And then there were eight.
The field is set at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska, for this weekend’s kick off to the 2013 College World Series.
There are a couple of surprises among the contenders, including the presence of Indiana, a Big Ten team—the first since 1984—and the absence of a team from both Florida and Texas for the first time since 1990.
Heading into the tournament there are three clear favorites among those eight contenders:
- No. 1 seed North Carolina (57-10)
- No. 3 seed Oregon State (50-11)
- No. 4 seed LSU (57-9)
So which of these top teams is going to come out on top in Omaha? Past performance is important but getting hot at the right time is definitely a key.
Let’s take a look at how these top three contenders compare heading into the action.
When comparing teams at this level it is the smallest of details that separate them on the diamond. While all three rank relatively low in ERA, there are some differences between each school’s pitching staff in terms of walk-to-strikeout ratios.
Here’s a chart depicting this disparity:
And, as you can see, all three boast successful rotations that are near the top of the national rankings due to posting ridiculously low ERAs this season:
These three teams are in a great position to contend in Omaha thanks to their incredible performances on the rubber this year.
Offensively, these three contenders are pretty close on paper, although Oregon State lags behind in several key areas.
First off, the Beavers offense hasn’t exactly blown anyone away this season. While not poor at the plate, they have heavily relied on their pitching staff to get to this point and could struggle as a result in Omaha.
Here’s a chart comparing the three programs’ batting average and on-base percentages:
Some more notable stats from each team's plate performance this year:
There's no doubt about the acumen of the Tar Heels lineup. Whether or not their hitters can carry the team to its first College World Series victory is the question.
A rematch from 2006 and 2007 between North Carolina and Oregon State would give the the Tar Heels a chance to do just that while getting some revenge for those back-to-back losses.
Of the three favorites, LSU is playing perhaps the best heading into the College World Series. The Tigers have won eight-straight games, nine of their last 10 postseason games and 14 of their past 16 overall. That hot streak added to their balanced and potent offense and solid rotation will make this team a terror to deal with in Omaha.
Oregon State’s resilience and dominant pitching staff will keep other teams on their toes, with every game likely coming down to the wire. Teams might as well plan for warding off elimination the next time around if Andrew Moore (14-1, 1.36 ERA) is on the mound.
North Carolina is ranked as the nation’s top team for a reason. Their pitching staff falls short to an extent, but they are explosive enough on offense to make up for that slight shortcoming. If the Tar Heels build a lead and turn it over to reliever Trent Thornton (eight saves, 11 wins), it’s “all she wrote.”
It could end up being any of these three that are crowned as champs at the end. However, LSU is riding a huge hot streak and appears to be the smart bet.
*All stats used were obtained from NCAA.com and are current as of June 11, 2013, unless otherwise noted