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CWS Top Teams Bracket, Elite Eight: 2014 Vanderbilt vs. 2018 Oregon State

College World Series


Today would have been the the first day of the 2020 CWS Finals. Since we don’t have live baseball to watch, we’re taking a look back at the greatest CWS teams of the modern 64-team NCAA tournament era. In conjunction with NCAA.com, we’ve made our picks for the 32 best Omaha teams since 1999 and seeded them into a bracket.

Now it’s your turn. Each day, we’ll present a few matchups for fans to vote on, as we work our way through the bracket to determine the greatest College World Series team of the super regional era.

 


2014 Vanderbilt Commodores (51-21 overall; CWS champion)

No. 15 seed

Tim Corbin’s program had experienced a wealth of success before winning the national title in 2014 but had fallen just short of the grand prize until that point. The Commodores had an interesting year in the Southeastern Conference, though, finishing the regular season sixth in the conference standings — though less than two games out of third place. Vandy also went 1-2 at the SEC tournament before getting rolling in the Nashville Regional. There, the Commodores went 3-0 with a win over Xavier and a pair of wins over Oregon — outscoring the two teams by a combined 21-4. Vandy went on the road in Super Regional action to take on Tyler Jay and Illinois. There, the ‘Dores and Illini split the first two games before VU overpowered them, 12-5, in the final game to punch a ticket to Omaha.

Once in Omaha, the Commodores defeated Louisville and UC Irvine before dropping a tough contest to Texas. However, Vandy bounced back to win 4-3 the next night to advance to the CWS Finals. VU and Virginia split the first two games of the Finals before the ‘Dores won the national title with a narrow, 3-2, win. Vandy had an interesting set of statistics in Omaha that year. The Commodores finished the tournament hitting .231 as a team (second-best) and had a 4.29 staff ERA (worst in the field of eight). Top overall draft pick Dansby Swanson and Bryan Reynolds — both big leaguers — finished the 2014 CWS with batting averages over .300, while outfielder Rhett Wiseman had a strong showing in Omaha that year, too, with a .308 average. John Norwood, who hit the CWS-winning homer in the eighth inning of the final game, ended the tourney with a team-best .400 average and .484 OBP. On the mound, big leaguers Tyler Beede and Walker Buehler finished that tourney with ERAs of 8.71 and 5.40, respectively, while Carson Fulmer had success. Buehler has since involved into one of the premier pitchers in the big leagues.

This Vanderbilt team was rich with talent and will forever be known as the first champion at VU.

2018 Oregon State Beavers (55-12 overall; CWS champion)

No. 7 seed

Just a year after having an incredible season with single-digit losses and not winning a national title, partly because of some unexpected off the field drama, the Beavers were back at it in 2018. OSU put together a strong regular season with a 20-9 record in Pac 12 play before earning the No. 3 national seed. The Beavers were on the warpath in the NCAA tournament, getting even with nemesis LSU in the Corvallis Regional by outscoring the Tigers a whopping 26-1 in two games. OSU took care of business in Super Regional action, too, by sweeping Max Meyer and Minnesota to make back-to-back trips to Omaha.

Once in Omaha, the Beavers actually had to come out of the loser’s bracket, dropping an 8-6 decision to North Carolina in their first game. OSU proceeded to pummel Pac 12 rival Washington, 14-5, before beating the Tar Heels 11-6 and double dipping Mississippi State 12-2 and 5-2 to advance to the CWS Finals against Arkansas. OSU then dropped the first game of the series to the Razorbacks, before beating the Razorbacks 5-3 in the second game. Arkansas was an out away from winning the national title before a foul ball dropped between a pair of Hogs defenders. The rest was history as Trevor Larnach hit a laser beam of a home run to win the game and the Beavers won 5-0 the next night behind the arm of then freshman righthander Kevin Abel to win the program’s second national title.

Oregon State dominated some of the CWS’s most important categories that year. For instance, OSU hit .327 as a team in 2018, with the next closest team being Texas Tech with a .275 average. Meanwhile, the Beavs led all teams with a 3.38 ERA. Florida was second with a 3.50 ERA. Abel was the CWS MVP for obvious reasons. In addition to his complete game against Arkansas, he made four appearances in the tourney and had an 0.86 ERA in 21 innings, along with 23 strikeouts and seven walks. Meanwhile, Larnach hit .417 and eventual No. 1 overall pick, catcher Adley Rutschman, had an incredible run in Omaha with a .567 average, three doubles, two home runs and 13 RBIs, along with a .649 OBP.

It was a historic year for the Beavs, and it was one that would allow legendary coach Pat Casey to ride off into the sunset a champion.

How They Match Up: Both of these squads were loaded with pro talent, and both of them won national titles in particularly dramatic and memorable fashion. Oregon State was the more dominant team from start to finish, which is why it earned the No. 3 national seed while Vandy finished sixth in the SEC and did not snag a top-eight national seed. The 2018 Beavers were an offensive buzzsaw that ranked in the national top 10 in batting, scoring, doubles (No. 1), slugging percentage and walks, while the ’14 Commodores ranked 91st in batting and 78th in scoring. But OSU also ranked 12th nationally in both ERA and fielding percentage — these Beavers simply did everything well. Vanderbilt ranked 25th in ERA and 26th in fielding. So on paper, Oregon State was the clear favorite in this matchup. Of course, Vandy was the underdog against Virginia in the Finals that year, and it still found a way to prevail.


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