The Finals of the 2012 College World Series kick off Sunday in Omaha, Nebraska. The University of Arizona Wildcats will attempt to stop the South Carolina Gamecocks from winning their third straight championship—a feat that hasn't been accomplished since USC reeled off five straight titles from 1970-1974.
Here's a look at the television schedule for this year's best-of-three showdown, as well as some things to watch for as the championship series unfolds.
Game 1: Sunday, June 24th, 8:00 P.M. Eastern (ESPN)
The Arizona Wildcats have been on an absolute tear since arriving in Omaha, winning nine games in a row. That tear culminated in Arizona's 10-3 demolition of Florida State on Thursday, which gave the Wildcats their nation-leading 46th victory of the season.
South Carolina's road to the championship series has been a bit rockier, and the team needed a late rally to advance to face the Wildcats. After falling behind Arkansas 2-0 in their elimination game Friday, the Gamecocks rallied for a 3-2 victory behind seven innings of scoreless relief from pitchers Tyler Webb and Matt Price.
What to Watch For
Arizona has cruised in Omaha, posting a perfect 3-0 mark, while South Carolina has been in scramble mode since a loss to Arkansas last Monday. Granted, the Gamecocks rallied to reach the championship series, but they've played five games compared to Arizona's three, including a brutal stretch of three games in 36 hours.
The first game of a best-of-three series is absolutely crucial, and a rested Wildcats team that has had two off days would certainly appear to have an edge.
However, the Gamecocks are much more accustomed to the pressure of the championship series given their victories the past two years, and a team that's been rocking their rally caps for most of their time in Omaha certainly can't be counted out.
Game 2: Monday, June 24th, 8:00 P.M. Eastern (ESPN)
It wasn't a huge surprise to see South Carolina's bullpen rise to the occasion on Friday, as the pitching staff has been the strength of the Gamecocks squad all season long, accruing a 2.95 team ERA that ranked 10th in the nation.
Arizona's pitching staff wasn't nearly as dominant during the regular season, with a so-so team ERA of 3.79. However, the Wildcats' starters have been absolutely filthy in Omaha, as the team has racked up a miniscule 1.20 ERA and the bullpen has spent much of their time at TD Ameritrade Park sitting on their hands.
Offensively, the numbers this year significantly favor Arizona. The Wildcats ranked fourth nationally with a .339 team batting average, more than 70 points higher than South Carolina. Arizona also plated quite a few more runs this season than the Gamecocks, scoring more than two full runs per game more.
If there's an area where South Carolina has an edge it's with the big fly, as the Gamecocks hit nearly twice as many home runs this season (42) as Arizona (22).
What to Watch For
The offensive disparity has been just as pronounced in the College World Series, with the Wildcats scoring a phenomenal six runs per game in Omaha as compared to 3.4 for South Carolina.
Arizona's batting average as a team has also been nearly 50 points higher than the Gamecocks. So, unless South Carolina's vaunted pitching staff can figure out a way to slow down Arizona's high powered offensive attack, Southern California's claim as the only team in CWS history to win three or more championships in a row may well remain intact.