The final round of the 2013 College World Series pits two teams of contrasting styles against one another for the chance to win a national championship.
UCLA sports one of the nation's top pitching staffs and struggles to produce runs on the offensive side, while Mississippi State features one of the top hitters in the nation and a lineup capable of putting points on the board in bunches.
It's a classic case of offense versus defense.
The team that can perform under pressure will leave Omaha with the national title, and something's got to give. In order to win the series, these teams must find a way to continue doing what has worked thus far and somehow find an extra dimension.
These are the critical keys that will enable one team to overcome the other.
UCLA's Offense Must Awaken from its Slumber
UCLA has won five straight games in the postseason, no thanks to its offense.
The Bruins have only scored 13 runs in those five games—a dismal average of 2.6 runs per game.
This team was far from prolific throughout the entire season. UCLA scored just 293 runs to rank No. 132 in the nation—an average of 4.8 runs per game.
At this point, however, scoring the seasonal average might not be enough to stop Mississippi State. The Bulldogs averaged 4.8 runs per game in Omaha and are the No. 31-ranked offense in the nation with over six runs per game throughout the season.
Of course, this is all a moot point if UCLA's pitching staff continues to stymie batters as it has all year. That said, funny things can and often do happen during three-game series, and the best way to ensure victory is by scoring more runs.
Mississippi State's Starting Pitchers Must Show Up Big
As was noted above, Mississippi State's offense doesn't usually have any trouble scoring runs.
But the Bulldogs' starting pitchers have been underwhelming the entire year, which has put tremendous pressure on the bullpen. Thankfully, Ross Mitchell, Chad Girodo and the rest of the relief pitchers for Mississippi State have more than answered the call.
This team's bullpen has accounted for 32 victories and has allowed just five losses all year long. For those keeping score at home, the 32 wins accounts for more than three-quarters of the team's total of 43 wins on the season.
As brilliant as the team's relievers have been, it's never a good thing when managers are forced to tap into the bullpen early in games—especially against a team with stellar starting pitchers on the other side like UCLA.
If Mississippi State's starters can't play well enough to log more innings, then it means UCLA will have scored too many runs early.
That's a formula for disaster for the Bulldogs.
Kendall Graveman, Luis Pollorena and Jacob Lindgren must show up big for the Bulldogs to win.
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