Sorenson: Welcome To Omaha

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Okay StitchHeads, if you were looking for a College World Series with a couple of upstarts and a stunning array of upsets, you’ve come to the wrong party pal. There ain’t no Stony Brook. There ain’t no Kent State. There ain’t even a Coastal Carolina among this bunch. It’s chock full of Power Five Conference teams who make millions of dollars with this sport. The only “surprise” team that comes from outside of that circle of heavies would be Cal State Fullerton, but they are a Big West team so you know they are worthy of making it to Omaha just about any calendar year.

With six of the eight Super Regionals going just two games and five of the eight National Seeds winning out, you could even argue that this was one of the more uneventful Super Regional rounds in our 18 year history of this “new” tournament format.

It’s a very blue blood pool of teams in Omaha this year. It’s all about name recognition, tradition and championship pedigree.

If you’re looking for a video preview of the College World Series with a little bit of a tilt toward the goings-ons of Oregon State, here was my appearance back on Monday night on “Talkin’ Ball” a show that emanates from CSN NorthWest…

https://vimeo.com/221475001

Now, for a little historical perspective, here is how experienced the eight teams stack up in College World Series days of yore…

Oregon State
Appearances: 5
Titles: 2
Last In: 2013
CWS Record: 13-8, .619 winning percentage

Cal State Fullerton: 
Appearances: 17
Titles: 4
Last In: 2015
CWS Record: 34-29, .540

Florida State 
Appearances: 21
Titles: 0
Last In: 2012
CWS Record: 28-42, .400

LSU
Appearances: 17
Titles: 6
Last In: 2015
CWS Record: 36-24, .600

Louisville
Appearances: 3
Titles: 0
Last In: 2014
CWS Record: 1-6, .142

Texas A&M
Appearances: 5
Titles: 0
Last In: 2011
CWS Record: 2-10, .167

TCU
Appearances: 4
Titles: 0
Last In: 2016
CWS Record: 8-8, .500

Florida
Appearances: 9
Titles: 0
Last In: 2016
CWS Record: 14-21, .400

In case you didn’t see it, here are the matchups for the opening round and their pertinent statistics.

BRACKET ONE

OREGON STATE vs. CAL STATE FULLERTON
Saturday, June 17th, 2pm CT, ESPN

– Beavers
54-4 overall, .296ave, 29HRs, 61SBs, .977 defense, 1.80 ERA

How they win it all: If Bryce Fehmel pitches like he did in the 9-2 win vs. Vanderbilt, a complete-game five-hitter. Ah who am I kidding, they might win it all without Fehmel being awesome.

How they go 0-2: If the Luke Heimlich situation becomes too much of a distraction and they play like they did when I saw them lose 7-1 at UCLA.

– Titans
39-22 overall, .270ave, 44HRs, 53SBs, .981 defense, 3.57 ERA

How they win it all: Keep getting the clutch hits and stroking line drives like they did at the Palo Alto Regional.

How they go 0-2: If their stout pitching can’t handle being on the big stage.

FLORIDA STATE vs. LSU
Saturday June 17th, 7pm, ESPN

– Seminoles
45-21 overall, .272ave., 72HRs, 58SBs, .971 defense, 3.72 ERA

How they win it all: Momentum. They beat Auburn twice in the Regional finals and then had their bats on the verge of insanity for the Sam Houston sweep.

How they go 0-2: If the Noles revert to their mid-season form and the pitching beyond Tyler Holton goes south.

Florida State will be making its first appearance in the College World Series since 2012.

– Tigers
48-17 overall, .294ave., 61HRs, 72SBs, .980 defense, 3.54 ERA

How they win it all: If their “season of destiny” has their stars align and they stay hot at the plate, in the field.

How they go 0-2: If both Alex Lange and Jared Poche have shaky starts – and both have had that happen in the last two weeks.

BRACKET TWO

LOUISVILLE vs. TEXAS A&M
Sunday June 18th, 1pm, ESPN

– Cardinals
52-10 overall, .289ave., 70HRs, 97SBs, .975 defense, 2.85 ERA

How they win it all: If the offense lives up to billing. They won’t be able to rely on the long ball at TDA, but they run pile up the runs with their aggressive base running.

How they go 0-2: If the old CWS bugaboo returns. The Cards haven’t had much success in Omaha but that can’t effect them here.

– Aggies
41-21 overall, .275ave., 52HRs, 56SBs, .975 defense, 3.42 ERA

How they win it all: With a little bit of a miracle thrown in… Then again, nobody expected anything much from Coastal Carolina last year either.

How they go 0-2: If they get overwhelmed by this pitching-rich side of the bracket. Youthful batting order could mean there is a “wide-eyed effect” going on here.

TCU vs. FLORIDA
Sunday June 18th, 6pm, ESPN2

– Horned Frogs
47-16 overall, .272ave., 57HRs, 102SBs, .974 defense, 4.02 ERA

How they win it all: If experience means anything. This is the Frogs’ fourth straight trip, so Evan Skoug, Cam Warner, Elliott Barzilli, Jared Janczak, Brian Howard and Mitchell Traver are old vets at this.

How they go 0-2: If they miss Luken Baker too much and the bats go silent. The Frogs hit just .272 this year and will miss Baker’s .317-8-41 numbers in Omaha.

– Gators
47-18 overall, .262ave., 50HRs, 80SBs, .980 defense, 3.55 ERA

How they win it all: If they stay in the winner’s bracket and the offense can step it up. The Gators hit just .262, weakest in the field of eight.

How they go 0-2: If the pitching beyond Alex Faedo has its issues. The post-season has been a little rocky beyond the UofF ace (except for Tyler Dyson vs. Wake), so Jackson Kowar and Brady Singer need to be stout.

 

COLLEGE WORLD SERIES NOTES & NUGGETS
Some odds and ends to keep in mind as Saturday approaches.

– The Vegas Odds. 
Here are the odds to win the College World Series from the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook:
Oregon State: 3/1
Florida: 6/1
LSU: 3/1
Louisville: 4/1
Florida State: 6/1
TCU: 8/1
Cal State Fullerton: 10/1
Texas A&M:12/1

Don’t fret if your team is one of the lower ones on the screen here. Keep in mind that Coastal Carolina came to Omaha last season with the sixth worst odds, at 8/1, and ended up winning it all. And by the way, Arizona had the second-to-worst odds at 12/1 and came within a single in the ninth inning of winning it all. Also, don’t get all boastful OSU and UofF, last year’s two favorites, the Gators (9/5 odds) and Miami (5/1 odds) were the first two teams to pack it up and go home with an 0-2 mark.

– Five National Seeds have advanced to this year’s College World Series.
That’s the most National Seeds advancing to the CWS since 2011, when six made it. Since the National Seeds were introduced in 1999 with the expanded field of 64 teams, 57% – 86 of 152 – have reached the CWS. But that number has dropped recently, in the last eight seasons only 47% – 30 of 64 – have made it to Omaha.

Eleven of the last 13 National Champions have been non-National Seeds.

– The last time a National Seed won the national title was South Carolina in 2011.
2012: Unseeded Arizona won the title.
2013: Unseeded UCLA won the title.
2014: Unseeded Vanderbilt won the title.
2015: Unseeded Virginia won the title.
2016: Unseeded Coastal Carolina won the title.

Of those previous five National Champions, Virginia was a No. 3 seed in the Lake Elsinore Regional and Coastal Carolina was a No. 2 seed in the Raleigh Regional. All the others were unseeded No. 1 seeds.

– Five conferences will be represented in Omaha this year.
SEC: LSU, Florida, Texas A&M
ACC: Louisville, Florida State
Big 12: TCU
Pac 12: Oregon State
Big West: Cal State Fullerton

– Big West bigger than their bark
Though the big monsters like the SEC, ACC and Big 12 are used to sending teams to Omaha every year, the Big West is one mid-major that has been on a streak of runs to Omaha. Cal State Fullerton’s inclusion in the field of eight this year makes the fourth straight year that the Big West has a team here. In 2014 UC Irvine was one of the “last four in” to the NCAA Tournament but won its way to Omaha. In 2015, Cal State Fullerton won its way to Omaha. In 2016, UC Santa Barbara made its first foray into the CWS, going 1-2.

– The big states are represented again.
In this year’s field, teams from Florida, Texas and California are all represented in the field of eight.
The last time a CWS was played without a team from Florida was in 2014.
The last time a CWS was played without a team from Texas was in 2013.
The last time a CWS was played without a team from California was in 2005.
The last time a CWS was played without a team from Florida, Texas or California? 1976

That year, the field of eight for Omaha was:
Clemson
Auburn
Eastern Michigan
Maine
Arizona
Arizona State
Washington State
Oklahoma

– Super Regional domination by home teams
This past weekend the hosts went an impressive 15-3 in winning seven of the eight series. The only home team to lose was Long Beach State, and considering they were playing Big West rival Cal State Fullerton, that’s not a big shock. The only other Super Regional series to even go three games was Florida beating Wake Forest.

– In case you’re wondering, yes home runs ARE up this year.
As I touched on in last week’s OTTOMH, the home run totals for this year’s NCAA tournament are on a heavy upswing. Here are the totals for the last few years…
2017: 231
2016: 217
2015: 150
2014: 87
2013: 110
2012: 139
2011: 159
2010: 385

– Trying to erase the pain
A majority of the teams will come to Omaha after not having very good experiences the last time they were here. Here are the ones who are looking to make amends for their previous appearance.

Florida, 2016:
As the only representative of the SEC and the No. 1 overall seed a year ago, the Gators ended up faceplanting with a quick 0-2 exit, dropping games to Coastal Carolina and Texas Tech in short order.

Cal State Fullerton, 2015:
The Titans went 0-and-2 vs. heavily favored Vanderbilt and LSU, but the painful part was staking out a 3-0 and 3-1 lead on the two SEC heavies, only to see them lose 4-3 and 5-3 respectively. The Vandy game was particularly painful as the Titans had staff ace Thomas Eshelman rolling, until the rains came. The game was continued the next morning and Vandy rallied against the Titans relief staff.

LSU, 2015:
For a team that came in with a 53-10 mark the Tigers were mostly toothless in Omaha that year. Both of their losses were to TCU, but neither was close as they dropped 10-3 and 8-4 decisions.

Louisville, 2014:
Nothing compares to the pain the Cardinals have experienced in the last two Super Regionals, but their visits to Omaha have all been a big hurt as well, having won just once, a 12-4 win over Mississippi State in a loser’s bracket game in 2007.

Texas A&M, 2011
The Aggies have a pretty awful 2-10 overall record in the CWS, and last time was pretty bad, losing by a single run to eventual national champion South Carolina and then losing 7-3 to Cal. The last Aggies win came in 1993 vs. Kansas.

– For you millennials out there. 
Think about this, for those of you who are 40 or younger, Florida State has been in the NCAA tournament for each and every season you have been alive. And Cal State Fullerton has missed just four NCAA tournaments since becoming a D1 program in 1975. Those are two pretty impressive nuggets of knowledge for two of the teams that made the College World Series field of eight this year.

Also, if you’re 25 or younger, an SEC team has been in the College World Series since you were born. The last time a CWS was played without an SEC team? 1992.

– Weather. Damn that weather. 
I’ve complained about this before… well, make that a lot. The weather in Omaha always has the potential to be nasty, sticky, hot freaking mess. It’s my worst nightmare. Especially after last week’s glorious visit to Corvallis for the Super Regionals where the temps got down into the high-50s by the end of both games. Sure enough, the forecast for the next few days looks like a broiler. Possibly a little break on Sunday, but things are going to be unbearable by Tuesday with mid-90s heat. Here is what we’re looking at over the next few days…

– Waiting for the drunken Gen Ad field jumpers.
This is almost troubling. The last two years we have gone through the entire College World Series without having anyone from General Admission areas in the outfield force a stoppage in play due to running on the field while a game is going on. Hmmm… it’s especially curious since last year was the first year where they allowed for beer and wine sales in TD Ameritrade Park. Hey Gen Ad, I think you guys are due.

And of course I will try to get pictures of the security guards’ form tackle on them… unless it is a girl, then they just politely ask her to walk off the field.

– Let’s Go
The number of times a player has yelled “Let’s Go!” after making a big hit or a big strikeout during the Regionals and Super Regionals is 5,387. I’m sure that number will be nearly doubled after this week in Omaha.

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