Kicking off the CWS: Breaking down Bracket 1
Today is the day. Day 1 of the College World Series. The start of what I consider to be the single greatest sporting event of the year. And for the first time in a couple of years, I’m hard pressed to make predictions. All 8 teams in the field are awesome. There aren’t any that are clearly doomed to the 2 and out fate. There are also aren’t really any teams who have a lock on playing in the title series. I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to two weeks of phenomenal, close, well-played baseball games. Each of these teams is going to need to play essentially flawless baseball if they want to win. So let’s break down Bracket #1 (Bracket #2 coming later when I have a bit more time):
UCLA Bruins: UCLA (47-14) breezed through the Los Angeles super regional, defeating TCU 6-2 and 4-1. The Bruins have been on fire, boasting a 5-0 record in the postseason to this point, and a 9-game winning streak. UCLA shared the regular season Pac-12 title with fellow CWS team Arizona. As a team, the Bruins boast a .309 batting average and 23 home runs. On the flip side, UCLA has a respectable team ERA of 3.13.
Stony Brook Seawolves: Anyone who watched the Baton Rouge super regional knows that Stony Brook is not a team to be trifled with. They lost game 1 after 12 innings and a day long rain delay. Game 2 featured a fantastic pitching effort from Tyler Johnson, and the Seawolves won 3-1. Stony Brook dominated game 3, ultimately defeating LSU 7-2 to earn a spot in Omaha. The Seawolves boast the best record of the remaining teams at 52-13. While ESPN will have you calling the Seawolves a “Cinderella Story” – they are, after all, only the 2nd #4 regional seed to make it to Omaha (the other being Fresno State in 2008, who went on to win the title that year) – but the Seawolves have been dominating the America East conference for the past few years. Pair that with some incredibly hot bats (look out for Willie Carmona and Travis Jankowski, the latter being from this humble blogger’s hometown in PA), and solid pitching, and Stony Brook has a legitimate shot at a title run. And as a fan of the underdog, if my Gamecocks can’t win it all, I’ll be pulling hard for the Seawolves.
Florida State Seminoles: FSU (48-15) scored 25 runs in 2 games against Stanford in the Tallahassee super regional. Seven of those runs came against Stanford ace and #8 overall draft pick, Marc Appel. FSU seems to have caught fire at the right time. The only question is whether or not their bats will continue to dismantle pitchers in Omaha. My thought is that they will. Don’t be surprised to see the Seminoles battling with Stony Brook for a spot in the title series.
Arizona Wildcats: The Wildcats (43-17) held on to win a tough game 1 in the 10th inning against St. John’s. Then they came back in game 2 and won handily, defeating St. John’s 7-4, to win the Tuscon super regional. Like most teams who make it to Omaha, Arizona got hot at the right time. That said, in my opinion, they are the weakest link in the field. The Wildcats rely a bit too much on clutch hits, which are going to be at a premium against a smoking FSU team. Don’t be surprised to see a Sunday evening game between the Pac-12 co-champions, UCLA and Arizona.
Game 1 of the CWS, between UCLA and Stony Brook, is at 5 p.m. EST on ESPN2 & ESPN3.com. Game 2, between FSU and Arizona, starts at 9 p.m. on the same channels. The losers of each game will meet on Sunday at 5 p.m., and the winners will play on Sunday at 9 p.m. Full coverage and brackets are available through the NCAA’s website.