There are 16 teams vying for eight spots at the 2013 College World Series, each needing a pair of Super Regional victories in order to book their trips to Omaha, Neb. Some programs have better chances than others, though.
Which team has the best chance at going to Omaha?
Of the teams still in the hunt for the National Championship, all but two are No. 1 seeds. Oklahoma and Rice, both No. 2 seeds, managed to take out top seeds Virginia Tech and Oregon in their respective regional finals. Advancing through another round won’t be easy for the underdogs.
Which programs are in good shape at the Super Regionals, though? With so many top seeds remaining, there are bound to be some close matchups over the next few days. But which teams will be able to win a pair and move on to the round of eight?
Below are three teams that should have no problem whatsoever getting to Omaha. Call them locks. Call them guarantees. Call them whatever you want. But you must call them three of the teams that will be still be in contention come next weekend in Nebraska.
North Carolina Tar Heels
Super Regional opponent: South Carolina Gamecocks
The Tar Heels are by far the best team in the nation, and that’s reflected in their No. 1 overall ranking at the College World Series. UNC went 55-9 before the tournament started and went undefeated throughout the ACC Championship.
Virginia was the only team that gave the Tar Heels much trouble during the year, with North Carolina falling to the Cavaliers twice in a trio of home games in late May. Luckily for UNC, the program won’t have to face Virginia until Omaha—should both teams make it that far, which is very likely.
Through June 3, UNC has averaged 8.1 runs per game, the second most of any other team in Division I. The Tar Heels pitching staff also had the ninth-best ERA in the nation at 2.69. In essence, UNC scores a lot and rarely lets up many runs. That’s probably why the team only lost nine times all year.
There was a small hiccup for UNC during the Chapel Hill Regional. UNC fell to Florida Atlantic in the championship series to force a winner-take-all matchup. The Tar Heels prevailed, but it wasn’t easy, as reported by Cliff Corcoran of Sports Illustrated.
South Carolina won’t be an easy opponent to take 2-of-3 from, but despite losing their 10th game a couple of days ago, the Tar Heels are still the best team, and I don’t foresee them losing another game until Omaha, if at all, in the rest of the College World Series.
Super Regional opponent: Louisville Cardinals
Vanderbilt is a very similar team to UNC. The Commodores are extremely balanced with a strong collection of hard-throwing pitchers and hitters that spray the ball all over the field. They were in the top 10 of nearly every statistical category throughout the season.
One of the big differences between the two, however, is that only UNC won its conference championship. Vanderbilt fell in the SEC title game against LSU, another team still alive at the College World Series. Regardless of the loss, Vandy still did more than enough to earn No. 1 seed for the national tournament.
Another similarity: Vandy also failed to close out its regional final when it had the opportunity to. Georgia Tech defeated the Commodores to force a decisive game, which Vanderbilt, of course, won. Vanderbilt can’t afford to have anymore slip-ups going forward or else it’s going to lead to its elimination.
Vanderbilt is set to take on Louisville in the Super Regionals, the Cardinals having gone 3-0 through regional play. The Cardinals have a strong pitching staff that averaged more strikeouts per nine innings than any other team this year. The Commodores have some great hitters, though.
The Commodores will win this series due to their pitching. Louisville has two headaches awaiting them in the Super Regional: Kevin Ziomak (11-2, 1.92) and Tyler Beede (14-0, 2.20). Those two will guarantee a spot in Omaha for Vandy.
Super Regional opponent: Oklahoma Sooners
There are two things about LSU that I’ve already discussed: First, the Tigers won the SEC Championship, and second, their opponent, the Oklahoma Sooners, are one of the pair of No. 2 seeds that advanced to Super Regionals. Let’s dig a little deeper about LSU, though.
The Tigers are the No. 4 team in the country and have had a phenomenal regular season and postseason thus far. LSU didn’t have the toughest opponents in the Baton Rouge Regional and easily went 3-0. They outscored their opponents by an average of four runs per game.
LSU is currently riding a six-game winning streak that dates back to the SEC Championship and expect that to continue for at least some more games. The Tigers’ pitching and hitting is much strong than that of Oklahoma’s, and I’m predicting a two-game sweep in the Super Regionals.
When LSU scores first, the Tigers are 40-3. Look for guys like Alex Bregman and Mason Katz to each get on base a ton early, drive in runs and make sure that Oklahoma never stands a chance against LSU. And if LSU has a lead after seven innings, the Sooners can forget about a comeback. The Tigers are 46-0 in that situation.
Oklahoma will be lucky if it does any damage off of the likes of Aaron Nola (11-0, 1.82), Cody Glenn (7-2, 2.41) and Ryan Eades (8-1, 2.81). The Sooners have a nice little run, but LSU will show them who’s boss in the Super Regionals.