Once Again, the SEC Takes Over Omaha
By today’s count, four of the eight teams in the College World Series are members of the Southeastern Conference. However, if you include Texas and Oklahoma, who will be conference members in 2025, there are six. This leaves only Notre Dame and Stanford as teams with no ties to the SEC.
While there’s much talk about the SEC’s dominance in the realm of college football, their impact on college baseball has arguably been even larger over the past decade. Since 2010, Vanderbilt has won two National Championships and been runner-up in two more. Mississippi State won in 2021 and was runner-up in 2013. Florida was National Champion in 2017 and was runner-up to another SEC school, South Carolina, in 2011.
2022 Twists and Turns
This year’s tournament began looking a little different. Of the top sixteen number one seeds in the NCAA Baseball tournament, only #1 Tennessee, #5 Texas A&M, #13 Florida and #14 Auburn hosted Regionals (still 25%). Only two of those teams, Texas A&M and Auburn made it to Omaha.
Ole Miss and Arkansas dropped considerably in the rankings as the season progressed. Ole Miss stood atop the rankings early in the season. I personally watched them dominate UCF in Orlando back in early March. They also have one of the top catching prospects in Hayden Dunhurst. Arkansas also hovered near the top of the rankings earlier in the season. They have been a perennial contender, returning to the College World Series for the third time in four years. They have two highly coveted prospects in Cayden Wallace (3B) and Robert Moore (2B).
Going into the tournament, it looked like the ACC was in just as strong of a position. #4 Virginia Tech, #6 Miami, #10 North Carolina and #12 Louisville were all hosting Regionals. The conference would have nine teams in total play in a Regional, including Virginia, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and Notre Dame. They are down to one in Omaha.
One of the biggest disappointments of the tournament, however, was the elimination of #1 Tennessee. Just a few years back, the Vols were among the weakest programs in the conference. Under Head Coach Tony Vitello, their team dominated the regular season. They were eliminated by Notre Dame in the Super Regionals. Nonetheless, the Vols have three players projected to go in the first round of the MLB Draft: Jordan Beck (OF), Blake Tidwell (RHP) and Drew Gilbert (OF).
The Boys of June
If programs like Tennessee maintain their status this will only add to the SEC dominance in college baseball. The conference had nine (of fourteen) schools represented in the tournament. Only Kentucky, South Carolina, Mizzouri, Alabama, and Mississippi State were left out. And, several of those teams were on the bubble. Both South Carolina and Mississippi State are particularly strong baseball schools, who fell short this season. Once baseball power schools like Texas and Oklahoma join the SEC, it’s only going to add to the prestige.
Barring that the College World Series Championship is not a match-up between Notre Dame and Stanford, an SEC or future SEC school will be there. It is starting to get difficult to imagine one without them.
**Picture courtesy of Visit Omaha**