The state of Arizona has been a popular Major League Baseball Spring Training destination for decades and it looks as if college baseball administrators are catching on to this trend adding several college baseball tournaments.
With the first pitch of college baseball scheduled for mid-February while most of the country is still buried under snow, the desert oasis of Arizona will be welcoming teams from every region of the country including the Northeast (Manhattan College), the Southeast (Mississippi St.), the Midwest (Indiana, Nebraska, Michigan St.) , the Plains (Oklahoma, Oklahoma St.) , the Rockies (Utah) and the Northwest (Oregon St., Gonzaga, Washington) over the next month.
Fans of America’s Pastime in Arizona will be treated with three of the eight entrants of the 2013 College World Series and the 2012 National Champion Arizona Wildcats.
The National College Baseball Writers of America (NCBWA) has six of the participating teams in their preseason Top 30 poll while Collegiate Baseball has eight teams in their Top 40.
Suffice to say that if you are looking for quality baseball tournaments outside of Omaha, make your way to Arizona.
The Goodyear Tournament or The Husker Classic, depending on who you talk to, kicks off the season with the defending Pac-12 Conference champion Oregon State Beavers, West Coast Conference champion Gonzaga Bulldogs, the Big Ten runner-up Nebraska Cornhuskers and the University of Pacific in Stockton from the Big West Conference completing the bill.
The games will take place at Tempe Diablo Stadium, the Spring Training home of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. There is a full slate of game during the weekend of February 14-16 with doubleheaders each day and a single game on Monday, February 17.
The 12th Annual Surprise Baseball Classic will also be known by another name this year—The Pac-12/Big 10 Challenge. Three teams from both conferences will be represented and games will be played at the Surprise Recreation Campus in Surprise, Ariz., northwest of Phoenix. The complex is also the Spring Training home of the Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals.
Oregon State, Utah and Washington from the Pac-12 Conference will face off against the defending Big 10 champion and College World Series entrant Indiana Hoosiers, the Michigan State Spartans and an encore performance from the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
The games will be played February 21-23 and will also be a round-robin event with doubleheaders each day and a single game between Washington and Oregon State on Monday, February 24. The key matchup will be between the Indiana Hoosiers and the Oregon State Beavers on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET. The Hoosiers will be looking for revenge against the team that sent them packing in Omaha last season.
Major League Baseball Spring Training begins in earnest the weekend of February 27-March 2. The Surprise Recreation Campus will host a double header of MLB and College Baseball games with the Sanderson Ford College Baseball Classic. The No. 16 (NCBWA) Arizona State Sun Devils with host two schools from the Big XII Conference including the defending champion Oklahoma Sooners as well as the Oklahoma State Cowboys, two schools from the WCC including champion Gonzaga, and the Santa Clara Broncos. The Manhattan College Jaspers of the MAAC will fill out the rotation of teams.
There will be three games played simultaneously each day following the Major League action with first pitch at approximately 6 p.m. ET while Sunday will have two early games, 1 p.m. ET and one later game, 6 p.m. ET. Key matchups between conference champions Oklahoma and Gonzaga will be played Sunday afternoon and the final game of the Classic features two preseason teams in the NCBWA top 16 between No. 12 Oklahoma State and No. 16 Arizona State.
2013 College World Series runner-up Mississippi State and UC Santa Barbara will visit Tucson the weekend of March 7-9 in the Hi Corbett Classic. The three teams will compete in a round-robin style tournament with doubleheaders at 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. ET on Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. ET on Sunday. Key matchups between the host Arizona Wildcats and Mississippi State Bulldogs take place Friday and Sunday nights with teams alternating as the home team.
Mississippi State is an anomaly coming into 2014 as they are ranked as high as No. 2 in the preseason poll by Collegiate Baseball yet the NCBWA ranks them at No. 13, College Baseball Central ranks them at No. 14, and Baseball America has them at No. 16. Arizona is ranked No. 24 by Collegiate Baseball yet is unranked in the other polls.
Outside of early season tournaments, the New Mexico Lobos will also be making two mid-week trips on February 18 and March 12 to Tempe to take on Arizona State. The Lobos finished the 2013 season as runners-up in the Mountain West Conference and received an at-large bid to the postseason but drew an unenviable No. 3 seed with Arizona State and Cal State Fullerton. New Mexico is ranked as high as No. 13 by Baseball America, No. 17 by College Baseball Central, No. 37 by Collegiate Baseball and is unranked by NCBWA.
There is some great baseball on the horizon and all signs are pointing to the Grand Canyon State as being the mecca for College Baseball.
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