Five Locks For Omaha, 2018

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Yes, yes, we all know this is a foolhardy pursuit, right? C’mon, there really are no “locks” to get to the Field of Eight in Omaha here in the month of February. Not in this day and age of 11.7 scholarships, increased visibility and everybody building good facilities. But if you went to a certain neon-glitzy town situated in the middle of the Western desert and wanted to put your mortgage note on a team right now that you think will make it to the College World Series, then there are five teams you should certainly keep your eye on.

But before you send the guys with the straightjackets to come subdue me, keep in mind that these were my five locks for Omaha last February: TCU, LSU, Florida, Florida State and Fullerton. Five up. Five in. I guess that’s what you get when the NCAA tournament sees an inordinate amount of favorites win their way to the promised land.

So for this time around, these are the five I’m banking on…

– Florida. 
Could this be the biggest no-brainer in college baseball? Everybody and their embarrassing uncle at Thanksgiving are touting the Gators for a return to TD Ameritrade. And you can’t blame the masses for thinking that way since the rotation of Brady Singer, Jackson Kowar and Tyler Dyson could be the nation’s best. Oh and having a dominant fireballer like Michael Byrne behind them means every lead is safe. And of course, a post-season run like last year is an intangible that can’t be measured.

Caveat: The bigger target.
What if the pressure of an even bigger target on the backs of the national champions makes this team crumble under the weight? The rigors of the SEC have a knack of doing that.

– Oregon State.
Nobody was more dominant last season. I mean, who goes to Omaha with a 54-4 record in this day and age? Ridiculous. But don’t blink, because the Beavers are stocked for a return engagement with that town in the Heartland. All American candidates dot the roster, especially in the potential of Luke Heimlich and Bryce Fehmel on the mound and gloves like 2B Nick Madrigal and SS Cadyn Grenier.

Caveat: If the off-field stuff rears its ugly head.
The Beavers had a set of off-field issues come around at the worst time last year when Luke Heimlich and Christian Donahue did not play in Omaha. Clean up the off-field antics fellas.

– TCU.
To be fair, the Horned Frogs might be the best bet of anyone in college baseball. Four straight years now the Purple Gang has made it to the promised land. And each of those years they have inched closer and closer to winning the big brass ring. These guys are post-season veterans now, so don’t bet against them in June.

Caveat: If the bats go lame.
Luken Baker is back, but the Frogs lost a bunch of quality sticks that protected him. So the offense will be under the microscope for sure.

– Florida State.
Talk about old pros at knowing how to get to Omaha. Mike Martin’s charges have made the trip to the CWS 16 times. With the weekend rotation still intact and more than enough offense, all that’s missing is a nice home Regional and Super Regional to get them to the promised land.

Caveat: If the ‘Noles revert to their favorites form.
Last year was nearly an exception as the ’Noles have been notorious underachievers in the post-season past when playing at home. Don’t let the old ghosts return guys.

Mike Martin is nearing 2,000 career wins and has great talent surrounding him.

– North Carolina.
I am a little less confident of this pick, but you have to admit, after missing the NCAAs in 2016 and then getting stunned by Davidson in the Regionals in 2017, nobody will be more motivated this June than coach Mike Fox and his Tar Heels.

Caveat: If there is a lack of leadership.
The Heels didn’t lose a lot of personnel from last year, but their losses were big in ace JB Bukauskas, SS Logan Warmth and CF Brian Miller.

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