NEW ORLEANS - The Sun Belt Conference announced today changes to its baseball regular season and championship that are effective for the upcoming 2017 season.
Beginning with the 2017 season, the conference will conduct its baseball regular season with divisional play. Two divisions – East and West – will include six teams and divisional champions will be awarded at the end of the year based on the winning percentage against all teams, regardless of division.
The 2017 Sun Belt Conference Baseball Championship will be seeded with the division winners as the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, with the No. 1 seed being awarded to the divisional winner with the best conference winning percentage. Seeds No. 3- No. 10 will be selected based off winning percentage in conference play, regardless of division.
Also new for 2017, the number of teams playing in the conference championship will increase from eight to ten. This would cause two additional games to be played. The first round games would include the No. 8 seed vs. No. 9 seed and the No. 7 seed vs. the No. 10 seed, with both contests conducted as single-elimination games on Tuesday of tournament week. Both winners of the first round games would advance to join the No. 1 through No. 6 seeds on Wednesday to continue as a standard 8-team double-elimination tournament with the championship scheduled for Sunday.
Changes to the conferences baseball formats were originally proposed by the head baseball coaches during their annual summer meeting. Sun Belt institutions reviewed the changes and they were passed unanimously this week by a vote of the conference’s chancellors and presidents.
“A significant piece of our mission is to ensure the best possible experience for our student-athletes both during the regular season and at our championship events,” said Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson. “We have routinely emphasized this while also examining what our strengths are. Throughout the history of the Sun Belt, baseball has been one of our strengths - we are home to the reigning College World Series Champions and programs that consistently have success on the national level. The alterations to our baseball formats will ensure that we will continue to have success in the sport and our teams are well positioned for postseason play – including our goal to have team play in Omaha each season.”