On Saturday, the Mets and the Marlins played 20 innings over six-and-a-half hours before the legendary Adeiny Hechavarria singled home the winning run in the Marlins' 2-1 win. The Wednesday before, the Mariners and White Sox went scoreless for 13 innings, then both teams scored five runs in the 14th -- including a two-out, two-strike grand slam by Seattle's Kyle Seager -- before the White Sox won 7-5 in 16.
Thing is, the Mets-Marlins game wasn't the longest game of the past seven days, and the White Sox-Mariners game wasn't the strangest. For those you had to follow the NCAA baseball tournament, whose motto might as well be: Where Weird Happens.
On Sunday, N.C. State scored three times in the bottom of the ninth to tie Rice 4-4. A storm blew through in the 12th, causing a 77-minute rain delay. Then the teams played five more innings before State scored to win 5-4 in the 17th. Counting the rain delay, the game lasted seven and a half hours.
The Monday before -- take a deep breath now -- North Carolina led 6-2 going into the ninth inning against Florida Atlantic.* FAU scored six in the ninth -- the last four on a grand slam -- to go up 8-6. Carolina got two in the bottom of the ninth to tie it. FAU catcher Levi Meyer hit a three-run homer in the 12th to put the Owls up 11-8. FAU walked in two runs in the bottom of the 12th, gave up another run on a hit, and had to throw out the potential game-winner at the plate to keep the score tied at 11. And finally, in the bottom of the 13th, first baseman Cody Stubbs' bases-loaded single won the game for the Tar Heels. The game started two hours late because of rain, so the winning run didn't cross the plate until after 1 a.m.
*And while all that was going on, Oklahoma and Tennessee were playing their own crazy game in the Women's College World Series. People abandoned the Miami-Indiana Game 7 blowout in droves to watch college baseball and softball. It was quite a night.
College baseball doesn't have the following that college football and basketball do, for lots of reasons. There's not as much deep history. The season is skewed because it starts in February -- ice-fishing weather for most schools outside the Sun Belt. (Indiana, the first Big Ten team to make the College World Series since 1984, started this season with a 16-game road trip through the South - their only scheduled game in their home state before March 20 was cancelled.) Baseball purists -- and as we know, there are a LOT of baseball purists -- still can't stand the ping of an aluminum bat.
But college baseball is a blast. It's got all the little high-five rituals and post-game piefaces of MLB, except performed by college kids, so they take it over the top. (It's killing me that the profoundly weird Vanderbilt squad lost to Louisville in the super regionals.) The tournament doesn't have the one-and-done juice of the NCAA basketball tournament, but it seems like some team makes a giant comeback every night. The crowds are loud. Nobody's just there for the beer.
The players aren't as good as the pros, of course. The managers aren't, either -- a lot of them ride their pitchers into the ground. But sometimes the flaws are what make a thing great. College baseball is ragged and exhausting and wonderful.
The last spot in the eight-team College World Series field belongs to the winner of the North Carolina-South Carolina game on Tuesday. If the Tar Heels win, they could run into their old rivals from N.C. State. The last time they played, in the ACC tournament, it went 18 innings. That's a fairly average game in the NCAAs. It's not quite March Madness. But it's a bit of June joy.
Questions? Comments? Challenges? Taunts? You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @tommytomlinson. You have to watch the video of the Seattle grand slam for two things: one, the KIRO announcer saying "Could this be happening?!?" as the ball headed for the seats; and two, the guy absolutely plowing over the little kid as he goes for the home run ball. I'm guessing they're father and son. I'm guessing the kid got a new puppy.