CWS Day 2: Breaking down Bracket Two
So my predictions were a little off for the day one games. Stony Brook and FSU, both of whom I had playing in the bracket final, lost to their respective opponents. Stony Brook got slammed by UCLA, while FSU and Arizona battled it out until the 12th inning. Not a bad day for baseball. The first elimination game is Monday, so we’ll see who can pull off the win.
Now on to Bracket Two (nothing like waiting until the last minute, right? I mean, it’s not like the first game starts in an hour or anything….):
Kent State Golden Flashes: This is Kent State’s (46-18) first trip to Omaha. Ever. They’ve had a long road to get there. First there was that marathon game against Kentucky in the Gary, Ind. regional. Then there were three one-run games in the Eugene regional. The Flashes took game 1, 7-6, lost game 2, 3-2, then turned around and pulled off a 3-2 victory in game 3. In all honesty, I know very little about this team. I did my best to watch all of the super regional games, but playing on the west coast didn’t work out too well for my east coast bedtime. So I caught a few innings here and there, but not really enough to discuss this teams strengths and weaknesses. What I do know is that they have the ability to win close games. And in Omaha, that’s usually pretty important.
Arkansas Razorbacks: One of three SEC teams to make the cut, Arkansas is really only here because Baylor handed them the victory in game two of the Waco super regional. Two HBP with the bases loaded in the 9th inning? Has that ever happened before? At any rate, the Hogs went on to win what was a phenomenal pitcher’s duel in 10 innings, 1-0. Looks like the Hogs can hang in there when needed. The Gamecocks had one of their best series of the year against Arkansas. Just in case you don’t remember, you can refresh your memory here. I’m not sure that Arkansas is going to be in Omaha that long. I certainly think their first game with Kent State will be a good one. Two teams who know how to play tight games? Should be fun to watch.
Florida Gators: I’m not sure whose genius idea it was to put all three SEC teams on the same side of the bracket, but I can’t say that I like it. At the same time, it means that you know your opponent and how to prepare for them. And the Gamecocks certainly know the Gators. And the Gators are out for blood. Florida is as good as people say they are. They aren’t invincible – USC proved that by beating them 8-3 the first time they met this year – but they don’t go down without a fight. And after going down quietly in last year’s CWS final, the Gators have something to prove. As much as I want the Gamecocks to do the unthinkable and win a third consecutive title, my (imaginary) money is on Florida.
South Carolina Gamecocks: I don’t know what to do with this team. They constantly surprise me, which I why I think they could do it again and go all the way. But it will be a tough trip there. This is easily the tougher of the two brackets in Omaha. They played in a tough regional against their arch-rivals, Clemson, and then tackled an Oklahoma team who didn’t play nearly as well as they could have. Now the Gamecocks are slated to start a third title run against a Florida team who beat them twice in the regular season, and again in the SEC tournament. But, the beauty of baseball is that it is unpredictable. USC certainly has the tools to get back to the finals, but everything is contingent upon everyone gelling at the same time. With a 21 postseason game win streak on the line, the Gamecocks know what is at stake. They have the mental toughness to make it through. I predict we’ll be seeing a few ‘Cocks/Gators matchups in Omaha, as Arkansas and Kent State will bow out early. This will make for an amazing two weeks of baseball.
Arkansas and Kent State play at 5 p.m. EST on Saturday. South Carolina and Florida follow at 9 p.m. Both games are on ESPN and ESPN3.com. The losers of each game will meet on Monday at 5 p.m., and the winners will play on Monday at 9 p.m. Full coverage and brackets are available through the NCAA’s website.