The College World Series begins on Saturday with the nation’s final eight teams playing a double elimination tournament for a spot in the best-of-three finals. The teams are split into two brackets, and over two posts, I’ll preview each bracket.
Bracket 1: TCU, Florida State, Florida, UCLA.
Texas Christian: Dominated their hosted regional by beating each team (Lamar, Arizona and Baylor), outscoring their opponents 36-8 on the weekend. In the Super Regional, TCU stunned Texas in Austin, holding the Longhorns to one run in games one and three.
How They Got Here
Highest Drafted Player: Bryan Holaday, C, Detroit Tigers, 193rd overall.
Best Prospect: Matt Purke, LHP, So.
Florida State: Undeterred despite traveling to Connecticut for their regional, Florida State went 3-0 to sweep the regional, twice beating Oregon by two runs to reach the next round. They hosted Vanderbilt last weekend and won in three games, despite being outscored 20-18 by the Commodores.
Highest Drafted Player: John Gast, LHP, St. Louis Cardinals, 199th overall.
How They Got Here
Best Prospect: James Ramsey, of, So. or Sean Gilmartin, lhp, So.
Florida: The Gators are a perfect 5-0 in the postseason, and have yet to allow an opponent to score more than three runs. Over those five games, the Gators have scored a total of 43 runs.
Highest Drafted Player: Kevin Chapman, LHP, Kansas City Royals, 119th overall.
How They Got Here
Best Prospect: Preston Tucker, 1B, So.
UCLA: The Bruins faced no easy road getting here, but swept a regional in the mix for Regional of Death: LSU, UC Irvine, and Kent State. In the Super Regional, they came back numerous times against Cal State Fullerton, most notably scoring seven times in innings 8-10 to win Game Two 11-7.
How they got here
Highest Drafted Player: Rob Rasmussen, LHP, Florida Marlins, 73rd overall.
Best Prospect: Gerrit Cole, RHP, So.
After the jump, I wax free-form about how this bracket might go.
If you couldn’t tell, Omaha natives will not see a lot of the 2010 Draft’s best talent from this bracket, with no first rounders among these four teams. The weekend, however, will serve as a preview of the 2011 draft’s best, including Cole and Purke, profiled in last week’s 2011 Draft Preview.
The bracket also has three teams that have been mentioned all year long as the most pitching-deep programs in Division I: TCU, Florida, and UCLA, which would suggest that Florida State has the steepest climb, though what they lack in prospect power and pitching depth they make up for with offensive experience. Florida State is a team that has always known what they have to do: score six or more runs — they lost just five times this season when accomplishing that feat.
Regardless of which ace TCU or UCLA choose to use in their opening games (against FSU and Florida, respectively), both teams will be favored to win. I would think, for my money, they choose 2011 likely top-five picks Purke and Cole,which would leave the two Sunshine State teams battling in the loser’s bracket, and I have to say, as deep as the Florida pitching staff looks, I don’t think they have anyone capable of shutting down the Seminoles offense. As good as this Florida team is, I see them being the first eliminated.
In the winner’s bracket, it would be prudent to mention that UCLA’s most consistent hitter, sophomore infielder Tyler Rahmatulla, broke his hand in the dogpile celebration after the Super Regional. He will not play in Omaha, which leaves the Bruins with just three players that eclipsed a .500 slugging percentage. The injury leaves the Bruins as even more of a West Coast team: surviving on good defense, great pitching, and the walks/singles-and-steals offensive mentality. But this year, it might be enough, because Cole, Rasmussen, and Trevor Bauer are fantastic starters, and Erik Goeddel and Dan Klein have everything you need to close out a game.
It’s weird to say this in college baseball, but this time, offense might not matter much. TCU is a little better than UCLA in that regard — the Bruins don’t have a guy like Jason Coats, for instance — but I have more faith in Bauer than I do Winkler. The battles between the Bruins and Horned Frogs could be epic, but I like UCLA to come out of Bracket 1.