Home Field Advantage Helps, Not a Guarantee

It could be a long night at the Hoover Met. Georgia came from a four run deficit to earn a 5-4 victory over Vanderbilt with four runs in the bottom of the ninth inning, forcing another game between the two teams after the Alabama-Ole Miss game (the first of two possible).

Southeastern Conference officials rejected my suggestion to move that game to Hoover High and play it simultaneously instead of waiting for the other game to conclude.

It's will be an uphill battle for Alabama to advance past Saturday's play. Jordan Davis made the game one start and, at best, Patrick Kelly and Miers Quigley would be available for tonight's game should the Tide win its first game against Ole Miss.

But what Alabama has done here is all but assure itself of a top-eight national seed in the NCAA tournament. Even allowing for NCAA selection committee stupidity, Alabama has the number four RPI in the country, and stayed around longer in the post-season that SEC regular season co-champion Kentucky. Georgia, with its No. 7 RPI is playing its way into a top-eight seed, too.

The SEC is the highest rated conference in college baseball, and has proved its worth over the past two years, as six of the 16 College World Series the past two seasons have come from the SEC.

Wrapping up a top-eight national seed secures Alabama the opportunity to host both a regional and super regional, should it advance that far. Recent history shows that being a top-eight national seed has its advantages, but it is no guarantee of making it to Omaha.

In each of the past two seasons, five of the eight CWS teams were top-eight national seeds. Tennessee, Texas and Arizona State had to go on the road to get to the CWS a year ago, while Georgia Tech, Ole Miss and Cal State Fullerton.

Two years ago, Arizona, Cal State Fullerton and LSU made it to the CWS winning on the road in a super regional, so it can be done. Fullerton actually won the national championship last year as an unseeded team.

What does it say for Alabama's chances?

Not that earning a national seed is tantamount to booking a trip to Omaha, but it does give a team a slightly better chance to get there. The last time Alabama was a national seed was in 2002, and the Tide failed get out of the regional, losing to Southeast Missouri State and Florida Atlantic.

The pitching rotation is solid with Tommy Hunter, Wade LeBlanc and Bernard Robert looking sharp as starters lately, and Jake McCarter and David Roberston getting the job done out of the bullpen.

Jordan Davis hit a pothole after the LSU series, and has struggled as of late. He is capable at times, however.

In the field Alabama has been adequate if not exceptional, with most of the lineup playing out of their natural positions.

To get past whoever the NCAA sends to Tuscaloosa, it will have to hit the ball better. Matt Downs will need to break his 0 for the post-season streak and Alex Avila needs more than a wind-aided double. Evan Bush and Kody Valverde hit in the clutch for the first time on Friday night, but they most be more consistent.

Otherwise, earning the national seed will be of no benefit.


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