The 64-team field for the NCAA Division I baseball tournament is beginning to take its shape.
A handful of teams have already punched their tickets, winning their league tournaments and snatching up automatic qualifiers. Others have built a great resume during the regular season, making them near-locks to get at-large births.
And then other teams have work to do. There are several teams out there with talented rosters that would probably do well in the NCAA tournament, but they need to impress in their conference tournaments to get an at-large bid into the tournament.
Here’s a look at a few of those teams and what needs to be done between now and May 27 for them to make it into the tournament field.
The Wolverines finished the regular season in second place in the Big Ten, but in DIbaseball.com’s recent tournament field projections, Michigan is one of the last five teams in. To further cement their spot in the NCAA tournament, the Wolverines need to go deep in the Big Ten tournament. They could make things much less stressful on themselves by winning the whole thing and taking the automatic qualifier.
Michigan is powered this season by a solid pitching staff, which ranks ninth in the country in team ERA with a 3.40 mark. Guiding that staff is Tommy Henry and Karl Kaufmann. Henry has struck out 95 batters this season while Kauffman has a 2.91 ERA. Leading the charge on offense is Jordan Brewer, who leads the team in hits, home runs, runs scored and slugging percentage.
The Wolverines begin Big Ten tournament play on Wednesday in Omaha, Nebraska, taking on rival Ohio State. The Buckeyes won the regular season series, 2-1.
The Cavaliers have had an inconsistent season, but still have a chance to make the NCAA tournament field. DIbaseball.com listed them in their last five in. If Virginia performs well and has a decent ACC tournament run this week, they could find themselves playing more post-season baseball.
Virginia finished the regular season with a sub-.500 conference record at 14-16, and entered the ACC tournament as the ninth seed. But they won the regular season series against top seed Louisville and took one game in series against No. 2 Georgia Tech and No. 3 N.C. State.
The Cavaliers are led by a well-rounded offense, with four players who have more than 31 RBIs this season. The pitching staff has been led by bullpen arm Devin Ortiz, who has an ERA of 1.78 and has struck out 38 batters in 35.1 innings of work over 17 appearances.
Virginia begins its ACC tournament run on Wednesday, facing North Carolina.
Unfortunately for UC Irvine, there is no conference tournament in the Big West and the automatic qualifier goes to the regular season champs. That seems to be locked up by UC Santa Barbara, which currently has 10 more overall wins and three more conference wins than UC Irvine.
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Still, it’s possible for UC Irvine to get an at-large bid. DIbaseball.com has the Anteaters in its first five out for the tournament. Despite not having a conference tournament to play in, UC Irvine can improve its chances this week with a Tuesday contest against USC and a three-game road series at UC Riverside. Three to four wins could go a long way in cementing UC Irvine’s place in the postseason.
As a team, UC Irvine has the 13th best ERA in the country with a 3.49 mark. That pitching staff has been led by Trenton Denholm, who is ninth in the nation in ERA with a 1.77 mark. Denholm has nine wins and 87 strikeouts this season.
Once an Anteater, always an Anteater🐜🍴 Thank You Seniors! pic.twitter.com/X4M6aXUnx1— UCI Baseball (@UCIbsb) May 19, 2019
Mitchell Northam is a graduate of Salisbury University. His work has been featured at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Orlando Sentinel, SB Nation, FanSided, USA Today and the Delmarva Daily Times. He grew up on Maryland's Eastern Shore and is now based in Durham, N.C.