Baseball Talk

A College World Series preview: Who stays and who leaves

A College World Series preview: Who stays and who leaves

I love this weekend. It’s the start of the College World Series. I love it more when my team is in it and doesn’t suck, but I can’t do anything about that. What I can do is enjoy the show in Omaha and watch some college baseball, which I plan to do.

The first thing you’ll notice is only three of the national eight seeds made it: No. 1 North Carolina, No. 3 Oregon State and No. 4 LSU. Those are the only brand names and powerhouses here. No South Carolina, No Cal-State Fullerton, no Florida State (no Florida school at all) and obviously no Texas (or Texas school). Joining the three national seeds are Mississippi State, Indiana, Louisville, NC State and UCLA.

The non-national seeds certainly played their way to Omaha. UCLA knocked off No. 5 seed Fullerton in two games, Cow Bells took out No. 6 UVA in two straight, Indiana swept out No. 7 FSU, NC State beat Rice, who eliminated No. 8 seed Oregon in the regional and Louisville knocked out mighty Vandy, the No. 2 seed. All five hosted non-nationals and were No. 1 seeds, which means all were close to being top eight national seeds and are as good as anyone in the field… Blah, blah, blah. So who wins? Who goes home early?

The favorites are clearly the top national seeds. No. 1 seed UNC is the most complete team with the 3rd best offense (.306 batting average, 7.9 runs per game) and the 14th best staff (2.78 ERA) nationally. Or No .4 LSU with the No. 3 pitching staff (2.41 ERA) and a terrific offense (.308, 6.6 runs per game) of their own. But there are other stories as well. Who leaves early? Who will surprise? Let’s see!

Two and barbecue alert

The old adage in Omaha is “two and barbecue,” which means you lose your first two games, are eliminated and spend the rest of the tournament tailgating (barbecuing) and watching everyone else.  I see two teams who should be on alert.

North Carolina State

Statistically, the Wolf Pack is the weakest team in the field with 3.09 ERA and the 111th offense in the nation. They score 6.2 runs per game, but with the other pitching staffs (and their run support) I think State is likely the first to make an exit. And with top seed and in-state conference rival UNC first, it appears more likely.

Mississippi State

They remind me of Texas with their stellar pitching (2.77 ERA) and middling offense (6.0 runs per game, ranked No. 60) and, for the most part, the bats win in Omaha. When Texas succeeded, they were killing the ball, when they didn’t hit, they went two and barbecue in 2011. I see the plate being a problem for Cow Bell and potentially being what sends them to the parking lot. A date with No. 3 Oregon State won’t help.

But watch out Beavers, if you lose this game you are on alert. Oregon State has the best staff in the tourney (No. 2, 2.27 ERA) but they don’t have the sticks (.290 batting average, 5.8 runs a game) to fall behind.

­Watch out for…

Indiana

The Hoosiers are making their first appearance in the CWS and are the first team from the Big Ten in Omaha since 1984 (Michigan). They can mash (20th nationally in batting average) and pitch (2.67 ERA, No. 8 nationally) and have the most power of the eight with 53 homers on the season. IU seems unafraid of the moment, knocking off FSU in Tallahassee en route to Omaha. Despite their inexperience, they are going to be trouble.

The Hoosiers start with Louisville and if they win they get the winner of Mississippi State/Oregon State game, which is very winnable. I think they do win and get to the championship game and get LSU. Who wins that? Let’s find out.

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College World Series stadium in Omaha
A look at the College World Series. NCAA Basbeball / Facebook