CWS Top Teams Bracket: 2018 Oregon State Takes The CrownCollege World Series
Since we didn’t have live NCAA tournament baseball to watch this June, 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. Fans voted for the winner of each matchup.
The fans have spoken, and they have the 2018 Oregon State Beavers as the top team of the 64-team era. The Beavers won a close vote against the 2019 Vanderbilt Commodores in the Finals, earning 51.67% of the 16,448 votes cast across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Read more about the matchup below.
2019 Vanderbilt Commodores (59-12 overall; CWS champion)
No. 1 seed
In a bracket chock full of champions, the 2019 Commodores earn our top seed because of their sheer dominance and overwhelming talent. This team entered 2019 saddled with the highest expectations as the consensus preseason No. 1 team in the nation. Very often, the consensus preseason No. 1 team proves to be the most talented squad in the country, but as the adage goes — it’s usually the hottest team that wins the national title, seldom the best team. The 2019 Commodores were the first consensus preseason No. 1 in the 64-team era to actually win it all. Along the way, the Commodores checked all the boxes, going 23-7 in the SEC to win the nation’s most rugged conference by two games, and then coupling it with an unbeaten run to the SEC tournament championship. The Commodores rode their elite offense to a 3-0 run through the Nashville Regional, then bounced back from a blowout loss to Duke in the super regional opener. Freshman sensation Kumar Rocker delivered one of the greatest pitching performances in college baseball history with Vandy’s season on the line in Game Two of the super, striking out 19 Blue Devils in a no-hitter. Then the Commodores cruised a 13-2 victory in Game Three to reach Omaha, where their bats went rather quiet but their arms proved more than capable of doing the heavy lifting.
Facing powerhouse national seeds Louisville and Mississippi State in bracket play, Vandy’s pitching allowed just six runs in a 3-0 run to the Finals, setting up a showdown between Vandy coach Tim Corbin and his one-time assistant, Michigan coach Erik Bakich. The Wolverines took the opener 7-4, but once again Vandy proved its mettle with its back to the wall, as Rocker and Mason Hickman came through with standout performances to lead the Commodores to 4-1 and 8-2 victories, and their third national title. Rocker earned CWS Most Outstanding Player honors, going 2-0, 1.46 with 17 strikeouts against three walks in 12.1 CWS innings. Hickman (1-0, 0.75 in 12 innings) also had a worthy case for the honor, as did shutdown closer Tyler Brown (0.00 ERA and three saves in four appearances and 7.2 innings).
Vandy’s staff posted a 2.50 ERA in Omaha, picking up the slack for an offense that hit just .221 in Omaha, despite ranking eighth in the nation in batting and scoring, first in home runs, fifth in slugging, and second in walks and doubles over the course of the season. Given the level of competition Vandy faced in the SEC, those numbers are even more impressive, and its offense was widely regarded as the nation’s best in 2019, led by first-round pick JJ Bleday and future first-rounder Austin Martin, along with senior stars Ethan Paul and Stephen Scott plus dangerous sophomores Philip Clarke and Pat DeMarco.
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. In addition to Abel’s 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 to capture MOP honors.
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: College baseball’s two most recent national champions are also among the most talented and accomplished teams of the 64-team era. And in many ways, these two clubs were mirror images of each other. Both pitching staffs were carried in Omaha by heroic performances from power-armed righties who earned national Freshman of the Year honors (Abel and Rocker). Both of them had truly elite offenses loaded with power and versatility, each anchored by a first-team All-American and first-round pick (Rutschman and Bleday). You can make a strong case that these were the two most intimidating offenses of the last decade, and both of them were also sterling defensive units that ranked in the national top 12 in fielding percentage. Vandy got stronger overall starting pitching in Omaha, but OSU was the slightly stronger pitching staff over the course of the season. Vandy had a premium righthanded power closer who came up huge in Omaha (Brown), while OSU relied on a pair of standout lefties (Brandon Eisert and Christian Chamberlain). These two clubs are worthy finalists in our bracket, and it is not easy to pick between them.
So which team is the champion of champions? Cast your vote below.
This one is for the title of Top Team of the Super Regional Era! These two clubs are worthy finalists and it is not easy to pick between them.
So which team is the champion of champions? Cast your vote below! 👇
— NCAA Baseball (@NCAACWS) June 26, 2020