For the 66th straight year, Omaha plays host to the College World Series where teams from around the nation will look to make history and become a national champion. The College World Series is split up between two pools, with the winners of each pool facing each other in a best of three-game series to determine the national champion.
In the first pool, we have Miami making their 25th appearance, Arizona making their 17th appearance, Oklahoma State making their 20th appearance, and UCSB making their first ever appearance.
Miami made it to Omaha by starting in the Miami regional, defeating Stetson and then dispatching Long Beach State twice to make it to a super regional. Miami hosted a super regional where they defeated fellow ACC rival Boston College in a deciding game three after splitting the first two games.
State of the U Editor Cameron Underwood joined us to answer a few questions about the Hurricanes.
Who are the players to know from Miami?
C Zack Collins is the top hitter on this team, and one of the top hitters in America. He's a 1st team All-American by Baseball America, d1baseball, and the National College Baseball Writers Association, a finalist for the Johnny Bench award for the Nation's Best Catcher, and was a semi-finalist for the Golden Spikes award for Best Collegiate Baseball Player. Sporting a healthy stat line of .357 average, 15 HR, 57 RBI, .538 OBP, and 1.187 OPS, Collins was the #10 overall pick in last week's MLB draft by the Chicago White Sox. Collins has immense power and a well-trained eye at the plate: his 72 walks lead the Nation. He's the straw that stirs the drink for Miami on offense, and can change any game with a single swing.SS Brandon Lopez is a steady defender whose bat has improved greatly. He's hitting .385 on the year, and has benefited from a move into the cleanup slot. He's not a power threat, but his line drive swing plays well behind Collins in the lineup.2B Johnny Ruiz is another top hitter for the Canes. He's sporting a .346 average, and has been punishing opposing pitching all year long. He, like his double play teammate Lopez, is a very good defender up the middle of the field, as well.CF Carl Chester has taken great strides as a sophomore. He's hitting .344 in the leadoff spot, and sets the table for the RBI guys behind him. He's the fastest player on the Canes' team, but needs to develop as a base stealer, as evidcenced by his 16/26 record on the basepaths this year.DH Randy Batista is very good and can do it all from the #2 hole. RF Willie Abreu and LF Jacob Heyward have immense power, but can struggle with strikeouts. Along with Chester in CF, they are a formidable outfield who cover everything from line to line. 3B Edgar Michelangeli isn't hitting for a great average, but shows up in big moments. He hit a gamewinning HR in the ACC tournament vs NCState, and hit 2 HRs, including a grand slam that was the nail in the coffin for BC during Super Regionals. Oh, and he likes to flip his bat after hitting homeruns, which is fun for me.As far as pitching goes, LHP Michael Mediavilla (11-1, 3.11 ERA) is the ace. He's a big kid, but more of a finesse pitcher with good control but not overpowering stuff. LHP Danny Garcia (9-4, 3.48 ERA) has the best stuff on the starting staff and is a gamer.Out of the bullpen, RHP Frankie Bartow (6-0, 2.73 ERA) has been the workhorse. He's made 41 appearances on the year, and figures to be a key factor for the Canes in Omaha. The talented freshman stepped in for an injured veteran to take over as the main 7th/8th inning guy bridging Miami from the starter to closer.The closer RHP Bryan Garcia (2-0, 1.95 ERA, 18 saves, 13.86 K/9) is one of the best in America. Already with the career record for saves at Miami with 42, Garcia has a power arm with a fastball touching 96mph, and solid secondary pitches. He's made things interesting in the 9th a couple times, but Miami's goal is to get Garcia the ball with a lead and a chance to close the game, something he does better than anyone in the history of this storied program.
I'm gonna cheat and give you multiple things in both of these areas.The biggest strengths are1. Team defense. Miami has the best defense in America, fielding the ball at a .983 clip.2. Consistent offense. Miami is dangerous 1-9 in the order, and they grind at-bats better than anyone. With a nearly .400 on-base percentage AS A TEAM, the Canes will work counts, draw walks, and get teams into their bullpen with great ease.3. Overall talent. There are few teams in America as talented as Miami.The biggest weaknesses are1. waiting until late to wake up the bats. This team gets on base a lot, but to do that they take A LOT of pitches. Sometimes they can be too passive and let the opposing pitcher get into a groove.2. The depth of the bullpen. As I mentioned earlier, Miami lost a key reliever (RHP Cooper Hammond) early in the year. After going through this season, there are 2 reliable relievers: Bartow and Garcia. The other guys in the pen (LHP Thomas Woodrey [a former starter who got demoted], RHPs Keven Pimentel, Ryan Guerra, and Andrew Cabezas [a potential starter] can be good, or they can get shelled, with no real in-between. To win in Omaha, Miami is going to need more than 2 relievers they can trust. But, right now, that's kind of how things look.
As the only National Seed on our side of the bracket, my expectation is to advance to the Championship Series. Yes, Arizona, Oklahoma State, and UC Santa Barbara are good teams, they made it to Omaha. But Miami has the best talent, the most history, and the on-field performance to emerge from that group of teams victorious.On the heels of last year's CWS appearance, this team is prepared for another chance to win the 5th title in school history. And, in my mind, anything less than making it to the Championship Series with a chance to play for a National Championship will be a disappointment.
The Canes will run into a hot Arizona team who have won five straight. Arizona actually dropped into the losers bracket in the Lafayette regional, hosted by Louisiana-Lafayette. Arizona battled back to Sam Houston State, and defeat Lafayette twice to advance to the Starkville super regional. In Starkville, Arizona shocked Mississippi State, sweeping the Bulldogs to get to the College World Series.
Jason Bartel of Arizona Desert Swarm answered a couple of questions about the Wildcats.
Who are the players to know from Arizona?
After last weekend, I suppose it's hard to not start with Bobby Dalbec. After getting drafted in the 4th round by the Red Sox, he went out and came up one out shy of a shutout, settling for 8 2/3 innings of no-run ball. Yet he was drafted as a third baseman. In his first AB of Super Regional weekend on Saturday, he launched a solo shot over the left field lounge in Starkville. He hasn't lived up to expectations this year, but seems to be getting hot at the right time.For pitchers, I'd go Nathan Bannister and Cameron Ming. Those two guys have been the most consistent over the last couple of months. On the offensive side, it's all about the seniors Cody Ramer, Zach Gibbons and Ryan Aguilar. Ramer and Gibbons have held down the top two spots in the lineup all year, and Aguilar leads the team in home runs, including a three-run shot on Saturday that completely changed the game and allowed Arizona to reach Omaha.
Biggest strength: Manufacturing runs with aggressive baserunning and well-placed bunts. Also defense, especially from Ramer. Biggest weakness: depth. Arizona will have to rely on a small group of pitchers, and there aren't really any position players that can come off the bench that you can count on.
I'm shocked that they're in Omaha at all. This is a team with a first-year coach and a bunch of guys that never really played well until this year. Honestly, nothing would surprise me at this point. If they go 2-and-Q or if they win it all, I'd be like 'Yep, that sounds about right'. I'll go with lose to Miami, with the elimination game, then lose the 1-1 elimination game.
The players to know are without a doubt Thomas Hatch, Donnie Walton and Conor Costello. Thomas Hatch is the Big 12 Pitcher of the Year and is yet to give up a run in the postseason. The pitching staff has been lock down, and it all starts with Hatch. Donnie Walton is a senior SS, and he is the heart and soul of the team. He's an excellent fielder but also hits the ball well. Costello is the DH, and has been red-hot lately. With the way the bracket stacks up, expect these three to make an impact.
The biggest strength of this team is the pitching. With three guys in Hatch, Tyler Buffett and Jensen Elliott who have gone 6.0+ IP in the postseason, they are what makes the team go. The defense is one of the best in the country as well, with a .978 fielding percentage in the regular season. One of the weaknesses tends to be hitting. It depends on how they get to the pitcher, but occasionally the offense can big down and become stagnant. That can't happen this week if they want to advance out of Bracket 2.
I actually expect a good showing in this CWS from OSU. The matchup with UCSB is a good one for OSU, and I would not be surprised to see them advance out of this bracket. Miami would be a tough out, but in a double elimination format, I think the Pokes have as good a chance as anyone to win it all.
WOW!!!! @UCSB_Baseball is headed to their first ever CWS thanks to this walk-off GRAND SLAM!!!!! #RoadToOmahahttps://t.co/QLxj1RXkoh— ESPNU (@ESPNU) June 12, 2016
Kyle Nelson is the first one. If the Gauchos are in trouble and need an out, look for Nelson to be on the mound. Nelson has a 2.02 ERA this season, working in 71.1 innings. Shane Bieber is the ace, due to his ability to mix his pitches, and to locate extremely well.Clay Fisher and Andrew Calica are a pair of Gaucho's hitters who make the lineup go. Fisher, an outstanding shortstop who has a .982 fielding percentage bats .289, and can make for a tough out. His instincts on the bases are outstanding. Calica, who has 18 stolen bases, leads the Gauchos with 44 walks.
What are the biggest strength's and weakness's of UCSB?
Their biggest strength may be Omaha itself. The Gaucho's are the ultimate underdog, and fans will flock to them in droves. Nothing stands out about the Gaucho's as an outstanding team, they just keep finding a way to win close games.The biggest weakness is a lack of starting pitching behind Bieber. Behind Bieber Noah Davis and Joe Record may have bright futures, but they will have trouble getting outs with the deeper lineups.
The most likely team to go 0-2. The Gaucho's are going to have fun just getting to be in Omaha and experience playing at TD Ameritrade. They were never expected to have made it this far, and going up against Thomas Hatch, I foresee the Gaucho's dropping to the losers bracket early.