Mississippi State and UCLA are the last two teams left standing at the 2013 College World Series in Omaha, and each are set to begin the much-anticipated best-of-three final on Monday night inside TD Ameritrade Park.
Neither school has ever won the College World Series, but the Bruins came the closest three years ago, losing to South Carolina in the final. Prior to 2013, the Bulldogs' best finish came in 1985, when they finished third.
With potentially only two more games left to crown a champion, let's take a look at the biggest X-factors on each team heading into the championship series.
Hunter Renfroe, Mississippi State, RF
Mississippi State right fielder Hunter Renfroe will be a major X-factor for the SEC club in the final series of the season.
The junior has gone 1-for-4 at the plate in all three of the Bulldogs' wins in Omaha, but it was his three-run homer that made the difference in Mississippi State's 4-1 win over Oregon State in the semifinals on Friday.
Renfroe's ability to make the big play on the big stage will be key for the Bulldogs moving forward against UCLA. The Bruins aren't a great offensive team, and if Renfroe can make the most of his chances at the plate, he could see Mississippi State to its first-ever College World Series crown this week.
David Berg, UCLA, Relief Pitcher
It's no secret that the Bruins aren't a high-scoring team—therefore, pitching will be crucial to UCLA's chances in Omaha this week.
Enter scorching-hot relief pitcher David Berg.
Berg, a sophomore in 2013, is an All-American who has been excellent thus far in Omaha, displaying nerves of steel in the process of closing out all three of UCLA's narrow wins, via ESPNU:
Although he allowed a run to score in the ninth inning of Friday's semifinal win over North Carolina, he never flinched, striking out the very next Tar Heels batter before picking up the final out needed to secure the win.
If UCLA is going to win its first-ever national title on the diamond, Berg will need to continue to come in and shut down opposing batters.
Both teams have elite pitching staffs, and Berg will be key to UCLA's moving forward.
Chad Girodo, Mississippi State, LHP
Left-handed pitcher Chad Girodo could be a huge X-factor for the Bulldogs in their championship series against the Bruins.
The 6'1" senior has plenty of experience on the mound, and he will be a reliable asset for head coach John Cohen. In Mississippi State's 5-4 win over Indiana in its second game in Omaha this CWS, Girodo pitched over six innings, striking out 10, allowing seven hits but only two earned runs, via Baseball America's Aaron Fitt:
Goodness, Chad Girodo—strikes out 2 more in the 8th, giving him 10 K through 5.1 IP. Hoosiers just have no answer for that sweeping slider.— Aaron Fitt (@aaronfitt) June 18, 2013
He wasn't needed in the team's semifinal win over Oregon State, as closer Jonathan Holder got the job done, but Girodo remains a huge X-factor moving forward.
He's the ace out of the Bulldogs' bullpen, and he can easily come in and change the game for Mississippi State if it finds itself down early against UCLA.
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