The 2014 College World Series is here to rescue baseball fans and deliver the excitement missing from the midseason slog of Major League Baseball.
Some of the best amateur players in the nation will descend upon Omaha, Nebraska to stake their claim as the best team in college baseball.
The majority of these teams feature overpowering pitchers with MLB-ready stuff. However, it can't hurt to take a look at the hitters who will provide the necessary offense to power their teams to the College World Series final.
Before we break down the top players swinging the lumber in Omaha, let's take a look at the full schedule of games and the corresponding viewing info:
|UC Irvine vs. Texas||June 14||3 p.m.||ESPN 2|
|Louisville vs. Vanderbilt||June 14||8 p.m.||ESPN 2|
|Texas Tech vs. TCU||June 15||3 p.m.||ESPN 2|
|Virginia vs. Ole Miss||June 15||8 p.m.||ESPN 2|
|Game 5||June 16||3 p.m.||ESPN 2|
|Game 6||June 16||8 p.m.||ESPN 2|
|Game 7||June 17||3 p.m.||ESPN 2|
|Game 8||June 17||8 p.m.||ESPN|
|Game 9||June 18||8 p.m.||ESPN|
|Game 10||June 19||8 p.m.||ESPN|
|Game 11||June 20||3 p.m.||ESPNU|
|Game 12||June 20||8 p.m.||ESPN|
|Game 13*||June 21||3 p.m.||ESPN2|
|Game 14*||June 21||8 p.m.||ESPN|
|CWS Finals: Game 1||June 23||8 p.m.||ESPN|
|CWS Finals: Game 2||June 24||8 p.m.||ESPN|
|CWS Finals: Game 3*||June 25||8 p.m.||ESPN|
NCAA.com, *if necessary
Top Hitters to Watch
Jeff Gardner, OF, Louisville
Jeff Gardner has been a run-producing machine at the plate all season long for the Cardinals. He's sixth in the nation with 68 RBI and boasts a .328 average with a .538 slugging percentage. He leads his team with nine home runs and 20 doubles in 63 games.
Gardner's fearsome presence in the middle of the lineup will be key to Louisville's run at the College World Series title. Nobody else on the team has more than five home runs this season. If Louisville needs a big hit late in the game, they will rely on Gardner to provide it.
Connor Spencer, 1B/INF, UC Irvine
The sweet-swinging Connor Spencer ranks 40th in NCAA Division I baseball with a .370 batting average this season—an impressive feat considering the competition UC Irvine faced in the powerful Big West.
He lacks power for a corner infielder—just a solitary homer all season—but he still managed to pace his team with 44 RBI. He has incredible balance at the plate and can line frozen ropes to the gaps with ease.
MLB.com's Bryan Hoch relays the scouting report on Spencer:
Yankees' eighth-round pick is 1B Connor Spencer from UC Irvine. Scouts say he's a line drive hitter but lacks power.— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) June 6, 2014
If the Anteaters are to survive the gauntlet of Midwestern and Southern colleges in the World Series, they will need Spencer to continue getting on base and jump-starting the offense.
Will Allen, C, Ole Miss
No team from Mississippi has ever won the College World Series. Senior backstop Will Allen is looking to change that.
The big catcher has been on a tear all season long. After hitting just .231 as a junior in 2013, Allen is second on the team this year with a .345 average. Allen's confidence at the plate is key to the Rebels' chances; he leads the team with 61 RBI on the year.
Allen is also a 2014 finalist for the Johnny Bench Award for his stellar work behind the plate and in the batter's box.
Eric Gutierrez, 1B, Texas Tech
Eric Gutierrez has been the biggest factor in Texas Tech's unlikely run to the College World Series.
He's hitting .312 with 12 home runs and 58 RBI on the year. At 5'8", Gutierrez is an outlier at a position known for producing lumbering behemoths aiming to crush the ball on every trip to the plate.
Alliterative Texas Tech head coach Tim Tadlock relayed the tantalizing tale of how Gutierrez came to play for the upstart Raiders. Via Steven Pivovar of the Omaha World-Herald:
I first saw Eric play as a ninth- or 10th-grader. He was playing on a team with some really good players, but he stood out to me as a guy that really knew the strike zone and really liked to play baseball. I wrote his name down, put it in the back of a calendar and had it there for almost two years. When people said we need a hitter, I told them there was one in Sharyland.
Tadlock must be happy that he locked up Gutierrez when he did. No one is overlooking the diminutive first baseman anymore.