There are quite a few players in the College World Series that will surely make a name for themselves in 2012.
These standouts will be on display in one of the most interesting College World Series in recent history. The final field of eight teams includes two Cinderellas (Kent State and Stony Brook), the two teams from last year’s finals and four of the other better teams in the country.
But with all these powerhouses converging in Omaha, who will prove to be the shining stars of the playoffs?
The first player likely to have success in this year's tournament is Matt Reynolds, the junior third baseman from Arkansas. This Razorback offense takes its cues from Reynolds, and it seems that when he goes, they go. Reynolds is hitting .338 with seven home runs, 43 RBI and 15 stolen bases. He is certainly the leader of this Arkansas team, which faces Kent State in the first round.
Arkansas has a tendency of stumbling offensively; they won their three-game set in Waco, despite only scoring seven total runs in the series. Look for Reynolds to step up and be a leader of that Razorback offense.
Arizona pitcher Konner Wade is coming off a huge victory over St. John’s to get his team to Omaha. Wade threw a complete game in a 7-4 win, and he only needed to face 33 batters to finish off the Storm. Arizona’s first round draw is against legendary head coach Mike Martin and the Florida State Seminoles.
FSU’s strength in their lineup comes from Jayce Boyd and James Ramsey, who are hitting .389 and .382 respectively. Wade has the ability to neutralize these two sluggers and breeze through the rest of the Seminole lineup.
Perhaps the best player in college baseball right now, Florida catcher Mike Zunino is red hot coming into Omaha. Zunino is hitting .322 with 19 homers and 64 RBI and was selected third overall by Seattle in this year’s professional draft. The Gators have an interesting first round matchup with defending champs South Carolina.
Not since 1960 has an opening-round matchup featured the two teams from the finals of the previous season. Florida-South Carolina in the first round is probably the biggest story of this World Series. Look for Zunino to step up and show that he is ready, willing and able to flourish in the big time spotlight—something a No. 3 overall pick must prove early.
Finally, there is the leader of the Stony Brook Seawolves, this tournament’s Cinderella story from the America East Conference. Travis Jankowski is a junior center fielder with a gaudy .422 batting average and .485 on base percentage.
When Jankowski was drafted No. 44 overall by the Padres in the professional draft, he became the highest drafted player in Seawolves history, a history which includes famous alums like former All-Star closer Joe Nathan.
Stony Brook’s first-round draw is against a red hot UCLA squad that won 16 of their last 17 games. Bruin’s ace Nick Vander Tuig has won six of his last seven starts, but Stony Brook has one the hottest lineups in the country—filled with guys like Willie Carmona, who’s hitting .514 in the playoffs. Jankowski leads that hot lineup into Omaha today.
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