan.
Scalise, from West Islip on Long Island, is the aunt of catcher Pat Cantwell and could barely contain her enthusiasm for the Seawolves' first CWS appearance.
"What these boys have done has made all their families so proud, and now the rest of the country gets to see what we've seen all season," Scalise said. "There's more people at just this practice than ever go to their home games. We can't even imagine what it's going to be like tomorrow when the stadium is full."
Stony Brook plays in a new stadium made possible by a $500,000 donation from Texas Rangers closer Joe Nathan, the school's best-known baseball alum. There are no restrooms or concession stands, and there is no charge for admission.
"That's going to have to change after this," said Emily Bova of Scotia, N.Y., fiancee of Seawolves pitcher Gallup, who attended all 28 home games.
SHORT HOPS: South Carolina's public workout was cut short Thursday because of an approaching storm. The threat of inclement weather forced officials to cancel the CWS opening ceremonies. ... NCAA Division I Baseball Committee chairman Kyle Kallander said he has not been notified of any cases of teams doctoring bats to liven them up. New bat standards put in place last year have led to decreased offense in the game. American Baseball Coaches Association executive director Dave Keilitz said he has gotten only one call from a coach who suspected an opponent might have tried to skirt the bat standards. ... Arkansas' Dave Van Horn and Stricklin coached together on Team USA last summer. Neither said he saw an advantage or disadvantage from that experience when it comes to their teams meeting Saturday.
AP Sports Writer Stephen Hawkins in Arlington, Texas, contributed to this report.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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