College World Series 2019: First-Round Tournament Schedule and Title PredictionsJune 12, 2019
The SEC reinforced its dominance in college baseball by sending four teams to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.
The quartet of SEC programs left in the tournament are viewed as some of the best in the nation, but there are four other squads who believe they can leave TD Ameritrade Park with a national championship.
The odds of a non-SEC side advancing to the championship series are high since Michigan, Texas Tech and Florida State are paired with Arkansas in one half of the bracket.
Auburn, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt headline the other half alongside Louisville in what might have the feel of a mini-SEC tournament.
Vanderbilt is the only College World Series champion from this decade to be participating in the 2019 College World Series.
The Commodores' balance throughout the lineup and stacked pitching rotation could take them far in Omaha.
Vanderbilt's offense possesses the No. 4 overall pick from the 2019 MLB draft in outfielder JJ Bleday, but he is not the best hitter for average in the lineup.
That title belongs to Austin Martin, who could end up as one of the top hitting prospects in the 2020 MLB draft. Martin is hitting .410 with 100 hits, 19 doubles, eight home runs and 42 RBI, while Bleday brings the power with 26 home runs.
Vanderbilt has three other players who average over .300 beneath Martin and Bleday in that column, and it has three players who have hit more than 10 home runs.
As we witnessed during Kumar Rocker's 19-strikeout no-hitter against Duke in the Nashville super regional, the Commodores have strength in pitching as well.
Rocker, Mason Hickman, Patrick Raby and Drake Fellows have a combined 40-7 record in the Vanderbilt starting rotation.
If that was not enough to convince you of Vanderbilt's ability to reach the championship series, it is undefeated against the three teams in its bracket this season.
The Commodores swept Auburn at the end of April, beat Louisville once in May and knocked off both Auburn and Mississippi State in the SEC tournament.
Texas Tech also has a collection of bats that can power it into the championship series.
Just like Vanderbilt, the Red Raiders have a top-10 pick in the heart of their order in No. 8 overall pick Josh Jung.
Jung and Cameron Warren are the two stars in the Texas Tech lineup that you should keep an eye on in Omaha. Warren is hitting .354 with 17 home runs and 76 RBI, while Jung has a .342 batting average, 14 home runs and 56 RBI.
If the opposing pitching staffs, starting with Michigan Saturday, do not give Warren and Jung much to hit, their teammates are more than capable of providing support.
Dylan Neuse had a terrific Lubbock super regional performance with two hits in each of his three games against Oklahoma State, and Braxton Fulford delivered five hits in the three-game series.
In the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament, the Red Raiders proved they could win games in a variety of ways.
The Red Raiders opened with a blowout win over Army and then won a pair of games over Dallas Baptist by a combined four runs, while both of the super regional wins over Oklahoma State were by two runs.
If their bats keep rolling, Texas Tech could finally crack its way into the championship series in its fourth College World Series appearance in six years.
Vanderbilt over Texas Tech in 3 Games
Vanderbilt and Texas Tech will be expected to put on an offensive showcase in the championship series, but the pitching of the Commodores will end up being the difference-maker at some point.
Even though Texas Tech has a deep lineup, Vanderbilt's pitching staff has been fairly consistent in the postseason. If you take out the 18-run outburst from Duke in Game 1 of the super regional, Vanderbilt's pitching staff has conceded 10 runs over five games.
If Vanderbilt can hold Texas Tech to three runs or fewer, its offense should be able to create plenty of separation on the scoreboard.
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Statistics obtained from official websites of the programs.