June 13, 2014 Leave a comment
After two weeks of wild Regionals and Super Regionals where we saw national seeds falter and underdogs battle to move on, the 8 team field is finally set for the 2014 College World Series. This years field features: Texas, Texas Tech, TCU, Virginia, UC-Irvine, Louisville, Ole Miss, and Vanderbilt. Let’s take a look at how each of the 8 teams got to Omaha.
Texas Longhorns (43-19)
The Texas Longhorns are headed back to Omaha for a NCAA leading 35th time, and are looking to win their 7th national title. After defeating Texas A&M in the Houston Regional Championship, the Longhorns surprisingly earned the right to host a Super Regional vs the Houston Cougars, who defeated LSU in the Baton Rouge Super Regional. Texas went on to sweep the Cougars winning Game 1, 4-2 and Game 2, 4-0 shutting down a good Cougar offense. For the Longhorn offense, it’s all about the fundamentals, get on, get them over, and get them in. With their 2 sacrifice bunts this past weekend, they’re up to an NCAA leading 96 sacrifice bunts on the year, and they love playing small ball, or as they call it, “Augie-Ball.” Their unquestioned offensive leader is Mark Payton, has reached base in 101 consecutive games and will look to extend that streak this weekend. On the year, Payton is hitting .326 with 2 home runs and 38 RBI’s. As a team the Horns are hitting .268 and have 74 steals in 88 attempts, which helps them score runs, while still playing small ball. On the mound, Texas is very talented, and is able to back up that offense no matter how few runs they score. They’re led by ace, Nathan Thornhill, who is 8-2 with a 1.57 ERA, striking out 59 in 97 2/3 innings. The 2nd starter for the Horns is right hander, Parker French who is very talented, totaling a 6-5 record with a 2.45 ERA in 17 games. The Texas bullpen is one of the best in the country led by John Curtiss, who in 25 games has a record of 2-2 and ERA of 2.05 and a team high 9 saves. Along with Curtiss, is lefty Travis Duke, who has even better numbers, in 26 outings, has allowed only 1 earned run, which equals an ERA of 0.34. Though the Texas staff has a team ERA of 2.32 which is good for 6th best in the country, it’s only 3rd best in Omaha.
Texas Tech Red Raiders (45-19)
For the 1st time in school history, the Texas Tech Red Raiders are headed to the College World Series. After going through the Coral Gables (Miami) Regional, the Red Raiders found themselves hosting a Super Regional vs College of Charleston, after the Florida Gators were eliminated early in the regional. They went on to sweep The College of Charleston beating them 1-0 in both games. At the dish, they’re led by Sophomore first baseman, Eric Gutierrez, who leads the team in average (.312), home runs (12), RBI’s (58), hits (74) and runs scored with (46). He is their leader and when he goes, so goes the Red Raider offense. In the Super Regional, he went 2 for 6 with a walk. Along with Gutierrez, is the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, Adam Kirsch, who went 2 for 7 with one of the 2 RBI’s over the weekend. On the season, Kirsch, is 2nd on the team with a .300 average, 10 home runs and 51 RBI’s. Freshman, Stephen Smith, is the table setter for the Red Raiders, hitting .282 on the season, but has an on base percentage of .414, leads the team in walks (36) and 2nd on the team in runs with 41. On the mound, Texas Tech has a very solid pair of starting pitchers in Dylan Dusek who is 8-0 with a 1.94 ERA in 14 starts. Similar to most of the other Tech starters, he doesn’t go very deep in games, only totaling 74 1/3 innings and striking out 38. The Red Raiders have chosen to start Chris Sadberry in their opening game, and he’s been consistent throughout the year going 5-3 with a 3.17 ERA, striking out 60 in 88 innings. The rock of the Raider bullpen is Jonny Drozd, who in 26 appearances is 7-0 with a 2.00 ERA in 72 innings, striking out 48. They don’t have a true closer and often go by committee, but another talented arm is Cameron Smith, 8-2 with a 2.81 ERA in 67 1/3 innings, and has proven he can start and go the distance if necessary, as he did in the regional versus Miami.
TCU Horned Frogs (#7 National Seed) (47-16)
The TCU Horned Frogs head back to Omaha for the 2nd time in school history, and their 2nd time in 4 years, hoping to have better success than their last trip. After sweeping their regional 3-0, they drew the Pepperdine Waves in the Fort Worth Super Regional. It took a 2 run top of the 9th, and holding off a Pepperdine rally to clinch their spot but they got it done, and are headed to Omaha. Boomer White, is the Horned Frog offensive leader, leading the team in hits (81), and 2nd in average (.318) and runs with 48. In the 3 games vs Pepperdine, White struggled going 1 for 11 but was picked up by several of his teammates, including Garrett Crain and Cody Jones. On the year, Crain is the Horned Frogs leading hitter at .335 and Jones is the table-setter for TCU. On the year, Jones is only hitting .269, but he gets on base at a .396 clip and leads the team with 28 stolen bases. To open their CWS run, TCU has announced 2x Big 12 Pitcher of the Year, Preston Morrison will get the start. On the year, Morrison is 9-4 with a 1.32 ERA over 122 1/3 innings. This comes as kind of shock to me, as first round draft pick, Brandon Finnegan has been the regular #1 starter throughout the year for the Frogs. On the year Finnegan is 9-3 with a 2.12 ERA, striking out 129 in 97 2/3 innings. Along with Finnegan and Morrison, TCU has another great starter with Tyler Alexander, who is 10-3 with a 2.16 ERA. All 3 TCU starters are capable of going the distance, and can shut you down in the process. The TCU bullpen is led by closer, Riley Farrell, who features a fastball at about 97 and a nasty slider that he can retire you on. On the year, Ferrell has an outstanding 0.68 ERA in 29 appearances, with 15 saves, and 64 punchouts in 39 2/3 innings.
Virginia Cavaliers (#3 National Seed) (49-14)
After sweeping their regional, the Cavaliers drew their ACC rival, Maryland Terrapins in the Virginia Super Regional. After dropping Game 1 5-4, the Cavs had their backs against the wall, and had to rally, and rally they did, taking Game 2 7-3, and in Game 3, they just dominated, winning 11-2, clinching their spot in Omaha. In their 3rd trip in school history, this could be the best chance Virginia has had at winning the national championship. They’re a very balanced ball club that can do it all offensively and defensively. At the plate they are led by offensive stud, Mike Papi, who leads the team in just about every offensive category and just went 7 for 13 this past weekend, driving in 3. Papi is hitting .311 on the year with 11 home runs, 54 RBI’s, 69 hits, and 53 runs, while also walking 55 times. Along with Papi in the middle of the UVA lineup is Joe McCarthy, hitting .305 on the year with 6 home runs and 46 RBI’s, and he leads the team with 11 stolen bases in 12 attempts. On the mound, the Cavaliers pitching staff is one of the best in the nation with a team ERA of 2.31 That pitching staff is led by left-handed ace, Nathan Kirby, who will take a 9-2 record with a 1.73 ERA into Omaha and hopes to have his success continue. Kirby struggled a bit against Maryland, giving up 5 runs on 7 hits in just 4 2/3 innings of work, and will have to pitch better than that to give the Cavs a shot. Along with Kirby is another sophomore left hander, Brandon Waddell, who is 9-3 with a 2.66 ERA and has struck out 63 in 98 innings. He gave his team a big boost when he went into the 6th and gave up just 1 run in Game 2. The bullpen is very much like the starters, consistent and strike throwers, with a bullpen ERA near 2.40, and they’re led by closer Nick Howard. Howard, who has 19 saves in 28 appearances, holds a 2-1 record with a 2.05 ERA, striking out 51 in just 30 2/3 innings.
UC-Irvine Anteaters (40-23)
From one of the last 4 teams selected to play in the postseason to defeating the #1 overall national seed, Oregon State, to going to Stillwater and defeating Oklahoma State, the UC Irvine Anteaters are headed back to Omaha for the 2nd time in school history. Pitching, pitching, and more pitching is how UC-Irvine has got it done in the postseason. As a team, the Anteaters have a 2.76 ERA, good for 20th in the nation, but as of late, they’ve been even better. Led by ace Andrew Morales, Irvine will be looking to get off to a hot start. On the year, Morales is 11-2 with a 1.53 ERA, striking out 136 in 129 2/3 innings and most recently pitched his team into Omaha, by throwing a complete game shutout in game 2, as Irvine clinched the series with a 1-0 victory. Along with Morales, Irvine will run out Elliot Surrey, who has posted an 8-4 record with a 1.99 ERA. In the super regional, Surrey threw 7 innings, allowing no earned runs, while striking out 5 en route to a Game 1 victory. Sam Moore, the Irvine closer, has been outstanding all year, and any lead is basically safe with Moore. On the year he’s posted 23 saves in 31 appearances with a 1.88 ERA. Offensively, the Anteaters aren’t very explosive and are more stagnant than anything, hitting .272 as a team, but are led by stud first baseman, Connor Spencer, who’s hitting .370 on the year and leads the team with 88 hits and 44 RBI’s. Along with Spencer, is 3rd baseman, Taylor Sparks, who is hitting .307 and tied for the team lead with 5 home runs and 2nd in hits with 74. If Irvine wants to be successful in Omaha, they’re going to have to get the bats going in that big ballpark, and score more than just 1 or 2 runs.
Louisville Cardinals (50-15)
Louisville’s run in the postseason has gone about as smooth as any team could ask for, going 3-0 in the regional, and then sweeping Cinderella, Kennesaw State in 2 games and they’re headed back to Omaha for the 2nd straight year. For the Cardinals, once they’re on base, they’re looking to run, and then run some more. Their game is to steal bases, and try to put pressure on the defense, and they’ve done a good job doing so this year, stealing 132 bases in 166 attempts, good for 2nd in the country. Cole Sturgeon is the leader at the top for Louisville, hitting .331 on the year which leads the team with 86 hits (25 extra base hits) and has 19 stolen bases on the year. The big bat in the Cards lineup is cleanup hitter, Jeff Gardner, who’s hitting .321 on the year with 9 home runs and 68 RBI’s (6th best in the country), and he’s 2nd on the team in hits with 75. The speedster in the Cardinals lineup is Sutton Whitting, who is hitting an abysmal .212, but he has an on base percentage of .367. When Whitting gets on base, you can expect him to try and swipe a base as he leads the team with 37 steals on just 43 attempts. Kyle Funkhouser is the leader on the bump for Louisville, going 13-2 with a 1.73 ERA and striking out 117 in 114 1/3 innings. Behind Funkhouser, normally is Jared Ruxer who is 7-1 with a 2.27 ERA, striking out 68 in 75 1/3 innings, but suffered an elbow injury and had to undergo Tommy John Surgery. With Ruxer out, Anthony Kidson has really stepped up in a big way, going 9-0 with a 3.54 ERA. The bullpen is also very good, led by closer Nick Burdi, who easily sits in the upper 90′s and touching triple digits. Burdi is 3-1 in 30 games with 0.51 ERA and 18 saves on the year, striking out 62 in 35 1/3 innings. They also get good stuff out of Cole Sturgeon, a top offensive player for the Cards, who is 3-0 in 25 games with a 1.98 ERA.
Ole Miss Rebels (46-19)
After rolling through their Oxford regional, the Ole Miss Rebels then had to go into Lafayette and “The Tigue” to face the offensive juggernaut that was the Louisiana Lafayette Ragin Cajuns. After dropping game 1 to the Cajuns, their backs to the wall, the Rebels found a way to get the monkey off their back and take games 2 and 3 to head to Omaha for the 1st time in 42 years! Offensively, the Rebels are no slouch either, hitting .303 as a team slugging out 42 home runs, good for 16th in the country. At the top, they’re led by Braxton Lee and Austin Bousfield, who upon getting on base look to run, as they’re a combined 47-53 in stolen base attempts. Bousfield, the Rebels top offensive hitter leads the team with a .349 average and a team high 96 hits and 58 runs. After those 2 at the top, catcher Will Allen, leads the team with 30 extra base hits and a team high 61 RBI’,s while the big 1st baseman, Sikes Orvis leads the team with 14 home runs, and is playing with a chip on his shoulder after going undrafted in the MLB Draft. The ace of the Rebels staff is Chris Ellis, who on the year is 10-2 with a 2.45 ERA and has struck out 64 in 106 2/3 innings pitched. Though Ellis is the ace, the Rebs have elected to start Christian Trent in their opener vs Virginia. Trent on the year is a perfect 9-0 with a 2.21 ERA striking out 80 hitters in 102 innings. Josh Laxer, is the Rebels go to reliever appearing in 22 games, posting a 2-2 record with a 1.32 ERA and 6 saves (the most on the ballclub.) Scott Weathersby, has also been good for the Rebels at 3-1 with a 2.00 ERA in 18 games. As a team, the Rebels have posted a 2.72 ERA which is good for 16th in the country, and could be key in the big ballpark in Omaha.
Vanderbilt Commodores (46-19)
After rolling through the Nashville regional, the Commodores of Vanderbilt ran into a bit of a test against the PAC 12’s Stanford Cardinal having to win a decisive game 3, to earn their berth to Omaha and the College World Series. Similar to their opening round opponent, Louisville, the ‘Dores like to run and put pressure on the opponent, stealing 103 bases in 143 attempts. At the top they’re led by Darby Swanson, who is hitting .335 on the year with 29 extra base hits and a team high 58 runs scored and 18 stolen bases. Bryan Reynolds is a very good freshman, who is hitting .343 with 24 doubles, 4 home runs, and 52 RBI’s, and has swiped 13 bases. He’s swinging a very hot bat, as he lead the ‘Dores this past weekend going 8 for 12 with 2 walks. On the mound, Vanderbilt has a ton of power arms on the roster that can hit the mid to upper 90s with consistency. That starts at the top with ace, Tyler Beede, who is 8-7 with a 3.58 ERA striking out 108 in 103. The one problem with the 14th overall pick in last week’s MLB Draft, has been his consistency this year, as his record indicates. That inconsistency showed in game 1 vs Stanford as he was nearly unhittable for 3 innings, but then struggled and couldn’t get through the 5th inning. With Beede’s struggles, Tim Corbin has elected to start another stud, Carson Fulmer in the opening game against Louisville. That’s not a big step down, as Fulmer on the year is 6-1 with a 1.78 in 23 appearances and just 7 starts as he’s converted from closer to starter towards the end of the year. The Vandy bullpen is very good as well, led by Adam Ravenelle, who is 3-2 in 21 appearances with a 1.56 ERA striking out 33 in 34 2/3 innings. As a team, the ‘Dores have a team ERA of 2.75 which is good for 19th in the country, and opponents are only hitting at a .208 clip off the staff.
Opening Round Picks:
UC-Irvine vs Texas: Texas
Louisville vs Vanderbilt: Vanderbilt
Texas Tech vs TCU: TCU
Ole Miss vs Virginia: Virginia
Champion: Virginia. I think this UVA team is just so balanced offensively and defensively. They have the pitching to keep teams scoreless in that big ballpark, and the offense has plenty of firepower to get it done against the other 7 teams.