It's been a topsy-turvy NCAA tournament so far. Only three of the eight national seeds remain, and only seven of the 16 regional hosts advanced to the super regionals.
No super regional matchup is more unexpected than the Lubbock Super Regional between Texas Tech and College of Charleston. The Red Raiders were the No. 2 seed in the Coral Gables Regional, where they went 3-1, and the Cougars were the No. 4 seed in the Gainesville Regional, where they went undefeated.
College of Charleston is only the fourth No. 4 seed to reach a super regional since 1999. Only one No. 4 seed has ever won the College World Series: Fresno State in 2008.
To say these teams are inexperienced in postseason play would be an understatement. College of Charleston is making its second super regional appearance, and Texas Tech its first. Neither team has ever advanced to Omaha, but that's exactly what's on the line this weekend in Lubbock, Texas.
With both programs in uncharted territory, it will be imperative that the largeness of the stage doesn't get the best of them.
"Our only expectation is to go do things right and play the game the right way," Texas Tech head coach Tim Tadlock told Betsy Blaney of the Associated Press (via the Miami Herald). "That's all we can do is prepare for the games and do our best."
These things are always easier said than done, and College of Charleston outfielder Brandon Murray knows it.
"[The College World Series] creeps into your mind a little bit,” Murray told Pete Iacobelli of the Associated Press (via the State). “We’re not going to take anything for granted, but we feel we’re ready.”
It's hard to doubt Murray and the Cougars after their dominating performance in the Gainesville Regional. They're going to have to rely on their pitching if they want to get the job done in Lubbock.
During the Gainesville Regional, College of Charleston pitchers were outstanding, allowing an average of 2.33 runs per game. Their pitching staff is led by two young studs, sophomore Taylor Clarke and freshman Bailey Ober.
On most staffs, Clarke would be the clear-cut ace, with a 10-3 record and an ERA of 2.62. However, Ober has been even better. He comes in with a 10-2 record, a 1.55 ERA and an absolutely absurd 81:19 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
The arms are great, but they’ve needed to be. The Cougar offense has left much to be desired. Their starters have a combined average of .258, and no starter is hitting over .300. It's not a team full of Adam Dunns either. The leading home run hitter on the team is left fielder Brandon Murray with six.
|College of Charleston Offensive Leaders|
|3B Carl Wise||So.||.297||3||54|
|2B Blake Butler||So.||.286||3||24|
|LF Brandon Murray||Sr.||.275||6||23|
Texas Tech has an impressive staff too. In the Coral Gables Regional, it gave up an average of just two runs per game. Its starters may not have put up as impressive numbers during the season as College of Charleston's, but you could attribute that to the level of competition in the Big 12 as opposed to the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA).
The real difference between the two teams is Texas Tech's offense. The Red Raider's starters are batting a combined .295, with four starters hitting over .300. They aren't lacking power either. First baseman Eric Gutierrez leads the team with 12 home runs, and designated hitter Adam Kirsch also has double-digit long balls with 10.
|Texas Tech Offensive Leaders|
|1B Eric Gutierrez||So.||.312||12||58|
|LF Tyler Neslony||So.||.393||4||31|
|DH Adam Kirsch||Sr.||.300||10||50|
If the Cougars are going to advance, they're going to need their pitchers to be almost perfect. That's so much pressure to put on such young players, even ones as impressive as these. In the end, the stage will be too much for the Cougars.
It's been fun while it's lasted, but there's a reason College of Charleston was a No. 4 seed. The Red Raiders bats will be too much, and Texas Tech will win the series 2-1. No matter who wins, a fresh face will be making an appearance in Omaha next week.