Monday will be a fascinating day at the College Baseball World Series, with two teams facing elimination and two more teams seeking to remain in the winner's bracket. Will Oregon State or Washington go home? Will North Carolina or Mississippi State remain unblemished?
Let's break it down.
Matchup: Oregon State vs. Washington
When: 2 p.m. ET
Prediction: Oregon State
Matchup: North Carolina vs. Mississippi State
When: 7 p.m. ET
Prediction: North Carolina
Mississippi State avoided the loser's bracket Saturday and earned itself a matchup with North Carolina on Monday, but it needed a bit of magic to do so. Luke Alexander's walk-off double was that magic, giving the Bulldogs a 1-0 win over Washington.
"We've been through a lot this year," Hunter Stovall, who scored the game-winning run, said after the contest, per Tyler Cleveland of the Mississippi Clarion Ledger. "When situations like that come up, as a team, we have confidence in whoever is at the plate. Coach [Gary] Henderson has turned us into grinders, and we have full confidence that we're going to get it done."
While Mississippi State won in the dying moments, North Carolina survived an 8-6 marathon against Oregon State in sweltering hot conditions.
"I think we all feel like we've been in a heavyweight fight," Tar Heels coach Mike Fox said after the game, according to Mike Lopresti of NCAA.com. "We probably have."
And now the two teams will face off, with a chance for an easier path to the finals hanging in the balance. Neither team has lost thus far in the College Baseball World Series, and both have reached this point behind different strengths.
North Carolina can rely on a strong offense that ranks 29th in runs (388), but the pitching staff has been better. The team ranks 49th in WHIP (1.32), 32nd in earned run average (3.54) and sixth in strike outs per nine innings (10.0).
In those categories, meanwhile, Mississippi State ranked in the top 50 in only strikeouts per nine innings, finishing 37th (9.1).
On paper, the Tar Heels are the better team, and they just knocked off a very talented Oregon State squad. But the Bulldogs have scrapped and clawed their way to this point. It should be a fantastic matchup.
In the loser's bracket, Oregon State and Washington will be battling for survival. The Beavers have no shortage of talent, as second baseman Nick Madrigal and outfielder Trevor Larnach were each first-round picks in this year's MLB draft and infielder Cadyn Grenier was off the board at No. 37 overall.
In total, six Beavers were selected by MLB teams in the draft. Contrast that to Washington, who saw shortstop AJ Graffanino and catcher Willie MacIver—in the eighth and ninth rounds, respectively—drafted.
Oregon State's fearsome lineup could be the difference in this matchup. The team hit .317 this year, third in the nation, while finishing 44th in homers (54). The Beavers have only lost 11 games this year and went 2-1 against the Huskies during the regular season.
Add in a slight upset loss against North Carolina, and the No. 3 Beavers come into this game with big expectations but their backs against the wall. Expect them to bounce back.