The Race to Omaha is Run – Time for a College World Series Preview

Alex Mcleman takes a look at the eight teams left to compete for College World Series gold, how they rank and who is the most likely to be crowned 2018 National Champion.

Omaha, Nebraska, is the setting, the eight competitors are finalised, that means its College World Series time, finally.

After what can only be described as a nail-biting, action-packed, drama-filled Super Regional round last weekend that featured quadrupole game-three deciders on Monday, the eight teams who still have a chance at College World Series gold are set.

Some of the contenders are college baseball blue-bloods, familiar names you’d expect to find descending on TD Ameritrade stadium in mid-June, but this year we have a few imposters and they aren’t just here to make up the numbers, they could actually snap the dominance of the usual suspects.

The likes of Texas, North Carolina and Washington are not usually still competing when the college baseball season clicks into summer. In the case of the Longhorns and Huskies their supporters are normally deep into tailgate planning ahead of the college football season at this point.

They join teams you generally expect to find making their way to the Midwest. Oregon State, Florida, Arkansas, Texas Tech and Mississippi State will undoubtedly be the favourites to be crowned national champions, but college baseball, if nothing else, always delivers a surprise package, and this year it’s as wide-open as ever.

The College World Series set-up is the standard knockout style format, with the usual baseball twist. Each team is separated into two, four team brackets for a double-elimination tournament. Oregon State, North Carolina, Mississippi State and Washington make up bracket one. Bracket two features Florida, Arkansas, Texas Tech and Texas. The tournament plays out, two losses sending you home much like the regionals and super regionals, until one team is left standing from each bracket, setting up the World Series finale.

Below is a ranking of how the teams stack-up, featuring six teams I correctly predicted to come out of the super regionals, and who is most likely to be dog-piling and celebrating when it is all over.

Full-body tanning at TD Ameritrade Stadium


The only No. 3 seed to make it to Omaha and survive a nail-biter against a perennial postseason player – Cal State–Fullerton- in the Super Regionals to get to this point. In the clinching Game 3 win, the Huskies blew a two-run lead in the ninth, eeked across a run in the bottom of the ninth to tie, lost the lead in the top of the 10th and then finally walked off on a long sacrifice fly in the bottom half of that same frame.

Washington’s great equalizer is right-hander Joe DeMers, who in February threw the schools first perfect game in history.

Expect the Huskies to be competitive but not be around long in the tournament.

Washington vs Mississippi State (Saturday 16/06/2018) Mississippi State win.

7.Texas Tech

The challenge for Texas Tech’s offense, which finished third in the nation with 8.4 runs per game during the regular season, is figuring out how to score in Omaha the way it does in Lubbock. Freshman All-American Gabe Holt, who hit .538 over the course of Texas Tech’s three-game Super Regional against Duke, and left-fielder Grant Little, whom the Padres made the 74th pick in the draft last week.

The Red Raiders open against defending national champion Florida and will follow that with either Texas or Arkansas, two teams that went a combined 1–4 against in the regular season.

Tech have been fun to watch this postseason but I can’t see them staying in Omaha for any length of time.

Florida vs Texas Tech (Sunday 17/06/2018)


South Carolina pushed the Razorbacks to a Super Regional Game 3, but that accounted for just about all of the drama in Fayetteville as Arkansas eased their way to Omaha without much more issue.

Arkansas hit .300 as a team and finished third in the nation with 88 home runs—the first six hitters in the order have between eight and 14 apiece. Blaine Knight, a third-round pick by the Orioles, carries a spotless 12–0 record into Omaha and headlines a staff that boasts a top-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Arkansas vs Texas (Sunday 16/06/2018) Texas win


Roger Clemens was on the mound when Texas won the 1983 national championship, and his son, Kody, has a chance to deliver a second title to Longhorn nation. The younger Clemens, Texas’s starting second baseman, has hit five homers in six tournament games, including one in all three games of the Longhorns’ 2–1 series win over Tennessee Tech in the Austin Super Regional. The Tigers made him the first pick of the MLB draft’s third round.

Texas’s top three starters Nolan Kingham, Chase Shugart and Blair Henley have each made relief appearances this tournament, so don’t be surprised if head coach David Pierce gets creative to ensure his best arms handle the highest-leverage outs in Omaha.

Arkansas vs Texas (Sunday 16/06/2018) Texas win

4.Mississippi State

It’s a stunner the Bulldogs are in Omaha at all.

After losing to Oklahoma by 10 runs in their tournament opener, they were saved by an Elijah MacNamee walkoff home run that knocked regional host Florida State out of the loser’s bracket and ran the table the rest of the weekend in Tallahassee. Another MacNamee walkoff placed them on the precipice of a CWS bid in the Super Regionals against Vanderbilt, but they had to play 11 innings of a do-or-die Game 3 in Nashville to put away the Commodores. Interm coach Gary Henderson has directed this entire postseason run amid inescapable rumors that the Bulldogs have reportedly pursued multiple top names to replace him after the season, may or may not cause much issue but those clouds do loom large.

Jake Mangum, the fiery junior center-fielder and leadoff hitter whose .432 OBP and 14 steals set the tone for the entire squad. The Bulldogs also have arally banana. Yes really, they have a banana that everyone touches, kisses and hold aloft like it’s a newborn child. If you tune in to watch them you won’t be waiting long until the banana is revealed.

Washington vs Mississippi State (Saturday 16/06/2018) Mississippi State win.

3.North Carolina

North Carolina are in the groove and hitting form right when they need to. The Tar Heels are one of two teams who haven’t lost yet in the NCAA tournament, cruising through their regional as the No. 6 national seed and sweeping Stetson last weekend in Chapel Hill. Their reward for that success is an opening weekend matchup with Oregon State, the other unbeaten team this postseason.

It’ll be a stretch to think the Tar Heels can maintain their unbeaten run, especially against a formidable Beavers side, but they are full of grit and every year a underdog somehow manages to make their way into the World Series finale so I wouldn’t be surprised if they manage to get there.

Oregon State vs North Carolina (Saturday 16/06/2018) Oregon State win.

2.Oregon State

This year’s Beavers have been virtually untouchable in their quest to avenge the would-be national championship run that was cut short by LSU last year.

Oregon State sits in the less daunting half of the CWS bracket with a rested pitching staff and an offense led by first-day draft picks in second baseman Nick Madrigal (No. 4) and right-fielder Trevor Larnach (No. 37).

Two-time Pac-12 pitcher of the year Luke Heimlich has been stellar, but his off-field issues could haunt him outside the safe confines of Corvallis. It will take a lineup clicking at the right time to knock Oregon State off but there is always a chance at the World Series.

Oregon State vs North Carolina (Saturday 16/06/2018) Oregon State win.


The Gators are the number one team in the country, and have been for most of the season. They have been tested at the regional and super regional rounds, advancing past Auburn last week courtesy of a home-run gift from Tigers outfielder Steven Williams.

With starting pitchers selected in the first round of the MLB draft, Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar, scheduled to take the ball in their first two games the Gators are my clear favourites to blaze through their bracket.

Florida vs Texas Tech (Sunday 17/06/2018) Florida win.

My World Series finale prediction: Florida vs Oregon State, the Gators winning 2-0 in the best of three series.

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