Can Aaron Nola carry LSU toward a National Championship?
A few of the teams that are still alive at the College World Series have made it this far on the backs of some of the best college players in the nation. Without them, the programs might not even have won half of their games.
Which college star is most important to his team's title hopes?
With just a handful of teams remaining in the Super Regionals, it’s vital to have your best players playing at a very high level. A poor performance in a best-of-three series can be detrimental to a team’s hoping at making it to Omaha and potentially winning the national championship.
So which players should you be keeping an eye on as the Super Regionals continue and as the College World Series begins in the coming days?
Below are three players that deserve a ton of credit for helping their teams make it to the Super Regionals and for some, all the way to Omaha for the College World Series. They’ve made huge contributions and are essential to their program’s title hopes.
Trea Turner, INF, North Carolina State
Trea Turner is the NC State offense. It’s as easy as that. Through 52 games this season, the infielder is hitting .378/.462/.579 with seven home runs and 41 RBI. He’s scored 64 runs, collected 24 extra-base hits and his walk rate is higher than his strikeout rate. The kid is a star in the making.
When Turner is likely drafted after his junior season for the Wolfpack, it’ll be the second time in his career that he’s gotten his name called at the draft. Two years ago, the Pittsburgh Pirates took Turner out of high school in the 20th round. The Pirates might need a good pick next year to try to take him again.
At the moment, NC State has a one-game lead over Rice in the Super Regionals and sits just one win away from booking its trip to Omaha for the College World Series. In order for the Wolfpack to top the Owls one more time, they need a strong game from Turner. If he doesn’t hit, it’ll be tough for NC State to advance.
Turner went 2-for-5 with a run in the series opener, and performances like that make the Wolfpack series contenders. If Turner continues to hit like he has all year long, NC State should be in solid shape going forward.
Aaron Nola, RHP, LSU
Like Turner, Aaron Nola is another future prospect who's still alive at the College World Series. Nola was also drafted after he graduated high school, as the Toronto Blue Jays drafted him in the 22nd round of the 2011 draft. I’m sure that LSU is extremely happy that he decided to go to school instead.
Not one program in the country has had success off of Nola this year. The sophomore is the leader of the Tigers’ starting rotation for sure, and deservingly so. Through 16 starts this season, Nola is 12-0 with a 1.68 ERA through 118 innings of work. He’s struck out nearly a batter per inning and has only walked 17 batters this year.
Nola pitched the Super Regional opener for LSU and shut Oklahoma down completely. He tossed a complete game shutout where he allowed just a pair of hits, didn’t issue a walk and struck out six Sooners.
LSU has already advanced to Omaha, defeating Oklahoma in Game 2 of the Super Regional as well. Nola has been a major reason why the Tigers have been so successful this year, and if he’s on the mound, it makes you wonder if LSU is ever going to lose. Nola’s just been unbeatable.
Aaron Slegers, RHP, Indiana
Aaron Slegers has had an interesting ride to the Super Regionals this year, and it dates all the way back to his days in high school. Slegers had growth issues in his forearm and missed nearly all of his senior season and then threw just one inning his freshman year at Indiana after a season-ending forearm injury, via his Hoosiers profile.
Slegers redshirted in 2011 due to the injury and then pitched 7.1 innings a year ago. Now, he looks to be healthy. If he’s still injured, he’s pitched extraordinarily well for someone that shouldn’t be on the mound. In 16 starts, he’s 9-1 with a 1.94 ERA through 92.2 innings of work. While he doesn’t strike out many batters, he rarely walks any.
Slegers got the nod in the second game against Florida State in the Super Regionals, Indiana taking the first of the series on Saturday night. Slegers left the game after 4.1 innings, allowing three earned runs (five total) on nine hits while walking a pair and striking out one.
The poor start against Florida States isn’t something that should turn into a trend, but it was apparent that Slegers was struggling. For a guy who only walked 13 batters before the game, it was rare to see him walk a pair in a game. The fact he allowed nine hits too is also something to look at. Even still, he’s sure to be reliable going forward.