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Army, Fordham, and Stony Brook To Carry New York-area Banner Into College Baseball Regionals

Are you getting fed up with the epidemic of strikeouts in Major League Baseball?  For the second season in a row, it looks like a certainty that whiffs will eclipse wallops in The Show.  It disturbs me no end that doubles and singles are way down and triples nearly non-existent, but there is an alternative.


Try watching baseball on the college and high school levels. The pitchers are not yet fully developed or never will reach the mid-to-high 90 mph level. The hitters are not yet launch angle-crazy (though I fear a trend heading in that unfortunate direction).


So here's a salute to three New York area teams who will begin double-elimination regional play this weekend with a shot, admittedly a long-shot, at the College World Series starting in Omaha on June 15.

Last Sunday Fordham won the Atlantic Ten title at a conference tournament held on their Rose Hill campus in the Bronx.  They will open play against the host Big 12 conference winner West Virginia in Morgantown. Duke and Texas A & M are also in the same regional.

I didn't get to see the Rams play, but did watch the Davidson Wildcats advance with a victory over the Richmond Spiders coached by former major leaguer Tracy Woodson and with graduate transfer infielder Tyler Plantier, son of former Red Sox outfielder Phil.  (Yes, folks, Davidson in western North Carolina and the Dayton Flyers, runners-up to Fordham, are part of the Atlantic Ten which actually has 14 members.) 


Fordham has a proud baseball history that is immortalized with plaques that greet you as you enter Houlihan Park adjoining the football stadium. The list includes two early 20th century Hall of Famers, pitcher Ed Walsh ("the only man who could strut sitting down," in Chicago sportswriter Charlie Dryden's immortal phrase) and Frank "The Fordham Flash" Frisch who starred for both John McGraw's NY Giants and Branch Rickey's Gashouse Gang St. Louis Cardinals.

There is also post-Civil War star Esteban "Steve" Bellan, who helped to popularize baseball in his native Cuba; legendary broadcaster Vin Scully; sports and nature writer John Kieran (first "Sports of the NY Times" columnist); and Walter O'Malley, the man who moved the Brooklyn Dodgers to LA.  (I hated to write those last words but they are a part of baseball's rich if sometimes unpleasant history.)


Here's to a second New York-area champion:  Stony Brook, winners of the America East title, who will travel to Baton Rouge to face perennial contender LSU.  Seven years ago in 2012, Stony Brook shocked the college baseball world by winning the super-regional at LSU and heading to the College World Series.

In one of the greater sporting gestures I can recall, the ardent college baseball fans at LSU insisted that the conquering Sea Wolves run a victory lap around their ballpark.  Also in the Baton Rouge regional will be Arizona State, hoping to revive its storied college baseball history, and Southern Mississippi.

Army is the third NY team to make the tourney.  The West Point cadets will play host Texas Tech in a regional including Dallas Baptist and former CWS champion Florida.


Harvard, conquerors of defending champion Columbia in a thrilling playoff in Cambridge two weekends ago, will represent the Ivy League in Oklahoma City against host Oklahoma State.  Nebraska and Connecticut will also vie for the SuperRegional to be played the first full weekend in June at sites TBA.

A tip of the cap to Harvard's reserve infielder Evan Owolo who before the final playoff game in Cambridge played on solo violin one of the most beautiful National Anthems I've ever heard.  I think he played it as the notes were originally written and it took only 1 minute and 17 seconds.


Columbia fought Harvard valiantly.  Senior righthanders Josh Simpson and Ethan Abrams pitched brilliant baseball and ended their college careers on a high note.  But Harvard got great performances, too. 


Hunter Bigge pitched and batted the Crimson to a complete game victory in the first tussle.  And Patrick McColl's big bat couldn't be contained in the dramatic extra-inning clincher. 


One final note on amateur baseball - the New York PSAL high school semi-finals are set.  Tomorrow - Friday May 31 at 330p - Manhattan's Beacon travels to Brooklyn powerhouse Grand Street Campus (alma mater of Yankees reliever Dellin Betances).

Meanwhile two-time defending champion Bronx's Monroe journeys to upper Manhattan to play Gregorio Luperon. 

Each series is a best-of-three.  Winners play at Yankee Stadium on Wed June 12 at 7p.

Teams from smaller schools play their finals at 1p and 4p on that Wed.

So until next month when we may speculate on the results of Mon Jun 3's MLB amateur free agent, always remember:  Take it easy but take it!    

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