Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Fans in the Big South Conference certainly have plenty of events and athletes to get excited about throughout the year, with lots of successes and remarkable competitions to enjoy...but we also know that there are times when fan fever reaches a higher level--moments when even casual fans find themselves fired up for the sports drama to come.

Over the years, the Baseball Championship has been one of those benchmark events. This year should be no different, and it's time to take the field and get going: games one and two are tonight at Winthrop Ballpark for the 2010 Royal Purple Big South Conference Baseball Championship.

The headline story has to be top-seeded Coastal Carolina. The Chanticleers are justifiably ranked with the nation's elite teams. Their overall record is sensational; their Conference record is spotless: 25-0 in Big South play for 2010.

Seriously. Undefeated. Twenty-five wins.

CCU has an inside track on hosting an NCAA Regional--and a Super-Regional if they survive. Those games would all be played at BB&T Coastal Field (home of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans minor league team, and a very nice room to catch a game, right across from the Broadway at the Beach complex). The Chants have been knocking on the door to Omaha for years--does Coach Gary Gilmore have the right combination this time? I won't be the one to jinx anything (baseball is so superstitious), so I'll just say "all things are possible"...and now that the regular season is over, all eyes are on the various conference tournaments as teams are slotted into postseason roles.

But here's the thing...Coastal may be wearing the belt, but seven other participants are in the ring for this particular royal rumble. The top four seeds know they are in the main double-elimination bracket starting play on Wednesday: CCU, Liberty, Radford, and High Point. The next four teams have to play their way into that phase of the competition, with single-elimination play Tuesday afternoon and evening...

Game 1 - VMI vs. UNC Asheville, 4pm
Game 2 - Winthrop vs. Gardner-Webb, 7pm

The two winners join the top four seeds and play for the title...the two losers are one-and-done, postseason over, thanks for playing. If that seems rough, remember that Charleston Southern didn't even make this party, finishing 9th for an eight-team field (noting that PC is still not eligible for the tourney due to NCAA D-I transition rules).

Beyond the two-game opening day on Tuesday, it's three games each day for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday (11am / 3pm / 7pm schedule each day), and then the final game(s) on Saturday starting at 1pm (one game for certain, two games if necessary to determine an overall winner).

The entire event will be broadcast on the Big South Network. If you subscribed to a Baseball SportPass (or a Spring Combination Package or an Annual Membership), you already have the tournament included in your account. If you're a game-by-game purchaser or new subscriber, you'll need to order the Championship (available by the day or full event) to see the competition. It promises to be one of the more elaborate productions attempted to date on the Big South Network, with up to six cameras in use, significant graphic support, frequent use of replays, and experienced announcers (including me, so I won't lay it any thicker than "experienced" for now). We give a big SHOUT-out to Everett Hutto and Scott Finn at Winthrop for the ambitious production plans and look forward to a sensational product.

Okay, enough hype...PLAY BALL! Just hours after this was written, all the words in the world won't make a difference, as the teams will start sorting it out for themselves between the lines. I hope you have a chance to follow the tournament in whichever way you wish -- either by attending the games at Winthrop, watching on the Big South Network, or following the updates I intend to offer as frequently as I can on Twitter, Facebook, and naturally in some first-person accounts right here in SHOUT! Whew...enjoy the games.

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