2011 College World Series: Top Contenders for Most Outstanding Player of the CWS
Often times, the team that wins the national championship is simply the team that boasts the best player from the nearly two weeks of competition in Omaha.
A complete team effort is needed to come out victorious, but you almost always need that one transcendent player that will not let his team lose.
Jason Windsor was that guy for Cal State Fullerton back in 2004. Same goes for Huston Street for Texas in 2002. I could go on and on.
The list of winners of the Most Outstanding Player Award reads like a who's who of college baseball greats. This season's award promises to be no different. The field that came to Omaha this year was as good as any in recent memory. The team that comes out on top will have to have given an outstanding performance to get there.
The player that wins the award this year will have faced some incredible stiff competition and will no doubt go down as a College World Series legend.
Michael Roth: South Carolina
Michael Roth has to be handicapped as the favorite to win the award right now.
He started by gutting out a gritty performance in their opening-game win over Texas A&M. He gave up four runs in the first inning against the Aggies, but then buckled down to throw 7.1 innings and give his team a chance to win it.
Then he pitched the Gamecocks into the championship round with seven innings of one run ball against the top-ranked Virginia Cavaliers.
Now, he is on the mound Tuesday night with the chance to pitch South Carolina to a national championship.
Add that together and it sounds like a formula for a CWS Most Outstanding Player Award.
Scott Wingo: South Carolina
Scott Wingo isn't a player that many would have considered for this award before the event started, but he has been a leader for the Gamecocks and has been a big part of their success.
He got his stay in Omaha off to a great start with a four-for-four game in the opener against Texas A&M. That included the walk-off RBI in the bottom of the ninth.
Most importantly, he likely saved the game for South Carolina with his play at second base in Game 1 of the championship series against Florida.
With the bases loaded and no outs for the Gators in the bottom of the ninth, Wingo snared a bouncing ball headed into center field on a dive and threw the runner out headed for home. Then, on the very next play, Wingo grabbed a more routine grounder and started a double play that ended the threat.
South Carolina went on to win the game in 11 innings. If the Gamecocks go on to win the championship, they will have Wingo to thank.
Preston Tucker: Florida
Preston Tucker is a huge part of the Florida offense that really makes that team go. He assaulted opposing pitching in the regional and super regional rounds and it has continued in the College World Series.
Tucker's crowning achievement so far has been his three run home run against Vanderbilt earlier in the tournament. Those three runs were the only runs Florida got in their 3-1 victory.
Pitchers always have to look ahead to when he is coming up in the lineup and plan accordingly. They don't want him to beat them and yet he still finds a way to do just that.
If Florida comes back to win the national title, it will probably be due in large part to Tucker's bat.
Mike Zunino: Florida
Mike Zunino is the other power bat that carries the Gators' offense.
He has struggled in Omaha and that's no mistake. Opposing teams are doing a great job of working around him. It just so happens that the rest of the Florida offense is good enough to make up for it.
You have to think that at some point Zunino's bat will come alive. If it does, Florida has a great chance to get back into the championship series and win it all.
The work he does with the pitching staff is also a big feather in his cap. He has done a masterful job of helping handle a very talented, and very young, pitching staff.
Matt Price: South Carolina
No pitcher has been as clutch, or as durable, for his team as Matt Price has been for South Carolina.
Price's biggest moment in the tournament was his extended appearance in the extra inning win over Virginia. In that game, Price threw 5.2 innings in relief and got the win for the Gamecocks.
While that is his most memorable appearance, he has been just as effective in his other games on the mound. In the opener against Texas A&M, he threw two thirds of an inning and got the win.
In a 7-1 win over Virginia, Price came in and got a big strikeout to end the game. In Game 1 of the championship series against Florida, Price saved the game with one clean inning of work.
Price has given coach Ray Tanner all he could ask for and more. If the Gamecocks finish off the Gators, it will be hard to look past his performance out of the bullpen.