Alex McLeman goes deep into this weekend’s College Baseball Regionals, previewing each region, making picks and highlighting MLB draft picks to watch.
The regionals have been announced, the teams have been revealed, the road to Omaha and the College World Series starts now.
On average it takes anywhere between 112-136 total games to finalise the eight College World Series (CWS) spots, it is a slog, but removing all the history, pagentray and the crowning a national champion thing you get in Omaha, the opening week of the double-elimination regional matches are some of the most thrilling and best theatre college baseball has on offer. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend an ESPN Watch subscription, even if it is just for the 7-day free trial, to see all the regionals unfold.
In 2018’s iteration of the CWS season, there are no shortage of unique storylines. Can a loaded Florida side retain their title? Will Oregon State, with all their drama on and off the diamond, or another west coast team, transfer their regular season dominance finally into postseason success? Which of the lesser known teams from smaller conferences can spring upsets? – it happens every year hello 2016 national champions Coastal Carolina, which MLB draft prospects will shine and who will flounder? All that plus much more, and It kicks off 1 June.
Below is a preview of this weekend’s regional round, with all the information needed to get you ready for the next 14-days of college baseball’s moment in the spotlight. It gives my picks to advance from each regional, small morsels of information on teams to keep and eye on and MLB prospects to look out for.
*none of the below previews and predictions have been altered since the regionals began Friday. Some of the teams I picked to advance were WAY off.
Athens Regional hosted by Georgia
2. Duke (40-15) vs. 3. Troy (41-19)
1. Georgia (37-19) vs. 4. Campbell (35-24).
Winner: Georgia. This is a homer pick but the Dawgs are the owners of a national seed and are up against some light competition, with the exception of Duke. The bulldogs have the talent to go deep in the tournament and shouldn’t find much trouble in their first regional appearance since 2011, provided their bat’s remain hot and pitching isn’t struck down by the “uncontrollable walk disease”.
Austin Regional hosted by Texas
2. Indiana (38-17) vs. 3. Texas A&M (39-20)
1. Texas (37-20) vs. 4. Texas Southern (25-26).
Winner: Texas A&M. This regional is pretty wide open with no clear standout. The Aggies reached their conference semifinals and should relish taking on in-state rivals Texas at their home, hence my pick. A&M also returns a number of players from last season’s CWS trip.
Chapel Hill Regional hosted by North Carolina
1. North Carolina (38-18) vs. 4. North Carolina A&T (32-23)
2. Purdue (37-19) vs. 3. Houston (36-23).
Winner: North Carolina. The Tar Heels are unbeatable at home, not tasting defeat since 25 March, and play a fairly balanced game. North Carolina third baseman Kyle Dates should be a first day MLB draft pick.
Clemson Regional hosted by Clemson
2. Vanderbilt (31-25) vs. 3. St. John’s (39-15)
1. Clemson (45-14) vs. 4. Morehead State (36-24).
Winner: Vanderbilt. The commodores are young and not the most reliable, but that means they have nothing to lose and is a recipe for upsets. The Clemson Tigers are a solid side, are the favourites at home and have likely first round draft choice first baseman Seth Beer at their disposal, but with a home crowd expecting nothing less than wins the pressure could get to them.
Conway Regional hosted by Coastal Carolina
2. UConn (35-20-1) vs. 3. Washington (30-23)
1. Coastal Carolina (42-17) vs. 4. LIU Brooklyn (31-24).
Winner: Coastal Carolina. Their miraculous run to a national title in 2016 was can’t miss television, but the Chanticleers followed that with a forgetful 2017, where they missed the tournament altogether. Coastal have the best on-base and slugging percentage this season, and that should be enough to see them into the super regionals.
Corvallis Regional hosted by Oregon State
2. LSU (37-25) vs. 3. San Diego State (39-19)
1. Oregon State (44-10-1) vs. 4. Northwestern State (37-22).
Winner: LSU. Oregon State are the better team and have talented players but all eyes are on their ace, Luke Heimlich – who was revealed to being a juvenile sex offender this time last season. Heimlich removed himself from the Beavers CWS run last season to avoid being a distraction and since his return has been solid, but the questions about his past remain and will hover over the team. Oregon State’s Nick Madrigal is a top-10 draft pick and is a stud with the bat. I’m still picking LSU for the simple reason they produce when it is needed and have a pedigree of winning when no-one thinks they can.
DeLand Regional hosted by Stetson
2. South Florida (35-20-1) vs. 3. Oklahoma State (29-24-1)
1. Stetson (45-11) vs. 4. Hartford (26-29).
Winner: South Florida. Popular pick is Stetson as the Cinderella story who could go all the way to the CWS, but I don’t trust them. Yes, they enter tournament play with a 15-game unbeaten streak and have the best team ERA in division I baseball, but I still don’t trust them, so South Florida is the pick. The Bulls have LHP Shane McClanahan who’s fastball tap’s triple digits and has struck out 117 batters in just 71.1 innings. Kid brings heat.
Fayetteville Regional hosted by Arkansas
1. Arkansas (38-18) vs. 4. Oral Roberts (38-18)
2. Southern Miss (43-16) vs. 3. Dallas Baptist (40-19).
Winner: Arkansas. The Razorbacks lost just three times at home all year and won the Uber competitive SEC. They are dominant at home and should dispatch these upset, mid-major contenders. Oh and Arkansas have RHP Blaine Knight who is a perfect 10-0 this season and will be a day one MLB draft pick.
Gainesville Regional hosted by Florida
1. Florida (42-17) vs. 4. Columbia (20-28)
2. Jacksonville (39-19) vs. 3. Florida Atlantic (40-17-1).
Winner: Florida. They are the defending national champions. Their offence is dictated by presumptive MLB top-10 draft pick Jonathan India. Teammate RHP Brady Singer, another top-10 draft pick, who won two games in last season’s World Series finale against LSU, is a strikeout machine and should dominate throughout the regionals.
Greenville Regional hosted by East Carolina
2. South Carolina (33-24) vs. 3. Ohio State (36-22)
1. East Carolina (43-16) vs. 4. UNC Wilmington (37-21).
Winner: South Carolina. Of all the regionals this should have the most diversified crowds, as all teams are within relative driving distance. East Carolina have pedigree in the regionals and super regionals in recent years, looking for their third super regional place in three years, but all the teams match-up well against the Pirates, who rely too much on their offence to win games.
Lubbock Regional hosted by Texas Tech
1. Texas Tech (39-17) vs. 4. New Mexico State (39-20)
2. Louisville (43-17) vs. 3. Kent State (38-16).
Winner: Texas Tech. The Red Raiders love to hit and in their home field they have mashed. Tech averaged 8.4 runs per game this year — if only MLB teams did that? — and should punish the likes of Kent State and Louisville, who are in a rebuilding year after last seasons CWS run. New Mexico State present the only real obstacle to Tech making it into the super regionals.
Minneapolis Regional hosted by Minnesota
2. UCLA (36-19) vs. 3. Gonzaga (32-22).
1. Minnesota (40-13) vs. 4. Canisius (35-20).
Winner: Minneapolis. Won their conference tournament and flirted with out-of-this-world, sometimes unbeatable, play all season. Home field advantage will tell for the Gophers.
Oxford Regional hosted by Ole Miss
2. Tennessee Tech (48-9) vs. 3. Missouri State (39-15).
1. Ole Miss (46-15) vs. 4. Saint Louis (38-18).
Winner: Unknown, or Ole Miss but I’m not happy about the pick.This a weird regional as Ole Miss won its conference tournament but did it without looking too strong. Their bullpen is not something you want to see being warmed up and are against Tennessee Tech and Missouri State side’s who rake. The only sure thing I know about this region is LHP Ryan Rolison will join MLB pitcher Drew Pomeranz as an Ole Miss first round draft choice.
Raleigh Regional hosted by NC State-
2. Auburn (39-21) vs 3. Northeastern (36-19)
1. NC State (40-16) vs. 4.Army (36-22)
Winner: Auburn. NC State, are the top seeded team in this regional but backed into the postseason with a dismal showing in the ACC tournament and are built around a home run hitting offence that has turned into a strikeout heavy one. The Auburn Tigers are the highest rated second seeded team out of all the regionals and have the widely considered no.1 MLB 2018 draft pick in RHP ace Casy Mize.
Stanford Regional hosted by Stanford
2. Baylor (36-10) vs 3. Cal State Fullerton (32-23)
1. Stanford (44-19) vs. 4. Wright State (39-15).
Winner: Stanford. The Cardinals are one of the best two teams in the country this year. They won the PAC-12 easily and are loaded with future MLB prospects. RHP Tristan Beck is a potential first round pick.
Tallahassee Regional hosted by Florida State
2. Mississippi State (31-25) vs. 3. Oklahoma (36-23)
1. Florida State (43-17) vs. 4. Samford (36-24).
Winner: Florida State. The seminoles are just stacked from top to bottom. They won the ACC tournament without much issue and have a coach in Mike Martin who knows nothing but winning (won his 1,976 game this season). Oklahoma are the wildcard in this regional and have a top MLB outfielding prospect in dual-sport athlete Kyle Murray, who is the Sooners presumptive starting QB in football in addition to being their starting outfielder.