Tigers, Tide out of NCAAs

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 3, 2003

Alabama got hung out to dry in the NCAA baseball tournament while Auburn hung around a little longer before frittering away its last chance.

The first round of the tournament was eerily reminiscent of the NCAA basketball tournament.

You remember that one, when the Southeastern Conference had been touted as the best in the country when, in fact, only Kentucky, out of six SEC teams invited, made it as far as the Elite Eight.

Even more teams, eight, received invitations to the baseball doings and now only two remain as the tournament enters the Super Regionals this week &045; Louisiana State and South Carolina.

LSU will represent the SEC’s West Division and the Gamecocks will bear the standard for the East Division.

Stumbling along the way in the Regionals, in addition to Auburn and Alabama, were Florida, Mississippi State, Mississippi and Arkansas.

Auburn, the No. 4 seed nationally and one of the hosts, made it to Sunday’s play by defeating Princeton 5-2 and Clemson 15-0 but lost twice to the Plainsman Park winner, Ohio State, 6-2 and 9-7.

The Buckeyes’ first victory over Auburn was clear-cut but not the second.

That game gave the Tigers a chance to meet Ohio State again later Sunday but it was not to be.

Instead, Auburn committed four errors, left 10 runners on base,

and gave up a wild pitch.

That isn’t a winning formula against anyone, especially a team as good as the Buckeyes.

Still, Auburn finished with 42 victories, which is admirable but which doesn’t provide any salve for the pain of not being able to host a Super Regional.

Alabama, which had won the SEC tournament in Hoover, defeated Houston handily, 9-3, in its first game at College Station, Texas, but then the Tide pitching collapsed, resulting in a 16-5 loss to host Texas A&M and a 16-8 elimination loss to Houston, the eventual winner in that regional.

Give up 16 runs and the odds are pretty good that you won’t win.

The only other team from this state in the NCAA, South Alabama, made it to the finals of the Tallahassee regional before losing twice, by large margins, to host Florida State, a team which they had beaten earlier.

For now, there are two options left for fans of SEC sports: one, pull for Louisiana State and South Carolina in the baseball tournament late this week or, two, wait for the football season.

Meanwhile, here’s a trivia question for baseball fans: How many ways are there for a batter to reach first base?

Chances are you didn’t guess that there are seven.

Here they are: a hit, an error, a walk, a fielder’s choice, being hit by the pitcher, catcher interference and, one that is rarely seen.

That is when the opposing manager summarily directs the plate umpire to send the batter to first base.

(Hoyt Harwell is a retired Associated Press Correspondent who covered major sports in Alabama for 26 years. Harwell lives in Hoover. E-mail: hharwell@bellsouth.net