The road to Omaha, Nebraska, and the College World Series begins Monday with the announcement of the 64-team NCAA baseball tournament field at noon on ESPN2. Two teams from Michigan will be focused on the telecast, albeit with differing levels of anxiety.
In Mount Pleasant, Central Michigan will be waiting to find out what four-team regional it will play in. The Chips have an automatic berth by virtue of clinching the MAC title with a win in their first game Sunday against Toledo. The Chips went on to win the second game of the doubleheader, giving CMU a 40-16 record overall, and 31-9 in conference play. It’s the second straight NCAA tournament appearance for the Chips, who won their first game in the 2019 tournament, against Miami (Fla.), before losing to host Mississippi State and being eliminated in a rematch against Miami. (The 2020 NCAA tournament was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.) Before that, CMU hadn’t made the tournament since 1995.
In Ann Arbor, Michigan baseball will be a bit more tense. The Wolverines went 1-2 in the final weekend of Big Ten play against Nebraska, which had already clinched the conference title, to finish in a three-way tie for second in the standings. (The Big Ten canceled its conference tournament due to COVID concerns.) U-M finished at 27-12, tied with Indiana and Maryland and 4 ½ games behind the ’Huskers.
Coach Erik Bakich’s squad last made the NCAA tournament in 2019, making a Cinderella run to the CWS finals and getting one win away from the title before losing two straight to Vanderbilt. One major difference between that team and this year’s: Chris Fetter, the Wolverines’ pitching coach in 2019 now occupies the same role with the Detroit Tigers.
Fetter isn’t the only thing the 2021 Wolverines were missing. U-M, along with the rest of the Big Ten, didn’t face any non-conference competition. That could hurt the Wolverines’ chances of making the field. Two weeks ago, the conference’s softball teams — who also played a conference-only slate — were seemingly snubbed by the selection committee, which took just three teams from the conference and sent them all on the road for the regional round. Michigan softball, which won the conference handily, had to travel to Seattle instead of hosting a regional. The Wolverines’ softball team won its first two games before losing twice to Washington and being eliminated.
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Will the Wolverines make the field? The major projection websites are split: D1baseball.com has the Wolverines in, as a 3-seed in the Austin, Texas, regional, hosted by Texas as a national 3-seed. Baseball America, though, thinks U-M will be left out, placing the Wolverines as one of the “First Four Out.”
As for CMU’s projection, both D1baseball and BA have CMU staying close to home, as the 4-seed in the South Bend, Indiana, regional. The two projections differ only on the national seed for host Notre Dame, with D1baseball making the Irish a 6-seed and BA putting the Irish at No. 7 overall.
The regional round of the NCAA tournament begins Friday at 16 campus sites. The four-team regionals are double-elimination. The winner of each regional advances to the super regional round, a best-of-three series at the higher seed’s campus. The eight winners of that round advance to the CWS in Omaha, which is set to begin on June 19 and wrap up on June 29-30.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan baseball on the bubble; CMU baseball locks up NCAA berth