Strong pitching is an attribute for nearly every team remaining at the College World Series, and there are a few potential matchups where offenses would be completely shut down.
In six games at Omaha thus far, one or two runs have decided four games. In two of those matchups, the winner only scored a pair of runs. While some teams have gotten hot at the plate at times, the College World Series hasn’t seen many high-scoring games—albeit it’s still very early in the tournament.
So, which potential games would have the best chance at ending with a 1-0 or 2-1 final score? Let’s take a look at two possible matchups—which could certainly happen in the coming days—where the pitchers would likely throw brilliant games while allowing very few runs, if any.
UCLA (Adam Plutko) vs. LSU (Aaron Nola)
Adam Plutko and Aaron Nola both pitched their hearts out when UCLA and LSU faced off in the opening round—UCLA winning, 2-1.
Plutko pitched seven innings, allowing one run on four hits. He wasn’t very overpowering and let the LSU hitters put the ball in play, but the Tigers had a tough time actually getting hits. Plutko is one of the biggest at pitching to contact in the nation.
On the other side was Nola, who couldn’t have been any better. In eight innings, Nola allowed a pair of runs—but they weren’t earned—on five hits. He had great movement on nearly all of his pitches, constantly fooling the Bruins’ hitters. He walked just one batter and struck out five.
If the LSU defense hadn’t committed a pair of errors, the Tigers might have won the game 1-0. Even still, a total of three runs is the definition of a low-scoring game.
While Plutko and Nola could certainly make the opposing dugout look foolish at the plate once more, it will be tough for the two to meet again. LSU would have to win against UNC in the loser’s bracket and UCLA would need to lose against NC State in the winner’s bracket.
There is another option, however. If UCLA wins, the Bruins will head straight to the bracket final. In that scenario, LSU would have to win against UNC and then beat NC State in the bracket semifinal. If that’s the case, there’s a very strong chance that Plutko and Nola will oppose each other once more in Omaha.
A rematch between the Bruins and Tigers would definitely put out another low run total. Both teams rank in the top 10 in the country in ERA, and if Plutko and Nola are the starting pitchers, one run might be all it takes to come out victorious.
NC State (Carlos Rodon) vs. Indiana (Joey DeNato)
The only way that NC State and Indiana will square off is if both win their respective brackets, which isn’t out of the question right now.
Indiana is 1-1 in Omaha and will look to advance to the bracket final with a win over Oregon State on Wednesday. NC State won its opener and will face UCLA on Tuesday night in the winner’s bracket. If Indiana wins three straight and NC State wins two games, the two will meet in a best-of-three series for the National Championship.
Carlos Rodon is the ace of NC State’s staff and after dominating UNC, there’s no doubt about that. He threw a complete game against the top-ranked team in the nation, allowing just one run on five hits while striking out eight and walking two. He’s 10-2 on the year with a 3.04 ERA in 127.1 innings of work.
The Wolfpack bullpen is no joke, either. Chris Overman has only allowed one earned run in 26.1 innings and Grant Sasser has allowed five earned runs in 41 innings. NC State has a 3.06 ERA as a team, which is the 26th best in the nation. If Rodon goes seven-plus and hands the ball to Overman and Sasser, runs will be hard to come by.
It would be tough for NC State to score as well, as Indiana has the eighth-best ERA in the country. The dream matchup would have Joey DeNato on the mound for the Hoosiers. DeNato is 10-2 with a 2.52 ERA this season and is coming off of brilliant performance against Louisville.
In Indiana’s 2-0 victory, DeNato tossed a complete-game shutout, allowing just four hits while striking out eight and walking three. The Hoosiers have a handful of relievers who are more than reliable if DeNato can’t go all nine innings, too. But Indiana’s best shot at winning the title is if DeNato throws all nine each time.