College baseball is baseball that is played on the intercollegiate level at institutions of higher education. Compared to football and basketball, college competition in the United States plays a less significant contribution to cultivating professional players, as the minor leagues primarily fulfill that role.
As with other intercollegiate sports, most college baseball is played under the auspices of the NCAA or the NAIA. The NCAA writes the rules of play, while each sanctioning body supervises season-ending tournaments. The final rounds of the NCAA tournaments are known as the College World Series; one is held on each of the three levels of competition sanctioned by the NCAA. The College World Series for Division I takes place in Omaha, Nebraska in June, following the regular season. The playoff bracket for Division I consists of 64 teams, with four teams playing at each of 16 regional sites (in a double-elimination format) in late May. The 16 winners advance to the Super Regionals at eight sites, played head-to-head in a best-of-three series. In reference to the University of Mississippi (aka "Ole Miss") baseball team's 37-year absence from the College World Series, OMAHA has also been coined an acronym for "Ole Miss At Home Again".  The eight winners then advance to the College World Series, a double elimination tournament (actually two separate four-team brackets) to determine the two national finalists. The finalists play a best-of-three series to determine the Division I national champion. In 2009, the winner of the College World Series was the LSU Tigers.
The first known intercollegiate baseball game took place in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, on July 1, 1859, between squads representing Amherst College and Williams College. Amherst won, 73-32. This game was one of the last played under an earlier version of the game known as "Massachusetts rules", which prevailed in New England until the "Knickerbocker Rules" (or "New York Rules") developed in the 1840s gradually became accepted. The first ever nine-man team college baseball game under the Knikerbocker Rules still in use today was played in New York on November 3, 1859 between the Fordham Rose Hill Baseball Club of St. John's College (now Fordham University) against (the now defunct) St. Francis Xavier College.
College baseball has grown phenomenally in popularity since the 1980s. Traditionally, it has been played in the early part of the year, with a relatively short schedule and during a time when cold (and/or rainy) weather hinders the ability for games to be played, particularly in the northern and midwestern parts of the U.S. These and other factors have historically led colleges and universities across the nation to effectively consider baseball a minor sport, both in scholarships as well as money and other points of emphasis. During the 1980s, coaches and athletic directors in warm-weather regions of the nation began to recognize the unrealized potential appeal of the sport. These coaches went out and aggressively recruited the sport to potential athletes, as well as made various upgrades to their programs; such as bigger and better stadiums, more money for staff and support salaries, and promotions. As these efforts resulted in better players and overall programs, more television and print media coverage began to emerge. The ESPN family of networks greatly increased television coverage of the NCAA playoffs and the College World Series.
Soon, in many warm-weather regions, baseball came to be considered a major sport, approaching the level of football and basketball. And even non-warm weather schools started to recognize baseball's potential and began to put considerably more emphasis on it. Nebraska, Notre Dame, and Oregon State are three notable examples of cold (or rainy) weather schools with very successful programs. The first two made the College World Series when warm-weather schools placed major emphasis on baseball as well as had the advantage of playing earlier and more games because of favorable climates. Oregon State won back-to-back national championships in 2006 & 2007; at that time, archrival Oregon had been without baseball for a quarter-century, having dropped its program in 1981. Many credit the Beavers' success as being a primary factor in UO's later decision to revive baseball in 2009. Minnesota has taken advantage of the use of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome to play the majority of their games, including hosting a prestigious preseason tournament, and when the MLB Twins leave after the 2009 season, hope to use the facility for future Big Ten tournaments and bids on the NCAA tournament. Along with that, many smaller conferences (not in Division I) will play games at the Metrodome during February in order to keep up with schools in warm-weather locations. For 2008 and succeeding seasons, the NCAA has mandated the first ever start date for Division I baseball. This day is exactly thirteen weeks before the selection of the NCAA tournament field, which takes place on Memorial Day. For 2008, this day is February 22. Many feel this date will give schools outside of warm-weather areas more parity in college baseball and help continue to make the sport a major one nationally.
The rules of college baseball are similar to the Official Baseball Rules. Exceptions include the following:
|Attendance||Schools||Ballpark and Location||Date|
|40,106||Houston at San Diego State||Petco Park, San Diego, CA||March 11, 2004 |
|28,836||Georgia Tech at UGA||Turner Field, Atlanta, GA||April 2004|
|27,673||Tulane at LSU||Superdome, New Orleans, LA||April 22, 2002|
|1||14,991||Florida at Mississippi State, Starkville||April 22, 1989|
|2||14,378||LSU at Mississippi State, Starkville||April 16, 1988|
|3||13,761||Arkansas at Mississippi State, Starkville||April 25, 1992|
|4||13,715||Clemson at Mississippi State, Starkville||June 9, 2007|
|5||13,617||Georgia at Mississippi State, Starkville||April 8, 2006|
|6||13,123||Ole Miss at Mississippi State, Starkville||April 15, 2000|
|7||12,708||Auburn at Mississippi State, Starkville||April 24, 1993|
|8||12,620||Clemson at Mississippi State, Starkville||June 8, 2007|
|9||12,360||Georgia at Mississippi State, Starkville||April 6, 2002|
|10||11,763||Auburn at Mississippi State, Starkville||April 12, 2003|
|11||11,496||Florida State at Mississippi State, Starkville||May 27, 1990|
|12||11,174||Florida at Mississippi State, Starkville||April 13, 1991|
|13||11,127||South Alabama at Mississippi State, Starkville||May 26, 2000|
|14||11,014||Arizona State at Arkansas, Fayetteville||April 8, 2009|
|15||10,958||Auburn at Mississippi State, Starkville||April 9, 2005|
|16||10,923||Florida at LSU, Baton Rouge||May 9, 2009|
|17||10,832||Notre Dame at Mississippi State, Starkville||May 28, 2000|
|18||10,688||Washington at Mississippi State, Starkville||May 25, 1997|
|19||10,619||Florida at Mississippi State, Starkville||April 17, 2004|
|20||10,588||North Carolina at Mississippi State, Starkville||May 28, 1989|
|21||10,581||Louisiana State at Arkansas, Fayetteville||May 5, 2007|
|22||10,555||Kentucky at Mississippi State, Starkville||April 18, 2009|
|23||10,414||Tennessee at LSU, Baton Rouge||April 18, 2009|
|24||10,382||Florida at Mississippi State, Starkville||April 25, 1987|
|25||10,324||Kentucky at Mississippi State, Starkville||March 31, 2007|
The longest college baseball game was played between Texas and Boston College on May 30, 2009, during the NCAA Division I Baseball Championship regional tournament at Austin, Texas. Texas — which was designated the visiting team despite playing on its home field — won the game, 3-2, in 25 innings. The game lasted seven hours three minutes.