Columnist

Andy is a regular columnist for Tallapoosa Publishers, Inc.

The Southeastern Conference is the preeminent sports league in all of college athletics. If there's an event out there that even remotely involves physical activity and competition, there are young adults on a southern campus getting ready to dominate it. It could be an individual racing against the clock, girls riding horses on an obstacle course or teams trying to carry a pigskin across the goal line. It doesn't matter.

The SEC is serious about sports and their championship representation is second to none. The latest evidence is the College World Series in which exactly half the field of eight comes from the SEC West. That's incredibly impressive and it's not the first time it's happened. Auburn, LSU, Miss State and Alabama all made it to Omaha in 1997. The Bengal Tigers ended up defeating the Crimson Tide in the championship game.

Of course, this year things have actually been taken up a notch. Texas and Oklahoma have also punched their ticket to Charles Schwab Field. The Sooners and Longhorns will soon be full-fledged members of the SEC. As of today, they are scheduled to join the league in 2025, but it still remains to be seen if that date will happen sooner rather than later. Either way, the point is still valid. As much as the rest of the country despises the SEC, it's only going to become more dominant in the very near future. Learn to love it!

Auburn earned their opportunity and has a legitimate shot to win the national championship this season. They dominated their Regional at Plainsman Park and then, went all the way across the country beating No. 3 seed Oregon State twice on their home field. It's been a total team effort with different aspects of the club showing up in different moments to score a run or make an incredible catch or strike out a hitter.

The Tigers were obviously a much better team than Florida State, UCLA or SE Louisiana. They obliterated that competition scoring 51 runs in three games. That would be an SEC record, by the way. However, the starting pitching has been outstanding as well. Trace Bright, Joseph Gonzalez and Mason Barnett all pitched at least five innings and the bullpen wasn't taxed at all.

Oregon State was a much different animal that matched the Tigers player for player. They boasted one of the best pitchers in the country, Cooper Hjerpe, and he was as advertised. As it should have, it came down to the final game and Auburn's best players rose to the occasion. AU offensive MVP and SEC player of the year, Sonny DiChiara, provided the offense and SEC saves leader, Blake Burkhalter, was unhittable the final three innings. Throw in some outstanding defense and that's why the Tigers are headed to the World Series for the second time in three seasons (not including 2020 which was canceled).

Auburn's half of the bracket will include Ole Miss, Arkansas and No. 2 seed Stanford. The Tigers will kick things off against a familiar foe on Saturday evening, the Rebels from Oxford. Coincidentally, Auburn opened the conference season against Ole Miss back in March at Samford Stadium. The Rebs, who were No. 1 in the country at the time, took two of three. A lot of baseball has been played since that series and both teams have traveled very different roads.

Andy Graham is a regular columnist for The Outlook.

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