William & Mary takes long route to NCAA baseball tournament

With four teams in the field of 64, Conference USA lead the way among ASN-affiliated teams in the NCAA Division I baseball tournament starting Friday.

But no team had a more unlikely route to the tournament than CAA champion William & Mary.

Beat top seed UNCW? Check. Again? Check. Beat Tropical Storm Bonnie? Check. The Tribe did all that and more to advance to the tournament.

After losing the CAA tournament opener, The Tribe won four games to take the title, but not without some dramatics thrown in. Josh Smith, the tournament's most valuable player, hit an eighth inning grand slam to break a 9-9 tie in the title game, giving William & Mary its first CAA baseball title since 2001.

As for Bonnie, the 27-hour rain delay caused by the storm meant W&M had to finish play on Sunday for Monday's announcement. If they had not played the title game, UNCW would have been awarded the title.

UNCW did make the tournament field and faces Duke.

The Tribe opens regional play against No. 1 seed and defending national champion Virginia, which is hosting a regional for ninth time in the past 13 seasons.

The double-elimination games will be played Friday through Monday (if necessary).

Some highlights:

  • Utah Valley of the WAC is one of four teams making the field for the first time. Overall, 25 of the 64 teams were in the field last year.

  • Navy’s Luke Gillingham vs.N.C. State’s Brian Brown and Western Michigan’s Keegan Akin vs. Louisville’s Kyle Funkhouser are two of the best opening pitching matchups, according to D1 Baseball's analysis of the field

  • Coastal Carolina was one of their sleeper pick to advance to the College World Series starting June 18 in Omaha, Neb.

  • Florida is the No. 1 seed in the tournament Louisville (47-12), Miami [FL] (45-11), Texas A&M (45-14), Texas Tech (41-16), Mississippi State (41-16-1), Clemson (42-18) and LSU (42-18).
  • The ACC set a conference record and tied the all-time mark with 10 teams in the championship field. The SEC, which sent 10 teams to the 2014 tournament, has seven teams in this year's field. Conference USA and the Pac-12 have four, while the American Athletic Conference, Big 12, Big Ten, Big West each have three.

Above: William & Mary celebrates its CAA Tournament championship. (Courtesy Tribe Athletics)

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