On Wednesday night at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb., the 2014 NCAA Baseball Championship will come to an end and a national champion will be crowned.
After some 100 regional matchups, 20 super regional contests and 16 games in the College World Series, it has all come down to a single, winner-take-all duel between Vanderbilt out of the SEC and Virginia from the ACC.
The Big 12 had five teams start out in this year’s NCAA Tournament (Oklahoma State, TCU, Kansas, Texas Tech and Texas). Only Kansas, the Big 12’s third-place team this season, didn’t advance out of the regional round.
Oklahoma State was knocked out by UC Irvine in the Super Regionals, and the threesome from Texas moved on to play in the 2014 CWS.
TCU one its opening CWS game, but failed to record another victory, losing back-to-back games and bowing out in the quarterfinals in a disheartening 6-4 loss to Ole Miss.
Texas made it one round further, winning three consecutive elimination games, before being eliminated by College World Series finalist Vanderbilt, 4-3, in 10 innings.
While many observers will say that there hasn’t been anything particularly extraordinary about this year’s CWS, from a Big 12 perspective there were a couple of things that were notably headline worthy.
First of all, it has been four years since the Big 12 has had even one team in the College world Series, let only three teams. And of the eight teams that were blessed – or perhaps cursed – by being designated as national seeds, TCU (seeded seventh nationally) was one of only two of those teams that made it to Omaha (Virginia was the other, at No. 3).
Perhaps the most noticeably difference this year in the CWS, however, is the absence of fence-clearing long balls.
At one time not that long ago, balls were flying out of the ball yard in college baseball at a rate of over six per game. Those numbers have come down dramatically since use of pure meal bats were disallowed and new bat restrictions were put into effect beginning in the 2011 season.
Only three home runs were hit, for instance, in last year’s College World Series. Through 16 games in the 2014 CWS, there have been only two home runs, and both were hit by Big 12 schools.
The first ball to leave the yard at TD Ameritrade Park in the 2014 CWS came off the bat of one of the least likely hitters to clear the fences. Texas shortstop C.J. Hinojosa led off the seventh inning in the Longhorns’ elimination game with UC Irvine (Game No, 9 in this year’s World Series) with a round-tripper to left with no one on base. That run ended up being the only run scored in the game, as Texas eliminated UC Irvine by the score of 1-0.
That long ball by Hinojosa was just his second home run of the season.
TCU first baseman Kevin Cron hit the only other home run in the CWS so far in 2014, Cron’s homer was a game-tying solo shot to lead off the TCU fifth inning. It was the sixth of the season for the 6-5 junior first baseman.
Unless someone from Vanderbilt or Virginia launches one in Wednesday evening’s championship game, that’s the way things will stand, and this will be the College World Series with the fewest home runs on record.