The 2013 College World Series will commence tomorrow in Omaha, and while LSU and Oregon State have made it there as a result of superb starting pitching, a pair of dominant relievers has been the story for Mississippi State.
Among the eight teams remaining in the tournament, there are some notable arms with lights-out stuff.
LSU: Aaron Nola
The Tigers made quick work of Oklahoma in the Super Regionals, and they can thank their ace Nola for getting them halfway to a championship. It took the sophomore righty just 102 pitches to spin a two-hit complete-game shutout against the Sooners. The only free base Nola allowed was a hit-by-pitch in the second inning, but he minimized the damage by picking off the runner. In an interview with Les East of the The Advocate, Oklahoma outfielder Max White noted Nola’s brilliance in the outing.
“He’s a pitcher,” White said. “He really stayed down in the zone, and that’s hard for a hitter to adjust to. He mixed it well—in and out.”
Nola has racked up the honors this year. He was named the District VII Player of the Year by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association and SEC Pitcher of the Year.
According to Randy Rosetta of NOLA.com, the Tigers are 15-1 in Nola's starts and he is undefeated in series openers. He is 12-0 with a 1.68 and a .187 batting average against with 117 strikeouts in 2013, and will start the first game of the CWS against UCLA on Sunday.
Oregon State: Andrew Moore
LSU isn't the only team that rode fantastic pitching to the CWS. Moore—a freshman right-hander—has emerged as one of the stars of the Beavers rotation this year with a team-best 14-1 record and 1.36 ERA, a .194 batting average against and 70 strikeouts.
In his last outing, Moore pitched eight strong innings against Kansas State, surrendering four runs—three earned—and striking out nine. According to SB Nation, Moore was the first pitcher in his conference—a conference with multiple pitchers who are going to be high draft picks in the upcoming MLB draft—to reach 11 wins.
On Wednesday, Moore was recognized by Baseball America as a first-team All-American. According to osubeavers.com, Moore is the "first OSU true freshman to be named a first team All-American by any publication." According to Mike Ferrin of Sirius XM Radio, the Beavers have given Moore the nod for Oregon State's Super Regionals series opener.
Sophmore southpaw setup man Mitchell and sophomore righty closer Holder are likely the best eight-nine combo of the eight remaining teams in the tournament.
Looking at Mitchell's stats from a distance, you'd think he's a starter. He's 12-0 in 31 appearances for the year with 86 innings pitched—the second-most innings pitched on the team. His 1.35 ERA is State's second-lowest (Holder's is the lowest), and he's got a .205 batting average against with 43 strikeouts.
In his last outing, Mitchell relieved a struggling Kendall Graveman in Game 1 of Mississippi State's series against Virginia. He surrendered just two hits in 3.2 innings. Although he doesn't have much swing-and-miss stuff, he's proved to be dominant.
Holder does Mitchell just a few decimals better. With a 1.31 ERA, Holder has 18 saves, a .153 batting average against and 83 strikeouts in 48 innings pitched—the most of any Bulldog arm (and significantly more than any of the team's starters).
In his last outing, Holder closed out Mississippi State's series sweep of Virginia when he recorded a two-inning save in a 6-5 contest. On Wednesday, NCBWA recognized both Mitchell and Holder for their success this season.