The College World Series is set to begin, with eight teams vying for a coveted national championship.
For those that are attending in Omaha, or planning to watch the events unfold for the next ten days, here’s a primer for all eight teams remaining.
#1 Oregon State Beavers
Why They Will Win: The Beavers are undoubtedly college baseball’s best team, with a staggering 54-4 record. Oregon State has the nation’s best ERA (1.36), and is 39th in the country in batting average (.296). They also enter the College World Series with a 21-game winning streak, the longest of any team remaining.
When talking about the Beavers, the discussion should begin with their insanely deep pitching lineup. Jake Thompson (14-0, 1.52 ERA) and Jake Mulholland (6-1, 1.31 ERA) highlight many pitchers that can start and dominate the game. If that’s not enough, Bryce Fehmel just had a complete game against Vanderbilt to clinch their spot in Omaha. They also have five batters in their normal lineup hitting over .300, led by third-team All-American Nick Madrigal (.383 BA, 19 doubles).
Why They Will Not Win: It’s no secret that the Beavers enter this weekend as the overwhelming favorites, and finding a weakness is difficult on this team. In the Beavers’ four losses, they committed six errors and averaged eight runners left on base per game. It will take elite pitching to keep a team competitive with the Beavers, but Oregon State had a great showing against Vanderbilt’s Kyle Wright last weekend.
Cal State Fullerton Titans
Why They Will Win: Of the teams remaining, the Titans (39-22) are the only team to have won two road series: against #8 Stanford in the Regional round, and again at Long Beach State. Don’t let their record fool you, either; the Titans are battle-tested, having taken four of five against Stanford, split their series at Houston, and exacted revenge on the Dirtbags in the Super Regional.
The Titans are 23rd in ERA (3.57), a big reason why they were able to shut down so many teams this postseason.
Why They Will Not Win: The Titans have beaten many of the best teams in the West, but have not faced the Oregon State juggernaut this year. Their .270 batting average (136th in the country) puts them at a disadvantage against the other three teams in their pod, despite their pitching and defense looking solid in the last month.
Florida State Seminoles
Why They Will Win: If not for the Beavers, Florida State (45-21) would be the hottest team entering the World Series. The Seminoles have won 18 of their last 21 games; this stretch includes beating #7 Louisville three times, North Carolina in the ACC Championship, and then beating Auburn and Sam Houston State to advance to Omaha. Tyler Holton (10-2, 2.25 ERA) is a menace on the mound with 139 strikeouts to boot, while Taylor Walls, Cal Raleigh and Dylan Busby have been great in the past month.
Why They Will Not Win: Head coach Mike Martin has been to Omaha more than any skipper remaining (15), but has yet to win the College World Series. None of the players on the current roster have experienced anything like Omaha, but recent play (especially from the ACC Tournament) suggests that it will be a non-factor. Holton has been the guy for FSU at the mound, but can they get steady production from other starters such as Drew Parrish (4.40 ERA, 6-3) and Cole Sands (5.05 ERA)?
Why They Will Win: One of two SEC teams in the tournament, LSU (48-17) has developed a reputation for one of the nation’s most explosive offenses. The Tigers average seven runs per game, which will help when facing Florida State to open the weekend, and then possibly meeting with Oregon State down the line. Greg Deichmann is one of the best power hitters in Omaha; his 72 RBI, along with 19 home runs, 48 walks and .606 slugging percentage is intimidating at the plate. LSU has five guys with 10+ doubles this year.
They also enter Omaha riding a 16-game winning streak, rolling through Auburn three times, Mississippi State five times, Rice, Missouri and Kentucky. LSU has also won its last ten against ranked teams.
Why They Will Not Win: If LSU has a weakness, follow these trends; LSU is 22-16 when opponents score three or more runs, and 16-10 on road/neutral site games. Caleb Gilbert and Zack Hess are studs in the bullpen, but there are questions surrounding the steadiness of this bullpen against more explosive teams. LSU will need to stay hot at the plates to avoid being eliminated.
#3 Florida Gators
Why They Will Win: Making their third straight appearance in Omaha, the Gators are the second-most experienced team in this stage. Michael Byrne (1.83 ERA) was a First-Team All-American as the Gators closer, scoring 16 saves. Teammate Alex Faedo (7-2, 2.55 ERA, 136 K) is a stud on the mound. Their pitching has subdued the likes of Wake Forest, Florida State (twice), and Kentucky.
On offense, JJ Schwarz looks to be the spark; his 12 home runs and 53 RBI lead the team, and earned a second-team All-SEC honor. Ryan Larson and Nelson Maldonado (.304, each) lead the team in batting average.
Why They Will Not Win: Their .262 batting average as a team is very troubling, which is the worst among the eight remaining. Florida has also lost ten of its 17 games by 1-2 runs, the most of any team in the CWS. Coincidentally, ten of their 17 losses have also come when opponents score ten or more hits. If Florida’s pitching cannot keep them in the game, they will have to rely on their sporadic offense to get the job done.
TCU Horned Frogs
Why They Will Win: Florida may be the second-most experienced team, but TCU has the most of any team in Omaha. The Horned Frogs are in their fourth straight CWS appearance, and fifth in this decade. Evan Skoug was the Big 12 Co-Player of the Year, leading the conference with 20 home runs and hitting .277 at the plate. Outfielder Nolan Brown is near the top ten in the country in stolen bases (26-for-28 in 2017), while Jared Janczak is undefeated with a 9-0 record and 1.97 ERA. Luken Baker enters Omaha on a 29-game reached base streak.
TCU scores 6.9 runs per game, which is 34th in the nation and fourth among the eight teams remaining. Additionally, TCU has already won against LSU and Texas A&M in the same weekend.
Why They Will Not Win: In the three prior trips to Omaha, TCU is 4-6, including losing to eventual champion Coastal Carolina twice last year. The Horned Frogs are 8-13 when allowing six or more runs, but 37-3 when allowing five or less. TCU has a 4-13 when trailing after six innings, but has won 19 of its 35 games that they’ve trailed in.
Texas A&M Aggies
Why They Will Win: Braden Shewmake has burst onto the scene as one of college baseball’s hottest stars. The freshman earned All-American honors with a .335 batting average, 17 doubles and 68 RBI, which doubles the next guy on Texas A&M (Walker Pennington, 33 RBI). Brigham Hill was also an All-American for the Aggies at the mound.
Texas A&M enters the CWS off of a grinder against Davidson, needing a walk-off to put away the Wildcats in 15 innings, then rallying from a 6-2 deficit in the eighth to punch their ticket. A&M outscores its opponents 159-67 from the fifth to the seventh innings this season, showing their capability of playing stronger as the game goes along.
Why They Will Not Win: A&M managed to beat a ranked Houston team on the road to be able to host their Super Regional against Davidson. However, the Aggies are 8-12 against teams that finished in the top 25. Davidson also had a lot of success at the plate, but could not capitalize due to five errors in the series and leaving 19 men on base. Against a team with better discipline and capitalizing on runners in scoring position, the Aggies may not be so lucky.
Why They Will Win: Now the prohibitive favorite to win it all in Omaha, Louisville has looked like a newly energized team since losing four of their final five games prior to the NCAA Tournament. You will not find any player as versatile as Brendan McKay is; the two-way star is a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award, throwing a 2.43 ERA with a school-record 140 strikeouts and batting .343 at the plate with 17 home runs.
Drew Ellis broke out of his slump with three home runs against Kentucky last weekend, including two in the series-clincher. The team has also played spectacular defense in the last month; guys such as Devin Hairston, Logan Taylor, Colin Lyman and Josh Stowers key a defense that is third in the nation in ERA (2.85).
Why They Will Not Win: The Cardinals have played with a chip on their shoulders as of late. While the Cardinals have had success from the bottom of their batting order, McKay has been on a slump at the plate (15-for-64 since May 5th). Seven of Louisville’s ten losses have come when Louisville allows an error. Kade McClure had an impressive showing against Kentucky, but will need to find that groove again to stay consistent.
Louisville has had their batters in the bottom of the order step up while McKay, and even Ellis slumped this postseason; but if those two don’t deliver in the postseason, the bottom of the order will have to play above their heads again.
Matt McGavic: U of L loses to Oregon State in the finals.
Jeremy Wahman: U of L wins some games, but does not make it to the title game.
Justin Krueger: U of L loses to TCU in the Saturday rubber match, but Oregon State wins the title in two games.
U of L baseball is now in Omaha. Where do you see the Cardinals finishing in the College World Series?
— … (@kruegermania) June 15, 2017