Birmingham-Southern College folds, but baseball team very much alive and headed to College World Series

The Birmingham-Southern College Panthers advanced to the Division III College World Series next week — and will play for a school that no longer exists.

Jakob Zito’s two-run triple keyed an early three-run outburst as the Panthers beat Denison University in Granville, Ohio, 7-6, on Saturday.

Birmingham-Southern won Game 1 of the best-of-three series, 10-1, on Friday behind the complete game hurled by Drake LaRoche, the son of former MLB slugger Adam LaRoche and grandson of longtime relief pitcher Dave LaRoche.

Birmingham-Southern team celebrate. (Jace Delgado)
Birmingham-Southern team celebrate. (Jace Delgado)

Century-and-a-half-old BSC announced in March it was shutting down on May 31 — this coming Friday — citing financial shortfalls and declining enrollment.

Despite that stunning announcement, intercollegiate spring sports at the Birmingham, Alabama, campus continued and the Panthers baseball team thrived. BSC qualified for postseason play, won three games last weekend and advanced to the final 16 this weekend, toppling heavily favored Denison.

With Saturday’s super regional clinching win, BSC earned a spot in the Division III CWS, which starts on Friday at Classic Auto Park in Eastlake, Ohio, home of the Lake County Captains, high-A affiliate of the Cleveland Guardians.

So there’ll be some point early in the tournament when the Panthers will be playing with the name of a school on their uniforms that’s no longer in business.

BSC’s peculiar situation bears some resemblance to the University of California, Berkeley, which announced in fall 2010 that several sports, including baseball, would be cut to save money.

The Golden Bears baseball team kept playing, with the specter of program death hanging over it, and advanced all the way to Omaha for the 2011 College World Series. An aggressive fundraising effort eventually took Cal’s baseball team off the chopping block.

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