Eight teams gained an invite to Omaha for the College World Series. Over the first five days, three have exited. After tonight, only four will remain.
The double-elimination tournament takes place over less than two weeks. The NCAA has this down to a science, and keeps a brisk pace (weather-dependent, of course) getting in two games per day at the start of the tournament, and going to one game per day as teams get eliminated.
The last two teams standing, those that have not lost two of their games, will square-off in a three-game series to determine the champion.
So far this year, Michigan (2-0) and Vanderbilt (2-0) are the only teams to not yet lose a game at the College World Series. Michigan kicked off the tournament against Texas Tech (2-1), defeating the Red Raiders 5-3 and then shutout Florida State 2-0.
Michigan and Texas Tech will have a rematch tomorrow night with the Red Raiders on the ropes since it’s an elimination game for them. The Wolverines have some room for error since they won their first two games.
It was a fairly quick exit for both Arkansas (0-2) and Auburn (0-2), each of which lost their first two games. Arkansas lost to Florida State on Day Two, in a 1-0 pitchers’ duel, and then proceeded to lose 5-4 to Texas Tech on Tuesday.
Auburn meanwhile was well-positioned to defeat Mississippi State in their first game on Sunday, as they headed into the bottom of the ninth with a 4-1 lead. The Bulldogs fought back, took advantage of a throwing error, and in their last licks, walked off the Tigers in a heart-breaker 5-4. A few days later, Auburn lost to Louisville 5-3 on Wednesday for a premature tournament exit.
Florida State may have bested Arkansas in that first game 1-0, but the lack of runs was a sign of things to come, as they were shutout by Michigan on Monday 2-0 and then lost to Texas Tech 4-1 on Wednesday. Two runs in three games won’t win you much, even in pitcher-friendly Omaha.
This evening pits Louisville (1-1) against Mississippi State (1-1), in a one-and-done opportunity, as both teams have one loss already. Louisville lost their first game to Vanderbilt 3-1, but turned it around to defeat (and knock out) Auburn 5-3 on a Wednesday makeup game following Tuesday’s rain-out.
After tonight’s deciding game between Louisville and Mississippi State, we will have the winner of that contest at 2-1, with Michigan (2-0), Vanderbilt (2-0), and Texas Tech (1-1) all vying to make it to the finals.
CWS Upcoming Schedule
|Thursday, June 20||Louisville v. Mississippi State (Elim Game)||8 ET|
|Friday, June 21||Michigan v. Texas Tech||2 ET|
|Friday, June 21||Vanderbilt v. Winner of L'ville/Miss St.||7 ET|
|Saturday, June 22||TBD||2 ET|
|Saturday, June 22||TBD||7 ET|
|Monday, June 24||CWS Finals: Game 1||7 ET|
|Tuesday, June 25||CWS Finals: Game 2||7 ET|
|Wednesday, June 26||CWS Finals: Game 3 (If Necessary)||7 ET|
Players and Stories to Watch
The talent on Vanderbilt likely makes them the favorites to take home the CWS Championship trophy. Kumar Rocker is one player to watch on Vanderbilt. He threw a no hitter in the Super Regional to get Vandy to the CWS, and he threw another good game, leading the Commodores to a 6-3 victory against Mississippi State. On the offensive side of the ball, Marlins first pick (fourth overall) JJ Bleday has been mashing, while Stephen Scott hit two homers on Wednesday.
A month ago, Michigan did not look like a shoe-in to even make the College World Series, so the fact that they are well-positioned to make the finals is a fun story. The Wolverines have relied on solid pitching so far and it’s worked to their advantage.
In Texas Tech’s last couple games they sent Arkansas and Florida State home, but to advance, they’ll have to beat Michigan who will advance to the CWS finals with a win.
Then there’s the ‘Vanderbilt Whistler’. Isn’t college baseball fun?
Steven Martano is an Editor at Beyond the Box Score, a Contributing Prospect Writer for the Colorado Rockies at Purple Row, and a contributing writer for The Hardball Times. You can follow him on Twitter at @SMartano