NCAA Baseball Super Regionals: Who Wins a Trip to Omaha?
The NCAA Super Regionals begin on Friday, and there are some exciting matchups.
After one round, 64 teams have been whittled down to the 16 best and hottest teams in the nation. We have seen drama. We have seen upsets. Now, we will see which eight schools have the stuff to make the prestigious College World Series.
The baseball equivalent to the fellow college big stages the basketball Final Four, football BCS, hockey Frozen Four and soccer College Cup, the College World Series is the biggest stage in college baseball. The winners of the eight Super Regionals meet in Omaha, Nebraska and duke it out for the right to be named national champion.
Remember, in the Super Regionals, two teams play each other in a best of three series, with the eight winners advancing.
So which eight teams will make the cut? Let's take a look.
Charlottesville: Virginia over UC Irvine in Two
Hard to pick against the top overall seed.
The Cavaliers had absolutely no trouble getting through their regional. They beat all three of their fellow group members, knocking off Navy, St. John's and East Carolina by a combined 29-3 score.
With the best ERA in the country and a solid .307 team batting average, Virginia is tough to beat and has earned its No. 1 overall seed.
Irvine is a good team, but it just made it through into the Super Regionals. The Cavaliers take it and prove to be a tough out in the CWS.
Santa Clara: Dallas Baptist over California in Three
Wow. Dallas Baptist? Really?
We have a couple surprises in the Super Regionals; both these teams could be considered such, but the Patriots are the real Cinderellas here.
California had the weaker regular season of the two, though they ended up No. 44 and 45 in the RPI right next to each other, and neither was particularly weak at all during the season.
The biggest advantage for Dallas Baptist, however, is its star player Jason Krizan.
Krizan is among the best hitters in the country. The Detroit Tigers draft pick is hitting .419 (seventh in the nation) with 81 RBI (third in the nation) and national bests in hits (101) and doubles (39).
As a team, Baptist is 16th in batting average and seventh in home runs. This is a very productive offensive club.
California will be relying on a pitching staff with the nation's 14th-best ERA at 2.90.
The Patriots have the hitting advantage and the Bears a pitching advantage. While normally this may arguably favor Cal, I really like the Patriots' chances of reaching Omaha. This is a team that fought hard to get to this point and impressively defeated teams like Texas A&M, Oklahoma and TCU over the season and in the tournament so far. It could very well be Dallas Baptist making a shocking trip to Omaha.
Tallahassee: Texas A&M over Florida State in Three
This is a series where pitching will make the difference.
The Aggies are among the best pitching staffs in the nation, ranking fifth in earned run average at a dominating 2.64. Florida State does not come close.
Neither team is high-profile on offense, but they are pretty even.
Given that Florida State had an easier path, going 3-0 past Bethune-Cookman, UCF and Alabama, its numbers may be a little more deceptive, and it absolutely did not face a staff as strong as A&M's.
Texas A&M had to get by a solid pitching staff with the Arizona Wildcats, who also love to hit the ball (third in the nation in hitting).
Given that the Aggies have proven themselves against stronger opponents and they have the better pitching, I've got to go with the Aggies in this battle of No. 1 seeds.
Columbia: Connecticut over South Carolina in Three
It's really hard for me to go against my beloved Huskies in this one, and it's not just because of my lifelong allegiances to UConn sports.
What a year it's been in Storrs. If UConn gets by South Carolina, it will have sent a football team to the BCS, both men's and women's basketball to the Final Four and baseball to the College World Series. Has that ever been done before? Elias Sports Bureau, help me out!
Even without the support of its K-9 Unit, Jim Penders and company went down to South Carolina and took care of business. After getting the sense whipped back into them in the first game, a loss to Coastal Carolina, the Huskies took four straight against Sacred Heart, Coastal and host Clemson in an incredible display.
With six draft picks, led by 11th overall selection to the Astros George Springer and 19th pick to the Red Sox Matt Barnes, the Huskies are a very overlooked team based on their location in New England.
They hit, pitch, run, play small ball and play defense better than almost anybody.
They do have to get by the national champs. South Carolina is the fourth overall seed, but rankings have not stopped the Huskies from getting what they want all year.
I can honestly say, all bias aside, the Huskies are an incredible baseball team. The greatest season in Storrs in almost 40 years will continue, as Omaha is in the cards for these guys.
Gainesville: Florida over Mississippi State in Two
Top 20 in hitting and pitching as well as the second overall seed means the Gators are a scary team to play.
While I have not seen them firsthand, my cousin, a lifelong baseball player, gave me some insight after a Florida handling of South Florida.
"This is one of the greatest baseball teams I've ever seen," he said.
Fair enough, cuz.
The Gators have been very impressive this season, and with a solid 45-16 record as well as a three-game domination of their opening region, the Bulldogs really do not stand much hope of reaching Omaha. I think the Gators take this one in two.
Austin: Texas over Arizona State in Three
A lot of tough series that are going to go all three!
Here you have two regularly competitive teams in the Longhorns and Sun Devils.
Once again, while I think in a couple series it will be about the hitting, this one is all about the pitching.
Second in ERA and seventh in strikeouts per nine, this team is the real deal. Led by Cole Green's nearly 100 strikeouts and the lights-out closing of Freshman Pitcher of the Year Corey Knebel, I do not see how Texas does not get by Arizona State.
Being the seventh overall seed helps, as they get to play in Austin. The home crowd is going to help the Longhorns back to Omaha again.
Nashville: Vanderbilt over Oregon State in Two
Everything is going right for the Commodores at the moment. While Patrick Thomas is singing like he is going to dominate the competition on NBC's The Voice before school starts for the Commodore again in the fall, his school's baseball team is playing like it's going to be just as dominant in the College World Series.
This series should be over quickly.
After manhandling Oklahoma State, Troy and Belmont, the third-best offense and sixth-best pitching team in the nation aims its sights on the Beavers, who are trying to get back to Omaha for the first time since winning back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007.
Third time will be the charm for the Commodores. After being eliminated at this stage in their first two Super Regional appearances, Vanderbilt will reach Omaha.
A huge advantage is accredited to their 12—yes, 12—MLB draft picks, an SEC record. With 12 draft picks and a top-10 team on both offense and defense, two games should suffice for Vandy.
Chapel Hill: Stanford over North Carolina in Three
Stanford got by traditional power Cal State Fullerton to get the chance to face the Tar Heels.
While North Carolina has dominated in recent years, reaching the World Series each year from 2006 to 2009, the Cardinal are the better team offensively and on the hill. They have tradition of their own when it comes to reaching Omaha, but they have not been since 2008, so they would certainly like that trip.
If star hitter Steve Piscotty can get on base and move the runners, as he has done so well this year, and the pitching staff can get the game into the hands of soon-to-be Dodger Chris Reed, look out North Carolina. Though the third overall seed, it is not invincible and certainly was not tested often in the opening round, dominating Maine, James Madison and Florida International.
Stanford is looking like a team poised to play spoiler and pull off a trip to Omaha. However, this one goes three, and deep into Game 3 is where we find the winner.
On to Omaha
So there it is. If my predictions hold true, then Virginia, Dallas Baptist, Texas A&M, Connecticut, Florida, Texas, Vanderbilt and Stanford will be playing for the national title in Omaha.
Thought I would give a few notes about this group:
- Florida would be the only returnee from last year's field.
- Texas holds the record for CWS appearances at 33. This would be 34. Stanford has been to 16, Florida to six and UConn to five.
- Texas is also the last of the eight to win the title, doing so in 2005, its sixth total.
- Only Stanford (two) and Texas (six) have won the CWS.
Whatever happens, the next few weeks are going to be a blast!