CWS Top Teams Bracket, Elite Eight: 2017 Oregon State vs. 2017 FloridaCollege World Series
Today would have been the day the CWS Finals began. 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.
2017 Oregon State Beavers (56-6; CWS semi-finalist)
No. 19 seed
The only team in our field that didn’t reach the CWS Finals, the ’17 Beavers had a shot to go down as the greatest team in history, but they ran out of gas in Omaha’s final four. OSU posted a historic regular season, going 27-3 in the Pac-12 to win the regular season by six games to earn the No. 1 national seed. Then the Beavers obliterated their opposition in regionals and supers, outscoring their opponents 27-3 in an undefeated waltz through regionals, then crushing Vanderbilt by an aggregate 17-6 in a super regional sweep. That propelled OSU to Omaha with an eye-popping 54-4 overall record.
But ace Luke Heimlich — who went 11-1, 0.76 as a junior that season — did not play for the Beavs in the super regional or the College World Series after it came to light that he had pled guilty to a sexual assault as a juvenile, engulfing Oregon State in controversy. The Beavers rallied around each other and won their first two games in Omaha against Cal State Fullerton and LSU, but then their bats went quiet, and they fell in back-to-back games to LSU, 3-1 and 6-1. So these undermanned Beavers fell short of their ultimate goal, but this team was simply stacked to the gills with talent. The lineup featured four future first-round picks in Nick Madrigal, Cadyn Grenier, Trevor Larnach and 2019 Golden Spikes Award winner and No. 1 overall pick Adley Rutschman, plus third-rounder KJ Harrison and fifth-rounder Steven Kwan. Even without injured first-round pick Drew Rasmussen, the pitching staff dominated behind Heimlich, third-rounder Jake Thompson and consummate winner Bryce Fehmel.
2017 Florida Gators (52-19 overall; CWS champion)
No. 6 seed
The Gators made seven trips to Omaha in the 2010s under Kevin O’Sullivan, and they were regularly among the most talented teams in college baseball. But the 2017 Florida team finally broke through and won the first national title in program history, making it the greatest group of Gators ever. After going 21-9 in the SEC to win the Eastern Division by two games and take the top seed in the SEC tournament, Florida landed the No. 3 national seed in the NCAA tournament. UF won its first two regional games before getting upset by Bethune-Cookman, but it bounced back to win the rematch. Then Florida won a compelling super regional matchup against Wake Forest in three games to reach Omaha, where it rode dominant pitching to the title. The Gators led the CWS field with a 2.33 staff ERA in Omaha, and its pitchers struck out 68 in 54 innings. Florida jumped out to a 2-0 record in bracket play with wins over national seeds TCU and Louisville, but the Frogs pushed the Gators to an if-necessary game in the bracket finals. CWS Most Outstanding Player Alex Faedo came up big in that game, working 7.1 shutout innings to lead Florida to a 3-0 victory and a trip to the Finals.
Florida matched up with fellow SEC powerhouse LSU in the Finals, and its pitching continued to shine. First-rounder Brady Singer threw seven strong innings in a 4-3 win in Game One, and then Tyler Dyson worked six strong innings in a 6-1 win in Game Two, completing the sweep. Faedo (2-0, 0.00 in 14 IP in Omaha), Singer (2-0, 2.57) and Jackson Kowar (who came out of the bullpen to finish the CWS clincher) were all first-round picks on the mound for this Florida team, while third baseman Jonathan India would join Faedo as a first-rounder in 2018. Florida also had one of the best closers of the era in Michael Byrne, a two-time first-team All-American who worked seven scoreless innings over four appearances in Omaha. Overpowering pitching was this team’s calling card, making up for the fact that this was one of the least imposing Florida offenses of the decade (it ranked 224th in the nation in batting and 180th in scoring).
How They Match Up: The Beavers fell short of playing for the national title in 2017, but it was still an incredible season to remember with just six setbacks the entire spring. While the Beavers had offensive balance and good pitching, the Gators do have the star power when it comes to the weekend rotation with Alex Faedo, Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar. That trio will go down as one of the best weekend rotations in college baseball history. OSU was great while the Gators finished the job that season.
While the Beavers had offensive balance and good pitching, the Gators do have the star power when it comes to the weekend rotation with Alex Faedo, Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar.
Who ya got?
— NCAA Baseball (@NCAACWS) June 22, 2020