Breaking down the CWS field
The Road to Omaha has been filled with plenty of twists and turns. But that road ends at Rosenblatt Stadium this weekend as the College World Series gets underway with some familiar and unfamiliar faces.
Arizona State, Florida and UCLA are the only national seeds to reach the CWS, while TCU will be making its first appearance in Omaha after taking care of Texas in the Austin Super Regional last weekend.
Before this week, UCLA hadn’t reached the CWS since 1997. Oklahoma, meanwhile, hadn’t reached the CWS since 1995.
Arizona State is the favorite to win one side of the bracket. Florida and UCLA, which will play primetime Saturday, are the two favorites in the other bracket.
Here’s our inside look at the 2010 CWS field of eight teams.
CWS appearances: 22
How they got here: The Sun Devils had absolutely no trouble winning their fourth straight Pac-10 title before making easy work of the Tempe Regional with a win over Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a pair of wins over Hawaii. Then, in the Tempe Super Regional, the Devils earned a very hard fought series win over Arkansas to punch their ticket to the CWS.
Key players: The Sun Devils have played an incredibly consistent brand of baseball this season, and they hope that trend continues in Omaha the next couple of weeks. The Devils enter the CWS with a .338 batting average and a solid 3.14 ERA. At the plate, the Devils have a pair of outstanding hitters leading the way in Riccio Torrez and Zack MacPhee. Torrez is hitting .399 with 27 doubles, 10 homers and 53 RBIs, while MacPhee is hitting .394 with 14 triples, nine homers and 64 RBIs. Also keep an eye on Johnny Ruettiger (.352,4,35), Zach Wilson (.352,8,45), Drew Maggi (.335,5,49) and Kole Calhoun (.327,17,59). As solid and gritty as ASU’s lineup is, the pitching staff is equally impressive with starting pitchers Seth Blair, Merrill Kelly and Jake Borup leading the way. Blair has a 3.35 ERA in 102 innings, Kelly has a 3.57 ERA in 98 1/3 innings and Borup has a 4.08 ERA in 81 2/3 innings. Also keep an eye on outstanding relievers Brady Rodgers, Jordan Swagerty and Mitchell Lambson. Rodgers has recorded three saves in 21 appearances and has a 2.03 ERA in 71 innings, Swagerty has recorded 14 saves in 33 appearances and has a 2.06 ERA in 35 innings and Lambson has made 37 appearances and has a 2.10 ERA in 68 2/3 innings.
CWS forecast: The Sun Devils enter the CWS as one of the favorites to win the national title for plenty of reasons. The Devils have a never-say-die mentality and are an incredibly tough team to close out in games. Additionally, the Devils have a scrappy and productive offense and a very solid weekend rotation. The Devils also have a talented trio of relievers, but pitching depth is about the only thing that could hold this team back if it has to fight through the loser’s bracket. Still, ASU appears to be headed to Omaha in very good shape.
CWS appearances: 12
How they got here: The Tigers have played well the past couple of weeks and are in Omaha for that reason. They took care of business in the Auburn Regional with a win over Southern Miss and a pair of wins over Auburn. They also took care of the other State of Alabama power, Alabama, in the Clemson Super Regional to advance to the CWS.
Key players: The Tigers only may enter the CWS with a .310 batting average, but have been on fire at the plate throughout the postseason. The Tigers roughed up Auburn and Alabama pitching the past two weekends. Brad Miller, Kyle Parker, John Hinson, Mike Freeman, Jeff Schaus and Richie Shaffer are the key cogs to watch at the plate. Miller is hitting .369 with eight homers and 48 RBIs, Parker is hitting .353 with 15 doubles, 20 homers and 64 RBIs, Hinson is hitting .345 with 17 homers and 72 RBIs, Freeman is hitting .338 with eight homers and 57 RBIs, Schaus is hitting .328 with 15 homers and 85 RBIs and Shaffer, who was fantastic in the Clemson Super Regional, is hitting .322 with seven homers and 34 RBIs. On the mound, the Tigers have four very capable starting pitchers in Casey Harman, Scott Weismann, Dominic Leone and Will Lamb. Harman has a 3.73 ERA in 108 2/3 innings, Weismann has a 5.09 ERA in 92 innings, Leone has a 4.39 ERA in 55 1/3 innings and Lamb has a 4.93 ERA in 49 1/3 innings. Also keep an eye on relievers Alex Frederick, David Haselden, Kevin Brady and Tomas Cruz. Frederick has made 30 appearances and has a 3.90 ERA in 57 2/3 innings, Haselden has appeared in 21 games and has a 4.54 ERA in 37 2/3 innings, Brady has appeared in 21 games and has a 4.66 ERA in 36 2/3 innings and Cruz has appeared in 23 games and has a 5.79 ERA in 37 1/3 innings.
CWS forecast: On paper, the Tigers certainly don’t have a pitching staff that can lead them to a national title. But that’s on paper. In reality, the Tigers have played an outstanding brand of baseball the past few weeks and that can’t be understated. The offense has been clicking on all cylinders and the pitching staff has done a good enough job to beat some very solid opponents. Clemson is a very legitimate contender if it plays in Omaha the way it has played the past few weeks.
CWS appearances: 6
How they got here: Domination is the only word that comes to mind when you talk about Florida’s run to Omaha. The Gators swept the Gainesville Regional with wins over Bethune-Cookman, Oregon State and Florida Atlantic before taking care of in-state rival Miami in two games in the Gainesville Super Regional.
Key players: The Gators’ numbers at the plate aren’t going to blow you away, but this is a productive offensive lineup. The Gators are hitting .300 with Matt den Dekker, Preston Tucker and Austin Maddox leading the way. Den dekker is hitting .358 with 13 homers and 49 RBIs, Tucker is hitting .339 with 11 homers and 46 RBIs and Maddox is hitting .333 with 17 homers and 71 RBIs. Also keep an eye on Josh Adams and Tyler Thompson, who have the ability to get on a roll at the plate. On the mound, the Gators have a very deep staff that enters the CWS with a solid 3.96 ERA. Headliners include starting pitchers Hudson Randall, Alex Panteliodis and Brian Johnson. Randall has a 2.95 ERA in 94 2/3 innings, Panteliodis has a 3.26 ERA in 96 2/3 innings and Johnson has a 3.97 ERA in 70 1/3 innings. Also keep an eye on solid relievers Kevin Chapman and Jeff Barfield. Chapman has recorded 11 saves in 30 appearances and has a 1.48 ERA in 42 2/3 innings and Barfield has appeared in 24 games and has a 3.31 ERA in 35 1/3 innings.
CWS forecast: The Gators have been one of the nation’s most consistent teams this season, but there’s no question they have a plethora of players that have never experienced playing in the CWS. That could be a strike against the Gators in Omaha. However, the amount of sheer talent on this club is striking both at the plate and on the mound. It’s good that coach Kevin O’Sullivan has experience in Omaha. Florida should win its bracket if it can get past red-hot UCLA.
CWS appearances: 20
How they got here: The Seminoles definitely were motivated by the fact they didn’t receive an NCAA regional host a few weeks ago. The ‘Noles took care of business in the Norwich Regional with a win over Central Connecticut State and a pair of wins over Oregon before taking two of three from Vanderbilt in the Tallahassee Super Regional. The Seminoles are playing well right now.
Key players: The Seminoles are another team that hits a bit better than their batting average of .301 suggests. The headliners at the plate include Tyler Holt, Sherman Johnson, Mike McGee, Jayce Boyd and James Ramsey. Holt is hitting .352 with 12 homers and 46 RBIs, Johnson is hitting .332 with nine homers and 57 RBIs, McGee is hitting .328 with 15 homers and 68 RBIs, Boyd is hitting .327 with eight homers and 36 RBIs and Ramsey is hitting .294 with nine homers and 64 RBIs. Also watch for veteran Stephen Cardullo, who has hit 10 homers and 50 RBIs. On the mound, starting pitchers Sean Gilmartin, Brian Busch and Geoff Parker are the headliners. Gilmartin has a 4.89 ERA in 108 2/3 innings, Busch has a 3.97 ERA in 77 innings and Parker has a 4.85 ERA in 78 innings. Also keep an eye on relievers Daniel Bennett and Mike McGee. Bennett has appeared in 33 games and has a 3.22 ERA in 36 1/3 innings and McGee has recorded 12 saves and has a 1.37 ERA in 26 1/3 innings.
CWS forecast: There’s no question the Seminoles have played well the past couple of weeks, but in a ballpark such as Rosenblatt Stadium that seems to often cater to offenses, the FSU pitching staff must rise to the occasion to have a chance to win the program’s first national title. Offensively, though, there’s a feeling the Seminoles will be able to score some runs in the CWS. Still, it’s all about the pitching staff.
CWS appearances: 10
How they got here: The Sooners have been fantastic the past couple of weeks. They took care of business in the Norman Regional with a win over Oral Roberts and a pair of wins over North Carolina before hitting the road last weekend and shocking national title favorite Virginia in the Charlottesville Super Regional. The Sooners are a hot team you don’t want to play right now.
Key players: The Sooners showed against Virginia they have an offense that can get rolling in any environment. OU enters the CWS hitting .312 with Garrett Buechele, Chris Ellison, Danny Black, Caleb Bushyhead and Cameron Seitzer leading the way. Buechele is hitting a team best .371 with 16 homers and 64 RBIs, Ellison is hitting .335 with four homers and 32 RBIs, Black is hitting .333 with five homers and 48 RBIs, Bushyhead is hitting .325 with five homers and 36 RBIs and Seitzer is hitting .311 with 15 homers and 52 RBIs. Also keep an eye on Cody Reine, who was fantastic in the Virginia series. He is hitting .341 with 10 homers and 42 RBIs. On the mound, starting pitchers Michael Rocha, Zach Neal and Bobby Shore leading the way. Rocha has a 3.57 ERA in 68 innings, Shore has a 3.86 ERA in 91 innings and Neal has a 4.65 ERA in 98 2/3 innings. Also keep an eye on relievers Jeremy Erben and Ryan Duke. Erben has appeared in 31 games and has a 3.65 ERA and Duke has appeared in 23 games and has a 3.41 ERA.
CWS forecast: The Sooners certainly have flown under the radar throughout the postseason, but have everyone’s attention after taking care of Virginia last weekend. The Sooners should have some success at the plate in Omaha, but it will be interesting to see if their pitching staff holds up against the CWS field. OU is in business if it pitches well. As he was against Virginia, starting pitcher Bobby Shore is a big key to the Sooners’ success in Omaha. This is an interesting team to watch.
CWS appearances: 9
How they got here: After a poor showing in the SEC tournament a few weeks ago, the Gamecocks got back to business in the NCAA tournament. The Gamecocks made easy work of Bucknell, The Citadel and Virginia Tech in the Columbia Regional before sweeping a pair of games from Coastal Carolina in the Myrtle Beach Super Regional to punch their ticket to Omaha.
Key players: The Gamecocks enter the CWS hitting just .302 as a team, but this club knows what it takes to succeed at the plate. The headliners include Jackie Bradley Jr., Whitt Merrifield, Adam Matthews, Christian Walker and Adrian Morales. Bradley is hitting a team best .371 with 11 homers and 51 RBIs, Merrifield is hitting .327 with 12 homers and 38 RBIs, Matthews is hitting .318 with seven homers and 31 RBIs, Walker is hitting .315 with seven homers and 46 RBIs and Adrian Morales is hitting .286 with eight homers and 52 RBIs. On the mound, starting pitchers Blake Cooper and Sam Dyson lead the way. Cooper has a 2.81 ERA in 118 1/3 innings and Dyson has a 4.35 ERA in 89 innings. Also keep an eye on relievers Michael Roth, Jose Mata and Matt Price. Roth has appeared in 33 games and has a 1.50 ERA in 24 innings, Mata has appeared in 31 games and has a 2.34 ERA in 42 1/3 innings and Price has recorded 10 saves in 27 appearances and has a 2.54 ERA in 46 innings.
CWS forecast: The Gamecocks have been productive at the plate the past couple of weeks, but it wasn’t too long ago that coach Ray Tanner was very concerned about his offense. It will be interesting to see how the Gamecocks fare at the plate at Rosenblatt Stadium. The pitching staff, meanwhile, is much improved, but showed some bad signs at times against Coastal Carolina last weekend. South Carolina definitely has a chance to do something special in Omaha.
CWS appearances: 1
How they got here: The Horned Frogs made very easy work of Lamar, Arizona and Baylor in the Fort Worth Regional before hitting the road and taking two of three from Texas in the Austin Super Regional to punch their ticket to Omaha for the first time in school history.
Key players: The Frogs are incredibly balanced and enter the CWS with a full head of steam. They are hitting .340 and have several headliners to watch, including Jason Coats, Brance Rivera, Bryan Holaday, Matt Curry, Taylor Featherston and Aaron Schultz. Coats is hitting a team best .373 with 13 homers and 66 RBIs, Rivera is hitting .358 with six homers and 26 RBIs, Holaday is hitting .350 with 13 homers and 48 RBIs, Curry is hitting .346 with 17 homers and 60 RBIs, Featherston is hitting .338 with seven homers and 45 RBIs and Schultz, a hero in the Austin Super Regional, is hitting .303 with nine homers and 52 RBIs. On the mound, the Frogs have an excellent weekend rotation in Matt Purke, Steven Maxwell and Kyle Winkler. Purke has a 3.23 ERA in 103 innings, Maxwell has a 2.41 ERA in 100 2/3 innings and Winkler has a 2.84 ERA in 114 innings. Also keep an eye on relievers Kaleb Merck, Tyler Lockwood and Trent Appleby. Merck has appeared in 19 games and has a 1.08 ERA in 25 innings, Lockwood has appeared in 26 games and has a 1.97 ERA in 59 1/3 innings and Appleby has appeared in 22 games and has a 4.70 ERA in 38 1/3 innings.
CWS forecast: The Frogs are one of the most balanced teams in the field, but must avoid being shell shocked by the actual trip to Omaha. So many teams fall into the trap of getting caught up in things off the field. This team, though, appears determined to not let external items get in the way. If so, TCU is a legitimate national title contender with a fantastic offense and a very solid weekend rotation.
CWS appearances: 3
How they got here: The Bruins have played exceptionally well in the NCAA postseason. They had little trouble in the Los Angeles Regional with wins over Kent State, LSU and UC Irvine before taking two of three from Cal State Fullerton in the Los Angeles Super Regional.
Key players: The Bruins were hitting near .350 at one point this season. They’re just hitting .307 right now, but have a productive offensive lineup. The Bruins will miss second baseman Tyler Rahmatulla in the CWS after sustaining a broken wrist in a dog pile after beating Fullerton last weekend. Outside of him, though, keep an eye on hitters Dean Espy, Beau Amaral, Justin Uribe and Blair Dunlap. Espy is hitting .353 with eight homers and 48 RBIs, Amaral is hitting .352 with four homers and 29 RBIs, Uribe is hitting .329 with three homers and 27 RBIs and Dunlap is hitting .323 with five homers and 23 RBIs. On the mound, the Bruins easily have the best weekend rotation in the CWS field of eight with Gerrit Cole, Trevor Bauer and Rob Rasmussen leading the way. Cole has a 3.25 ERA in 108 innings, Bauer has a 3.02 ERA in 116 1/3 innings and Rasmussen, who was phenomenal against Fullerton last weekend, has a 2.73 ERA in 99 innings. Also keep an eye on hurlers Dan Klein, Garett Claypool, Matt Grace and Erik Goeddel. Klein has recorded nine saves in 36 appearances and has a 1.93 ERA in 46 2/3 innings, Claypool has made 20 appearances and has a 2.05 ERA in 79 innings, Grace has appeared in 32 games and has a 3.00 ERA in 27 innings and Goeddel has appeared in 34 games and has a 3.26 ERA in 47 innings.
CWS forecast: The Bruins didn’t skip a beat when Cody Keefer went down with an injury a few weeks ago. Now the Bruins hope the same situation plays out without star second baseman Tyler Rahmatulla. UCLA won’t need to do too much offensively in Omaha with a fantastic weekend rotation and excellent bullpen. Still, the pitching staff must rise to the occasion more than previously expected to offset the loss of Rahmatulla. UCLA is one of the favorites to compete for the national title.