|NEW ORLEANS – Sun Belt teams will no longer play as many as six games to win the Sun Belt Championships and earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament as the league announced a new format this week.
Following one of the most successful seasons in Sun Belt Conference baseball history the SBC baseball coaches decided to implement a new tournament format for the upcoming 2011 SBC Baseball Championship.
The new round-robin format, which is similar in scope to the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, will feature eight of the ten SBC teams competing against each other in two four-team pools with the team with the best record in each pool advancing to the tournament's championship game.
Each team in the tournament will be guaranteed three games and a day off prior to Championship Sunday. The tournament will begin on Wednesday, May 25 and continue through Sunday, May 29.
Pool A will comprise of tournament seeds No. 1, No. 4, No. 5 and No. 8, while Pool B will comprise of tournament seeds No. 2, No. 3, No. 6 and No. 7. Three games will be played each day until the championship with times of 11:00 a.m., 3:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.
The host team (should they qualify for the tournament) can choose its game time on the days it is scheduled to play; but will not be allowed to choose the days the games are played. Higher seeded teams will be designated as the home team in their first game of the tournament while lower seeded teams will be the home team in their second game of the tournament. A coin flip will determine the home team for each team’s third game of the tournament (coin flip to be held at coaches meeting prior to start of the tournament).
As mentioned above, the team with the best record in tournament games in each pool will advance to the Championship game on Sunday. However, if more than one team is tied at the completion of round-robin play in the brackets, then the following tie-breaking procedures will be used:
TWO TEAMS TIED
The team that won the head-to-head competition in championship games will advance.
THREE TEAMS TIED
The team with the highest seed in the respective bracket will advance.
The change in format is the first change since the 1999 season when the tournament expanded to an eight-team double-elimination setup. FIU won the SBC tournament in 2010, defeating Troy 14-10 in each team's sixth game of the tournament.
This year's SBC Baseball Tournament will be hosted by Louisiana-Monroe May 25-29, 2011.
Middle Tennessee will open the 2011 season at Reese Smith Jr. Field Feb. 18-20 when it plays host to Portland.