Baseball beyond The Box

Scooter Hobbs

The NCAA baseball tournament’s selection committee found itself in a real kerfuffle Sunday night while sorting out its handiwork.

There they were with four Louisiana teams needing to find a postseason nesting spot — and, wonder of wonders, no Baton Rouge regional to pack them all, or most of them, off to.

Certainly LSU couldn’t play in Baton Rouge. That would mean hosting and the Tigers surely couldn’t do that with a pedestrian 34-22 record.

But it forced the committee to think outside the box instead of sending the usual suspects to Alex Box Stadium.

There was Louisiana Tech, which is hosting for the first time, and good for the Bulldogs and their brand-new stadium to replace the one a tornado tore apart two years ago.

But apparently having Tech handy didn’t produce the same knee-jerk reaction with the committee as seeing the familiar LSU landing spot every year did.

That’s a good thing unless you’re an LSU tailgater missing what you thought was an annual, birthright event to celebrate spring turning to summer.

The convenience of sticking state schools in Baton Rouge has long been a pet peeve of mine.

What kind of postseason reward is it to get sent to a place that you play almost every year, anyway, likely against teams you see every season.

It’s not like they have to send nearby schools to Baton Rouge to help sell tickets — LSU can always unload them all with no problem.

It wasn’t an option this time.

So Southern gets to go to Austin, McNeese gets to go to Fort Worth and Louisiana Tech brings outsiders in for its first home dance.

Bad example, perhaps, because the Cowboys have never played in a Baton Rouge regional, but the NCAA seems to make up for it with Cowgirls softball’s postseason “rewards.”

But this is the way it should be.

It allows schools to get a true postseason “experience,” which is to say going somewhere different, somewhere they don’t already play every year, against players they didn’t compete against in high school.

The way it should be.

I was a little surprised LSU didn’t get sent to Louisiana Tech, which would have been a disaster.

Tech is justifiably excited about hosting its first NCAA regional and will have no problem filling “The Love Shack,” as its called. The Bulldogs did it for the Conference USA Tournament last weekend.

If you’d added LSU’s north Louisiana fan base alone to the mix, there might have been warfare in the mad, parking-lot scramble for tickets.

So good job by the selection committee.

Meanwhile, the homebody LSUs get to see how the other half lives with a road regional.

And when the NCAA does send LSU packing, they don’t fool around.

If not hosting, the Tigers suddenly become Lewis and Clark, rounding up a wagon train and few spare keel boats to head cross country to the Great Northwest.

The Tigers will be at the University of Oregon for the Eugene regional.

That’s a 2,461-mile hike from Baton Rouge, but only about 30 miles away from the last road regional LSU was apart of at Oregon State.

It’s not quite “Siberia,” as retiring head coach Paul Mainieri jokingly described it, but just about as different from Baton Rouge.

All the old, familiar faces?

Not exactly. With Gonzaga, Oregon and Central Connecticut, the committee did the near impossible for a veteran like Mainieri. He’s at the end of a 39-year coaching career at four schools, yet he’s never played any of three others in this regional.

If he learned anything about the trip to Oregon State three years ago, it was that he might need a bigger charter jet.

The last one LSU used had to make a refueling stop in Colorado, where lightning in the area prevented any workers from getting near the gas tanks. So they were stuck on the ground for over two hours.

But even if overcoming real-world problems like that is what it takes for Mainieri to finish his tenure in the postseason where he belongs, he’s not complaining.

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at scooter.hobbs@americanpress.com””Scooter Hobbs updated

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