Omaha Bound-CWS Preview Part 3

Victor AndersonCorrespondent IJune 13, 2008

Tonight, we continue our profile of the teams in the 2008 College World Series by taking a look at two of the preseason favorites to win the National Championship.

North Carolina Tar Heels

(51-12, #2 National Seed, 3rd Consecutive CWS Appearence, Lost Last 2 CWS Championship Series)

Good news North Carolina; you don't have to deal with Oregon State this season. The bad news is you gotta settle for only the 3rd best team in the ACC (THE BEST conference for baseball in the nation, but that's another story for another time). This year in the ACC saw some of the best baseball in the nation between FSU, UM, and UNC. While all of the national attention has been paid on the Canes with their balance and FSU with Buster Posey, the Tar Heels continue to make their mark with their dominant pitching under coach Mike Fox. Their weekend rotation ranks as one of, if not the best in the nation with Alex White (10-3, 2.76 ERA, 101 K's), Adam Warren (9-1, 4.07 ERA), and Matt Harvey (7-2, 2.52, 74 K's in 60 2/3 IP) leading the top pitching staff (2.83 ERA). The bullpen is just as dominating with Rob Wooten, Brian Moran, and Nate Striz all will shut down opposing teams late in games. The Heels have been here before, but can they get over the hump.

And this just in folks, their offense ain't too bad either led by 2B Dustin Ackley. Those who thought last years National Freshman of the Year would slow down were sadly mistaken as he's having another All-American campaign (.408, 7 HR, 50 RBI, 79 Runs, 104 Hits). Teammates Tim Federoff (.398/12/69/105 Hits), Kyle Seager (.355/9/73), and Seth Williams (.315/8/41) all have experience and the savy to get it done in the cluch for the Tar Heels. They have the experience and they have the pitching to get it done. If Mike Fox can't get his Heels to the promised land this year, then they may never make it there.

Rice Owls

(47-13, #6 National Seed, 7th CWS Appearence {all since 1999}, 2003 Champions)

Whatever Wayne Graham has done since coming over to Houston is working as the Owls make their 7th appearence in Omaha in the last 10 seasons and this years' Owls are one of his more balanced attacks in recent memory. He currently has seven players with at least 40 RBI's on the season led by freshman Diego Seastrunk (.353/5/57) who has been a pleasant surprise this season for the Owls. Adam Zornes (.308/12/55), Rick Hauge (.347/8/52), and Aaron Luna (.316/9/52) all provide depth and stabiliy in a Rice lineup that can beat you with the long ball or with smallball. The offense will look to keep up the pace they set in their Super Regional match-up versus Texas A&M, but it won't be an easy task in their game against Fresno State (more on them tomorrow).

As usual, Rice carries a strong pitching staff to Omaha headed up by closer Cole St. Clair (10-2, 2.61 ERA, 5 Saves) who when he enters the game, immediately stops the offense from doing any damage. Their starters aren't bringing back memories of Townsand and his boys came through in 2003, but they get the job done nonetheless. Chris Kelley (5-1, 3.28 ERA) heads up a staff that is consistant with Ryan Berry (8-4, 3.31), Matt Langwell (5-1, 4.35), and Matt Ojala (5-0, 4.97) rounding out the starters. Wayne Graham teams are always a threat to win it all in Omaha and if the Owls continue their hot hitting and strong pitching, a second National Championship maybe be in their future.

Tomorrow-Gorillia Ball, Cinderella, and My Predictions (LSU and Fresno State)