We’re just a few days away from seeing another historic dog pile.
As we’ve seen throughout the entire College World Series, it takes a team effort to advance through the bracket. A program won’t win if they don’t play as a team. But it’s important to keep in mind that there are players who have bigger roles than others.
A starting pitcher is more likely to help his team win than the fourth outfielder on the roster. The starting shortstop is more likely to help his team win than the sixth-inning reliever. Catch my drift?
There are a few players in the Championship Series who must have a good couple of games for their team to have a shot at raising the trophy on Tuesday or Wednesday night. So, which stars should you be keeping an eye on?
Let’s take a look at three players who will have a major impact on whether the Bruins or Bulldogs take home the coveted National Championship plaque.
Hunter Renfroe, OF, Mississippi State
There isn’t a more dangerous hitter in the Mississippi State offense than Hunter Renfroe. Renfroe is hitting .355/.439/.637 with 16 home runs and 65 RBI through 64 games. His 16th home run of the season came just the other day against Oregon State. The bomb put the outfielder into a tie for ninth in the nation in home runs.
Homers have been scarce at TD Ameritrade, as it was just the third in Omaha. Renfroe is arguably the only player in the Championship Series who has enough power to reach the fences at TD Ameritrade. If a UCLA pitcher makes a mistake over the middle of the zone, Renfroe will surely make him pay for it.
The Bulldogs have been one of the better teams at getting players to cross the plate, and Renfroe is a big reason why. He’s the catalyst. If he doesn’t hit against UCLA, don’t expect Mississippi State to put many runs on the board. The first-round draft pick must keep hitting for the Bulldogs to have a shot at the title.
David Berg, RHP, UCLA
There isn’t a better reliever in the country than David Berg. He’s been phenomenal in relief for the Bruins this season and was recently named the Stopper of the Year by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association after breaking the single-season saves record at UCLA with 21.
Berg actually now has 23 saves on the year, as he’s helped UCLA win a few games in Omaha. Entering the Championship Series, he’s made 49 appearances and logged 75.1 innings. In those innings, he’s only allowed eight runs for a 0.96 ERA. He’s also struck out more than a batter per inning while walking just 11 batters.
Berg has one job: Don’t blow it. So far, he’s done a fine job. He’ll need to keep it up, though, if UCLA is going to win the National Championship. UCLA has a tough time scoring runs and it won’t be surprising if Berg comes into the game with a one-run lead. He has to hope that his unusual delivery fools the Bulldog batters.
Jonathan Holder, RHP, Mississippi State
Jonathan Holder is arguably the second-best closer in the country—right behind the guy in the other Championship Series team’s bullpen, Berg. Holder has done a great job in relief for the Bulldogs all season long and he’s one of the big reasons why Mississippi State has made it all the way to the best-of-three series.
On the season, Holder has a 1.24 ERA in 50.2 innings across 33 appearances. He is a big kid who knows how to strike out batter after batter. In 2013, the right-hander has struck out 86 batters. On the contrary, he’s walked just 16. He’s saved 21 games for the Bulldogs this year and hopes to add a pair more to that total.
Holder has been very reliable in Omaha for the Bulldogs. He’s appeared in all three of their games and has picked up a save in each. He’s thrown 2.2 innings of work while allowing just one hit and one walk. He’s also struck out four batters in his trio of College World Series outings. If Mississippi State gets a late lead, he must protect it.