There is plenty of excitement in Omaha as eight teams battle to see who will be crowned champion of college baseball. All eight teams have been to this stage before, but five teams will be vying to win their first baseball title in school history. The action kicks off this Saturday and continues for the next 10 days. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the storylines heading into the CWS this year.
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Will Oregon State falter as the No.1 seed?
Few teams have ever looked as dominant as Oregon State had during the regular season. The Beavers were lights out good thanks to a dominant pitching staff and timely hitting. They are 54-4 heading into the CWS and although you can say some of that is a result of being in a down PAC-12, there’s no denying that this team is talented.
However, one of their two superstar pitchers seems unlikely to play in the postseason. Luke Heimlich requested and was given a leave of absence from the team amid the fallout from some damaging revelations. Without Heimlich, this team will need to rely on either Jake Mulholland, Brandon Eisert, or Bryce Fehmel to be able to handle a start or two.
Offensively this team has put up decent numbers, but most of those stats came against PAC-12 pitching. Nick Madrigal and KJ Harrison do have some power and will be asked to bring runs across the plate.
Can either of the Florida schools end their futility in Omaha?
Florida State is back in Omaha for the first time since 2012. The Seminoles have been to the College World Series 22 times, but have yet to win even one title. It’s absurd considering that they have the third-most appearances in Omaha of any team in college baseball history and the team tied with them has five championships.
No one expected FSU to get here based on how it played in the regular season. The Seminoles were thought to possibly make the Super Regional before being knocked out, but overcame a bad loss in the opening game of their regional to win and followed it up by knocking out Sam Houston State.
The Florida Gators are the school with the third-most appearances in Omaha without winning a title. However, they get somewhat of a pass because of how poorly their in-state rivals do.
Florida has made it to Omaha in six of the last eight seasons and it feels like just a matter of time before this team breaks through. Gainesville has been a haven for talented young arms as manager Kevin O’Sullivan refuses to overwork them at the collegiate level. The pitching staff is again the backbone of this team and the reason why UF is here.
Who will win it all?
Oregon State is still the likely favorite despite not having Heimlich. However, there is a lot of value to be found elsewhere.
Louisville has been one of the best teams in college baseball and crushed the competition in the mighty ACC. The Cardinals are 52-10 on the season and have a fantastic two-way star in Brendan McKay. McKay was just selected with the fourth overall pick by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2017 MLB Draft, but would love a championship before he left for the pros. He is the second-best hitter on the team as well as the ace of the staff and will look to further enhance his reputation here.
It’s hard not to like the LSU Tigers’ chances either. This team can hit a ton and has made mincemeat of opposing staffs throughout the year. Sure, they don’t have really good starters of their own, but they aren’t out of any game with how well they can mash. Greg Deichmann has been a home run machine with 19 taters on the year and should draw a lot of walks in Omaha.
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