CWS Top Teams Bracket, Round Two: 2018 Oregon State vs. 2000 LSUCollege World Series
Today would have been the day six 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 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.
2000 LSU Tigers (52-17 overall; CWS champion)
No. 10 seed
Skip Bertman’s LSU dynasty of the 1990s was capped off by the 2000 national championship, the program’s fifth title in 10 years. But heading into the NCAA tournament, this group was not the favorite to win it all; that was South Carolina, which went 25-5 in the SEC to finish 5.5 games ahead of LSU, the Western Division champion. Still, the Tigers landed the No. 2 national seed after running unbeaten through the SEC tournament, and the No. 1 national seed Gamecocks were stunned in super regionals by Louisiana-Lafayette. Meanwhile, the Tigers were cruising to an undefeated postseason run — they finished the season on a 13-game winning streak that started with their SEC tourney opener and ended with a CWS trophy. After blasting Jackson State and Louisiana-Monroe in the Baton Rouge Regional, LSU bludgeoned UCLA in a super regional sweep. Its bats stayed hot in Omaha, where it took down Texas 13-5 and Southern California 10-4, then it subdued Florida State 6-3 to reach the championship game against Stanford.
The Tigers trailed 5-2 after seven innings in the title game, but they stormed back against Stanford stopper Justin Wayne, tying the game with three runs in the eighth on homers by Blair Barbier and Jeremy Witten. That set the stage for another walk-off national title for LSU — it happened in 1996 on Warren Morris’ home run, and it happened in 2000 on Brad Cresse’s walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the ninth. CWS Most Outstanding Player Trey Hodges worked four shutout innings of relief to earn the win in the clincher and finished with a 1.69 ERA in 10.2 innings over three relief appearances in Omaha. Future big leaguers Mike Fontenot (.462 in Omaha), Brad Hawpe (.400 with three homers) and Ryan Theriot (.368) all came up big to lead LSU’s high-powered offense in the CWS, as did Barbier (.385 with three homers).
How They Match Up: Ah yes, yet another showdown between the Beavers and Tigers, who have developed quite the interesting rivalry over the past few seasons. Though the Tigers have a slight edge from an offensive standpoint with Cresse, Theriot, Hawpe and Barbier leading the way, the Beavers also had a strong lineup in 2018 and have the edge on the mound with a plethora of premier arms on their pitching staff. Still, this LSU lineup with the old school metal bats against the Beavers pitching staff would be insane. Consider this one a close call, with perhaps the slightest of edges to the Beavs.