By the start of Friday's action at the 2015 College World Series, only four schools will be vying for the ultimate prize that is the national championship.
A star-studded semifinal matchup is already set as of Thursday afternoon. After Florida topped Miami 10-2 and eliminated the Hurricanes in their second meeting in Omaha, the Gators have moved on to face another team they've already faced this week: the Virginia Cavaliers.
As for the second semifinal, the team has yet to be determined. A Thursday night elimination-game showdown between TCU and LSU will decide that, as the victor will advance to face defending national champion Vanderbilt.
Here's a look at Friday's schedule, as well as bracket predictions leading up to it.
College World Series Schedule: Friday, June 19
|Time (ET)||Matchup||TV||Live Stream|
|3 p.m.||Virginia vs. Florida||ESPN2||WatchESPN|
|8 p.m.||Vanderbilt vs. TBD (TCU or LSU)||ESPN||WatchESPN|
Complete bracket available at NCAA.com
Thursday's Prediction: TCU vs. LSU
|Date||Time (ET)||Matchup||Winner Plays|
|Thu., June 18||8 p.m.||TCU vs. LSU||Vanderbilt|
What separates many national championship contenders in Omaha from the rest is the ability to overcome opponents who have their numbers. With the recurring rematches and lack of time between games, an ability to bounce back on the fly is often the difference.
LSU faces that daunting task Thursday night. The Tigers will face the TCU Horned Frogs for the second time this tournament, needing a reversal of fortune from their first meeting in order to stay alive.
When the two teams met in their CWS opener, TCU jumped on LSU with an offensive explosion. Aided by four Tigers errors, the Horned Frogs won, 10-3.
But since that matchup, the two teams have headed in different directions. LSU got things rolling again with its offense, eliminating CSU Fullerton 5-3 thanks to a huge outing at the plate from Alex Bregman, as noted by ESPN Stats & Info:
As for the Horned Frogs, they turned around to battle Vanderbilt in a pitcher's duel on Tuesday. Even though ace Alex Young pitched a no-hitter through six innings, Commodores batter Zander Wiel scored the game's only run on a seventh-inning solo home run.
Unlike prior game days in which the Horned Frogs lit up LSU's top pitching, TCU just couldn't get past Vandy ace Philip Pfeifer and reliever Kyle Wright. But the Horned Frogs don't see that as a reason to be down on confidence, as Fort-Worth Star Telegram's Carlos A. Mendez noted:
TCU had no trouble getting to LSU ace Jared Poche in their first meeting, but the Tigers are going for a more balanced pitching approach Thursday. According to the Advocate's Scott Rabalais, head coach Paul Mainieri intends to have LSU pitch by committee: "You play with the guys you have and make the most of it."
It remains to be seen whether that will be enough to keep TCU from exploding for double-digit runs like it did during the first meeting. But one thing should be clear: LSU won't hit as poorly this time around.
Although LSU may be in the same boat, the Horned Frogs have spent their top arms over the last several days. Young won't be available after pitching Tuesday, and they might opt to save Preston Morrison for a potential Friday rematch with Vandy.
The Horned Frogs have been more dependable in Omaha, but their best won't be saved for last. LSU will flex its offensive muscle with the season on the line and make it three of four SEC teams in the semifinals.
Prediction: LSU 5, TCU 3