College World Series Preview

As the Arizona State Sun Devils prepare to open their 21st College World Series at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha on Sunday, here is a look at the rest of the field vying for a national championship.

#1 Texas Longhorns

Record: 46-14, 17-9 Big 12 Conference (Regular Season Champion)

Head Coach: Augie Garrido (41st Season Overall 1,714-769, 13th at UT)

Top Hitters:

Brandon Belt .336 8 HR 40 RBI

Kevin Keyes .305 7 HR 40 RBI

Cameron Rupp .287 8 HR 40 RBI

Top Pitchers:

Chance Ruffin 10-2 3.02 ERA

Cole Green 5-3 3.02 ERA

Brandon Workman 3-3 3.45 ERA

Taylor Jungmann 8-3 2.27 ERA

Top Reliever:

Austin Wood 5-1 2.19 ERA 15 Saves

About the Longhorns:

Pitching is the name of the game for the Longhorns, as they may bring the deepest pitching staff in the country to Omaha. For Texas to win the national championship, they are going to need their offense to step up. UT hits just .287 as a team and doesn't have a lot of power. The way the Longhorns score is by manufacturing runs.

Texas has great leadership and it won't take them many runs to win ball games, because their pitching staff has many arms and options for the legendary coach Augie Garrido.

They are a very veteran group that has already had to face elimination games in the regional and super regional. Texas draws surprising Southern Mississippi in the first round and should be able to score enough off Eagle pitching to get Ruffin or Green to a victory. They are also in a bracket with ASU and UNC, both teams that don't have overpowering offenses.

#2 Cal State Fullerton Titans

Record: 47-14, 17-7 Big West Conference (2nd Place)

Head Coach: Dave Serrano (5th Season Overall 202-97, 2nd at CSUF)

Top Hitters:

Jared Clark .363 12 HR 81 RBI

Khris Davis .336 16 HR 57 RBI

Josh Fellhauer .399 6 HR 55 RBI

Top Pitchers:

Daniel Renken 11-2, 2.36 ERA

Noe Ramirez 9-1 2.86 ERA

Tyler Pill 11-3 3.95 ERA

Top Reliever:

Nick Ramirez 3-1 2.63 ERA 7 Saves

About the Titans:

Cal State Fullerton is my personal favorite to take home the national championship. While they had a very easy road to Omaha, there is no team that mixes good pitching with a good offense like Fullerton.

This Titan team still plays like a typical Titan team, by stealing and bunting and doing little things to get runs, but this year they have guys that can hit the long ball. Their table setters hit for high average and normally get knocked in by the sluggers Jared Clark and Khris Davis.

Daniel Renken is as good as it gets on the mound and freshman Noe Ramirez is matching him pitch for pitch and will get the start in the opener. There is no more of a balanced team in the nation than CSUF and are certainly one of the favorites to take the title.

#3 Louisiana State Tigers

Record: 51-16, 20-10 Southeastern Conference (1st Place, Western Division)

Head Coach: Paul Mainieri (27th Season Overall 993-553-6, 3rd Season at LSU)

Top Hitters:

Ryan Schimpf .335 19 HR 63 RBI

Blake Dean .333 15 HR 65 RBI

Jared Mitchell .325 9 HR 43 RBI 35 SB

Top Pitchers:

Louis Coleman 13-2 2.76 ERA

Anthony Ranaudo 10-3 2.95 ERA

Austin Ross 5-7 4.94 ERA

Top Reliever:

Matty Ott 3-2 2.17 ERA 16 Saves

About the Tigers:

Like Fullerton and ASU, LSU hasn't lost in the postseason yet. The Tigers have a great 1-2 punch in Coleman and Ranaudo, but after that things get shaky. Matty Ott is an excellent closer, but their only arm out of their bullpen that can be counted on. Somehow they have gotten the job done, but as ASU fans know, pitching depth will haunt you in Omaha.

The Tigers are a balanced offense as well, they have home run hitters like Schimpf and Dean, but can play small ball with burners like Jared Mitchell. LSU certainly has holes in their lineup, but Maineri has done a great job of adjusting his lineup to hide the holes.

This team hasn't hit to their potential, but they are still dangerous. Coleman and Ranaudo are going to have to be their normal great selves on the mound if LSU is going to get to the championship series. If the Tigers bullpen is exposed, a lot of pressure is going to be placed on their offense.

#4 North Carolina Tar Heels

Record: 47-16, 19-10 Atlantic Coast Conference (1st Place, Coastal Division)

Head Coach: Mike Fox (11th Season Overall 499-206, 11th Season at UNC)

Top Hitters:

Dustin Ackley .412 22 HR 70 RBI

Kyle Seager .386 5 HR 59 RBI

Mark Fleury .315 12 HR 59 RBI

Top Pitchers:

Alex White 8-4 4.13 ERA

Adam Warren 9-2 3.23 ERA

Matt Harvey 7-2 5.35 ERA

Top Reliever:

Brian Moran 7-1 1.95 ERA 4 Saves

About the Tar Heels:

The biggest name on the Heels is the #2 overall pick in the draft Dustin Ackley, but North Carolina's strength is also on the mound. Alex White and Adam Warren are top tier arms and Matt Harvey can be just as good.

The Tar Heels aren't the greatest of offenses, but are fairly similar to the Sun Devils in that regard. Ackley is as good of a hitter that you will see, but he will need guys like Kyle Seager and Mark Fleury to step up or teams will pitch around Ackley.

North Carolina has no glaring weakness and don't excel at anything either. They are just a solid team all around that can beat you in many ways. Their matchup with ASU is going to be a good one. It will be interesting to see how ASU and other teams attack UNC's lineup that is stacked with lefties.

The Tar Heels may get lefty Josh Spence in game one just due to their left handed lineup. A few of these guys have been to Omaha now four times, there is no more of a battle tested team than North Carolina.

#5 Arizona State Sun Devils

Record: 49-12, 21-6 Pacific 10 Conference (Champion)

Head Coach: Pat Murphy (22nd Season Overall 945-398-2, 15th at ASU)

Top Hitters:

Jason Kipnis .385 16 HR 71 RBI

Carlos Ramirez .349 18 HR 72 RBI

Matt Newman .315 7 HR 54 RBI

Top Pitchers:

Mike Leake 16-1 1.36 ERA

Josh Spence 9-1 2.33 ERA

Seth Blair 7-2 3.16 ERA

Top Reliever:

Mitchell Lambson 8-3 2.77 ERA 5 Saves

About the Sun Devils:

One of the best stories in the nation is Josh Spence's comeback and he proved that he is back by throwing a complete game to send ASU to the World Series. With Spence healthy, the Devils have the best 1-2 punch in the field, with Mike Leake being the best arm in Omaha.

It has been repeatedly said that eventually the youth of this team will catch up to them and time and time again they prove the critics wrong by not playing like a bunch of freshman.

That comes from the leadership of Mike Leake, Raoul Torrez and the tremendous coaching job done by Pat Murphy this season. Only Leake and Torrez have played in Omaha before so the bright lights of the national stage could have an effect on this Devils team who has to play a very experienced UNC bunch in a great first round matchup.

While Texas features the best pitching depth overall, ASU has the best starting pitching. Seth Blair is often forgotten, but has the talent and numbers of a front of the rotation starter.

Offensively, the Devils are finding ways to score runs by putting pressure on their opponents. Jason Kipnis leads the way offensively and has found a home in the two hole sandwiched in between spark plug Drew Maggi and slugger Carlos Ramirez. Kole Calhoun has caught fire as of late and the Devils may need him and the rest of the lineup to get hot to carry an average offense to a national championship.

Arkansas Razorbacks

Record: 39-22, 14-15 Southeastern Conference (4th Place, Western Division)

Head Coach: Dave Van Horn (20th Season Overall 859-396, 7th at UA)

Top Hitters:

Andy Wilkins .326 18 HR 52 RBI

Ben Tschepikow .310 9 HR 57 RBI

Scott Lyons .302 8 HR 44 RBI

Top Pitchers:

Dallas Keuchel 7-3 4.04 ERA

Brett Eibner 5-4 4.61 ERA

TJ Forrest 2-6 5.49 ERA

Top Reliever:

Stephen Richards 6-1 1.82 ERA 9 Saves

About the Razorbacks:

Arkansas is the classic case of an inconsistent team. You let them gain some momentum they will run all over you, but the second you bury them they will struggle to come back.

The pitching is just not there to carry Arkansas to the title series. Dallas Keuchel is a solid starter, but the Hogs will need Brett Eibner and others to pitch over what their stat lines suggest.

Arkansas had a tough road to Omaha, mainly because played very poorly to end their regular season. There was a point mid-year when the Razorbacks were the #1 team in the country and swept ASU down in Fayetteville, but they got cold after that.

Arkansas gets stuck with Fullerton in the first round and then either LSU or Virginia, not a very easy draw to say the least. The Hogs are going to need Keuchel to beat Fullerton if they have any chance of making it to the title series. Andy Wilikins is a very good hitter and will have to carry the offensive load. After him, they have streaky sticks, but nothing of the quality of the other teams in the field.

However, Arkansas is playing good baseball currently and an up and down team is up right now after slowing down a very hot Florida State team.

Virginia Cavaliers

Record: 48-13, 16-11 Atlantic Coast Conference (4th Place, Coastal Division, Tournament Champions)

Head Coach: Brian O'Connor (6th Season Overall 264-102, 6th at UVA)

Top Hitters:

Jarrett Parker .364 16 HR 65 RBI

Dan Grovatt .365 7 HR 50 RBI

Steven Proscia .332 9 HR 57 RBI

Top Pitchers:

Danny Hultzen 9-1 2.09 ERA

Andrew Carraway 8-1 4.13 ERA

Robert Morey 3-0 3.11 ERA

Top Reliever:

Kevin Arico 2-3 2.06 ERA 11 Saves

About the Cavaliers:

You want to be playing your best baseball at the end of the season and that is the reason why the Cavs are my sleeper team to make some noise in Omaha. I believe this is a very underrated team. They have a great offense and their top three pitchers all are going to keep their team in the ball game.

They had to take out #6 national seed UC Irvine, Steven Strasberg and the defending national champions just to get to the super regional and then went into Ole Miss and continued to play well.

By the way, they also won the ACC tournament. Overall, there may not be a team that is hotter right now than Brian O'Connor's bunch.

Jarrett Parker is one of the best bats in the country and he leads an offense that hits .327 as a team. They will likely have to face Louis Coleman from LSU in the opener and that will be a great matchup of good pitching vs. good hitting. Don't sleep on Virginia, they are my sleeper pick to make the championship.

Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles

Record: 40-24, 12-12 Conference USA (5th Place)

Head Coach: Corky Palmer (13th Season Overall 495-296 Overall, 13th Season at USM)

Top Hitters:

Bo Davis .371 14 HR 53 RBI

Corey Stevens .330 8 HR 59 RBI

Joey Archer .311 10 HR 62 RBI

Top Pitchers:

Todd McInnins 9-4 3.61 ERA

JR Ballinger 6-3 3.89 ERA

Jeff Stanley 4-2 4.42 ERA

Top Reliever:

Collin Cargill 4-3 3.32 ERA 13 Saves

About the Golden Eagles:

Southern Miss is this year's Fresno State. Like most non-big time programs, the Eagles don't have much pitching after Todd McInnis and JR Ballinger.

McInnis was the C-USA pitcher of the year and is going to have to go toe to toe with one of Texas' aces. What a story it is for USM and head coach Corky Palmer who finally gets to Omaha in the year he is stepping away from the game. McInnins and Ballinger are going to have to be great in order to prevent USM from being a quick exit from the World Series.

The Eagles have already shown they aren't going to be intimidated by teams that are supposed to be better than them, mainly by going into Gainesville and sweeping away the Gators. Southern Miss is very talented and patient offensively and is led by the bat of Bo Davis.

They will have to do something they haven't done all season to have success this week, find reliable pitching after their top two. The Eagles are also the worst defensive team in Omaha and lack speed on the base paths to create runs. Like Arkansas, USM must stay on the winner's side of the bracket to really make any noise, but hey, you never know.

College World Series Schedule (All times AZ Time):

Bracket One: Fullerton, LSU, Virginia, Arkansas

Saturday, June 13th

Game One: Cal St. Fullerton vs. Arkansas 11AM ESPN

Game Two: LSU vs. Virginia 4PM ESPN

Monday, June 15th

Game 5: Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2 11AM ESPN2

Game 6: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2 4PM ESPN2

Wednesday, June 17th

Game 9: Winner Game 5 vs. Loser Game 6 4PM ESPN2

Friday, June 19th

Game 11: Winner Game 6 vs. Winner Game 9 11AM ESPN2

Saturday, June 20th

Game 13: Winner Game 6 vs. Winner Game 9 11AM or 4PM ESPN (If Necessary)

Bracket Two: Texas, North Carolina, Arizona State, Southern Miss

Sunday, June 14th

Game 3: North Carolina vs. Arizona State 11AM ESPN

Game 4: Texas vs. Southern Miss 4PM ESPN2

Tuesday, June 16th

Game 7: Game 3 Loser vs. Game 4 Loser 11AM ESPN2

Game 8: Game 3 Winner vs. Game 4 Winner 4PM ESPN2

Thursday, June 18th

Game 10: Game 7 Winner vs. Game 8 Loser 4PM ESPN2

Friday, June 19th

Game 12: Game 8 Winner vs. Game 10 Winner 4PM ESPN2

Saturday, June 20th

Game 14: Game 8 Winner vs. Game 10 Winner 11AM or 4PM ESPN (If Necessary)

NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

Game 1: Monday, June 22nd 4PM ESPN

Game 2: Tuesday, June 23rd 4PM ESPN

Game 3: Wednesday, June 24th 4PM ESPN (If Necessary)


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