The 2015 College World Series gets under way Saturday with two games to kick off the final run to the NCAA championship in Omaha, Nebraska.
Arkansas was one of three Super Regional champions to survive a loss in that stage to advance and will partake in the CWS opener against reigning runner-up Virginia. The second contest on Saturday is a Sunshine State showdown between the national No. 2 Florida Gators and Miami Hurricanes.
Below is a guide for the TV and live stream information along with a preview and predictions for the aforementioned games.
|2015 College World Series Schedule: Saturday, June 13|
|Matchup||Time (ET)||TV||Live Stream|
|Virginia vs. Arkansas||3 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Florida vs. Miami (Florida)||8 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
Arkansas vs. Virginia
Razorbacks center fielder Andrew Benintendi was just named the National Player of the Year by Baseball America. The sophomore star was also drafted seventh overall in Monday's MLB draft by the Boston Red Sox.
It will be key for the Cavaliers to shut Benintendi down—he's boasting a .380 batting average to lead all players in the College World Series and is tied for the most home runs with 19.
Former Arkansas catcher James McCann weighed in on what will be key for the Razorbacks to get past Virginia after losing to the Cavaliers in regional play last year, per radio personality Bo Mattingly:
Both of these clubs weren't expected to go this far, since they weren't No. 1 seeds. The key is to maintain that sense of being an underdog to fuel the fire. Based on what happened in 2014, Arkansas is in a bit better position to harness that intangible energy.
A five-run eighth inning to win 5-3 and a three-run bottom of the ninth to triumph 5-4 over Maryland was the tough route Virginia took to the College World Series. This team has delivered in the clutch with everything on the line, so the Cavaliers figure to be a tough foe in their own right.
In yet another battle of ACC versus SEC for national superiority, look for Arkansas to have the slight advantage in what ought to be a thrilling start to the slate at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha.
Prediction: Arkansas 3, Virginia 2
Florida vs. Miami (Florida)
One can bet the Gators are drawing some inspiration from the university's softball program, which just capped off a successful defense of the national title.
Logan Shore is the probable starter for Florida, as it seeks to gain the upper hand on its intrastate rival in Game 1. GatorZone.com's Scott Carter notes how clutch Shore has been amid the Gators' first trip to Omaha since 2012:
Having a hot starting pitcher in Shore to pair with sophomore classmate A.J. Puk gives Florida an excellent chance to continue a magnificent run of nine consecutive victories. The offense is hot as well, exploding for 24 runs in two dominant wins over Florida State in the Super Regionals.
Gators coach Kevin O'Sullivan appears confident in his bunch despite the club's collective youth, per the Associated Press, via FoxSports.com:
I feel good about this team. They're playing with emotion. We're playing great defense. Pitching has been really good. Starting pitching has been good, relief pitching has been good. We're getting some timely hits. ... I think the freshmen have infused a lot of energy into our program. They've contributed and kind of kept things simple. It has been neat to watch.
Miami, of course, won't go down without a fight. The College World Series atmosphere makes the stakes high enough, but it helps to have the motive of playing spoiler to its red-hot opponent in play too.
Southpaw Andrew Suarez will be on the bump to try and stymie the Gators. Suarez definitely has the tools to do so, evident in how the San Francisco Giants made him the 61st overall pick in the MLB draft.
Shortstop Richie Martin, a first-round MLB draft pick, acknowledges Suarez wasn't on the hill when Florida took two of three February meetings with Miami but seems to think his side can figure out the 'Canes ace, per GatorSports.com's Kevin Brockway:
We haven't faced him, but we're going to watch video of him and see what he likes to do. But I think we have their hitters down, where to play them and what they like to do on the bases and defensively. We just have to get a good scouting report to see what we need to do to beat them.
The firepower Miami boasts is nothing to scoff at, though. David Thompson and Zach Collins have 87 and 70 RBI, respectively, on the season, serving as catalysts for the Hurricanes' talented batting order that also features contact-savvy second baseman George Iskenderian, the ACC batting champion.
There's a ton of star power on both sides in this one, but Florida is just a little more complete and has all the momentum. Naivete in this instance will serve the Gators well, and Shore will have a strong enough outing to help them edge out Miami in a magnificent cap to Saturday's action.
It's a relative consensus that the SEC is the best conference in the country. The depth of competition has evidently prepared its remaining teams well enough to hang tough in the postseason, and half of the eight teams left hail from there.
SEC superiority will shine through on Saturday when both Arkansas and Florida pull off nail-biting wins over admittedly tough ACC adversaries.
Prediction: Florida 5, Miami 4