Opening day of the 2013 College World Series is scheduled for Saturday, when the first of four games over two days will help separate the eight teams into the pretender and contender categories.
Then again, with a double elimination format, no team is either until the title is in hand.
The eight teams that made it through the Regional and Super Regional rounds are as follows: North Carolina, North Carolina State, LSU, UCLA, Mississippi State, Oregon State, Indiana and Louisville.
Some went undefeated in previous playoff play, and others did not—No. 1 North Carolina, for example, had a thriller against South Carolina just to get to college baseball's Mecca and a shot at the national championship.
As ESPN's Darren Rovell and Kristi Dosh pontificated about on Twitter, it really is all about the shot at glory:
Didn't know this RT @SportsBizMiss Teams make $0 for competing in or winning the College World Series.— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) June 12, 2013
Records, MLB prospects and hot streaks all matter in the CWS, but the one thing you can't account for is how bad each of these teams want it. Take a look below as we preview the first two games of action on Saturday from Omaha.
College World Series Day 1 Schedule
When: Saturday, June 15, at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. ET
Where: TD Ameritrade Park; Omaha, Neb.
Game 1: Mississippi State vs. Oregon State (3 p.m.)
Game 2: Indiana vs. Louisville (8 p.m.)
*For a complete schedule, click here (via CWSOmaha.com).
2013 CWS Bracket
Mississippi State (48-18) vs. Oregon State (50-11)
The Beavers are back in the tournament for the first time since 2007, when they were winning their second straight CWS. A five-year drought is finally over, and the Beavers (2.27 team ERA) bring the second-best pitching staff in the nation into the CWS.
Kendall Rogers of Perfect Game had this tweet about Oregon State's Game 1 opponent:
No surprises though. RT @MikeBBonner: Kendall Graveman will start against Oregon State.— Kendall Rogers (@KendallRogersPG) June 14, 2013
The Bulldogs, on the other hand, are making their ninth appearance in Omaha, but hold just a 7-15 lifetime record in the tournament. A series of one-and-dones haven't been kind to Mississippi State, but this is a deep team led by a couple of future MLB'ers.
Mississippi State bats .297 as a team, but is led by standouts Hunter Renfroe and Adam Frazier, both who should be playing in the majors within the next three to four seasons. The pitching staff isn't half bad either—a team ERA of 2.77 leaves the Bulldogs as the 13th best staff in the nation.
The offense of both of these teams was on display against Virginia (Mississippi State) and Kansas State (Oregon State), as both teams put double-digits runs on the board in separate wins.
The pitching was also there, as neither team gave up more than six runs in the Super Regional.
This should be an extremely interesting game to watch, as the battle between Graveman (7-5, 3.14 ERA) against whomever the Beavers send to the hill won't be easy, as this tweet from Beaver Baseball would suggest:
Andrew Moore is a first Team All-American by @BaseballAmerica and Matt Boyd is a third-teamer. Congrats guys!— Beaver Baseball (@Beaver_Baseball) June 12, 2013
Neither team was one of the best in the NCAA when it came to hitting this year. However, individuals like the two future Bulldog professionals and Beaver Michael Conforto, who had two home runs in the Super Regional to boost his year mark to 11, make things dangerous for both coaches in preparation for this game.
With recent games suggesting a slugfest and the pitching numbers suggesting a duel, something's got to give in Omaha. This should be a great opening round game, full of future pro stars and the unexpected on both sides of the diamond.
Indiana (48-14) vs. Louisville (51-12)
Both Indiana and Louisville come in hot to start the CWS, with a 2-0 Indiana win to open the 2013 season over Louisville now a distant memory.
The Hoosiers have one of the best slugging teams in the country, as they are the team with the most home runs among remaining CWS participants and also have two of the top-50 batting average hitters (Dustin DeMuth at .389 and Kyle Schwarber at .376) to deploy against the opponent.
Their trip to the CWS is also historic—the first Big Ten team to reach the event in over two decades and the first time the school has ever made it to Omaha, to boot.
Expect a big turnout in Omaha this week for the red and white (via Indiana's Twitter):
While the Hoosiers soak everything in, the Louisville Cardinals will continue to churn along after an impressive season on both sides of the field. The pitching staff (2.50 ERA, fifth in the nation) has two strong options to deploy in Jeff Thompson and Chad Green, and the subtle combination of speed and power in the lineup can get the job done when necessary.
Look no further than two straight wins over No. 2-seeded Vanderbilt to show you that this Louisville team is resilient.
The Cardinals are second in the nation with 150 steals this season, a number that means the Indiana pitching staff is going to have to deal with both hitters and base runners every time a Cardinal reaches base in this game.
Expect leadoff hits and the play behind the dish to be huge factors in this game, as will be Indiana's ability to get guys on base and avoid the reliance on the long ball in a game against a strong pitching team.
So there you have it—two games, four teams and none will be eliminated after Saturday's action is completed. College baseball is at its finest in June each year, and these four teams will look to get the CWS off to a great start in what should be an exciting tournament.
*Information from NCAA.com was used to compile this report.
Follow Bleacher Report FC Ethan Grant (@DowntownEG) on Twitter.
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