Big games are won by players who have the ability to perform their best in the clutch, and the semifinals of the 2013 College World Series won't be any different.
All four teams reached this point in the proceedings with a combination of superb pitching, timely hits and excellent defense.
It's win-or-go-home time, and the tension within each club is palpable. Every player and coach has worked fingers to the bone all season long for a chance to win the national championship, and they don't want to go home empty handed.
These upcoming players have been key contributors to their team all year long. Their teammates look up to them, and their coaches depend on them to come through when the game is on the line.
Here are the biggest X-factors for each semifinals team.
Mississippi State: Hunter Renfroe, 3B
Renfroe was recently the No. 13 overall pick of the 2013 MLB draft, selected by the San Diego Padres. He was also a consensus All-American, as reported by Matt Stevens of The Columbus Dispatch.
The junior outfielder for the Bulldogs is among the most polished hitters in the nation, and he put together a fine overall season, batting .357 with 62 RBI, 34 extra-base hits and 15 home runs.
Though Renfroe hasn't been particularly hot at the plate in the team's first two games, he's primed to explode with a breakout performance in the upcoming contest against Oregon State. According to the team's official Twitter account, Renfroe has been red hot in batting practice:
Hunter Renfroe hit four-straight homers in practice today, reminding us all that he's still very good at baseball. #HailStateCWS— mstate Baseball (@mstateBB) June 19, 2013
Should Renfroe wake up and have a monster game, Mississippi State will likely move on. It won't be easy, however, as you're about to find out.
Oregon State: Andrew Moore, Starting Pitcher
After a brilliant season in which Moore lost just one game, he'll likely be the man Pat Casey calls on to shoulder the burden on Friday as the team's starting pitcher, as reported by Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune:
It probably will be either Andrew Moore or Jace Fry on the mound Friday when Oregon State plays Mississippi State in a College World Series elimination game for the Beavers at TD Ameritrade Park...Moore would be the best bet.
Casey's comments, via Eggers' report, support that hypothesis, as he said, "Andrew would have five days' rest. He'd be fine."
For the season, the impressive freshman earned a record of 14-1 with an ERA of 0.933—a microscopic number, by any measure. Moore also allowed just three home runs all year long while striking out 70 batters in 119 innings and walking just 26.
He'll need to be on top of his game against his next opponent. The Tar Heels put up more runs than any other team in the nation during the regular season, and North Carolina's lineup is loaded with excellent batters.
UCLA: David Berg, Relief Pitcher
The Bruins didn't feature a strong offense during the regular season, and the team's offensive woes have been evident in both games leading up to the semifinals.
In the team's previous two games, it has only managed 10 hits and four runs—only two of which came as a result of a hit.
To compensate, UCLA has needed to rely on its pitching staff. And while the team's starters deserve to be lauded for allowing just two earned runs during the same stretch, it is Berg's consistency and dominance as a closer that has gotten the Bruins this far.
Berg hasn't blown a single save all year long, posting an impressive record of 7-0 with an ERA of 0.88. After earning his 23rd save of the season against NC State, Berg tied the NCAA record for most saves in a single season, according to the official Twitter account of the College World Series:
One more save would give Berg the record, and it would also put the Bruins in the championship series.
North Carolina: Colin Moran, 3B
The No. 1 team in the nation during the regular season, North Carolina has uncharacteristically struggled to produce runs thus far in the College World Series.
One of the team's stalwarts, however, Moran has been plugging along just as he did all season long. He had a big game against LSU with his team facing elimination, going 3-for-5 with two runs and an RBI.
Then, in the team's convincing victory over NC State in the quarterfinals, Moran went 3-for-4 with one run and two RBI.
The Golden Spikes finalist and No. 6 pick of the 2013 MLB draft, Moran is the heart and soul of North Carolina's lineup. He's certainly going to be a big factor for the Tar Heels against UCLA, and if he comes through in the clutch, then North Carolina will win.
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