None of the four teams remaining at the College World Series are perfect.
Which team's weakness is the most fatal?
While each program has several strengths, every team still in contention for the national championship still has a glaring weakness as well. It could be on the mound or it could be on the plate, but it’s definitely there.
With the matchups for each bracket final now set in stone, overcoming these weaknesses are essential to advancing to the Championship Series and potentially winning the title. The inability to do so could very well end up with a loss that sends a program home without a trophy in their luggage.
So, what has each remaining College World Series team struggled with? Here’s a look at every team’s biggest weakness, what’s gone wrong and whether it’s been happening all season long or just in Omaha.
UCLA Bruins: No Run Support
No one is questioning whether the Bruins have enough pitching to win the national championship—they do. The problem is that UCLA has yet to get a comfortable lead at the College World Series. Both of UCLA’s games in Omaha have been decided by just a run, putting a lot of pressure on the Bruins’ arms.
Luckily for the Bruins, they have a great bullpen. But one-run leads aren’t fun for the top reliever in the country, David Berg. Berg nearly blew the game against LSU in the first game of the tournament for UCLA. Berg didn’t have any trouble in his team’s victory over NC State, but he was still working with a slim lead.
UCLA averages 4.7 runs per game to this point in the season. Scoring just two runs per game in Omaha isn’t going to get the job done. UCLA will lose eventually if it doesn’t start scoring more runs. The offense needs to give the starting pitching and bullpen more wiggle room in order to keep winning.
Oregon State: Lack of Power
It won’t be easy for the Beavers to keep winning games if all that they hit are singles. It’s been singles galore for Oregon State through three games at the College World Series. The Beavers are only averaging three extra-base hits per game in Omaha and not one of those has gone over the fence for a home run.
Oregon State has actually been better at driving the ball over the last three games than it has throughout the entire season, but it still isn’t going to be enough. There are only around three batters in the regular lineup who can really drive the ball to the deeper parts of the park and just one or two has home-run potential.
The Beavers haven’t hit many home runs at all this year. In fact, Kris Bryant of San Diego finished 2013 with more home runs than the entire Oregon State team. Bryant had 31 and to this point, the Beavers only have 30. Michael Conforto is the team’s best bet to hitting one out and he only has 11 home runs this season.
Mississippi State: Spotty Starting Pitching
Mississippi State may be one of the two undefeated teams remaining in Omaha, but the Bulldogs didn’t win their games because of great starting pitching. Kendall Graveman left the opener after tossing just 4.2 innings. He allowed four runs in the outing, but just two of them were earned.
Trevor Fitts got the nod for the Bulldogs’ matchup with Indiana, and he didn’t even get to the fifth inning. Fitts was lifted from the game in the middle of the third inning after facing just 10 batters. He allowed a pair of earned runs on two hits, along with four strikeouts and a walk.
The Bulldogs must get a quality start from one of their pitchers in order to keep their title hopes alive. Luis Pollorena and Jacob Lindgren are two potential starters for Mississippi State’s next game, but neither has an ERA below 4.00. Will Cox could also get the nod, but he’s only made four starts all season long.
North Carolina: Lack of Offense
North Carolina has scored 534 runs this season in 69 games. That’s an average of 7.7 runs per game, for those who are wondering. Through three games in Omaha, the Tar Heels have only scored 12 total runs. Somehow, they’re still in contention for the national championship.
The Tar Heels were completely shut down against Carlos Rodon of NC State in the team’s opening game. Just one run crossed the plate for UNC. UNC struggled again against LSU, but four runs were enough to eliminate the Tigers. Taking on NC State again on Thursday night, UNC plated seven runs.
Entering Omaha, no one would’ve predicted that UNC would have trouble at the plate. The Tar Heels have six hitters batting at least .300 and seven players have scored at least 45 runs. They usually get on base a ton. For some reason, the offense hasn’t been itself in each game UNC has played. Maybe the seven runs on Thursday gets them going.