The Road to Omaha…
This weekend marks the beginning of the NCAA Men’s College World Series. The journey started with a field of 64 teams and has dwindled down to just eight, after claiming victory in both their Regional and Super Regional bouts. Each team has fought hard to get to the promise land that is Omaha and all are hungry for a chance to raise the NCAA Championship trophy. Here is a preview of what to expect over the next ten days at the Men’s College World Series.
Day One (6/14)
UC Irvine vs Texas
Louisville vs Vanderbilt
UC Irvine is coming into Omaha for the second time with a nothing-to-lose and everything-to-gain attitude. The Anteaters surprised the college baseball world by knocking out no. 1 overall seed Oregon State in the Regional and continued to impress by taking the Super Regional from Oklahoma State in sweeping fashion. Irvine rode the arm of ace Andrew Morales and got some timely, efficient hitting from their lineup to make their way to TD Ameritrade Park this weekend. The Anteaters may have lost their element of surprise after eliminating a couple of the top teams in the country, but that doesn’t mean that they will be slowing down any time soon. Expect this scrappy team to fight the whole way through.
It should be no surprise to college baseball fans that Texas is making yet another appearance in the CWS. This will mark a record, 35th appearance for the Longhorns and the eighth under head coach Augie Garrido. The Longhorns have had a long tradition of success through the regular and post-seasons and plan to continue that success this year in Omaha. The Longhorns ran into some difficulty at the end of the season, dropping its last 14 regular season games – but they have found some momentum going into the postseason, as they went 3-1 in their Regional and posted a two game sweep in the Super Regional. Maybe Texas has found their push and will peak at just the right time; they are definitely hoping so.
The Cardinals have one strong advantage over every other team in the World Series this year – they are the only team to be making a return trip from last season. After knocking out rival Kentucky and their National Player of the Year A.J. Reed, Louisville will be returning 19 players to Omaha for the second, consecutive year. Experience can play a big role during these high pressure games on a big stage, and the Cardinals will have that on their side. They were also untouched in their Regional and Super Regional play, winning every game to get to TD Ameritrade Park. Louisville is entering Omaha with wins and experience on their backs – definitely not a team to underestimate.
Making just their second trip ever to Omaha, the Commodores have had a wild and crazy ride to get their ticket punched. Vanderbilt will be entering the CWS with a never-say-die attitude flowing strongly throughout the team. We saw this in the Regionals when they pulled off an incredible comeback win, in walk-off fashion – and it wasn’t an experienced Senior team captain that came through with the game winner. On the contrary, it was a Freshman Ro Coleman that came up big for Vandy and put them past Oregon to take the Regional Final. After skidding by the Regional, they came out of the “if” game victorious against Stanford. Louisville will no doubt be a tough opponent, but it doesn’t look like the Commodores are afraid of anyone coming into this World Series.
Day Two (6/15)
Texas Tech vs TCU
Virginia vs Mississippi
Unlike other teams in the World Series, Texas Tech will be walking into Omaha with no prior CWS experience in school history. Heck, before this season, the Red Raiders had never even been to a Super Regional! But, there is a first time for everything and this year’s Red Raiders have broken down some walls and started paving their way into school history. They managed to win their first Super Regional by sweeping College of Charleston, winning 1-0 in both games – making four of its last five victories by shut-out. Texas Tech will be riding their defense, as it is one of the best in the nation, boasting a .981 fielding percentage paired with a nearly untouchable team ERA of .65 in the tournament thus far. The saying goes, “offense wins games, but defense wins championships” – if this is truly the case, which is very true in TD Ameritrade Park, then the Red Raiders have a great chance of hoisting the trophy at the end of it all.
This will be the second trip to Omaha in school history for the Horned Frogs, but don’t let that lack of experience fool you. TCU is one of two squads left in the field of eight to carry an overall national ranking. The Horned Frogs have shown some grit this postseason in beating Sam Houston State after an exhausting 22 inning battle during Regionals, and a nail-biting victory after a successful suicide squeeze against Pepperdine in the Super Regionals. TCU may not have had the easiest time winning those games, but wins are wins and right now they’ve got quite a few behind them, winning 32 of their last 36 games played.
The Cavaliers are entering this year’s World Series with the highest remaining, overall national ranking as well as the Vegas odds-on favorite. In their third appearance at the CWS, the Cavs have a mix of experience, offense, defense pitching and just plain talent – tough to ignore a team that has three MLB first-round draft picks. Virginia is coming into Omaha on an offensive tear, scoring 44 runs in the past two weeks of play. At a venue like TD Ameritrade Park, offensive numbers are hard to come by – if Virginia can put up the numbers they have been throughout this postseason, coupled with the third best defense (.982 fielding percentage) in the country, there is no doubt that they will remain the team to beat throughout this tourney.
Last but not least, good Ole Miss. Mississippi may have five trips to the CWS under their belt, but none are remotely recent. The last trip the Rebels made to Omaha was back in 1972, so don’t plan on experience to be pushing this squad. However, Ole Miss proved that they are a force to be reckoned with during their Regional and Super Regional runs. Mississippi pulled off an extra innings victory over Washington to face Louisiana-Lafayette at the Super Regionals. After dropping game one of a best-of-three series, with their backs against the wall, the Rebels rebelled and took both elimination games. Going up against the favored, best team in the tournament for their first game, the Rebels will need to dig deep and fight hard to prove that they deserve to be the team to beat in Omaha.
So now that you are all caught up with the teams and opening match-ups, we hope that you watch and enjoy this season’s last week-and-a-half of college baseball – we certainly will! To make your own predictions, you can click HERE for the bracket!
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