Recapping the first weekend of Division 1 college baseball-
2023 Start Results in Many Surprises, Unbeaten Teams From Initial Series
DALLAS – In what might be a short-lived statistic, there were still 55 undefeated teams out of the 305 NCAA Division I schools following the first weekend of competition Feb. 17-20.
This included a 3-0-1 beginning (the dreaded baseball tie on the first weekend of competition) by San Diego, which knotted Big Ten Conference contender Nebraska 16-16 in eight innings, as the Huskers had to catch an early evening flight back to Omaha on Feb. 19.
To no one’s surprise, LSU swept Western Michigan in Baton Rouge, LA, with an opening day turnout of 10,863 for a 10-0 Tigers rout, and several other nationally-ranked crews closed 3-0 and 4-0 to inaugurate the campaign.
Among those living up to the preseason hype were (all with 3-0 sweeps) Florida, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Wake Forest (a bonus 4-0), Louisville, East Carolina, UCLA, Southern Miss, Virginia, Texas Tech, Alabama, NC State, Oregon (also a bonus 4-0), South Carolina, Florida State, and DBU.
There were a few stunners, though. Tennessee (No.1 nationally for 14 weeks last spring before being upset by Notre Dame in the Knoxville Super Regional) dropped a pair of games in Arizona against the host UA Wildcats and Grand Canyon. Texas fell to 0-3 in the rugged Texas Rangers College Showdown presented by Higginbotham at Globe Life Field in Arlington, TX. Minnesota struggled at 0-4 in the College Classic at Surprise, AZ.
And speaking of the Rangers College Showdown, the Southeastern Conference flexed its collective muscle against the always-potent Big12, with Arkansas, Missouri and Vanderbilt going a composite 6-3 against Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas, with all six teams ranked in one of the DI preseason surveys.
Arkansas set the stage with a 3-2 win over Texas on opening day of the tourney, while Oklahoma State (5-3 victory over Missouri) and TCU (11-4 thumping of Vanderbilt) gave the Big 12 a 2-1 advantage in games through Friday.
After TCU rallied for 14 runs in the final five innings against Arkansas Saturday for a football-like, 18-6 verdict, SEC teams swept Sunday’s triumvirate for an impressive first tourney.
TCU closed at 2-1 in the meet, along with Arkansas, Missouri and Vandy for the top records in Arlington but lost to what appears to be one of Mizzou’s best offensive teams in several years, a 9-8 surprise in 10 innings in the tourney finale Sunday.
The Tigers pounded 31 hits against Texas (15) and TCU (16) in a pair of walkoff victories, while Vanderbilt bats came alive in double-digit run production tests over OSU 11-9 and Texas 12-2. In between Sunday’s Games 1 and 3, Arkansas blasted Oklahoma State 18-1, as the SEC’s 10-run rule was applied through seven innings for the first time in the 2023 season.
Defending NCAA champion Ole Miss scored 10 or more runs in a three-game sweep over typically-potent Delaware, and 2021 NCAA victor Mississippi State grabbed 2-of-3 against a stubborn VMI bunch, which outscored State 14-13 with just seven hits in the Saturday middle tussle.
Those two composite results gave SEC West Division squads a combined 18-3 record in seven series with maybe more to come before conference activity begins March 17-19 with a full slate of critical contests.
In the interim, fans can feast on some upcoming activity such as the Frisco (TX) College Classic March 3-5 with Mississippi State, California, Ohio State, and 2022 NCAA runnerup Oklahoma in the field, as well as Florida State’s three-game trek to TCU Feb. 24-26; and on the same weekend, the Round Rock (Texas) Karbach Classic, with No. 1 LSU facing Sam Houston and dangerous Kansas State, which, ironically, was the last team to edge LSU in a season opener by a 9-8 count in 2002.
Stay tuned, everyone, the fun has just begun!
Trivia Questions (answers below):
What college head baseball coach was the starting pitcher for Division 2 Mississippi College and beat Mississippi State 9-8 in the 1980 season opener, following MSU’s 1979 College World Series run?
What player won both the Golden Spikes Award and the Dick Howser Trophy in 2012?
What is the fewest number of victories in a season by a Men’s College World Series Champion team?
Bo Carter is the Executive Director of the National College Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) and is a long time professional in sports media and information. He is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and has plied his trade in the Southeastern Conference, the Southwest Conference, and the Big 12 Conference. In addition to his NCBWA duties, he also serves as a consultant and columnist for the National Football Foundation. Follow the NCBWA, which produces ranking polls for D1, D2, and D3, as well as naming All America teams at both the D1 and D2 levels and the Dick Howser Trophy (presented each year in Omaha at the Men’s College World Series) at @NCBWA. And, if you’re a college baseball fan, you don’t have to be media to be a member, check them out at ncbwa.com and join today!
1. Steve Smith, who has coached Baylor and Tennessee Tech
2. Mike Zunino, Florida
3. Oklahoma, 19-9, 1951