The 2016 College World Series has been anything but predictable thus far, and Tuesday's matchups are evidence of that.
Bracket 2 was flipped upside down in the tournament's opening games. The two nationally seeded teams in the four-team group lost their opening games and will be fighting to extend their seasons when Florida meets Texas Tech.
The winners' bracket features two teams that entered Omaha, Nebraska, with serious momentum. Both Coastal Carolina and TCU have pulled off some upsets to get to this point and can add even more to their stock with a win.
Here's a look at Tuesday's schedule along with a preview of each of the matchups from Omaha.
|College World Series 2016 Schedule: June 21|
|5 p.m.||No. 1 Florida vs. No. 5 Texas Tech||ESPN2||Elimination|
|9 p.m.||TCU vs. Coastal Carolina||ESPN||Winners'|
Florida vs. Texas Tech
The Florida Gators came to Omaha as strong favorites to at least win their bracket, if not the whole College World Series. They were the No. 1 team in the country and just had seven players selected in the first four rounds of the MLB draft.
Now they're just one game from elimination.
This isn't the first time they've had their backs against the wall. The Gators dropped their first game against Florida State in the Super Regional stage, only to come back and win the next two games by a combined score of 12-0.
In that series, it was sophomore Alex Faedo who started Game 1, and Logan Shore went on to pitch brilliantly in Game 2.
This time, Florida needs the roles to be reversed. Shore pitched in the loss to Coastal Carolina. Now it will be Faedo's turn to take the hill, per the Gainesville Sun's Kevin Brockway:
The real issue for Florida has been offensive in nature, though. Despite earning the No. 1 seed, the Gators have struggled with inconsistency at the plate this season, and phenomenal pitching has covered for it.
Florida ranks 111th in the nation in batting average, hitting just .280 as a team, and 80th in runs per game at 6.1.
That should give the Red Raiders hope in this matchup, as they have experience bouncing back in a series as well. East Carolina beat the Red Raiders 8-6 before they came back to win the next two games by a combined score of 14-1.
The Red Raiders might not have the same pitching prowess as Florida, but they have a more potent offense, ranking 30th in runs per game.
If Faedo doesn't have his best stuff, the Red Raiders could pull off the upset and knock off the top seed. Keeping in mind that Faedo's last start only lasted four innings in the loss to Florida State, that might be bad news for Florida.
Prediction: Texas Tech 5, Florida 4
TCU vs. Coastal Carolina
The winners' bracket matchup features two teams on serious tears right now.
The Chanticleers of Coastal Carolina proved they're a dangerous team by beating Florida in a pitchers' duel, while TCU counted on some late-game heroics from Luken Baker to beat Texas Tech 5-3 in a fairly offensive contest.
In reality, those styles are normally switched.
Coastal Carolina has serious power as a team. It leads the nation in home runs with 94 and was 17th in scoring. Yet it was able to win a pitching duel with Florida because Andrew Beckwith was on the mound.
The righty went all nine innings, giving up just seven hits and one run with seven strikeouts. After the game, Coastal Carolina coach Gary Gilmore talked about Beckwith's ascension to being the team's top pitcher, per Aaron Fitt of D1Baseball.com:
Basically, we couldn’t get to the fifth inning. We went game after game, and you’re sitting there, we were crushing him out of the bullpen not being able to get us to that point, and really it put our whole entire team in a flux. … We’re sitting there looking for a guy — who can we pitch on Friday that gives us six or seven innings? He just basically said, ‘Give me the ball. I’ll be that guy.’
Beckwith is certainly a great story, but it also underscores the lack of intimidating starters for Coastal Carolina. Without its star pitcher, the rest of the Chanticleers staff will be asked to pitch a great performance against a TCU lineup with a knack for timely hitting.
On the other hand, Baker has been given the spotlight thanks to his three-run blast that put the Frogs up for good in the ninth inning against Texas Tech. However, it's the pitching that has them in this position.
It was TCU's depth on the mound that coach Jim Schlossnagle pointed to as an advantage that was built throughout the year, per Carlos Mendez of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:
Last year it was four or five guys and then two guys at the end. We stayed healthy all year, ended up in the World Series. This year, it’s been more of a challenge. But part of that’s fun. It’s made us stronger to have to go through that, because now everybody’s available, and they can do multiple things.
Mendez also notes that the Frogs have used 10 pitchers who have combined for an ERA of just 1.86 in seven postseason games with 60 strikeouts to just 14 walks.
Brian Howard should get the call against the Chanticleers. He pitched a gem facing elimination against Texas A&M last time out with no earned runs in seven innings and eight strikeouts.
With Florida keeping the Chanticleers lineup in check with great pitching, TCU should do the same but have a much easier matchup for their own lineup.
Prediction: TCU 5, Coastal Carolina 2