CWS Top Teams Bracket, Round Two: 2018 Arkansas vs. 2010 South CarolinaCollege World Series
Today would have been the day eight of the 2020 College World Series. 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.
2018 Arkansas Razorbacks (48-21; CWS runner-up)
No. 29 seed
The Hogs were so close to winning the program’s national title this season, they could literally taste it with one out to go in Omaha. We know how the rest went here, but let’s not rehash that too much, right Razorbacks fans? The Hogs put together a strong regular season that year, going 18-12 in the SEC, which was good enough for a three-way tie in the conference standings. Arkansas scored 20 runs in its first two games of Regional action against Oral Roberts and Southern Miss before edging Dallas Baptist, 4-3, to advance to the Super Regional round. There, the Hogs beat South Carolina two of three games to advance to the College World Series.
Once in Omaha, the Razorbacks went on a wild ride that ended with what could best be described as drama. The Hogs defeated rival Texas, 11-5, to begin their CWS run before beating Texas Tech and defeating SEC foe Florida, 5-2, to advance to the CWS Finals. The Hogs defeated Oregon State 4-1 to begin the Finals before getting one out away from winning the program’s first national title. Then the whole foul ball thing happened.
Though Arkansas’ run ended in heartbreak, it was truly a season to remember. The Hogs finished the CWS that year fifth in terms of team batting average, while finishing third in pitching staff ERA behind Oregon State and Florida. Casey Martin and Dominic Fletcher each hit well over .300 during that run to the CWS Finals, while on the mound, wiry righthander Blaine Knight continued his legendary status with two excellent starts and a 2.45 ERA in 11 innings, along with 10 strikeouts and two walks.
Arkansas proved that winning the national title can be incredibly difficult. They fell short of that goal that season, but that crown will head to Fayetteville at some point in Dave Van Horn’s career.
2010 South Carolina Gamecocks (54-16 overall; CWS champion)
No. 12 seed
The Gamecocks had experienced a wealth of success during the Ray Tanner era, but was still chasing a national title entering the 2010 season. That quest finally came to an end that season as the Gamecocks won the final College World Series title at the iconic Rosenblatt Stadium with a walk-off winner from Whit Merrifield. South Carolina has a wild ride through the postseason, going 3-0 in the Columbia Regional before sweeping in-state rival Coastal Carolina in two games to advance to the CWS. From there, USC actually lost its first game in Omaha to Oklahoma before going on quite a fun ride. The Gamecocks beat Arizona State and Oklahoma in back-to-back games before double-dipping heated rival Clemson with lefthander Michael Roth earning legendary status with an unlikely, incredible performance. Once in the CWS Finals, the Gamecocks beat UCLA 7-1 in the first game before making history at Rosenblatt with a 2-1 win over the Bruins in the finale game. In addition to winning the final game at Rosenblatt, the Gamecocks won their first national title and kicked off what were two amazing seasons with Roth and Co., leading the charge.
To get an idea of just how good Roth was in Omaha during that run, the talented lefty made four appearances and two starts and tallied a 1.10 ERA in 16.1 innings, along with teams hitting him at just a .167 clip. Blake Cooper also was impressive in Omaha that year, while relievers Matt Price and John Taylor were sensational, with Price striking out 15 in 9.2 innings and Taylor having an unblemished ERA in four appearances. Offensively, Christian Walker led the Gamecocks in that CWS with an outstanding .414 average, while Brady Thomas (.381) and Evan Marzilli (.370) also were notables. There’s also electric outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., who hit .345 and etched his name in Gamecocks lore with a strong showing in Omaha. He, of course, is now enjoying success with the Boston Red Sox.
South Carolina went on to win the national title again in 2011, but the first, especially the last in Rosenblatt Stadium, will remembered for a long, long time.
“The 2010 team was comprised of big- time playmakers.” Former South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner said. “We had good players, but they seem to always perform at their best during the most critical points in a game. It might have been a big pitch, a play on defense, or a clutch hit. But, it happened consistently as we proceeded throughout the entire season.
“They had fun at practice, in the locker room, on the bus, and during games. It was the most tense- free group that I ever coached.”
How They Match Up: The Razorbacks looked like a team of destiny in 2018 until the final two games of the CWS Finals against Oregon State. Like so many successful CWS teams before them, the Hogs are loaded with big-time bats, while the Gamecocks certainly had destiny on their side with lefthander Michael Roth transitioning to legendary status, while Christian Walker, Jackie Bradley and others led the offense. This would certainly be an SEC matchup to watch.
Like so many successful CWS teams before them, the Hogs are loaded with big-time bats, while the Gamecocks certainly had destiny on their side with lefthander Michael Roth transitioning to legendary status.
— NCAA Baseball (@NCAACWS) June 20, 2020