College World Series Preview
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COLLEGE WORLD SERIES - OMAHA, NEBRASKA - June 19 - 30 - ESPN - The Road to Omaha has come to an end as all eight teams have made the trek and are set to begin play on Saturday from Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Nebraska. This is the final year the event will be held in this park, so it will hopefully go down as a classic! The field is diverse with two left coast teams, two heartland teams, and four teams from the Southeast. Here is a glance at what is to come in the eleven days ahead as college baseball will crown its newest national champion!
Since I was in the third grade or so, I have been a huge fan of college baseball. My dad, Tiger75, played for Clemson from 1972-1975, and so I was born with a Clemson baseball hat on my head. From third grade through high school, I attended baseball camp at Clemson, and actually won a couple of awards at the camp - one for best-fielder and one for best-hustler. In short, I love Tiger baseball. And right now they sit just a few wins from a national title!
As I said above, Rosenblatt's days are numbered. But, my dream of seeing Clemson pile up on that mound is still alive. I have watched the CWS intensely since that third grade time (or so), and I have seen the Tigers reach Omaha seven times in my breathing days (ok, they made in in 1980, too, but I was two and don't remember!). Yet in each of those times, they have been packed up and shipped home before even reaching the title game! The closest that Clemson has gotten was in 2002, when they were one win away from facing Texas for all the marbles. We all know how that ended up...
But enough about Clemson, let's take a look at all of the teams that have made it to Omaha this year:
BRACKET 1 (starts Saturday at 1:00 and 6:00 pm)
Florida Gators - (6 CWS trips, 0 titles, 6 MLB draft picks in 2010) - The Gators have had a big year, as signaled by their number three national seed. They breezed through their regional and super regional in Gainesville to get to Omaha. Is there anything the Gators aren't good at? If they win this, they will have two football titles, two basketball titles, and a baseball title within five years. Good grief! Florida will lean heavily on senior outfielder Matt den Dekker who is batting .400 this postseason. The Gators play a small-ball type of offense.
Florida State Seminoles - (20 CWS trips, 0 titles, 6 MLB draft picks in 2010) - The Seminoles have suffered more than any team in the history of the CWS. Just look inside the paranthesis above to see what I mean. Maybe 2010 will be the year Coach Mike Martin's team finally dog-piles that sacred mound. The 'Noles had to fight out a tough super regional with Vanderbilt to get here, winning the deciding third game. They will be depending on their players at the corners in first baseman Jayce Boyd and third baseman Sherman Johnson who are batting .545 and .346, respectively, with a combined five home runs since the regular season ended. As much as I don't care for FSU, they have had double the Omaha heartbreak that Clemson has!
TCU Horned Frogs - (1 CWS trips, 0 titles, 6 MLB draft picks in 2010) - The Horned Frogs of TCU are the surprise team of this year's CWS. Hardly anyone gave them a shot to beat Texas on the road in Omaha, but they got it done. Even after Texas came back and put a whooping on them in the second game, TCU responded to win game three. That kind of come back resilience may prove to be strong for this team in Omaha. With no prior visits, each hit and home run will be a "first" in the TCU record books. The Frogs star player is freshman third baseman Jantzen Witte, who is batting a whopping .458 in this postseason!
UCLA Bruins - (3 CWS trips, 0 titles, 11 MLB draft picks in 2010) - With neighboring Southern California having 12 national championships and 21 trips to the CWS, it makes you wonder why UCLA is such a stranger to Omaha. The Bruins haven't been to this event since 1997, and have only been three times total. With all of the hot recruiting in the LA area, and the success UCLA has in other sports, it is a surprise they do not get this deep more often. They are led by junior LHP Rob Rasmussen who is 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA and 16 Ks this postseason.
BRACKET 2 (starts Sunday at 1:00 and 6:00 pm)
Arizona State Sun Devils - (22 CWS trips, 5 titles, 10 MLB draft picks in 2010) -The Sun Devils are the class of this year's field, there is little doubt about that. Not only are they historically the best team alive with five crowns, but they are also the national number one seed for the 2010 NCAA tournament. The Sun Devils are an Omaha mainstay, having been four of the last six years. The 2010 version of this squad features a right side of an infield that has just gone insane in the post season. Both first baseman Riccio Torrez and second baseman Zach McPhee are batting just under .500! This team is deep and loaded and will be a ton for these teams to deal with.
Clemson Tigers (12 CWS trips, 0 titles, 6 MLB draft picks in 2010) - Oh man, I have that nervous feeling I get each time the Tigers take the field out there! I know we can play, I just hope we don't get the Omaha lock up that we tend to find. Clemson has had an up and down season. They started off very hot, but then hit a midseason snag. When it looked like the season was all but lost, a streak at year's end saw them win the ACC's Atlantic division and even eventually host a super regional after doing business on the road. Clemson is led, no doubt, by Kyle Parker. The junior was drafted 26th overall by Colorado, and has pounded 20 homers on the season. Jeff Schaus is another big gun for Clemson. I like it when Chris Epps leads off. The scary thing for Clemson is some of the relief pitching.
Oklahoma Sooners - (10 CWS trips, 2 titles, 5 MLB draft picks in 2010) - The Sooners won on the road at Virginia to reach Omaha in a hard fought three game series. The Sooners have not been out to the CWS since 1995, following their title year of 1994. A year ago was the year everyone expected Oklahoma to do something big, but they lost at home in the opening regional. Back they came though, and the Sooners in 2010 ready to do some work. They are led by junior RHP Bobby Shore who is 2-0 with a .058 ERA in the postseason.
South Carolina Gamecocks - (9 CWS trips, 0 titles, 7 MLB draft picks in 2010) - The Cocks may have come through the toughest super regional of any of them as they won on the road at Coastal Carolina. Coastal had a huge year and I was very impressed by what I saw of them against USC. For the Gamecocks to find a way to win both of those games close (4-3 and 10-9), tells me a lot about this team. I think they may be one of my favorites (no, not to root for, but a favorite to win) in this year's tournament. Like most of Ray Tanner's teams, they have a few big bats mixed in with some strong arms on the mound. They are fundamentally sound. South Carolina will contend in Omaha, in my prediction.
My Prediction: Off of the top of my head, I have to go with Arizona State. Yes, they are the one seed, so that makes my prediction look sackless. However, they are the only team in the field that truly stands out. Besides being badass in 2010, they are the only school who has a roster full of guys that has been to Omaha several times and thus have the comfort thing all figued out. I would love to see Clemson or FSU win as they have both suffered so much agony in Omaha, but my prediction is Arizona State...
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