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Birmingham-Southern -- which will close May 31 -- heads to Eastlake for NCAA D-III College World Series

May 27—A pitch has yet to be thrown as the NCAA Division III College World Series heads to Eastlake at Classic Auto Group Park, but a Cinderella team has already emerged.

Birmingham-Southern scored a big upset at the Super Regional at Denison as it shocked the No. 2 team in the nation Denison to earn one of eight spots in Eastlake.

The team from 'Bama won a best-of-three series, sweeping Denison, 10-1 and 7-6.

CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?!

YOUR BIRMINGHAM-SOUTHERN PANTHERS ARE SUPER REGIONAL CHAMPIONS AND ADVANCE TO THE DIII COLLEGE WORLD SERIES!!!!!?? pic.twitter.com/Eiyjm7gbvS

— BSC Athletics (@BSCsports) May 25, 2024

Overcoming those odds on the diamond was likely the least of the Panthers' concern.

That's because Birmingham-Southern is closing its doors as an institution May 31 — the day the D-III CWS begins at Classic Park.

Birmingham-Southern — founded in 1856 — is a liberal arts college with an enrollment of 1,300.

For two years, the school reportedly tried to restore its endowment with no luck. When legislation for a $30 million loan reportedly did not pass in the Alabama State House, the college decided in March to close its doors permanently.

Now, the last remnants of Birmingham-Southern will be felt in Eastlake with bats, balls and gloves for at least two more games.

"This is just a really special ride for a lot of reasons," Coach Jan Weisberg told The Associated Press. "... We just want every minute we can."

The D-III CWS is a double-elimination format. The Panthers (32-14) will enter as the No. 7 team and play 2 seed Salve Regina from Rhode Island in their tournament opener May 31. First pitch is scheduled for 4:45 p.m.

Before the news of the school's upcoming closure, Birmingham-Southern was 13-10. Since then, it is 18-4 and heading to the CWS.

"Just with all the emotions that we've been facing, to not have that one on our back of, 'God, this could be the last game in this dugout,'" Weisberg told The Athletic. "It was a release, and I think they've played with that."

The team is led by infielder Andrew Dutton and starter Drake LaRoche. Dutton is batting .344 with seven home runs, 39 RBI and 56 runs. LaRoche is 8-3 on the mound with a 3.21 ERA and 66 strikeouts.

If the school's pending closure wasn't enough, on May 26 reportedly nine players dealt with food poisoning during the Super Regional at Denison — with two reportedly needing to be admitted to a nearby hospital for fluids.

"Nine of our guys woke up with food poisoning," Kristin Waters Sullivan, sister of the school's athletic director Kyndall Waters-McCormack, wrote on Facebook. "Two were in the hospital during the game. Half the team were hooked up to IVs behind the dugout. (Denison) was ranked number 2 in the country. This my friends is all heart. World Series bound."

To help with travel expenses, the cost of championship rings and helping players find a new school following the CWS, a group created a GoFundMe for Birmingham-Southern on May 25 with a goal of raising $50,000. As of May 27, it has raised more than $80,000.

Birmingham-Southern athletics tweeted this weekend, "Campus may be closing, but the story is still to be written."

The improbable story continues this weekend in Eastlake.