One swing of the bat. Or was it a checked swing?

That could potentially be the factor that decides the balance of power between the ACC and SEC at this year’s College World Series.

If Tennessee first baseman Blake Burke had been judged to have gone around on a 2-2 pitch with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th on Friday, as pitcher Brennan Oxford and his Florida State teammates believed he did, the Seminoles would have won 11-9 and advanced into the winner’s bracket of the double-elimination tournament.

They would have played North Carolina on Sunday instead of the Volunteers, guaranteeing the ACC at least 1 team in the semifinal round, with 2 chances at winning the 1 game necessary to advance into the championship series.

But that didn’t happen.

On appeal, the third base umpire ruled that Burke held up in time, extending his at bat. Two pitches later, he laced a 2-run single that tied the game, setting the stage for Dylan Dreiling’s walk-off single that gave the tournament’s No. 1 seed a dramatic and somewhat controversial 12-11 victory.

The point here isn’t to debate the merits of the call. There’s more than enough of that to go already around on social media.

The line between a swing and no swing was so fine that it could have gone either way. And because it was determined to be a check on the field, it would likely have been upheld had the rules allowed the play to have been reviewed.

Besides, as FSU coach Link Jarrett pointed out afterward, the point would have been moot had his Seminoles taken better advantage of opportunities to put Tennessee away before and after the call.

“Every pitch matters in these games and you saw the result of those,” he said. “Every pitch. We did not play well enough to separate. It was ugly early. We had chances to record outs. We didn’t. … They delivered the result.”

The Volunteers delivered an even more emphatic result against UNC on Sunday night.

Starter Drew Beam and 2 relievers handcuffed the Tar Heels on just 5 hits while the Vols’ offense built enough of a cushion to prevent Scott Forbes’ team from mounting another of its trademark 9th inning rallies.

Star center fielder Vance Honeycutt, who has been Mr. Clutch throughout this postseason, did continue his hot hitting with a homer leading off the 6th. But that was all UNC was able to muster in a 6-1 loss that digs the ACC into a deep hole in its head-to-head competition against the SEC in Omaha.

https://twitter.com/NCAABaseball/status/1802509005308285386

Though the margin has been slim, with 2 of the losses coming on walk-offs, FSU, UNC and NC State are a combined 0-3 in head-to-head matchups against SEC opponents in Omaha.

With all 3 now facing elimination games whenever they take the field and Virginia having already been sent home, courtesy of the Seminoles in Sunday’s early game, this unofficial ACC/SEC Challenge is threatening to become an SEC-exclusive party in a hurry.

At least 1 conference team will survive Tuesday’s loser’s bracket showdown between UNC and FSU. The downside is that the winner will then have to beat Tennessee twice, with what will likely be a depleted pitching staff, in order to advance to the best-of-3 national championship series.

Possible. Just not probable.

NC State will be in a similar position on the other side of the bracket, assuming that the Wolfpack can bounce back from its 10-inning opening game loss to Kentucky and take down Florida on Monday.

That promises to be a tall task.

Tall, as in the Gators’ larger-than-life 6-5 standout Jac Caglianone, the 2-way star who is scheduled to be on the mound for the elimination game.

This is the first time since the CWS went to its current 8-team format that field has consisted of teams from just 2 conferences. The 4 representatives each from the ACC and SEC tie a tournament record.

That accomplishment should be celebrated no matter what happens from here on out.

But the reality is that like it or not, the results in Omaha will inevitably be interpreted as a referendum on the competitive merits of both leagues.

If the championship series turns out to be an SEC vs. SEC proposition, as it was a year ago, it will give Greg Sankey and his league’s fans another opportunity to pound their chest and proclaim their dominance over all college sports. As well as giving their broadcast enabler ESPN yet another excuse to disparage the ACC.

Imagine how different the situation might be if Burke’s bat had been ruled to have gone around.

Then again, as long as there are games to play and ACC teams still in the bracket, there’s still time for the momentum to “swing” back in the other direction.