College World Series 2013: Ranking the Biggest Stars of This Year's Tournament
There's been no shortage of heroics so far this year at the 2013 College World Series, with Mississippi State and UCLA now vying for the prestige that comes with a national title.
The Bruins took a 1-0 Championship Series lead behind the strong outing from starting pitcher Adam Plutko on Monday evening in Omaha, putting them just one win away from college baseball's everlasting crown.
As we pause to prepare for Game 2 of the series on Tuesday night, it's an appropriate time to look back at some of the performances that have made this tournament great.
After all, neither UCLA nor Mississippi State would have a shot at glory without the individual aspects that have helped catapult both to the final pairing in college baseball's 2013 season.
The 2013 CWS could end on Tuesday night, and with it the chances to continue to fawn over the players who have starred at the tournament over the past couple of weeks. Take a look below to see who cracked the top three for their individual starring performances in Omaha.
Indiana SP Joey DeNato (Complete game four-hitter, shutout vs. Louisville)
NC State SP Carlos Rodon (14.0 IP, one earned run in two starts vs. UNC)
Mississippi State RP Jonathan Holder (2.2 IP, three saves, one hit allowed)
Mississippi State P Chad Girodo (14.0 IP, two earned runs in two Omaha app.)
Mississippi State OF Hunter Renfroe (Three-run homer to beat Oregon State)
Oregon State SP Matt Boyd (Complete game four-hitter, 13 Ks vs. Indiana)
Oregon State 2B Andy Peterson (6-of-15, four runs scored in four games)
North Carolina 3B Colin Moran (6-of-16, four RBI in four games)
3. UCLA SP Adam Plutko
Plutko has been downright dominating in two Omaha starts, performing on the biggest stage for the Bruins in the biggest way possible.
He started his trip to the CWS by putting together a strong seven-inning outing against LSU in both squads' opening game in the tournament.
After some extended rest and strong performances by his friends on the UCLA staff (Nick Vander Tuig and Grant Watson), he got the ball again for UCLA's Game 1 showdown with Mississippi State on Monday night.
He didn't disappoint.
Going six innings while allowing just one run, Plutko ran his 2013 CWS record to 2-0. He's pitching 13.0 innings so far and has given up just two earned runs to LSU and now Mississippi State, proving that his nine regular-season wins could have been more with a better offense in L.A.
It's unlikely we see him again with the Bruins on the brink of a title and two competent starters waiting for the next two games (if necessary), but a tip of the cap is in order for a job well done.
2. Mississippi State 1B Wes Rea
Wes Rea's stats at the CWS aren't overly imposing (6-of-16, three RBI in four games after Monday), but he's been a catalyst for the offense when his team needed him the most.
The highlight of that was the two-run double against Oregon State in the first game of the CWS for the Bulldogs, but he had another RBI in his team's one-run win over Indiana and another two hits against Oregon State as the Bulldogs moved to the Championship Series.
If you factor in his impressive defense with his timely hitting at the tournament, there's reason to believe that his .295 season batting average could be higher with some more work at the dish at the next level.
Speaking of defense, he might have saved Mississippi State's season with his glove as much as his bat against Oregon State. Baseball America's Aaron Fitt had the tweet:
Wes Rea with a game-saving play on Holder's throw to first, which bounced in the dirt. Wes Rea—what a ballgame. MSU holds on for 5-4 win.— Aaron Fitt (@aaronfitt) June 18, 2013
Teammates Adam Frazier and Hunter Renfroe carry the "star" label more than this guy, but before Monday's clunker (0-of-3) Rea was 6-of-13 at the CWS. He's a big reason why the Bulldogs are still alive, and part of the solution if they want to be alive on Wednesday morning.
Tough as nails, he'll have to battle through some bumps and bruises suffered after a collision in the field and being hit by a pitch during Monday night's 3-1 loss to UCLA.
1. UCLA RP David Berg
When it comes to stardom this year in Omaha, David Berg takes the cake.
This tweet from Ryan Rosenblatt should tell you everything you need to know about how dominant the bullpen (and your new NCAA single-season saves leader) has been in 2013:
Berg's splits so far in Omaha are really quite incredible. Through 5.2 innings of work over the course of four games, he's given up just one earned run and recorded three saves. The one blemish was a run he allowed to North Carolina, but with a four-run lead, it ended up being non-consequential.
Who wins the 2013 CWS?
His time in Omaha is no fluke—Berg has been doing this all season. In addition to his new record, he's also in the top 10 in the NCAA in ERA (0.96, 2nd), saves (24, 1st), strikeouts-to-walks (7-to-1, 8th) and WHIP (0.85, 5th).
When you hand Berg the ball these days, the game is over.
And since he's just a sophomore this year, we could be seeing this dominance in Omaha for the next two seasons, too. Berg's star is just starting to shine, and if he touches the ball on Tuesday night, there's a good chance UCLA will be national champs by night's end.
*All stats courtesy NCAA.com.
Follow Bleacher Report FC Ethan Grant (@DowntownEG) on Twitter.
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