CWS 2013: Breaking Down Each Remaining Team's Critical Flaw

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistJune 20, 2013

Jun 17, 2013; Omaha, NE, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs pitcher Trevor Fitts (31) during their College World Series game against the Indiana Hoosiers at TD Ameritrade Park. Mandatory Credit: Dave Weaver-USA Today Sports
Dave Weaver-USA Today Sports

Only five teams remain alive in the 2013 College World Series. And none of those five squads can say they're perfect.

Sure, each team has earned the right to be where they are. It takes a special team to advance this far in college baseball's marathon postseason.

But as tournament favorite LSU showed with its surprising first-round exit at the hands of UCLA and then North Carolina, favorites don't matter, and any team can be eliminated. Here's a look at all five teams still fighting for the national championship and the one flaw that just might be their undoing in Omaha.


Fatal Flaw: Lack of Firepower in the Lineup

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The Bruins have been the surprise team of Omaha. If you had polled all the experts and asked them who was going to win the national title, LSU and North Carolina would have been the overwhelming answer. But the Bruins opened up the tournament by upsetting LSU then upsetting N.C. State after it beat North Carolina in the first round.

UCLA still has a lot of work to do before calling itself a championship team, though. A lack of firepower in the lineup is going to be difficult to overcome at some point.

The Bruins earned both of their wins by a score of 2-1 in the World Series. Manufacturing just two runs works when your pitching staff can hold the opponent to just one run, but it's going to be difficult to keep that up.

The Bruins were 253rd in the nation in batting average at just .251. The Bruins' dependence on squeezing runs out of an innocuous lineup is a flaw that can only be covered up for so long.

N.C. State

Fatal Flaw: Inconsistent Lineup

A look at N.C. State's run production in its 2-1 loss to North Carolina in May gives off a strong yo-yo vibe. The Wolfpack have scored four, one, nine, four, five, eight and one runs in games since then.That's the definition of inconsistent.

Even within the small sample size of Omaha, the Wolfpack have been erratic. After scoring eight runs against North Carolina to win its first game, N.C. State was almost held scoreless against the Bruins.

The Wolfpack will have to fend off their interstate rivals one more time. They had better hope that the offensive powerhouse version of the team shows up. The lineup that went against UCLA won't cut it.

North Carolina

Fatal Flaw: Slow Starts

As the North Carolina Tar Heels' first three innings go, so goes the whole game.

According to Fox Sports Carolinas, the Tar Heels have been incredibly efficient in the first three innings of their tournament wins—with a team batting average of .358 and score of 17-8, the Heels are great when they get things going early.

However, their tournament losses show a team that can't come back from a poor start. They hit just .188 in the first three innings of their tournament losses and have been outscored by opponents 10-1.

The fatal flaw may not be in starting slowly—most teams deal with that from time to time—but the inability to rise above a bad start is something that could prevent the No. 1 seed from hoisting the trophy in Omaha.

Mississippi State

Fatal Flaw: Slow Starts

The Bulldogs have proven they belong among the nation's elite teams—they just take a while to warm up.

The Hunter Renfroe-led team has depended on back-to-back late-game surges to make it to the semifinals against Oregon State. First, they had to score two runs in the eighth inning to get the better of the Beavers in the opening round. Then they needed a three-run eighth inning to beat the Indiana Hoosiers and secure a bid.

Now the Bulldogs get Oregon State again. Relying on a third straight eighth-inning rally will be pushing the Bulldogs' luck. They'll need to figure things out at the plate early on.

Oregon State

Fatal Flaw: Late-Game Pitching

Speaking of the Beavers, they will get their shot at redemption against the Bulldogs thanks to a spectacular individual performance from Matt Boyd, who went all nine innings with 11 strikeouts and just four hits allowed in the Beavers' 1-0 win against Indiana on Wednesday.

The Beavers needed him to go the distance, too. Turning things over to the bullpen has been an issue lately. Oregon State lost to Mississippi State thanks to starter Andrew Moore fading down the stretch and allowing the Bulldogs to get back into it.

Even in the team's 11-4 win against Louisville, three of the Cardinals' runs came in the seventh inning. The Beavers have been good when it matters most, but late in the game is when you want the pitching staff to be at its best.

The late-game struggles could come back to haunt them once again against Mississippi State.