Just five teams are still in contention for the 2013 College World Series after Wednesday night's game between Indiana and Oregon State, in which the Beavers moved on to the tune of a 1-0 victory in the elimination showdown.
The fun is just getting started in Omaha.
North Carolina and North Carolina State will be the lone matchup on Thursday, while Mississippi State and UCLA both await their next opponent after going 2-0 in their first two games in Omaha.
Although the possibilities are anything but endless at this point in the bracket, there are still possibilities to be had. With that in mind, here's a look at the most intriguing matchups that we can still make with only a few more chances for these teams to state their cases with respect to the College World Series crown.
Most Intriguing Potential Matchups
UCLA vs. North Carolina State
The Bruins and the Wolfpack already squared off in the College World Series, and it was UCLA who took home the 2-1 win behind an impressive performance on the mound from Nick Vander Tuig.
While the Wolfpack now have to beat North Carolina to reach the CWS semifinals, the Bruins are sitting comfortably back while scouting both of those teams on Thursday night. While the Tar Heels pose a deeper threat at the plate, North Carolina State is no slouch, either, having put up eight runs against UNC in their first meeting inside the final eight teams.
The rematch of this second-round winner's bracket game pits two of the best staffs in the nation against each other yet again, with UCLA getting the slight edge because of an experienced staff that includes closer David Berg.
Neither team is an offensive juggernaut, but both know how to score when things get tight and the pitching staff needs a jolt to get going.
UCLA, for example, hasn't scored more than six runs so far since the regionals, while North Carolina State has put up nine and eight spots in separate wins but is clearly out of its element when required to play back-and-forth baseball with an offensive team.
In a battle of pitchers and timely hitting, this could end up being another old-school baseball fan's dream—lots of high-quality, MLB-level pitching talent and a few splashes of hitting prowess mixed in.
Mississippi State vs. North Carolina
If you want to see a game that could go either way with just one swing of the bat, then the Bulldogs and the Tar Heels will be a game to watch if both can make it through to the Championship Series round.
North Carolina will have to dispatch in-state rival NC State first, but the Tar Heels are fresh off of a 4-2 win over LSU and will come into this game confident as ever with their backs against the wall in the form of elimination.
From UNC slugger and first-round MLB draft pick Colin Moran to the tandem of Mississippi State stars Adam Frazier and Hunter Renfroe, both of these teams have it going when they send a player to the plate.
North Carolina is in the top 20 in the NCAA in walks, batting average and on-base percentage, among other stats, and they are one of the most feared teams in the nation at the plate. Mississippi State is no slouch, either, with Frazier just three hits shy of tying for the most hits in the NCAA this season (currently at 102).
Bulldogs star Wes Rea was the hero against Oregon State earlier in this tournament, too, hammering a two-RBI double to put his team ahead for good and give us a chance to see that Jonathan Holder (aka Kenny Powers look-a-like) exists in Starkville.
If that's not enough to want to see Mississippi State, I don't know what is.
All jokes aside, both of these teams are talented and well-coached. There's a prestige about the SEC wins that the Bulldogs bring to the table and an impressiveness about North Carolina's season that's hard to match elsewhere, and this would be one heckuva best-of-three series.
But for all the flash at the plate, this game would come down to pitching, and a depleted North Carolina squad would have to dig deep to double-dip UCLA after scrapping out a win over NC State on Thursday.
It's a dream matchup of two of the most talented teams in the country, but it might be too much to ask UNC to get there after that first loss earlier in the bracket.
UCLA vs. Oregon State
Matt Boyd was dominant again on Wednesday, throwing a four-hit shutout to oust Indiana and propel his Oregon State squad into the semifinals of the CWS, where they will now have to beat Mississippi State twice to move on to the Championship Series.
A Pac-12 clash between these two would be quite the storybook ending for both teams.
As noted by the conference's Twitter account, these two were a combined 10-1 heading into the College World Series:
They haven't disappointed in the CWS, either, as Oregon State's opening-game loss to Mississippi State was the lone gaffe on an otherwise stellar performance for the Pac-12 on the biggest stage in college baseball.
Led by a trio of staring pitchers (Boyd, Andrew Moore, Ben Wetzler) that lets the coaching staff avoid having to worry about what the third starter is going to bring to the table, and with Boyd's shutout the catalyst for a shot at their third CWS title, the Beavers can now send Moore and Wetzler to the hill to contend with the Bulldogs a second time around.
As mentioned above, UCLA has been rock-solid this postseason, and it starts on the mound. But the Bruins lost two of three to the Beavers earlier this season at home, and they didn't score more than three runs in any of those three games.
If the title wasn't enough, conference bragging rights would be on the line here.
Oregon State kept hope alive with its win over Indiana on Wednesday, but time is running out for the Beavers to continue their magic. Two wins over Mississippi State would do the trick, and that just might allow Oregon State to face a familiar foe in the Championship Series.
*Stats courtesy NCAA.com.
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