The latest NCAA Division I baseball rankings have the University of San Diego at number 54 in the nation. Not bad, since there are, depending where you look, 296 or 298 schools in the Division I pool.
San Diego is playing the University of San Francisco (ranked 55 nationally) in the West Coast Conference tournament final. Winner is conference champion and gets an automatic bid to the NCAA playoffs.
The game is not televised in these parts, but I figure somebody will stream it on the internet. Which is why I’m sitting in front of my computer on a Saturday night.
Normal ESPN-watching, Sports Illustrated–reading, Deadspin-website-visiting sports fans don’t follow college baseball. Teams play a long and tedious schedule, 50 to 60 regular-season games, three or more conference-tournament games, then the NCAA selects 64 teams to play at one of 16 regional sites in a double-elimination format. Winners go on to one of eight Super Regional sites, where they play a best-of-three series, and then eight winners go on to the College World Series, which has two four-team brackets. The winners of each bracket play a best-of-three-game series, and the winner is national champ.
See what I mean about college baseball? You didn’t read the previous paragraph all the way to the end, did you?
I thought I’d throw that in while I search the internet for live streaming video of the 7:00 p.m. game. There! I have found a site, but the flickering on my computer screen is the University of North Carolina vs. North Carolina State baseball game, now going into the eighth inning, tied 1 to 1. The San Diego game won’t be broadcast until this pig is done.
Which shouldn’t take long. Still, it’s annoying. I want to see San Diego phenom Kris Bryant play. Bryant, a right-hander, plays first and third base. He’s six-foot-five, 215 pounds, and a consensus top-five draft pick in MLB’s First-Year Player Draft. Said draft to be held June 6.
WHOA, I finally found live audio and hear an announcer report that Bryant just hit an infield single. I visualize a ballplayer running from home to first base. It’s the fifth inning.
How much better is Bryant than the average star college player? Nationally, he’s either leading, tied, or very close to the top in batting, slugging, walks, on-base percentage, and on-base plus slugging percentage. But it’s his performance in one category that will draw disinterested humankind into college baseball. He hits home runs.
Bryant smacked 30 home runs this year. This, with the new, deadened NCAA composite bat. The Boston Herald says Bryant leads the nation with 30 home runs in 54 games, that he’s tied for the 11th-highest total in NCAA history, and that Bryant, by himself, out-homered 227 of 296 teams in Division I.
Back at my computer, the North Carolina teams drone on. It’s the bottom of the 13th and still tied at 1-1. Meanwhile, in Stockton, the radio tells me San Diego leads 2-0 going into the bottom of the seventh inning. With two outs, Kris Bryant hits a hard shot to left center for a double. I visualize Bryant hitting the ball. It’s a fuzzy visualization. Next batter fouls out, inning over.
Live video stream shows the North Carolinas in the bottom of the 14th. The radio says Kris Bryant makes a great defensive play. I try to visualize a great defensive play, nothing comes. San Diego bats in the bottom of the eighth inning. Foul out. Strike out. Strike out. Inning is done.
North Carolinas are becalmed at the bottom of the 14th. Hold it. There’s some action! North Carolina State has a man on third base and another on second! One dink-ass hit and this game ends! Instead, Number 30 flies out to left field for the third out. Onward to the 15th inning.
Radio says the San Diego game is over. The Toreros win 2-0. I visualize San Diego players running onto the field.
Back in North Carolina, it’s the bottom of the 16th. I visualize San Diego players celebrating in their locker room, getting dressed, prepping themselves for Saturday night.
The endless trek in North Carolina continues to the top of the 17th inning. I visualize San Diego players climbing into limos, leaving Banner Island Ballpark, heading for downtown strip clubs.
Time has stopped in North Carolina. We remain in the bottom of the 17th inning and this may be where the universe ends. I visualize San Diego players racing Nissan GTRs in front of city hall.
North Carolina State leaves three men on base. We say goodbye to the 17th inning and hello to the top of the 18th.