Remembering June 6, 1944; This Kind of Game Isn’t Supposed to Happen in the Florida State League! NCAA Super Regionals Finally Set

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Hi all.  Here’s how I see baseball on this Tuesday, June 6.

First of all, the date Tuesday, June 6, 1944 is forever etched into the minds of some Americans and should be remembered by one and all.  To quote Longfellow, “Hardly a man is now alive that remembers that famous day and year,” June 6, 1944-The Longest Day, as Cornelius Ryan called it. Most Called it D-Day, some called it Operation Overlord.  No baseball games were played that day. Who could concentrate on that day that held the freedom of the world hanging in the balance. We still have our freedom today to watch and enjoy sports thanks to the thousands who lost their lives on that day-enough to fill two minor league ball parks. While 10,000 or more persons were lost, at least one family thought little of the European invasion.  This is because Bud Harrelson was born on that day in that year. The Mets’ icon Derrel McKinley “Bud” Harrelson of Niles, California is 73 today.

Now back to games that occurred last night.  The Florida State League, known as Advanced A-Ball has always been noted as a pitcher-friendly league.  The parks are huge-mostly spring training sites in March.  Depending how they are managed, some get a few thousand per night during the sultry summer months.  Some are lucky to see triple digit numbers in the seats. Games of 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 are the usual.   Once in a while though,  two teams get together and duke it out, as occurred last night in Daytona Beach before an audience of barely a thousand.  When the dust settled The Daytona Tortugas (Reds) had beaten the Dunedin Blue Jays (Guess who they belong to) by a 10-9 final. Neither team bothered to write a story of this event, leaving me to reconstruct it as best I can.

The visitors from Dunedin, just outside of Tampa carry a 29-29 record after last night.  The homestanding Tortugas are but slightly better at 31-25. The visitors put up 2 in their half of the first to kick things off. Daytona cut the lead in half in the second, then the Jays made it 3-1 in their half of the third. Each side put up 3 runs in the 6th leaving the score 6-4 Dunedin. The Jays added a run to extend their lead to 7-4 before a 6-run rally by Daytona turned the game once and for all.  The Jays scored a run each in the 8th and 9th but they came up one short. They put up 17 hits on their way to getting those 9 runs and got help from two Daytona errors.  The winning Tortugas got the win with 11 hits and 10 runs. The home team put up 4 home runs while the visitors had none. Two home runs left the lot in the 6th and 2 more in the 7th, one a game-changing 3-run shot by Shed Long. The Jays’ starting pitcher was, comparatively speaking a gray-beard of 32 named Lucas Harrell.  He’s trying to make the almost impossible climb back to the big leagues. Presumably on a pitch count he left after 4 innings giving up 2 hits and a single run. If it were all about winning, Harrell would have stayed in.  Instead Conor Fisk took to the hill and the results couldn’t have been worse. Fisk, age 25 got 8 men out but gave up 8 hits and 7 runs doing it.  He earned  the loss, making his record 3-6. His successor Philip Walby did just as poorly.  He only got one out, giving up a hit and 2 runs-the hit being a home run. The next pitcher gave up no runs but the damage was done. As for the Tortugas, their starter Wyatt Strahan pitched like a lot of the parent club Reds’ pitchers do.  He lasted but 3 innings giving up 5 hits and 2 walks, giving up 3 runs to Dunedin. His successor Juan Martinez gave up 5 hits and 3 runs in 2.2 innings. The next man was luckier if not particularly effective.  Jake Paulson gave up 4 hits and 2 runs in 1.2 innings but got the win as he was on the hill when Daytona put up their 6 runs.           On an interesting side note, the Jays’ leadoff hitter and second baseman was cavan Biggio, the 22-year-old son of Hall of Famer and Astros’ second baseman Craig Biggio. The younger Biggio carries a .262 average after two hits, a walk, a run scored and 2 RBIs last night.

All the NCAA regionals are finished now and the super regionals are set. All the host schools can say is, “Thank God.”  Only two regionals weren’t marred by rain at any point.  One of those was the Stanford regional.  It was only marred by Stanford losing to Cal. State Fullerton, whose reward is to face Long Beach in an All-California super regional.  The Stanford regional got a day’s head start on the other 15 regional tournaments, presumably out of concern for the weather in the san Francisco area. The Oregon State regional also wasn’t damaged by weather which is shocking considering the climate in that part of the country. Oregon State had their ticket punched Sunday a day after Fullerton did.   LSU also wrapped their business up on Sunday.  The other regionals were so wet that they risked carrying on to today, giving the winner a distinct disadvantage.  But somehow that didn’t happen. Vanderbilt will move on to face Oregon State after beating Clemson 8-0 in a game delayed more than 4 hours by rain in upstate south Carolina where Clemson is. Sam Houston State, Dan Rather’s alma mater faces Florida State. Sam  Houston State came from the Lubbock regional where rain began to be a concern Saturday. The winners had to punch their ticket by beating Texas Tech twice in their home ball park and they pulled it off. FSU also had to beat Auburn twice to carry on, which they did. I don’t know if anybody had more rain issues than the Hattiesburg regional which Mississippi State ultimately won.  They meet LSU this weekend. After a quiet first day the entire second day, scheduled for Saturday was washed out. Mississippi State lost Friday night, so the rainout on Saturday doubtless helped their pitchers recover. They won a Sunday morning game, then a Sunday night matchup, then they swept a doubleheader yesterday from the home team, Southern Mississippi.  The first game, scheduled for 1 PM started at 6:45, leaving the nightcap to start at 10:45 PM Eastern last night. By comparison LSU had it soft, wrapping up their round Sunday night against Rice. The Cinderella of this tournament, the Davidson Wildcats face Texas A&M.  Davidson, acting the role of Buster Douglas against Mike Tyson shocked the world by beating second-seeded in the nation North Carolina in Chapel Hill not once but twice. Now they have to take two out of 3 from A&M at College Station, Texas. The Aggies played their regional only 95 miles away from h ome in Houston. Kentucky faces Louisville, as both teams won their regionals. Kentucky, after hours of delay beat NC State to punch their ticket. Louisville was lucky enough to wrap things up on Sunday. Neither TCU nor Missouri State were so lucky.  Both had to deal with what felt like 40 days and 40 nights of rain before winning. In what should be a hot and dry climate, the Fort Worth regional lost its entire first day to the weather and had to start Saturday, playing the first 2 games at 7 PM and 11 PM. Sunday’s second game was delayed by some 4 hours to a 10 PM start. Both games yesterday were delayed before TCU finally beat Dallas Baptist 15–3. Missouri State won a regional played in Fayetteville, North Carolina-not so far from either Chapel Hill or Clemson and had to deal with the storms that area is known for. Delays began on Saturday and became truly spectacular on Sunday.  The last game which should have started at 7 PM instead began at 10, then faced a delay of some 90 minutes in the 4th inning.  The game itself took over 4 hours and wasn’t done until nearly 4 AM Monday morning. Missouri State finally beat Arkansas to advance. Wake Forest faces the Florida Gators in the final of the 8 series to be played this weekend. Wake Forest was in their home ball park in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and had a relatively uneventful regional beating West Virginia to advance. Playing in Gainesville, the Gators won a regional highlighted by a 5-1 win in 12 over South Florida.    The Gators along with LSU and TCU made it to last year’s college World Series. While we know who will play, I for one don’t know exactly where or when.  If the times and locations have been published I haven’t been able to find them.

Over a dozen minor league games will be played in daylight today. In the bigs the earliest start is at 7 PM as the Yankees face the Red Sox in the Bronx. The Yankees hope for the best as they send out masahiro Tanaka who has an ERA north of 11 in his last 4 losses.  The Sox by comparison send out drew Pomeranz, a lefty who won his last outing. The Pirates start Ivan Nova who they stole from the Yankees and who has excelled once he got out of New York.  He faces the Orioles and Kevin Gausman who appears to be finally finding his game. The Reds have a tough task as they face the Cardinals and Adam Wainwright.  Wainwright who appeared finished early on has been on a roll in his last 4 starts allowing all of one run. The Phillies have won 3 in a row as they face the Braves tonight.  Since their starter Aaron Nola came off the Dl following a back injury he’s 0-3 with an ERA closer to 6 than to 5. I know about back pain-I only wish I didn’t.  Another bad outing or two and Nola might be hearing the noise of the MRI machine again. The MRI revealed my own back trouble when 3 sets of x-rays had shown nothing. The Mets send out Jacob DeGrom against the Rangers.  Both teams are doing poorly-the Mets most recently against the Pirates and the Rangers coming off being swept by Houston. Ex-Met Dillon Gee faces his old team. The Astros have now won 11 in a row as they face the Royals. Neither team goes with a household name tonight.  The Astros send out David Paulino against the Royals’ Jake Junis. At 23, Paulino has already been through it.  He signed with the Tigers at 16 and by age 19 he was facing Tommy John surgery. The Tigers traded the injured Paulino knowing he couldn’t do anybody an ounce of good until 2015. That being said he was a late-season call-up in September 2016. With the Astros’ lineup behind him and considering how hot the team is, this could be his chance to make a name for himself.  His foe Jake Junis, age 24 is a 29th-round draft choice by the Royals back in 2010.  That makes for a long journey to the top but at least for now he’s there. The Padres start their megaprospect Dinelson Lamet who has struck out 8 men in each of his first 2 starts.  If he does it a third time it would be something only done by Stephen Strasburg and Masahiro Tanaka. Lamet faces the D-Backs in a park much more hitter-friendly than Petco Park is. The late games feature the Blue Jays in Oakland, the Twins in Seattle and the Nationals in Los Angeles. Max Scherzer threw a complete game (remember what one of those is/) last time out.  He faces one of the Dodgers’ MASH units of injured pitchers-Brandon McCarthy.  He along with Rich Hill and Hyun-Jin Ryu have all logged multiple stretches on the DL this season.

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