With all of collegiate athletics in flux due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems likely that college baseball will face scheduling adjustments in the 2021 season. Cross-country travel may be reduced, especially for smaller budget teams. NC State, not thought of as a smaller budget team, has already pulled out of the Round Rock College Classic in an effort to cut costs.
Additionally it is unclear how schools will respond to the NCAA labeling college baseball a "medium contact risk" sport. Uncertainty in long-distance travel potentially opens the door for more local weekend series. With that said, we have gathered the driving-distance series that we most want to see in 2021.
Texas A&M vs University of Texas (107 miles)
This one is a no-brainer. Texas A&M and Texas haven't met up for a full weekend series since 2012, when Texas A&M left the Big XII to join the SEC. Since then, Texas A&M has seven Regional appearances, three Super Regional appearances, and one trip to Omaha. Texas has four Regional appearances and two visits to the College World Series in the same timespan. The quality of the product on the field and the intensity of the games would be worthy of the postseason.
ECU vs NC State (84 miles)
The state of North Carolina is a powerhouse in college baseball. The fact that ECU doesn't play annual series with NC State or UNC is a travesty. This series would give both schools a nice RPI boost, making it a win-win regardless of outcome. Especially with the departure of UConn from the American, ECU could use an additional series against a likely tournament team.
UCF vs Auburn (418 miles)
This matchup is the farthest distance of the bunch, but there needs to be a sequel to the 2020 series. UCF was one of our biggest winners of the shortened 2020 season, and that was in large part to their road sweep of Auburn. The Knights ended the season at #11 in College Baseball Nation's Top 25. Part II of UCF vs Auburn is needed to prove whether the first series was an anomaly or if UCF is really announcing itself on a national stage.
Oklahoma State vs Arkansas (173 miles)
Imagine it. It's Opening Weekend 2021. Oklahoma State's brand new O'Brate Stadium sees action for the first time. Omaha regular Arkansas comes to town to face off against a ranked Oklahoma State team that will compete for a Big XII title. What more could you want? This series would be full of next-level talent and would preview the potential of these two teams making it to Omaha.
UCSB vs Pepperdine (67 miles)
Both of these teams finished the shortened 2020 season in College Baseball Nation's Top 25, with UCSB checking in at #16 and Pepperdine at #23. UCSB is consistently one of the best squads in the Big West, while Pepperdine is one of the West Coast Conference's best teams. In a region of the country where RPI-boosting series can be hard to come by, this series would help both teams bolster their postseason resumes.
Vanderbilt vs Louisville (173 miles)
What's not to like about this series? The defending National Champions versus one of the teams most likely to break through and win a title in the next few years. Kumar Rocker versus Luke Smith on Friday night with Jack Leiter following up on Saturday for the Commodores. This series would be worthy of the National Championship series.
Have a better idea for a weekend series that needs to happen in 2021? Comment below or tag us on social media!
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