2008 College World Series: What to Expect in Omaha

Corey GautreauxSenior Analyst IJune 12, 2008

Here is a look at the eight teams that make up the 2008 College World Series.

Florida State Seminoles:

Record: 54-12, finished second in ACC

Head Coach: Mike Martin (1538-518-4) 29th season

The Seminoles are making their 20thappearance in the CWS, their first since 2000. Although the Seminoles have the second most CWS appearances of all the teams, they have never won a national championship. Florida State has finished second three times, the last in 1999.

Pitching: Matt Fairel (12-2, 3.74 ERA, 97 strikeouts)

Batting: Buster Posey (.460 batting average, 26 home-runs, 92 RBI)

What I think:

Florida State knows how to play with their backs against the wall.

The Seminoles lost the opening game of their Regional and Super Regional, but bounced back to win both. There is enormous pressure on Florida State to bring a national championship back to Tallahassee, probably the most out of any other team in the tournament.

Martin has done an excellent job at getting the team to Omaha, but it is time he wins the big one.

Unfortunately for the Seminoles, I think there will be too much pressure on them to win it all. I see the Hurricanes eliminating them just shy of the championship series.

Stanford Cardinal:

Record: 39-22-2, finished second in Pac-10

Head Coach: Mark Marquess (1274-617-7) 30th season

Stanford is making their 17thappearance in the CWS, their last was in 2003. Although the Cardinal is no stranger to Omaha, they have not taken home the title since 1988.

Pitching: Erik Davis (7-3, 4.67 ERA)

Batting: Jason Castro (.379 batting average, 13 home-runs, 66 RBI)

What I think:

Stanford opened Regional play with a loss, but turned around to win five straight, including a sweep of the No. 5 national seed Cal State Fullerton. Stanford has struggled to show consistency all season long, and that is the one must in the CWS. There is little room for error, and Stanford isn’t exactly on fire at the plate as a team.

Stanford is my pick to head home first.

Miami Hurricanes:

Record: 52-9, finished first in ACC and won the ACC Tournament

Head Coach: Jim Morris (694-254-2) 15th season

Miami is making their 24thCWS appearance and first since 2006. They are looking to win a fifth national championship, their first since 2001. The Hurricanes are one of only three teams in the CWS to have a winning CWS record (LSU and Stanford are the other two).

Pitching: Chris Hernandez (11-0, 2.62 ERA, 112 strikeouts)

Batting: Yonder Alonso (.367 batting average, 23 home-runs, 71 RBI)

What I think:

The Hurricanes enter the CWS as the favorite to take home the title. The Hurricanes were tested in Super Regional play, but showed how tough they can be by taking care of business after dropping their first game to Arizona.

The pitching staff has been great all year long, so don’t look for the Hurricanes to pack their bags very early.

I think the Hurricanes will make it to the championship series, but I don’t think they will win it all.

Georgia Bulldogs:

Record: 41-23-1, finished first overall in the SEC

Head Coach: David Perno (247-182-1) 7th season

Georgia is making their third appearance in the CWS in the last five seasons. This will be the Bulldogs 7th appearance, their last was in 2006. The Bulldogs have only won one national title, and that came back in 1990.

Pitching: Trevor Holder (8-4, 4.34 ERA)

Batting: Gordon Beckham (.401 batting average, 26 home-runs, 72 RBI)

What I think:

In SEC play, Georgia was one of the most dominant teams on the field. The Bulldogs started off the season with back-to-back series losses against Arizona and Oregon State, but bounced back to win seven straight weekend series.

The Bulldogs lost two of their final four SEC series, and then went 0-2 in the SEC Tournament. The Bulldogs even dropped the opening game of their Regional, before bouncing back to win both the Regional and Super Regionals in do-or-die games.

It hasn’t always been pretty, but the Bulldogs find a way to win. I think the Bulldogs will pick up a victory, but it will be sandwiched between two losses, ending the Bulldogs season shy of the championship series.

North Carolina Tar Heels:

Record: 51-12, finished third in the ACC

Head Coach: Mike Fox (449-188-1) 10th season

The Tar Heels are making their third consecutive appearance in the CWS and their eighth in school history. The Tar Heels finished as runners-up the past two seasons. North Carolina is looking for their first national championship in school history.

Pitching: Alex White (10-3, 2.75 ERA, 101 strikeouts)

Batting: Dustin Ackley (.408 batting average, seven home-runs, 50 RBI)

What I think:

The Tar Heels cruised through Regional and Super Regional play to enter the CWS 5-0 in the post season.

North Carolina isn’t known for the long ball, but they hit more doubles than just about anyone in the country. The Tar Heels put the pressure on the defense when they get on base and their pitching can shut anyone down.

If the Tar Heels can get past the Tigers in the opening game, look for the national championship to go home to Cary, NC.

LSU Tigers:

Record: 48-17-1, finished first in the SEC Western Division and won the SEC Tournament

Head Coach: Paul Mainieri (77-43-1), second season

The Tigers are making their 15th CWS appearance and their first since 2004. LSU has the highest all-time NCAA Tournament winning percentage in the country at .721. The Tigers have won five national championships (1991, 1993, 1996, 1997, 2000), but are 0-4 in their last two Omaha appearances.

Pitching: Ryan Verdugo (9-3, 3.90 ERA, 82 strikeouts)

Batting: Matt Clark (.347 batting average, 26 home-runs, 61 RBI)

What I think:

The Tigers are arguably the hottest team in the country right now. They had won 23 straight games before dropping the opening game of their Super Regional.

The Tigers bounced back to record their 29thcome from behind victory on Sunday by scoring five runs in the ninth inning to beat UC Irvine. The Tigers pounded out 19 hits in a 21-7 demolition of the Anteaters on Monday night.

The Tigers have won 25 of their last 26, mainly behind the long ball. LSU hitters recorded seven home-runs in their Super Regional finale. The Tigers pitching staff has done a great job of controlling the game and allowing the offense to do the work.

With players like Leon Landry and Jared Mitchell in the outfield, don’t look for the Tigers to give up many doubles or triples.

If the Tigers can get hits off of North Carolina in the opener, the Tigers should be able to make it to the championship series and win a sixth national championship. This Tiger team is young, so the pressure is miniscule on them compared to North Carolina and Florida State. That could spell trouble for their opponents.

Rice Owls:

Record: 47-13, finished first in Conference USA

Head Coach: Wayne Graham (787-297) 17th season

The Owls are making their eighth CWS appearance and their third straight. Rice claimed the 2003 national championship, their only in school history.

Pitching: Cole St. Clair (10-2, 2.61 ERA, 63 strikeouts)

Batting: Adam Zornes (.308 batting average, 12 home-runs, 55 RBI)

What I think:

The Owls are continuing to build themselves as an Omaha constant. The Owls got the monkey off their back by claiming the 2003 title, so there is not as much pressure to win it all.

Rice has relied on awesome pitching through out the season, and that won’t change in the tournament. Rice will need some clutch hitting by the stars if they want to hang around Omaha for more than two games.

The Owls will open play against Fresno State, in what on paper appears to be the easiest opponent of the field of eight. Rice should be able to get past Fresno State, but I don’t think they can beat LSU or North Carolina to advance any further. Just ask Arizona State how easy Fresno State is…on the diamond.

Fresno State Bulldogs:

Record: 42-29, finished first in WAC and won WAC Tournament

Head Coach: Mike Batesole (428-292-1) 13th season

Fresno State is making their fifth CWS appearance, but their first since 1991. The Bulldogs best CWS finish was third, but that was back in 1959.

Pitching: Justin Wilson (7-5, 4.51 ERA, 88 strikeouts)

Batting: Alan Ahmady (.376 batting average, 12 home-runs, 83 RBI)

What I think:

Fresno State is the first ever No. 4 Regional seed to make the CWS and did so by beating the No. 3 national seed Arizona State Sun Devils.

While the Bulldogs aren’t expected to win it all, if things go right, they could make some noise in the tournament. The Bulldog bats have been hot and pitching has kept control of the games.

Don’t look for the Bulldogs to go down easily, but being their first trip to Omaha in 18 years, look for the pressure to be too much. The Bulldogs will have the crowd pulling for them, and outside of LSU, will probably have the biggest following thanks to the locals.

If Fresno State can build on the momentum, one or two victories is not out of the question.


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