Eight teams are heading to Omaha for the 2013 College World Series, but only one will emerge from the ashes with the necessary victories required to take home the hardware by the tournament's end in late June.
A field of 64 was weeded down to eight over the course of the Regionals and Super Regionals, and those eight teams are now making the storied trip to Omaha where a champion will rise in the same way we see in the professional ranks.
The event is not quite as cutthroat as the NCAA basketball tournament, and each team in Omaha will have a loss to play with during the bracket stage of the tournament. Once that lifeline expires, though, all bets are off—it's win or go home in college baseball's Mecca.
As shown here on Twitter by ESPN's Darren Rovell, the program has already been released and all eight teams are represented on the cover:
A new college baseball champion will be crowned before we know it. Before the 2013 College World Series kicks off on Saturday, here's a complete look at the bracket, game previews for each of the four opening-round contests and predictions for those games.
2013 College World Series Information
Where: TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb.
When: Saturday, June 15 through Wednesday, June 26 (check CWSOmaha.com for times)
Watch: ESPN and ESPN2
Live Stream: ESPN3
Format: Double Elimination in bracket play; Best-of-three in Championship Series
2013 Bracket/Matchups/Schedule (via NCAA.com)
|Saturday, June 15||Oregon State vs. Mississippi State||Opening Round||3 p.m.||ESPN2|
|Saturday, June 15||Indiana vs. Louisville||Opening Round||8 p.m.||ESPN|
|Sunday, June 16||North Carolina vs. NC State||Opening Round||3 p.m.||ESPN2|
|Sunday, June 16||LSU vs. UCLA||Opening Round||8 p.m.||ESPN2|
|Monday, June 17||Saturday's Losers||Elimination Game||3 p.m.||ESPN2|
|Monday, June 17||Saturday's Winners||For Semifinal Berth||8 p.m.||ESPN2|
|Tuesday, June 18||Sunday's Losers||Elimination Game||3 p.m.||ESPN|
|Tuesday, June 18||Sunday's Winners||For Semifinal Berth||8 p.m.||ESPN2|
|Wednesday, June 19||Monday's Losers Bracket Winner vs. Monday's Winners Bracket Loser||Elimination Game||8 p.m.||ESPN|
|Thursday, June 20||Tuesday's Losers Bracket Winner vs. Tuesday's Winners Bracket Loser||Elimination Game||8 p.m.||ESPN|
|Friday, June 21||Monday's Winners Bracket Winner vs. Wednesday's Winner||Semifinal Elimination Game 1||3 p.m.||ESPN|
|Friday, June 21||Tuesday's Winners Bracket Winner vs. Thursday's Winner||Semifinal Elimination Game 1||8 p.m.||ESPN|
|Saturday, June 22*||Monday's Winners Bracket Winner vs. Wednesday's Winner||Semifinal Elimination Game 2||3 p.m.||ESPN2|
|Saturday, June 22*||Tuesday's Winners Bracket Winner vs. Thursday's Winner||Semifinal Elimination Game 2||8:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|Monday, June 24||Bracket 1 Winner vs. Bracket 2 Winner||CWS Game 1||8 p.m.||ESPN|
|Tuesday, June 25||Bracket 1 Winner vs. Bracket 2 Winner||CWS Game 2||8 p.m.||ESPN|
|Wednesday, June 26*||Bracket 1 Winner vs. Bracket 2 Winner||CWS Game 3||8 p.m.||ESPN|
Match-By-Match Preview, Predictions
Mississippi State vs. Oregon State (3)
The Bulldogs reached Omaha after going 3-1 in the regional stage and then sweeping Virginia in the Super Regionals, while Oregon State survived against Kansas State to reach Omaha for the first time since 2007— the second of two back-to-back titles the Beavers won six years ago.
Mississippi State was certainly impressive against Virginia, collecting 30 hits in two games of Cavaliers pitching and withstanding a late rally in the process to complete a two-game sweep.
The stars for the SEC participants (Adam Frazier, Wes Rea and Hunter Renfroe) went 17-of-27 in the series and accounted for 10 RBI over the course of the two games in the Super Regionals (via Mark Giannotto of the Washington Post).
Oregon State, though, is back in real contention after missing out on the last five College World Series. It starts with the pitching staff trio of Ben Wetzler, Matt Boyd and Andrew Moore, who helped Oregon State compile the second-best ERA in the nation so far this year at 2.27.
It should be a battle of the hitting of Frazier (104 hits this year, second in the nation) and the Bulldogs against Oregon State's pitchers, who managed to hold Kansas State (.322 batting average, second in the nation) in check in the Super Regionals win.
Baseball fans know to take good pitching over good hitting nine times out of ten, and that's the case here with this opening showdown in Omaha.
Prediction: Oregon State 5, Mississippi State 2
Indiana vs. Louisville
Indiana and Louisville were both No. 1 seeds in the Regionals, and both breezed to undefeated marks in punching their tickets to Omaha and the 2013 CWS.
The Hoosiers are the first Big Ten team to reach the Series in nearly 30 years, a mark that shows you just how dominant the rest of the country has been in keeping the conference out of the College World Series mix for so long.
It also sheds a light on the idea that the Big Ten has been historically disappointing in baseball over the years.
Indiana looks to change that with an appearance in the CWS this season. With a solid pitching staff (No. 8 in the NCAA with 2.67 ERA) and an ability to hit the long ball when necessary (No. 14 in NCAA, highest of remaining teams with 53 home runs), the Hoosiers will be a tough out for Louisville.
Although Indiana didn't dazzle in the regular season, the Hoosiers have been downright impressive at the plate in the latter part of the season, and enter the CWS as one of the nation's hottest hitting teams.
Speaking of the Cards, this is one of those years where athletic dominance exudes and there's no explanation why (via ESPN on Twitter):
The Year of the Cardinal? Louisville is the first school ever to make a BCS Bowl, Final Four and College World Series in the same year.— ESPN (@espn) June 10, 2013
The Cards are also in the top 10 in the NCAA in ERA (2.50), and are behind only LSU and Oregon State among teams remaining in the field in keeping games toward more of a pitcher's duel than a hitter's showcase.
Louisville manufactures runs with its speed, stealing 150 bases so far this season—good for second in the nation. In what should have a National League feel to it, this should be an exciting game between two teams that will focus on pitching in similar ways, but find different ways to manufacture runs.
Both teams are regionally adjacent to Omaha, so in all aspects of the preview this game looks like a toss up. In a game that could go either way, I'll give the edge to Jeff Thompson or Chad Green and the Cards against an Indiana team that might be a little overmatched in their first-ever appearance in the CWS.
Prediction: Louisville 5, Indiana 4 (10)
North Carolina (1) vs. North Carolina State
North Carolina is the best team in the nation and proved it yet again against their Southern rivals, ousting South Carolina to claim one of the eight spots in the College World Series.
As noted by Sporting News' Vinnie Iyer, the game had a real rivalry feel to it, and it was the No. 1 team in the nation who came out on top:
North Carolina vs. South Carolina baseball giving @sportingnews office the feel of UNC vs. Duke basketball and Clemson vs. USC football.— SN's Vinnie Iyer (@vinnieiyer) June 11, 2013
Led by top MLB draft pick Colin Moran, the Tar Heels lead the nation in runs scored and have a powerful lineup that has home-run hitters from the top all the way down to the bottom.
Although South Carolina pushed North Carolina to the brink, a new challenge awaits in North Carolina State, a team who gives up just over three runs per nine innings and has a chance to curb the Tar Heel offensive attack.
In fact, the Wolfpack will have to in order to survive this game.
North Carolina is capable of putting up runs in bunches, and has a pitching staff led by Kent Emanuel that can carry the load enough to keep the game close while the hitters heat up in the early innings.
While North Carolina State is no easy competitor, and North Carolina hasn't been able to breeze through the postseason like some of the other teams in this bracket, the strong lineup gives North Carolina the slight edge here.
Prediction: North Carolina 7, North Carolina State 5
UCLA vs. LSU (4)
Two more teams which are undefeated heading into the College World Series will close out our match previews. UCLA and LSU both held 5-0 records in reaching the promised land of college baseball.
Now, they'll put those undefeated records on the line with a chance to move on in the bracket without a loss. The Bruins and the Tigers both have a rich history of athletic excellence, but the simple fact remains—one team will be 6-0, and the other will be 5-1 by the end of this game on Sunday.
LSU is at or near the top of the leaderboard in several stat categories in the NCAA, including ERA. Ryan Eades is the most notable name on the staff, but the Tigers have gotten strong performances throughout the postseason to reach the CWS.
UCLA has had a tougher challenge, but is one of two Pac-12 teams to find itself in the mix for the college baseball crown. The Bruins will need to dig deep to compete against this LSU staff, as no regular starter on the roster hits higher than .279.
However, UCLA used a strong pitching effort itself, including that of closer David Berg (7-0, 0.88 ERA, 21 saves) to outlast teams with better overall talent to reach this point. LSU has been an up-and-down team over the course of the season, but one thing that has been consistent is the pitching.
One big inning will break this thing open, and LSU will capture Game 1.
Prediction: LSU 8, UCLA 2