The College World Series will soon be upon us all, with the final eight teams having advanced to the 2013 CWS in Omaha. With play beginning on Saturday, the elite eight clubs who managed to get past three other teams in the regional round and take two out of three games in the super regional portion of the bracket are heading to TD Ameritrade Park to find out who will be crowned the 2013 College World Series champions. Following quite the rainy four day stretch in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, the UNC Tar Heels were able to sneak past the South Carolina Gamecocks in a close, but sloppy, game in order to be the eighth and final team to punch their ticket to the 2013 CWS in Omaha. While they are the No. 1 overall national seed, they are far from guaranteed a spot in the final, as every team who has reached this point is here because they belong.
While I happen to disagree slightly with what Teddy Mitrosilis of ESPN has to say regarding the best team perhaps not winning the CWS, I will still give him credit for breaking down the final eight teams and not simply picking the top two seeds to advance to the best-of-three finals after coming out of a double-elimination bracket. The games begin on Saturday afternoon, with a complete breakdown below.
Saturday, June 15
Game 1: Mississippi State (48-18) vs. No. 3 Oregon State (50-11) (ESPN2 3 p.m.)
Game 2: Indiana (48-14) vs. Louisville (51-12) (ESPN 8 p.m.)
Sunday, June 16
Game 3: NC State (49-14) vs. No. 1 North Carolina (56-10) (ESPN2 3 p.m.)
Game 4: UCLA (44-17) vs. No. 4 LSU (57-9) (ESPN2 8 p.m.)
Monday, June 17
Game 5: Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser (ESPN2 3 p.m.)
Game 6: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner (ESPN2 8 p.m.)
Tuesday, June 18
Game 7: Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 loser (ESPN 3 p.m.)
Game 8: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner (ESPN 8 p.m.)
Wednesday, June 19
Game 9: Game 6 loser vs. Game 5 winner (ESPN 8 p.m.)
Thursday, June 20
Game 10: Game 8 loser vs. Game 7 winner (ESPN 8 p.m.)
Friday, June 21
Game 11: Game 6 winner vs. Game 9 winner (ESPN 3 p.m.)
Game 12: Game 8 winner vs. Game 10 winner (ESPN 8 p.m.)
Friday, June 21
Game 13: Game 6 winner vs. Game 9 winner (ESPN 3 p.m.) (only if Game 9 winner wins Game 11)
Game 14: Game 8 winner vs. Game 10 winner (ESPN 8 p.m.) (only if Game 10 winner wins Game 12)
Monday, June 24
Finals Game 1: Bracket 1 winner vs. Bracket 2 winner (ESPN 8 p.m.)
Tuesday, June 25
Finals Game 2: Bracket 1 winner vs. Bracket 2 winner (ESPN 8 p.m.)
Wednesday, June 26
Finals Game 3: Bracket 1 winner vs. Bracket 2 winner (ESPN 8 p.m.) (if necessary)
Only three of the original top eight national seeds have made it to Omaha, which says something about the parity in college baseball. The Tar Heels check in as the No. 1 overall seed, but they may not be the favorite. The Oregon State Beavers also needed three games to advance past the super regional round, and they are the next highest seed at No. 3 overall. The LSU Tigers are the other national seed at No. 4, and they swept their two game set last weekend to earn their way to Omaha.
But that does not mean that you should discount the other five teams. Not for a heartbeat. All of these teams would be ranked in the top 20 in any poll right now, so it is not as if we will feature top teams against unranked Cinderellas. That is not at all the case. All of the other five teams have more than enough talent to make it to the finals, and perhaps win it all. After all, how many people predicted that the Arizona Wildcats would have won the 2012 CWS, especially going up against the two-time reigning champion Gamecocks?
If you have followed college baseball, and especially the College World Series, you know that anything can happen. If you don’t believe me, feel free to ask the Vanderbilt Commodores, Cal State Fullerton Titans, Florida State Seminoles or Virginia Cavaliers. All were national seeds who hosted a super regional, yet all are watching from home after being eliminated.
It is difficult to predict what will happen. All we can expect is the unexpected. Sure, North Carolina and LSU may appear destined to face off against each other with a trip to the finals at stake. But you cannot count out the North Carolina State Wolfpack or UCLA Bruins, especially with the pitching staffs of both teams, led by Carlos Rodon of N.C. State and Adam Plutko of UCLA. While both teams may struggle to put runs on the board at times, they can dominate on the mound and get past any team on any given day.
In the other half of the bracket, the Beavers are clearly the favorites, due to their history and low seed. This is a team who has the reputation of getting the job done when nobody expects it, so it will be interesting to see what they can do when they are actually predicted to reach the finals. Still, the Mississippi State Bulldogs will have the first say about trying to prevent a Pac-12 team from winning consecutive CWS championships, but you cannot count out the Louisville Cardinals of Indiana Hoosiers either. Very few people expected to see either team playing in Omaha, but both have been as impressive as any other team since the start of the tournament a couple of weeks ago. Both teams have different strengths, but either one could make it out of their bracket and into the finals.
After what I have seen from all eight of these teams thus far, through both the regional and super regional rounds, I like the LSU Tigers and Oregon State Beavers to play for the 2013 College World Series championship. It will not be easy for either team, but, if I had to make a prediction, this is what I am going with as first pitch from Omaha is now just three days away.
Then again, with how the first two rounds have gone this year, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see the UCAL Bruins take on the Louisville Cardinals, who are looking to continue quite the hot streak throughout all of college sports in 2013. Just ask Charlie Strong and Rick Pitino.