College World Series 2013: One Player to Watch from Each Team in Omaha
There are many memories to be made at every College World Series. Some have to do with great plays on the field. Some are of the trek to Omaha. Others involve pregame tailgating and meeting people from all walks of life.
For many, some of the fondest memories of the College World Series are seeing players who go on to become giants in the sport. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Nomar Garciaparra, Deion Sanders, Barry Larkin and Mike Schmidt are among the most notable to grace the College World Series stage in Omaha.
Each team that visits Omaha this year boasts at least one player with the potential to become a legend in the sport. These players have that "it" factor that could be the catalyst that allows them to leave their mark on a great event and a great town while becoming somewhat immortal in the process.
Here are the eight players to watch in the 2013 College World Series.
Carlos Rodon, Pitcher, North Carolina State
College Baseball Daily lists Rodon as the top collegiate player in the nation. The 6'3", 234-pound lefty brings a 9-2 record to Omaha. He has struck out 170 batters—1.4 per inning pitched—this season.
He reminds me of a left-handed Roger Clemens with his physical makeup and delivery. Some expect him to be the first player taken in the 2014 MLB draft.
He'll play an integral role in N.C. State's tournament run and should become a fan favorite if the Wolfpack hangs around in Omaha for a while.
Jeff Thompson, Pitcher, Louisville
Sharing the spotlight on the mound with Rodon during the 2013 College World Series will be Louisville's Jeff Thompson. At 6'6" and pushing 250 pounds, Thompson won't be hard to miss—he actually bears a slight resemblance to C.C. Sabathia.
His performance against Vanderbilt in the Super Regional is a huge part of why the Cardinals are in Omaha.
Last week, the Detroit Tigers drafted him with the 94th overall pick in the MLB draft.
Thompson arrives in Omaha with a 2.00 ERA and 109 strikeouts to go along with an 11-1 record.
Kyle Schwarber, Catcher, Indiana
Indiana arrives in Omaha as the first Big Ten school to reach the College World Series since Michigan in 1984. The catalyst for Indiana's phenomenal regular season and subsequent postseason run was catcher Kyle Schwarber. His value is well-known and respected by those close to the IU program.
In addition to being a tremendous field general behind the plate for the Hoosiers, Schwarber got it done in the batter's box at a high level. The 6'0", 235-pound catcher brings a .376 batting average and 18 home runs to Omaha.
Quite simply, it would be wise for those with tickets in the outfield to put down the beach balls and pay attention to the plate when he's at bat.
Pat Valaika, Shortstop, UCLA
Despite his contribution in the Super Regional, the stocky Valaika won't wow many with his size or his performance at the plate. That said, his wizardry with the glove (.980 fielding percentage) and exciting base-running style will be worth the price of admission.
Little League coaches who bring their teams to the series should have their players taking notes when the ball is hit his way.
Drafted in the ninth round by the Colorado Rockies, the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year will be key to UCLA making a run at the championship series.
Hunter Renfroe, Outfielder, Mississippi State
The San Diego Padres thought enough of Renfroe to take him with the 13th overall pick in this year's MLB Draft. Perhaps more impressive than his 15 home runs, 61 RBI and .360 batting average is his .644 slugging percentage.
Defensively, scouts rave about his powerful arm and think he has the makeup to be a great one at the next level.
The Bulldogs will need Renfroe and his bat to be firing on all cylinders in Omaha, especially with such a star-studded cast of pitchers in the series. Runs will be at a premium in the series and few can manufacture them like Renfroe.
Mason Katz, First Baseman, LSU
The LSU Tigers will return to their second home in 2013. Leading the coming home party is Mason Katz.
You'll be hard-pressed to find a more exciting player in the college game than the former utility-player, Katz. In addition to being solid at the first base corner, he keeps opposing defenses busy with his .366 batting average, 15 home runs and 68 RBI.
His versatility in the field and consistency at the plate caught the eye of the St. Louis Cardinals, who drafted him in the fourth round of this year's MLB draft.
Andrew Moore, Pitcher, Oregon State
The First-Team Freshman All-American is not flashy and won't overpower many hitters, but all the guy does is win. He's 14-1 on the season with an ERA of 1.36.
If you plan on scoring a lot of runs against the Beavers, they likely won't come against Moore, who, together with fellow Beaver pitcher Matt Boyd, forms arguably the best 1-2 pitching combination at the College World Series.
Colin Moran, Third Baseman, North Carolina
Moran, the nephew of former Major Leaguer B.J. Surhoff, might be the most complete and talented player in the series.
Ranked No. 5 in College Baseball Daily's list of the Top 100 Players in College Baseball, Moran was drafted sixth overall in this year's MLB draft by the Miami Marlins and is about as sure a thing as there is in terms of a college prospect. His 13 home runs, 87 RBI and .345 batting average is proof of that.
He's the unquestioned leader of a talented North Carolina squad that has yet to lose a game this season on a neutral field.