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NCAA baseball tournament 2017 scores and bracket: North Carolina upset on tournament’s opening day

The first day of the 2017 NCAA baseball tournament is in the books, and a few heavy hitters received some scares but prevailed in the end. Hosts LSU and Southern Miss both had to battle back from multiple-run deficits, but both did at last advance to their respective regionals’ winners brackets.

Avila’s dad was an assistant GM for the Tigers, and while there’s no indication that made a difference with the new rule, it certainly didn’t hurt to have someone in a front office realize just how silly and self-defeating the old ways were.

More important than the paternal connection, though, was the stage. It was the ALCS, with two teams trying to get to the World Series after roughly 200 games (exhibition included) of struggle. Both teams clawed, scraped, and shivved to get where they were. Both of them were so incredibly close.

And then one of those teams had to face the idea that they would be without their catcher, their field general, because of a silly, reckless, codified play that made no sense in the context of the sport. To traverse the slippery mountain pass of a baseball season, only to lose a player because someone pushed the football button in the middle of a freak play, was unconscionable.

It’s to suggest that baseball is caught between competing realities. Baseballs are flying out of the park. Baseballs are flying past the helpless bats of sluggers trying to do too much.

The Braves will put Colon on waivers and, assuming he clears, he will become a free agent. What kind of team would want Big Sexy? I regret to inform you that none of them make a lot of sense.

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Bartolo Colon might have pitched his last game

The Braves had the right idea, at least. Sign some low-cost veterans for the rotation, which would serve the dual purpose of a) not forcing them to rush their prospects and b) give the fans a watchable brand of baseball in the brand new ballpark. For the most part, it was a success. R.A. Dickey has kept them in games, Jaime Garcia has done a bit better than that, and the Braves are just under .500, which is somewhere close to their best-case scenario.

However, unless the Mets promote him to New York for the sole purpose of the media and merchandising firestorm it’ll create make fun of Tebow all you want, but he’s the most popular player in the game right now thanks to his pre-baseball career he’s not making it to the bigs at this rate. He’s still got a couple of months left in his 20s, though, which is more than enough time to start tinkering with a knuckleball.

Hand Tebow a baseball. Tell him about how the thing to do is grip the pitch with your fingernails and push it toward home plate while keeping your wrist stable to minimize or completely remove any spin on the ball. Science takes care of the rest: Without the gyroscopic effect of spinning, the ball’s movement is unstable. Its seams create an uneven flow of air over the surface of the ball, pushing it in random directions.

Why the knuckleball, though? Tebow wouldn’t make it with any regular old conversion to pitching. He doesn’t have the arm strength for that it’s why scouts said he should play left field instead of right field, given left relies less on hard, accurate throws. Knucklers, though, don’t need to throw 100. They don’t need to throw 90. Hell, they don’t even need to throw 80. So long as his fastball is harder than his knuckleball and he can consistently throw it accurately, this would work.

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LSU required eight arms to lose a College World Series game

Pitcher No. 8 was done. One inning pitched, no earned runs, no strikeouts, and four batters faced.

LSU’s lone run came in the bottom of the seventh on a solo shot down the right field line. The score was 11-1 by then, but try as they might there was no comeback in these Tigers.

From a staff of 17 listed throwers, LSU required eight arms to lose a College World Series game, 13-1. In the same game Oregon State threw two pitchers. Starter Bryce Fehmel hurled eight full innings of stellar work tallying two hits and one earned run on 107 pitches then closer Sam Tweedt mopped up the ninth, gaining two hits on four batters faced.

The top of the third saw Faedo’s command slip slightly, as he allowed a walk then another runner on a fielder’s choice play, tabling runners at first and second. That in turn led to another one-out walk, and lo and behold the bases were loaded. That’s what TCU does to pitchers, though, practicing patience at the plate and taking pitches that don’t pass muster. In any case, Faedo found his way out of the ordeal and his slate remained clean of runs.

TCU’s Jared Janczak very often does pass muster, but the Horned Frogs ace got into trouble in the fourth, netting Gator runners at the corners with just one out. He gave up a slapper to left and Nelson Maldonado trotted home for the second run of the night. That was all Florida could plate, though, as Janczak calmed himself down and blew away Dalton Guthrie to end the inning.

Still, Florida earned runners at the corners in the bottom of the fifth with no outs, and Maldonado cracked a funky grounder through the gap at left to cross the Gators’ third run of the night. That immediately shut down Janczak’s outing, who’d thrown 87 pitches, 49 of them for strikes.

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Scoring resumed in the top of the seventh when Mike Rivera dropped a double into right field

That was not long to last, however, as the Gators’ offensive production opened up in the third and fourth, with Austin Langworthy slapping a big bad homer off the left field foul pole and Deacon Liput plating three runs after him. By then the score was 4-0 Gators, and Louisville had no answer to either rally.

The remainder of the middle frames slunk on by, with neither pitcher surrendering hits or walks. Singer at one point retired 11 straight batters, and he was well on his way to topping Alex Faedo’s school record for strikeouts from two nights prior, though he did give up a single in the bottom of the sixth, which eventually led to runners at the corners. Singer worked out of that jam with a strikeout, and they danced off to the seventh.

Scoring resumed in the top of the seventh when Mike Rivera dropped a double into right field, scoring Liput for the Gators’ fifth run of the night. In a game where scoring was at a premium, a 5-0 lead right then seemed insurmountable, and Louisville was already on its second arm of the night, bringing in Adam Elliott to spell McClure, who was by then showing signs of fatigue after 88 pitches.

Just in case you weren’t convinced, though, I’d like to power rank all of the troubling components of the Cubs’ season. These are all the problems that I can see from the outside, and I’ll order them from least worrisome to ruh roh. A team can’t really go from young and amazing to below-average in one offseason without losing anyone critical.

In such circumstances, the Umpire shall call the ball dead, and all other base runners shall return to the last base touched at the time of the collision.

LSU will face Florida State on Wednesday in an elimination game, and that’s an exciting prospect.

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Thanks to Anthony Rizzo’s slide and Joe Maddon, the Cubs are now more villainous

Maybe you’re familiar with a concept we introduced earlier this season: The Cubs Villainy Meter. It’s meant to contextualize this new world where the Cubs are not lovable (or, at the least, pitiable) losers, and are instead defending World Champions. It’s meant to be an ongoing look so we know just how far away from their roots the Cubs have strayed, and if they can reach the vile heights that former losers-turned-heels like the Red Sox and Giants have.

If you want to justify the empty calories, check out this brussel sprout of a paragraph:

Home runs are so easy to come by that teams are more likely to just wait for them rather than be creative. Sacrifice hits are at an all-time low. Intentional walks have been at near-record-low levels the past four years. Nobody has stolen 75 bases in 10 years. The hit-and-run is an endangered play. The veteran pinch hitter has been eliminated so that teams can carry eight relief pitchers.

Sacrifice bunts are boring as hell. Even if they were good strategy, which they often aren’t, there’s no joy to be found in them. If you can get excited about a typical sacrifice bunt, you can get excited about a crafty tax deduction, and good for you. But I’m not there. Intentional walks are one of the least exciting events in baseball. The hit-and-run is fun when it works, and it’s miserable when it fails. And while I carry a soft spot in my heart for Lenny Harris and Matt Stairs, I’m not going to pretend like I’ve spent a lot of time pining for the modern equivalents.

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Tim Tebow should become a knuckleballer

Tim Tebow is an outfielder for the Mets’ Low-A team, the Columbia Fireflies. He’s 29 years old in a league where the average player is seven-and-a-half years younger than that, and he’s batting .226/.324/.349. That on-base percentage is actually pretty all right, since the Sally League average is .318. But Tebow strikes out constantly at a level where opposing pitchers are spending more time trying to refine a given pitch on a given night than they are trying to get hitters out.

It’s not that Tebow has zero chance of getting better, it’s just that, athletically, he’s on the wrong end of his peak years and he hasn’t even been able to play well at the lowest full-season level in Major League Baseball. It happens, though, and the fact he’s even doing this well is impressive given high school baseball was a lifetime ago.

If he wants to keep playing baseball and have a chance at moving up, we have one suggestion. Quit this whole outfielder thing. It’s time to devote yourself to pitching, but not just any pitching: It’s time for Tim Tebow to become a knuckleballer.

You might ask: What evidence is there that Tebow can throw a knuckler, the most unpredictable pitch there is? And I would counter: Have you ever seen Tim Tebow throw a football?

You’ve got to get them out of that stage to the ‘longer I can do this’ phase. Some guys get out of it earlier than other, but to me it’s about how you internalize what you hear.

Tally them up and you’ll have a good idea if the team is something of a mirage. When the Twins go on a winning stretch on the back of Miguel Sano’s bat, for example, that makes sense.

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The catcher wasn’t in the way, but who cares about a minor detail like that?

A runner attempting to score may not deviate from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate). If, in the judgment of the Umpire, a runner attempting to score initiates contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate) in such a manner, the Umpire shall declare the runner out (even if the player covering home plate loses possession of the ball).

Here’s the thing, Rizzo: pretty much straight in is 1) not what happened and 2) not the same thing as straight in. It’s clear, watching that video, that Rizzo went to his left to collide with Hedges, when he had a perfectly clear route to the plate to his right that wouldn’t have involved crashing into the backstop. In fact, if Rizzo had done that instead of his game on approach, he might have scored a run there.

The catcher wasn’t in the way, but who cares about a minor detail like that? It’s not like Maddon’s and Rizzo’s arguments hinge on that or anything. This also isn’t new territory for Maddon, who thinks slamming into the catcher to score a run is a thing to practice in spring training:

Marwin Gonzalez is eating locks of Ben Zobrist’s hair. It’s the only explanation. Unless he severed Lance Berkman’s arms and ground up his bones to make a medicinal powder. If neither of those are the case, I have several other theories that get much darker.

After three years of a sub-.300 OBP and a 90 OPS+, I refuse to believe that the 28-year-old Gonzalez is a superweapon now. While it’s noteworthy that he’s three walks away from his career high — in 355 fewer plate appearances compared to last season and the change in his approach could explain a lot, I’ll err on the side of the previous five seasons.

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