With the 2010 NCAA College World Series dialed down to the elite eight, it’s time to take a look at eight position players who can be the x factor in Omaha.
For this slideshow, I am going to select one player from each squad (not including pitchers) that can be the difference-maker and a manager’s solution in clutch situations.
Yes, statistics will come into play in determining these top eight collegiate athletes getting the nod as elite players—but being able to answer the call with backs against the wall will also be a deciding factor.
The eight teams that remain include seven No. 1 seeds and one No. 2 seed.
Those schools (and their overall records entering the CWS)?
No. 1’s Arizona State (52-8), TCU (51-12), Oklahoma (49-16), UCLA (48-14), South Carolina (48-15), Florida (47-15), Florida State (47-18), and No. 2 Clemson (43-23).
Action begins in just a couple short days, and the following matchups are planned for the first round (double elimination in bracket play) followed by a best-of-three championship:
No. 1 TCU vs. No. 1 Florida State [Bracket 1/Game 1]—Saturday, June 19, 2 p.m. ET on ESPN HD.
No. 1 Florida vs. No. 1 UCLA [Bracket 1/Game 2]—Saturday, June 19, 7 p.m. ET on ESPN HD.
No. 1 Oklahoma vs. No. 1 South Carolina [Bracket 2/Game 3]—Sunday, June 20, 2 p.m. ET on ESPN HD.
No. 1 Arizona State vs. No. 2 Clemson [Bracket 2/Game 4]—Sunday, June 20, 7 p.m. ET on ESPN HD.
Second round of bracket play is slated for 4:30 p.m. ET and 9 p.m. ET on Monday, June 21 for Bracket 1, and 4:30 p.m. ET and 9 p.m. ET on Tuesday, June 22 for Bracket 2.
Title games are slated for Wednesday, June 23 at 7 p.m. ET (Bracket 1) and Thursday, June 24 at 7 p.m. ET (Bracket 2).
Without further adieu, let’s get on with the show.
And the eight x factor athletes in the 2010 College World Series are…
With 26 stolen bases this season, UCLA’s Niko Gallego could absolutely be an x factor for the Bruins in the 2010 College World Series.
Although Gallego has only a .264 batting average in 2010, the UCLA infielder also has 30 runs batted in, 13 doubles, three home runs, and two triples.
Look for Gallego to possibly play a vital role in a deciding moment for the Bruins in this year’s CWS.
Jason Coats, a sophomore outfielder for TCU, ended his freshman season with a .316 batting average and holds a .373 batting average this season.
Coats also has 66 runs batted in thus far in the 2010 season, along with garnering 22 doubles, 13 home runs, and four triples.
In addition, Coats was a hero in the 2009 season for TCU—as the left fielder had three hits, including the game-winner, in the regional championship game.
South Carolina’s Whit Merrifield boasts a .327 batting average heading into the weekend, along with 12 home runs and 11 doubles.
Merrifield also drove in 38 runs in 2010—and he’ll be looking to add to his RBI total when the Gamecocks begin College World Series action on Sunday, June 20.
In addition, Merrifield has drawn 29 walks while swiping 12 bases.
In 2009, Merrifield went 4-for-6 with one RBI and two runs scored in a 10-9 Regional loss to East Carolina.
Oklahoma infielder Garrett Buechele enters this weekend’s College World Series opener with a .371 batting average—along with 16 home runs, 16 doubles, and two triples.
Buechele also has 64 runs batted in to his credit in 2010, picking up 92 hits along the way as the Sooners aim to continue a push towards winning a CWS title.
In 2009, Buechele was named Freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball and was Oklahoma first Big 12 Freshman of the Year.
Florida State’s Tyler Holt has a .352 batting average as the Seminoles aim to continue rolling with a very successful season—in both the ACC as well as postseason play.
The junior outfielder also has 26 doubles, 12 home runs, and three triples in 2010.
Holt has also been walked 56 times, boasting a .628 slugging percentage, while garnering 30 stolen bases.
In addition, Holt earned first team preseason All-American honors from Collegiate Baseball entering the 2010 season—and in 2009, he finished the season with a .993 fielding percentage (committing just one lone error out of 142 opportunities).
Austin Maddox, a freshman catcher for the Florida Gators, holds a .333 batting average with 71 runs batted in heading into this weekend’s round one showdown of the 2010 College World Series.
Maddox also has 17 home runs and 16 doubles en route to his 85 hits and counting this season.
In 2009 as a senior in high school, he capped his last year with a .544 batting average, 33 runs batted in, 11 doubles, and nine home runs.
Clemson outfielder and first baseman Kyle Parker is known more for his ability as a quarterback on the gridiron, but that hasn’t stopped him from being highly successful as a baseball player as well.
In fact, Parker was selected by the Colorado Rockies in the first round (No. 26 overall) in the 2010 MLB First-Year Player Draft.
Parker, who has 83 hits this season—including 20 home runs—is No. 6 in the nation in runs scored, crossing the plate 82 times and counting in 2010.
And with 64 runs batted in, look for Clemson’s highly-regarded QB to do some damage on the diamond this postseason.
Despite his highlight reel ability throwing a pigskin, Parker is more than built for Major League Baseball talent.
He’ll get a chance to prove that beginning this weekend.
Arizona State sophomore infielder Zack MacPhee enters the 2010 College World Series with a .394 batting average, 87 hits, and 90 runs batted in.
MacPhee is also the national leader in triples with 14, garnering 66 runs in 2010 for the Sun Devils.
In 2009, the Arizona State second baseman finished his freshman campaign with a .270 batting average, four home runs, and 39 runs batted in—and MacPhee has shown tremendous growth from his first year in NCAA baseball to his current status.
Although he was not drafted in the recent MLB First-Year Player Draft, I’m fairly confident that MacPhee will—at the very least—have an opportunity to pursue baseball as a career after college.
He could also be a much-needed x factor when Arizona State begins their quest for a CWS title on Sunday evening, June 20.
We’ll just have to wait and see…
Denton Ramsey may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
[All Photos Courtesy of Google Images Search]