The aluminum bats are out in Omaha again; the 2013 College Baseball World Series is about to begin.
The field is set, both with multiple-time champions like LSU and Oregon State and relative newcomers like Indiana, Louisville and North Carolina State (combined two previous CWS appearances). Which school goes on to win it all will be determined largely by who can get timely hits in the clutch.
Below are four likely candidates to make serious noise with their bats in Omaha.
Kyle Schwarber, C, Indiana
Kyle Schwarber's bat is a big reason the Hoosiers are making their first ever CWS appearance. The sophomore catcher's team-high 18 home runs and .674 slugging percentage are ranked third and eighth, respectively, in the country.
He's not solely a power hitter, either, as seen by his .376 batting average. ESPN's Mitch Sherman mentions the second-team All-American's unique abilities at the plate:
Impressed with the hitting approach of Indiana C Kyle Schwarber. His combination of skills and discipline are so rare in college game. #CWS— Mitch Sherman (@mitchsherman) June 9, 2013
Schwarber's combination of power and patience has resulted in 42 walks. Some of those were intentional, but he earned most of them with a good eye.
Schwarber was the driving force in Indiana's 10-9 win over Florida State in the first of their two-game sweep in the Super Regional. Schwarber opened the scoring with a two-run homer during a four-run fourth inning. Then, with his team down 6-5 in the seventh, Schwarber knocked in two more runs with a single, later scoring himself as part of another four-run inning.
Schwarber must continue to serve as the Hoosiers' catalyst for them to win in Omaha.
Mason Katz, 1B, LSU
The LSU first baseman leads his team's offense with 15 home runs, 68 RBI, .630 slugging percentage and .454 on-base percentage. Nationally, he's tied for for 14th in home runs and tied for eighth in runs batted in.
He had a 35-game stretch in which he reached base successfully and also has 28 multiple-hit games and a team-high 19 multiple-RBI games.
The senior, a fourth-round pick in this year's MLB draft by the St. Louis Cardinals, has one more chance at collegiate glory. Like they have all season, the Tigers will rely on their second-team All-American to produce when it counts.
Colin Moran, 3B, North Carolina
This season, North Carolina's offense ranked third in the country in scoring, averaging 7.9 runs per game. This is thanks in large part to Colin Moran, who leads the country with 88 RBI.
Moran, the No. 6 overall pick by the Kansas City Royals in the 2013 draft, stood out on a team boasting power up and down the lineup. He accounted for more than a quarter of his team's 48 home runs, hitting 13.
The Tar Heels will hope Moran has more clutch hits in him like the one he had in their deciding Super Regional win over South Carolina. Trailing 4-2 in the sixth inning, North Carolina scored three runs to take a 5-4 lead, going on to clinch their spot in Omaha by that score. The rally started when Moran's single drove in the first run of the inning and continued when he crossed home plate for the tying run.
Moran's only hit of that game proved to be a difference maker, which is what he needs to be in the College World Series.
Hunter Renfroe, OF, Mississippi State
Hunter Renfroe has done it all at the plate for the Bulldogs this season. Like LSU's Katz, his 15 home runs ties him for 14th most in the country and is just one of many categories he leads his team in this season. The others include batting average (.360), slugging percentage (.644) and RBI (61).
It's no surprise, then, that Renfroe was both a first-team All-American and a first-round pick in the MLB draft, taken 13th overall by the San Diego Padres.
Mississippi State leans heavily on Renfroe when it comes to hitting for power. His home run total is more than the rest of his teammates combined. So if they need a long ball in a late game situation, look for Renfroe to be the man.
All stats courtesy of NCAA.com.