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College World Series 2021: Dates, Schedule and Top Contenders

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistJune 15, 2021

Vanderbilt starting pitcher Jack Leiter (22) returns to the dugout after the first inning of an NCAA college baseball super regional game against East Carolina, Saturday, June 12, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

Eight college baseball teams will converge on Omaha, Nebraska this weekend for the College World Series

The conclusion to the NCAA baseball tournament kicks off on Saturday and Sunday with two first-round games on each day. 

The eight-team bracket will be played in a double-elimination format. The final two teams left will take part in the best-of-three championship series that is scheduled to begin on June 28. 

The Vanderbilt Commodores are the reigning champion from 2019, and they are one of six seeded teams that survived the super regional round to reach Omaha. 

Vanderbilt is one of five previous champions entered in the field. The Arizona Wildcats and Virginia Cavaliers have won titles in the last decade. The Texas Longhorns last won in 2005, and the Stanford Cardinal's claimed successive titles in 1987-88.

Each of the eight teams in the College World Series have been to Omaha before, although the NC State Wolfpack have the fewest appearances with two. 

Vanderbilt should be viewed as the favorite since it has three CWS titles since 2014, but it is not the top seeded team left. Texas owns that honor after the Arkansas Razorbacks were knocked out in the super regionals.

             

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Top Contenders

Vanderbilt

The team with three CWS titles since 2014 and two potential top-10 picks in the 2021 MLB draft has to be considered the favorite. 

Vanderbilt cruised into the championship series in 2019 with three straight wins and then came back from a game down to knock off the Michigan Wolverines for the national title. 

The Commodores should be in a good position to start well with Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter in place to throw in the first two games. 

Rocker was the 2019 Most Outstanding Player and Leiter is expected to be drafted around the same time as his teammate on July 11. 

Rocker and Leiter combined to give up one earned run on five hits in the super regional sweep over the East Carolina Pirates. 

In addition its top two hurlers being on regular rest, Vanderbilt has a fresh bullpen since it used two relievers in the Nashville Super Regional. Nick Maldonado appeared in both games and Luke Murphy earned the Game 1 save. 

Vanderbilt's pitching staff should be able to shut down Arizona's offense in its CWS opener. The Wildcats posted 30 runs in three super regional games versus the Ole Miss Rebels. 

None of Arizona's starters lasted longer than five innings, and its bullpen had to close out wins over multiple innings. 

If Vanderbilt's bats get to Arizona's pitchers, like Ole Miss did in Game 2 of the Tucson Super Regional, Rocker should have plenty of cushion to work with.

The same strategy can be followed if Leiter pitches the second game against either Stanford or NC State. 

If Vanderbilt wins its first two games behind its aces, all it needs is one win to reach the final. Rocker and Leiter could start Games 1 and 2 of the championship series in an ideal scenario.

Until a team proves it can hit off the two men, it is hard to pick against a Vanderbilt side with plenty of experience and a dominant pitching staff. 

            

Texas

Texas is the top remaining seed in the bracket, but it does not come in as the favorite. 

The Longhorns will play second fiddle to Vanderbilt, but they have a chance to prove to everyone they deserve the favorite tag. 

Texas' offense pummeled opposing pitching staffs in the Austin Regional and Super Regional. It posted 49 runs in a clean sweep of five games. 

The Longhorns outscored their opponents 49-12 and showed it could win two different types of games against the South Florida Bulls. 

Texas eked out a close victory in Game 1 of the super regional through a ninth-inning double from Eric Kennedy. It proceeded to score 12 runs in Game 2 to secure a spot in Omaha. 

Texas can outslug the Mississippi State Bulldogs in its Omaha opener. Four Longhorns are coming off multi-RBI performances against South Florida. 

In any other matchup, Mississippi State might be favored because of its offensive prowess, but Texas has the potential to neutralize the offense that posted nine runs or more three times in the NCAA tournament. 

Texas is on a collision course to play the Tennessee Volunteers in a No. 2-versus-No. 3 showdown in the second round. 

The Longhorns may be well-equipped to win that game as well with their bats. Tennessee also scored nine or more runs three times in the first two rounds. 

Texas could have a problem dealing with Rocker and Leiter in a potential championship series matchup, but it needs to get there first. 

Expect Texas' bats to carry it to at least a win or two in Omaha. It has a good chance to make a deep run, even if it loses to Tennessee in the second game.

       

Statistics obtained from D1Baseball.com.

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