The championship dreams are gone for all but four teams at the 2016 College World Series after Coastal Carolina beat Texas Tech 7-5 in Thursday’s game.
The semifinals begin on Friday, with Arizona squaring off against Oklahoma State and Coastal Carolina facing TCU. Whichever teams emerge from the semifinals portion of the tournament will play in the finals that begin on Monday.
An updated bracket and full results for the entire College World Series are available on NCAA.com. Here is a look at a format explanation for the semifinals, as well as a breakdown and prediction for Friday’s games.
The College World Series is a double-elimination tournament until the best-of-three championship series. That means the two undefeated teams—Oklahoma State and TCU—would still be alive even if they lose Friday’s games. The Cowboys and Horned Frogs have to only win one game to advance to the championship.
Arizona has a loss and would have to defeat the Cowboys twice to advance to the finals, and Coastal Carolina faces the same win-two-or-go-home scenario on the other side of the bracket.
Oklahoma State vs. Arizona
Date: Friday, June 24
Time: 3 p.m. ET
TV: ESPN 2
Oklahoma State already beat Arizona once in this tournament, but it was a narrow 1-0 victory after Tyler Buffett pitched eight brilliant innings and shut down the Wildcats offense. In fact, the Cowboys won both of their College World Series games 1-0 thus far thanks to a similar victory over UC Santa Barbara when Thomas Hatch pitched a complete game.
As for Arizona, it beat UC Santa Barbara 3-0 and Miami 5-1 in its other two games to set up this semifinal.
While Oklahoma State’s pitching has been incredible in Omaha, Nebraska, Mitch Sherman of ESPN.com said “Arizona sets up nicely as senior ace Nathan Bannister readies to pitch Friday with five days of rest. Bannister, who has thrown a nation-leading 139.2 innings this year and 27 in the postseason, beat Miami 5-1 in Arizona’s CWS opener.”
This isn’t the first time Bannister will take the mound in a pressure-packed situation, as he beat Louisiana-Lafayette in the regional on a mere two days of rest.
Bannister commented on the task ahead, per Sherman: “I'm ready for Friday. This is all you can ask for as a pitcher at this time of year. What we've shown over the past three games is that we have the ability to compete with anybody in the nation.”
Oklahoma State will give the ball to freshman Jensen Elliott, who beat Clemson in the regional. However, the Wildcats are the more desperate side, and the Cowboys know they have a security blanket waiting for them on Saturday should they need it with Big 12 Pitcher of the Year Hatch set to toe the rubber.
Bannister will keep Arizona’s season alive with a strong performance, while Oklahoma State shifts its attention toward Hatch’s start.
Prediction: Arizona 3, Oklahoma State 2
Coastal Carolina vs. TCU
Date: Friday, June 24
Time: 8 p.m. ET
TCU handled Coastal Carolina in rather straightforward fashion earlier in the College World Series, 6-1. Pitchers Brian Howard and Ryan Burnett combined to allow a single run in nine innings and struck out nine Chanticleers in the process.
Coastal Carolina beat Texas Tech and Florida in its other two games, which is why it is still alive in this tournament.
However, Coastal Carolina received some serious help against the Red Raiders. Texas Tech committed three errors and walked seven batters during the course of the game, and the errors led to six unearned runs, which proved to be the difference in the 7-5 contest.
A strong TCU team that is yet to lose in Omaha likely won’t open the door like that against a squad it already beat once in this tournament.
The Horned Frogs have a fresher bullpen that has only played two contests and a formidable lineup the Chanticleers couldn’t handle the first time around. Slugger Luken Baker went 3-for-3 with a home run in the first matchup between these two teams and sports a sparkling .387 batting average.
Look for him to anchor the offensive attack again as TCU advances to the College World Series finals.
Prediction: TCU 4, Coastal Carolina 2