College World Series 101: Rules, Rounds & Rising Stars
The annual College World Series tournament is wrapping up and a new champion is soon to be crowned. The collegiate baseball championship series is the result of whittling down the top 64 teams to the final two, who then battle it out in a best-of-three final series.
Some of the top players who go on to work in both the major and minor leagues get their start here, though there are a few differences in the sport at a collegiate versus professional level. Want to know more? We’ve broken it all down in the Q&A below.
What is the College World Series and How Does it Work?
The College World Series, CWS for short, is a tournament held annually in June. Since the 1950s, the final rounds have taken place in Omaha, NE, until 2011 at Rosenblatt Stadium and subsequently at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha. The current agreement will allow it to continue to be held here until 2035. It is made up of two rounds, the first is single elimination bringing the field of 64 teams down to eight, which then move onto the second round.
The Regional Rounds are hosted in 16 locations around the nation, with four teams in each. They play one another in double elimination brackets until there is only one team left in each bracket. They then move onto the Super Regionals.
In the Super Regionals, the eight remaining teams are split up into two brackets, and must play one another in a double elimination format. Like NCAA basketball’s March Madness, there are multiple games per day during the early parts of the tournament before slowing down toward the end. The penultimate week usually features two matchups per day during the double elimination round.
The winners of the two brackets must play a final series with one another, a best-of-three matchup–ostensibly also double elimination. The games are usually held on the Sunday, Monday and, if needed, Tuesday following the double elimination round. Due to the unusual nature of the double elimination format, teams may lose up to four games and still win the championship.
How are the Competitor Teams and Locations Decided?
The initial 64 teams are selected in a variety of ways. Of the 299 participating schools, 31 automatically qualify based on their performance throughout the season. The remaining 33 teams are selected by the NCAA Division I Baseball Committee, similar to how ranking is done in college football.
Hosting is typically done by the top seeds, though there can be exceptions if facilities or revenue guarantees are stronger from other schools. Bids are submitted to the committee, who then select where the Regionals will be held. The brackets and locations are announced the week before the tournament begins.
Super Regionals hosting is handled similarly, usually at the top remaining seed. There are eight national seeds given to teams before the tournament, and if any of them advance past Regionals they are automatically awarded hosting duties (assuming their facilities are sufficient to do so). Because the final round–the actual College World Series–is always held in Omaha, hosting early on becomes more important than in later rounds.
What’s the Difference Between NCAA and MLB Rules?
While the basics of the game are still the same, such as nine-inning games and three outs per side, there are a few key differences. The most notable is that while only half of MLB uses the controversial designated hitter rule, the entirety of the NCAA allows for it. The collision rule is also out, so players are not allowed to crash through the catcher at the plate like in MLB. Aluminum bats are also permitted in college baseball, allowing for a faster swing due to its lighter weight.
Outside of actual play, the other major difference is how the schedule works. Aside from the playoff schedule, the regular season is much shorter. Instead of 162 games, there are only 56 games in the NCAA. The games are also played earlier in the year, beginning in February and running through June, whereas MLB is typically from April until October.
There is also a mercy rule in NCAA that would never fly in the Majors. If a team goes up by 10 runs, the team on the short end of the stick forfeits. There are some minor variations within a few divisions, but for the most part every team adheres to this rule.
What’s the Best Way to Catch the Action?
The most exciting way would be to travel to one of the host sites or Omaha to attend the games in person. The tickets (which can be found here) are much easier to come by than most other college championship games, with prices also relatively low compared with most sports finals games. Barring that, much of the action is shown on sports networks in most markets.
Is There Anything Else I Should Know?
Once you get used to the minor differences between the game, you may find that NCAA baseball is actually much faster paced than the pros. The aluminum bats and energetic play by young talent makes for excellent viewing opportunities whether you decide to travel to Omaha or just post up on your couch. But perhaps the most important thing to know is that you are seeing some of the best baseball in the world being played, with future pro stars facing off in a fun and fan-friendly atmosphere.
Interested in attending a game for yourself? Click here to browse all NCAA baseball teams & tickets on SeatGeek!
(Image courtesy of Rich via Flickr.)