Crawling out of the Memorial Day holiday weekend, the sports calendar is now officially into summer.
Nothing says that more loudly than 7-on-7 high school football leagues cranking up. Some begin playing this week.
But the Women’s College World Series comes close. It starts this week, the Division I softball showdown which draws better TV ratings than its baseball counterpart in Omaha later this month. True, if the yardstick is actual attendance in stadiums, the NCAA baseball postseason is clearly more attractive. But no doubt, the combination of the WCWS and the NCAA baseball regionals signals it’s summertime.
There’s the NBA Finals beginning this week, along with the Stanley Cup Finals. That leads to Charles Barkley doing promos for TNT’s hockey coverage. It’s wacky, like the Celtics-Heat series. Anyone who correctly picked the winner in more than two games is lying.
Another bizarre sign: the wrapup of local youth baseball and softball league seasons. Once upon a time, the games kept going for another month, with playoffs finishing just before Independence Day. That left time for all-star competition and family vacations before school started mid-to-late August.
But travel ball gnawed away at the local youth leagues, and the calendars sped up. Too bad.
The MLB schedule is a third of the way gone, and the Rangers look capable of contending. Teddy Allen’s Orioles have wings. My Pirates have inevitably tumbled under .500.
Yes, it’s summer.
There’s a regional at Alex Box, as routine as it gets in college baseball. There’s a Tulane-LSU matchup, which absolutely nobody saw coming a week ago.
Somehow, the Green Wave soared from the scrap heap to the top of the American Athletic Conference Tournament last weekend. Tulane, which lost its last seven conference series. Tulane, which has the worst staff earned run average in school history. Tulane, whose 19-40 record is the worst for any regional entry since Youngstown State (16-36) in 2014.
The Tigers, meanwhile, look headed for Omaha. They can save college baseball’s best pitcher, Paul Skenes, for their second-round contest against either Oregon State or Sam Houston. After that win, they just have to take one of two on Sunday to move on to a Super Regional two-out-of-three series against (likely) Kentucky in Baton Rouge. Skenes gives LSU the Game One advantage and once again, the Tigers will be one win away from the CWS.
Airline High School product Hayden Travinski has surged in the last month to become a valuable part of the Tigers’ offense. He has recorded seven multi-hit games in the 13 he’s played in May. His .426 batting average and 1.362 OPS are team bests (although to be fair, his 68 at-bats, most of them lately, pale in comparison to the 207 by SEC Player of the Year Dylan Crews, who is hitting .420 with a 1.277 OPS).
The state has two more NCAA Regional entries, the Ragin’ Cajuns of UL Lafayette and the Nicholls Colonels, who swept the Southland Conference regular-season and tournament titles. The Cajuns made a late-season charge to snatch an at-large invitation and get a trip to the Miami Regional, where they won’t back down against the host Hurricanes or their first-round opponent, Texas. ULL is 7-8 against top 50 competition. Nicholls has an exceptional defensive club and good pitching, but has to play the Crimson Tide at Alabama to open its first NCAA Regional appearance in 25 years.
The local area’s best college player, Haughton’s Peyton Stovall, is on the shelf a year after being a catalyst for the Arkansas Razorbacks’ postseason run that went all the way to a third-place finish in Omaha. Stovall hurt his shoulder swinging in midseason, tried to play through it for a few weeks, and was shut down earlier this month.
Don’t count out Woo Pig Sooey, though. SEC Coach of the Year Dave Van Horn has a magic wand, even if he doesn’t have a first-team All-SEC player.
Stranger things have happened recently, like Tulane punching its regional ticket, and the Miami Heat punching out the Celtics in Game 7 at the Boston Garden.
Next thing we’ll hear is smooth passage of the federal budget deficit deal.
Contact Doug at email@example.com