Though I didn’t include it on my personal sporting events bucket list (perhaps it is time for a Part Two), the Men’s College World Series in Omaha qualifies for a spot on the list. Once again, eight of the best teams in college baseball head to Omaha where they hope to win one of the most difficult tournaments in sports. The eight teams making the trip – Oral Roberts, TCU, Virginia, Florida, Stanford, Wake Forest, Tennessee, and LSU – all hope to have a successful trip to Nebraska.
Who ends up claiming the throne? In a notoriously unpredictable event, we will at least attempt to predict a winner. First – let’s look at how each team punched their ticket to Omaha.
The biggest underdog in Omaha, Oral Roberts represents the Summit league – the lone mid-major making the trek to the Men’s College World Series. The Golden Eagles were the four seed in the Stillwater Regional before shocking Oklahoma State, Washington, and Dallas Baptist en route to the Eugene Super Regional. ORU suffered their first loss of the post-season in Game One but rallied to defeat Oregon in the series. Now? The Golden Eagles will have to hope their bats stay hot. They scored six runs or more in each of their post-season contests thus far. Fresno State won the Men’s College World Series as a four seed so the task can be done. We’ll see if ORU is up to the challenge.
Texas Christian University
The Horned Frogs have been on fire this post-season. After going undefeated through the Big 12 Tournament, the Horned Frogs remain unbeaten since the end of the regular season. They demolished the #3 national seed, Arkansas, twice in the Fayetteville Regional before sweeping Indiana State in the Super Regional round. TCU draws ORU in the first game in Omaha and while no contest will be easy at this stage – I do think this matchup looks mighty winnable for the Horned Frogs.
The Virginia Cavaliers’ road to Omaha hasn’t been easy. While they hosted a regional in Charlottesville, they drew one of the toughest two seeds in the country in East Carolina. The Hoos passed that test and met ACC foe Duke in the Super Regional – a team that handed them a home series defeat in regular season conference play. Duke won a dramatic Game One over Virginia but the Cavaliers came storming back and dominated Games Two and Three to find their way to Omaha. Things only get more difficult as Virginia draws Florida in their first game in Omaha.
While the Gators rode a strong regular season to a #2 national seed in the post-season, Florida had quite the scare in their regional back in Gainesville. Florida would lose to Texas Tech in their second game but managed to come through the loser’s bracket to eliminate the Red Raiders with two straight wins. Their super regional with South Carolina was slightly less dramatic as the Gators defeated the Gamecocks in two straight contests for their Men’s College World Series berth.
Like Florida, Stanford experienced difficulties with the state of Texas before ultimately finding their way to Omaha. Stanford lost to Texas A&M in their regional, needing two straight wins over the Aggies to advance to the super regional round. The story was much the same as the Cardinal drew Texas as their supers opponent. Rallying from a Game One loss, Stanford handed the Longhorns two straight defeats to advance to the final stage of the college baseball postseason.
Wake Forest absolutely looks the part of the #1 national seed with massive wins in both the regional and super regional rounds of the post-season. The Demon Deacons crushed Alabama 22-5 in the second game of their super regional series in Winston-Salem to punch their ticket to Omaha. They haven’t faced adversity quite like Stanford this post-season but that surely changes when they get to Nebraska.
The Volunteers’ path to Omaha saw them knock off the #4 national seed Clemson in the regional round. Tennessee followed that performance up with a super regional series victory over Southern Miss in Hattiesburg after losing the first game of the series. The Vols now get a chance to avenge their regular season series defeat to LSU in their first match-up at Charles Schwab Field.
The Tigers made it look easy en route to Omaha. They cruised through their regional in Baton Rouge without taking a loss before waxing Kentucky in both games of their super regional match-up. Now LSU gets another familiar SEC foe in Tennessee to kick off their journey in the Men’s College World Series. The Tigers are always a threat in Omaha and as the #5 national seed this year is no different.
Florida and Virginia both have a real shot to advance from the bracket but I love how hot this Horned Frogs squad has gotten this post-season. I think TCU dispatches Oral Roberts in Game One and goes on to win the bracket against Virginia. The Horned Frogs just seem to have peaked at the right time and I like them to advance to the Men’s College World Series Finals.
Anything can happen in Omaha but I feel like the second of the Men’s College World Series brackets is a two-horse race. LSU and Wake Forest aren’t going to have it easy by any means but I’m expecting both to be fighting for the CWS finals berth at the end. The kicker? I trust Wake Forest’s pitching more than I trust LSU’s pitching (excluding Skenes of course).
A match-up of the hottest team against the best team should provide some fireworks in the Men’s College World Series Finals. I just think this Demon Deacons squad is too complete. It may be the easy choice but I’m taking Wake Forest to be the champion when all is said and done in Omaha.