Birmingham-Southern baseball, soon-to-be defunct, draws national attention before DIII College World Series

The Panthers and their improbable story includes a wave of illness and six figures of donations

The Birmingham-Southern baseball team is providing possibly the best college sports story of the spring with its postseason run to the Division III College World Series.

As the No. 7 seed Panthers prepare to play No. 2 Salve Regina on Friday, Birmingham-Southern College is closing permanently due to financial struggles. The school's baseball team outlasting the institution itself while riding an improbable run of success is a development drawing national headlines.

Coach Jan Weisberg was interviewed on ESPN's "SportsCenter" earlier this week. A documentary crew began following the Panthers during the super regional and the production has grown to chronicle the team's College World Series. As's Joseph Goodman wrote, Tuesday's practice looked like a TV show with all the equipment gathered on the field.

Fans locally and nationally have been inspired to help the team amid its unique situation. A GoFundMe account set up for the team raised over $100,000 as of Thursday. The money is going to support the team during the College World Series, and whatever is left over after funding travel expenses (and championship rings) will go to the coaching staff.

Among the subplots adding to the lore of Birmingham-Southern's postseason run is the team dealing with a strain of norovirus during last weekend's super regional sweep of Denison. Nine or 10 players were sick with what was initially thought to be food poisoning, three more became ill after Saturday's clincher, and one even had to go to the hospital. A couple of players are still getting sick as the Panthers begin World Series play in Eastlake, Ohio.

Prior to learning that the school would close, Birmingham-Southern had a 13–10 record and lost nine of its past 10 games. Since the players found out that this would be their final season at the small private liberal arts college (enrollment 1,300), the Panthers have gone 19–4 and received an at-large bid to the Division III national tournament.

The story continues Friday at 4:45 p.m. ET.