A look at all the teams in the College World Series and who we think will ultimately win it all
Greetings, SQ fans! I hope you have been watching the college baseball tournament because it has been the most exciting one in recent memory. Two teams are going to Omaha for the first time ever (UCSB and Coastal Carolina). My colleague Sean and I have answered questions about teams from each bracket as well as our who our picks are to win the whole thing. Check it out!
Bracket One (#3 Miami, UCSB, Arizona, Oklahoma State)
1. Miami has scored the most runs of all the teams in Bracket One, but they also have a 4.09 ERA which is the worst of all the teams in that bracket. Should the Hurricanes be concerned at all with their pitching?
Sean Berger: Miami should definitely be concerned with its pitching heading into the College World Series. The Hurricanes don’t exactly have great depth when it comes to the rotation, and the health of Jesse Lepore (9-0, 2.20 ERA) is a concern after he was unable to start the final game of the team’s Super Regional. If Lepore’s shoulder tightness doesn’t clear up, Miami could find itself in a heap of trouble, especially if the team winds up in the loser’s bracket. If Lepore is unable to go, Michael Mediavilla (11-1, 3.11 ERA) and Danny Garcia (9-4, 3.48 ERA) will have to step up in order for the Hurricanes to make a run.
David Street: Miami does have solid starters. It’s their bullpen they should be concerned about. It nearly cost the Hurricanes a victory against Long Beach State and gave them a scare against Boston College. Miami has the offense to win the whole thing. However, their pitching, especially their bullpen, will have to be better.
2. UCSB is one of the biggest surprises this year. A lot of people didn’t expect them to be in Omaha, especially considering the fact that they faced an immensely talented Louisville team in Super Regional play. Yet here they are. How did they do it? And do they have enough to keep winning?
Sean: After really struggling down the stretch, UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) caught fire at the right time. The Gauchos are just hitting on all facets of the game right now. They’re getting great pitching out of Shane Bieber (1.88 ERA, 12 strikeouts in tournament play), and have a bullpen ERA of 0.93 through Regional and Super Regional play. Austin Bush has been a force on offense, mashing four home runs and six RBIs during postseason play. And as great as all of those numbers are, it’s not easy to say whether or not they have enough to keep going. Behind Bieber, UCSB is spread thin as starters Noah Davis and Joe Record are inconsistent. The offense wasn’t nearly as potent against Louisville, yet they still found a way to win. UCSB will have to rely on a little more than just postseason magic in order to advance in the World Series.
David: The Gauchos have certainly shocked the college baseball world. Across the board, this is a pretty average team. They are, however, one of the best sacrifice teams in the country, ranking 22nd and 15th in sacrifice bunts and sacrifice flies, respectively. UCSB has caught lightning in a bottle, going 5-0 in the tournament including beating the heavily favored Louisville Cardinals. How did they beat the Cardinals? They did it with solid pitching, flawless defense and timely hitting. Freshman Sam Cohen delivered the knockout punch with that grand slam in the bottom of the ninth in Game Two of the Louisville Super Regional. He will get a lot of well-deserved cheers back on UCSB’s campus for sending the Gauchos to their first ever College World Series. Now, with that said, I’m not sure the Gauchos have enough to keep going. They’re facing an Oklahoma State team that’s been on fire in the tournament. The Cowboys boast one of the best pitching staffs in the nation and if it’s in full effect, UCSB will be in trouble. But, in the end, the Gauchos are in Omaha for good reason and should not be counted out whatsoever.
3. Arizona’s offense hasn’t exactly been a juggernaut in the postseason, only averaging 4.6 runs per game. However, the Wildcats are facing a Miami team that’s been giving up 4.8 runs per game in the tournament. Can Arizona take advantage of Miami’s pitching woes?
Sean: If Arizona is going to take advantage of Miami’s pitching, the team’s table-setters, Cody Ramer and Zach Gibbons, are going to do just that. If Ramer and Gibbons can continue to hit well and get on base, it’ll set up Ryan Aguilar and Bobby Dalbec to drive them in. Moreover, the Wildcats can take advantage of Miami’s pitching by knocking the starters out of the games early. Miami’s bullpen has given up 15 runs in the postseason, and if Arizona can get the Hurricanes’ starter out early, it could be huge for Arizona.
David: As mentioned, Miami’s bullpen is of concern. Arizona’s bats are not wowing people in this tournament but they are doing enough. Ryan Aguilar leads all Arizona hitters in multi-RBI games in this tournament with three. Against a Miami team that’s been giving up a lot of runs late in games, Aguilar and the Wildcats can quickly use that to their advantage.
4. Oklahoma State has been utterly dominant in this tournament, outscoring its opponents 35-6 in five games and not allowing more than two runs in any game. What do you make of the Cowboys’ dominance in this tournament?
Sean: Ultimately, Oklahoma State’s dominance has come down to pitching and defense. That’s how they win ball games. Thomas Hatch and Tyler Buffett have been masterful thus far in the postseason, combining to allow just two runs in 28 innings. Having frontline starters that pitch that well on a consistent basis is hard to beat any night. On top of that, the Cowboys have a versatile reliever in Trey Cobb who can give the team multiple innings at a time as well as a strikeout when needed.
David: As Sean said, the Cowboys are dominating teams because of their pitching and defense. Oklahoma State currently yields the 25th best ERA in the nation and it’s been even better in the tournament. Thomas Hatch, Tyler Buffett and Jensen Elliott have a combined 25-7 record with an impressive ERA of 2.82. In the tournament, Oklahoma State pitchers have boasted an outstanding 1.00 ERA. The Cowboys have also been playing tremendous defense, committing just one error in the tournament.
5. Who is your pick to make it out of this bracket and why?
Sean: When it comes down to it, I see Oklahoma State getting out of this bracket simply because it has the deepest pitching staff. Pitching is critical at this point, and the Cowboys have been lights out on the mound. Even if the Cowboys were to somehow fall into the loser’s bracket, they could pitch their way out of it with the amount of depth and talent they have. The offense may not be the most potent in this tournament, but they have key pieces throughout the lineup that can produce when needed.
David: I’m going to have to go with Oklahoma State here. The Cowboys have been on fire. Their offense and pitching have really been lightning it up. If you want to know just how good their pitching has been, they held Clemson freshman Seth Beer, winner of the Dick Howser Trophy, to a .167 batting average. The Cowboys are a bit of an inexperienced team (this is their first trip to Omaha since 1999), but make no mistake. They’re as dangerous as anybody in the country right now.
Bracket Two (#1 Florida, #5 Texas Tech, TCU, Coastal Carolina)
1. The Gators are coming off a series in which they allowed only one run per game against the Seminoles including back-to-back shutouts. Prior to facing the Gators in Super Regional play, the Seminoles averaged 14.3 runs per game in the tournament. Pitching has easily been Florida’s biggest strength all season. Can it continue to hold up?
Sean: Florida’s pitching success rests on its starters’ ability to go deep into games. The Florida bullpen is one of the best in the country, and is also one of the deepest, but it could tire out if the starters aren’t able to go deep. The biggest question is what kind of AJ Puk the Gators will get in Omaha? Puk has been a bit of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde pitcher this season. When he’s on, he’s every bit of that top-10 pick that reminds scouts of Randy Johnson, but when he’s off, the Gators had better get the bullpen up and going quick.
David: Florida’s pitching staff is absolutely loaded. AJ Puk, the sixth overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft, is not even the team’s ace. That honor belongs to Logan Shore, who has been a workhorse for the Gators this season going 12-0 with a 2.24 ERA. Don’t forget about Alex Faedo—he leads the team in wins (13) and strikeouts (124). Throw in guys from the bullpen such as Shaun Anderson (3-0, 1.00 ERA, 13 saves), Kirby Snead (3-1, 2.78 ERA), Jackson Kowar (3-0, 3.37 ERA) and Scott Moss (3-0, 1.59 ERA) and you have a staff that’s deep enough to carry a team all the way. The Gators have prided themselves on pitching all year and if they’re going to go deep in the tournament, pitching will be a huge reason why.
2. Texas Tech is making just its second-ever College World Series appearance and so far, the Red Raiders are 0-2 in Omaha. What will it take for them to win their first College World Series game?
Sean: Texas Tech is going to have to do what it’s done all season if they’re going to win a game in Omaha, and that’s hit. The Red Raiders are averaging more than seven runs per game this season, and they’re not looking to slow down anytime soon. However, pitching is going to be critical as the team takes on an equally-impressive offensive team in TCU. TCU has already scored 13 runs in one game against Texas Tech this season, and that can’t happen again if the Red Raiders want to win their first game in the College World Series.
David: As Sean said, the Red Raiders have been an offensive force. Tanner Gardner has been a stud, leading Texas Tech hitters in batting average, hits, triples and on-base percentage. The pitching, however, is of concern, yielding a 4.16 ERA. TCU has one of the best offenses in the country. If the Red Raiders want to put up a fight in Omaha, their pitching is going to have to step up.
3. In the College Station Super Regional, TCU’s pitching staff held Texas A&M’s offense to a .165 batting average. Prior to that, the Aggies had a batting average of .322 in postseason play. How much confidence does this give TCU moving forward?
Sean: This gives TCU great confidence heading into the World Series. With Jared Janczak and Brian Howard each turning in a quality start against Texas A&M, they’re both primed to continue their success as they head into Omaha. With the return of Mitchell Traver, the Horned Frogs also got a boost in the rotation. Although Traver got roughed up a bit against the Aggies, he’s pitched well since returning from his injury (1-2, 3.00 ERA). Even if teams get to TCU’s bullpen, good luck trying to add on after that. In the six games TCU has played this postseason, the bullpen has given up just two runs over 15 innings.
David: Most of TCU’s lineup is different from last year’s so for them to make it this far is pretty remarkable. TCU has been a balanced club all season long, ranking 24th in batting average and 14th in ERA. In the College Station Super Regional, TCU’s pitching launched the squad to Omaha. Jared Janczak and Brian Howard combined for a 1.58 ERA over 14.2 innings pitched. Having those two guys gives the Horned Frogs a huge confidence boost.
4. It may be Coastal Carolina’s first time ever in Omaha but don’t think these Chanticleers are like any regular underdog. These guys know how to hit. They lead the nation in home runs with 94, 40 more than the next closest CWS participant. They will be facing a Florida team that has one of the deepest pitching staffs in the nation. Will the Chanticleers’ offense be too much for the Gators’ pitching?
Sean: The Chanticleers have a versatile offense, and can beat opponents multiple ways. They can beat you with the long ball or they can beat you with small ball—by being aggressive on the bases and moving guys over and driving them in. The spacious ballpark in Omaha may see Coastal shift to more of the small ball approach, and that could get Florida out of its comfort zone.
David: Those Chanticleers really know how to hit it out of the park. Coastal Carolina boasts four players who have hit 15 or more home runs this year. They’re hitting .300 as a team and have driven in 486 runs which is fourth in the country. Florida has a very talented pitching staff but even a staff like that might not have an answer for Coastal Carolina’s high-octane offense.
5. Who is your pick to get out of this bracket and why?
Sean: Florida just has too much pitching depth to not make it out of this bracket. If Florida pitches the way it’s capable of pitching, the Gators should be able to make it to the finals. The Gators have a lot of depth pitching-wise, and the offense has more than enough firepower to be productive in this tournament. Logan Shore brings a veteran presence on the mound that will be crucial in tough spots, while Peter Alonso brings a hot bat that has been crushing nearly every pitcher he has faced in the tournament. It’ll be tough to get through hot-hitting teams like TCU, Texas Tech and Coastal Carolina, but the Gators should be able to keep them at bay.
David: I’m going with Florida. That pitching staff might be one of the deepest in college baseball history. Regardless of which Florida pitcher is on the mound, any guy from that staff can give the Gators a chance to win. Offensively, the Gators are not a very explosive team but they do enough to get W’s. Peter Alonso has been Florida’s best offensive player by far and has been on fire in the tournament. The junior has hit .520, driven in 11 runs and has four home runs in the tournament. Florida definitely has its hands full against some very talented teams in their bracket, but I think their pitching will ultimately pull them through.
David: Florida vs Oklahoma State. In the end, it all comes down to pitching and no team has been pitching better than these teams have in the tournament. Oklahoma State has arguably been the most impressive team in this tournament, going 5-0 and outscoring their opponents by an average of 5.8 runs per game. They’ve been getting great contributions from their offense, pitching and defense. However, in the end, the Gators simply have too much: experience, a very good lineup, outstanding defense and a very deep pitching staff. The Gators have had a target on their backs all season long and so far, they’ve done an excellent job. I predict that for the first time in program history, the Gators will be national champions in baseball.
Sean: Florida vs. Oklahoma State. Like David said, pitching is key when you get to this stage. If you can pitch your way through it and muster enough offense, you can win a championship. Neither of these teams have the strongest offense in the tournament, but with the way they’ve been pitching as of late, they haven’t needed much. But when it comes down to it, Florida will win its first College World Series title. This team got to Omaha lost year with high expectations and lost to eventual national champion Virginia in the semis. Disappointed in this result, Florida made its way back to the CWS and will not be disappointed this year. There’s too much talent between the starting rotation and the bullpen for the Gators not to come away as winners.
Let us know who you think will win it all in the comments below!
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