College Baseball World Series 2012: Stars Who Will Continue to Shine

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured ColumnistJune 18, 2012

OMAHA, NE - JUNE 27:  Catcher Robert Beary #4 of the South Carolina Gamecocks makes the out against Mike Zunino #3 of the Florida Gators in the 9th inning during game 1 of the men's 2011 NCAA College Baseball World Series at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha on June 27, 2011 in Omaha, Nebraska.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

With the 2012 College World Series in full swing, college baseball's brightest stars are ready to shine in front of a national audience. Play will continue today as Florida clashes with Kent State in an elimination game and Arkansas and South Carolina meet in a battle of SEC powerhouses.

As the intensity continues to ramp up in Omaha, here are three players who will push their teams closer towards a national championship.

Mike Zunino, Catcher, University of Florida

Mike Zunino has long been considered one of the country's elite talents. Now it's official. After winning the Dick Howser Award, Zunino has entrenched himself as the best player in all of college baseball. However, the award should not come as surprise. In a month filled with accolades, Zunino's biggest accomplishment was being selected No. 3 overall by the Seattle Mariners in the MLB draft.

After a season in which the junior catcher batted .320 and knocked in a team-high 65 runs, expect plenty of highlights from the Gators backstop in the coming days and weeks. Zunino also flashed some impressive power, blasting a team-high 19 home runs. 

Zunino has all of the makings of a future MLB star, and will show the nation why as he looks to lead the Gators towards a national title. Zunino's quest continues today as he leads the No. 1 ranked Gators against Kent State in a crucial elimination game in Omaha.

Kurt Heyer, Pitcher, University of Arizona

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Fresh off of two straight wins to open the College World Series, Arizona will be off until Thursday as they await the winner of the UCLA-Florida State match-up. An integral piece to the Wildcats run thus far has been Kurt Heyer, the team's premier starting pitcher.

In 18 starts this season Heyer compiled a 12-2 record, boasting a 2.22 earned run average. Heyer struck out a team-high 110 batters.

Heyer is tied for fourth in all of college baseball with seven complete games, and has totaled a staggering 145.7 innings pitched to date.

After impressive wins over Florida State and UCLA, Arizona appear primed for a run at a National Championship. Although he didn't record a win in the Wildcats' 4-3 win (in 12 innings) over Florida State, Heyer scattered six hits and struck out eight over 7.2 innings of impressive work.

Christian Walker, First/Third Baseman, South Carolina

Leading South Carolina with a .318 batting average, Christian Walker will be looked upon to produce for the Gamecocks, who are looking to complete a three-peat in Omaha.  

The back-to-back national champions have a match-up with SEC rival Arkansas on the horizon, but that should not phase Walker and his teammates.

A fourth-round draft pick of the Baltimore Orioles, Walker is a versatile corner infielder who leads the Gamecocks with 54 RBI and 11 home runs. The Gamecocks will rely heavily on Walker's bat, one that has carried them to No. 6 in the latest national rankings.

A junior with two national championship rings is a rarity, and Walker's previous experience in the spotlight will certainly aid him in completing an unheralded three-peat.


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