Unlike past years, where there have been upsets in Omaha, the 2014 College World Series has largely played out as expected. Of the five teams still standing, four are No. 1 seeds and the other is a No. 2 seed.
The only top seed who has gone down so far is Louisville, which started out playing another No. 1 seed in Vanderbilt and ran into a Texas squad that really caught fire on the pitching side once it matched up with the Cardinals in an elimination game.
With just one matchup to go before reaching the semifinals, it seems like as good a time as any to look at how each team stands in the College World Series hierarchy. These rankings are a combination of how teams are playing right now and the strength of the roster.
No. 5 Mississippi
An offense-based team, the most alarming aspect of Mississippi's stint in Omaha is how lackluster the club has looked with the bats. Through two games, the Rebels have scored just three runs and had one hit in a 2-1 loss against Virginia.
The good news is Mississippi still has a chance to play in the semifinals with a game against TCU on Thursday night, but the Horned Frogs led the nation in ERA (2.19) and finished sixth in strikeouts per nine innings (8.4).
Ole Miss' offense, which hit 42 homers through 65 games, has to find a pulse soon in order to keep the school's title aspirations alive.
No. 4 Texas
In many ways, this year's Texas Longhorns team reminds me of the 2010 and 2012 San Francisco Giants teams that won the World Series. They obviously don't have the starting pitching talent, but their offense always manages to manufacture runs when it needs to and the deep bullpen steps up late in games.
For instance, sophomore shortstop C.J. Hinojosa, who is listed at just 179 pounds, blasted the first homer of this year's College World Series in the seventh inning of a 1-0 win over UC Irvine in a win-or-go-home game Wednesday night.
Starter Chad Hollingsworth was brilliant in the win, throwing 8.1 innings of four-hit ball, and he gave way to closer Travis Duke for the final two outs.
Texas doesn't win in sexy fashion, but when push comes to shove this team finds a way to get the job done. Sometimes that's all you need in a muddled field.
No. 3 TCU
Of the teams still standing in the College World Series, TCU seems best suited to take advantage of TD Ameritrade Park's factors. As mentioned in the bit about Texas, there's been just one homer hit in nine games so far.
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TCU is a team that can pitch with anyone in the country. The Horned Frogs have the best combination of polish and power in the starting rotation between left-hander Brandon Finnegan (134 strikeouts in 105.2 innings), Preston Morrison's ability to pepper the zone with incredible control (21 walks in 129.2 innings) and Tyler Alexander's growth in both areas as a freshman.
Those top three starters all had an ERA of 2.16 or better this season. Combine that with a bullpen featuring closer Riley Ferrell's 0.79 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 45.1 innings and three other relievers with an ERA under 2.80, suddenly scoring runs becomes an impossibility.
If the Horned Frogs had even a mediocre offense, they would be favorites to win the College World Series. Unfortunately, they find themselves on the brink of elimination against Mississippi because they've scored five runs in 24 innings.
No. 2 Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt is one of the best baseball programs in the country and has a chance to win the College World Series every year, yet this might be the least flashy team head coach Tim Corbin has had in a long time.
Sure, right-handed pitcher Tyler Beede was a first-round pick by San Francisco, but the squad wins thanks to its balance in every facet of the game instead of overwhelming opponents with talent.
The Commodores made quick work of their side of the bracket, with the offense generating nine walks and five runs against Louisville in their first game before pounding out 11 hits and six runs against UC Irvine.
Even more impressive in that UC Irvine win was the performance of reliever Walker Buehler, who took over in the fourth inning for an ineffective Beede (four runs, three hits, three walks allowed in 3.2 innings) and pitched the final 5.1 innings, allowing no hits and two walks with seven strikeouts.
They've been playing to the style of the game that they are in, rather than trying to dictate which way the game gets played. That's why they haven't lost in Omaha yet and are a win over Texas away from playing in the championship series.
No. 1 Virginia
With very little separating Virginia and Vanderbilt right now, it's really a dealer's choice for who clams the No. 1 spot in the power rankings. The Cavaliers get the slight edge because they are so deep in every area.
They had three players drafted on the first day of this year's MLB draft (Nick Howard, Derek Fisher, Mike Papi). Papi played the role of hero against Mississippi with a walk-off double in Virginia's first game, which also featured a brilliant pitching performance from Nathan Kirby and Artie Lewicki's combined one-hitter.
The Cavaliers then proved their resolve in a 15-inning victory over TCU, in which Howard came on in relief to pitch four innings of one-hit ball and striking out six of the 13 hitters he faced.
There's no set method to defeating Virginia because the pitching staff is so deep and the offense does a good job of putting the ball in play. The Cavaliers entered the year as the team to beat and, aside from a few rough patches during the regular season, are looking more like that club at the end of 2014.
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