After some surprises during the opening weekend, there are a couple of teams with a legitimate shot at making a run at the 2013 College World Series national title.
North Carolina, LSU and Oregon State—the top national-seed favorites in Omaha, Neb.—all suffered early setbacks, putting them on the brink of elimination early on in the action.
While none of the eight teams competing in Omaha qualify as a true Cinderella candidate, some of the early results have been surprising. Baseball America’s Aaron Fitt pointed out the quality of competition after the opening "upsets":
Backs up what we've been saying: this is a strong field, with 8 teams that were all No. 1s in regionals. Don't be fooled by just 3 nat seeds— Aaron Fitt (@aaronfitt) June 17, 2013
We’ll take a look at a couple of those surprises and break down why each has a legitimate shot at capturing the crown at this year’s CWS in the paragraphs to follow.
From the look of an untrained eye, the Indiana Hoosiers were perhaps the biggest underdogs heading into Omaha. Their appearance in the CWS marks the first time a Big Ten team has reached the final eight since 1984.
CBS Sports’ Doug Gottlieb mused about the achievement:
#IU baseball is 1st Big 10 team since 1984 to make the CWS - guess there are no zone defenses in baseball— Doug Gottlieb (@GottliebShow) June 9, 2013
Factor in that a Big Ten team hasn’t even won the CWS since 1966, when the Ohio State Buckeyes captured the crown, and the odds were completely stacked against the Hoosiers.
They scored just two runs to knock off Louisville during their first CWS matchup, but rode a complete-game shutout by Joey DeNato to victory. Scoring just two runs isn’t too encouraging, but proving capable of winning the close ones is what makes champions.
The Hoosiers have the pitching staff, lineup and success against NCAA tournament teams to continue their recent success far into the CWS. Until now, Indiana has yet to drop a game during the tournament.
North Carolina State Wolfpack
When looking at the entire body of work of the North Carolina State Wolfpack’s season, you might not give them much of a shot against the bigger and "better" schools in Omaha. However, they are a streaky bunch, having rattled off a 15-game winning streak earlier in the season.
As of now, N.C. State is unbeaten in the NCAA tournament and is playing some of the best collective baseball in the country. In this game getting hot at the right time means everything, and there are few teams hotter at the moment than the Wolfpack.
As good as they have been, no one could have predicted their first-game mauling of top national seed North Carolina. After that dominant 8-1 victory there is nowhere to go but up for the surging Wolfpack.
The biggest question moving forward is whether or not the team can keep up its current high level of play. All streaks come to an end, so we’ll monitor closely for signs of a drop-off during the coming games.