When the College World Series began just two days ago, three of the eight teams participating were national seeds. Now, all three find themselves in the loser's bracket fighting for their lives.
How did this happen? How did four underdogs all win first round games in Omaha?
Believe it or not, once you look back at what actually went down, it all makes sense.
Starting with Game 1, both Oregon State and Mississippi State scored less than their season averages. Oregon State actually did a decent job of executing their small-ball approach for most of the game, piling up 10 total hits. The game was lost in the eighth inning, when the Beavers stranded two runners on base. Those turned out to be the runs that would have won the game.
In the end, the loose Bulldogs came through in the clutch thanks in large part to a two-run double by Wes Rea in the top of the eighth. Mississippi State is a grind it out team that doesn't seem to be phased by anything, and it showed in their Game 1 win.
Game 2 may have been a case of everyone underestimating the Indiana Hoosiers and their Big Ten pedigree. Perhaps people overlooked the fact the Indiana won two of the three games they played during the regular season against Louisville. One of those wins came when Joey DeNato took to the mound earlier in the year—he seems to have Louisville's number and it showed on Saturday.
On the other end of the spectrum, it would appear that Louisville pitcher Chad Green was a questionable choice to start Game 2 for the Cardinals, regardless of what was going on in their rotation.
Prior to Saturday, an earlier loss to Indiana was the arguably the worst outing of the season for Green. The three hits and two runs he gave up on Saturday night would be all the usually high-scoring Hoosiers would need to avoid a trip to the loser's bracket.
Game 3, though it was an upset of sorts, made the most sense as far the outcome goes. N.C State's Carlos Rodon is arguably the best college pitcher in the nation and TD Ameritrade is a pitcher's park.
Rodon was dialed in from the start, never giving the Tar Heels a chance to get going. Carolina's 7.79 run-per-game average was no match for a pitcher who had his slider firing on all cylinders, maintained his velocity deep into the game and had the wind at his back.
Game 4 seemed to be the biggest surprise of the weekend, though it really shouldn't have been. Some people were dogging UCLA's ability to score runs coming into the series, but as it turns out that may have been a good thing. The Bruins made it to Omaha despite averaging just 4.75 run-per-game on the year. That average was almost two runs lower than LSU's (6.52) heading into the game.
If there is one park in college baseball where you need to know how to win without scoring a bunch of runs, it's TD Ameritrade. I would argue that no team in the country is built better to win in Omaha than the UCLA Bruins.
As the CWS moves forward, the first weekend of games should be viewed more as a barometer than a series of shocking upsets.
I've got a feeling that as we watch the winning team dog-pile on the pitchers mound next week, we'll look back at the last two days and think—yeah, we saw this coming.
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