For the 67th time, the NCAA will hold the College World Series, but this time, it’s in the brand new TD Ameritrade Park. But don’t worry, it’s still in Omaha, Nebraska.
Rosenblatt may be gone, but its memory lives on as host to some of the best baseball around, a rich history. Those lucky enough to attend a game at Rosenblatt love the atmosphere and the history, where guys like Terry Francona, Larry Walker, Pat Burrell and Rod Dedeuax roamed.
College baseball has seen a slight rise of popularity in the past decade, due mostly to expanded media coverage and more money for programs. More athletes are recognized in the college ranks in the baseball world, primarily through the College World Series. Plenty of ball players are still drafted out of high school, skipping college, but more are going to school. This year has no shortage of potential talent, and excellent pitching.
The 2011 College World Series should be a part of your summer sports television lineup, if it wasn’t already. 3 North Carolina, 6 Vanderbilt, 2 Florida, 7 Texas, Cal, 1 Virginia, 4 South Carolina, and Texas A&M are the World Series teams, a mix of blue bloods and newcomers. Virginia, the #1 national seed cruised through the regionals and super regionals, while Cal, a sleeper team from the Pac 10, took over the Houston regional and beat Dallas Baptist for a spot. Every team is a one seed, except for Cal, but many are new to the college post season. The CWS is double elimination in bracket play, and then a best of three championship series.
North Carolina Tar Heels
2011 Record: 50-14, 20-10 in ACC, 3rd in the ACC Coastal Division
Hosted and won both the Chapel Hill Regional and Super Regional
CWS Appearances: 9 (1960, 1966, 1978, 1989, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011)
CWS Titles: 0
MLB Notables: Dustin Ackley, BJ Surhoff, Chris Ianetta
Drafted Players: SS Levi Michael (Twins 30th), RHP Greg Holt (National 247th)
Batting Leaders: BA- .335 Colin Moran (FR, IF), HR- 9 Colin Moran (FR, IF), RBI- 69 Colin Moran (FR, IF)
Pitching Leaders: W- 13-1 Patrick Johnson (SR, RHP), ERA- 2.27 Patrick Johnson (SR, RHP), K- 120 Patrick Johnson (SR, RHP)
Young team with excellent pitching, defense carried the Tar Heels for the most of the season and has been instrumental in their CWS run. Their offense is nothing to scoff at, young bats will have to step up in the first game against Vanderbilt.
2011 Record: 52-10, 22-8 in SEC, 3rd in the SEC Eastern Division
Hosted and won both the Nashville Regional and Super Regional
CWS Appearances: 1 (2011) CWS Titles: 0
MLB Notables: David Price, Pedro Alvarez, Mike Minor
Drafted Players: RHP Sonny Gray (A’s 18th), LHP Grayson Garvin (57th Rays), 3B Jason Esposito (64th Orioles), RHP Jack Armstrong (99th Astros), 1B Aaron Westlake (106th Tigers), LHP Corey Williams (117th Twins), RHP David Hill (187th Nationals), RHP Mark Lamm (206th Braves), C Curtis Casali (317th Tigers), RHP Navery Moore (446th Braves), RHP William Clinard (928th Twins), OF Joseph Loftus (1384th Diamondbacks)
Batting Leaders: BA- .357 Jason Esposito (JR, IF), HR- 17 Aaron Westlake (JR, 1B), RBI- 59 Jason Esposito (JR, IF)
Pitching Leaders: W- 13-1 Grayson Garvin (JR, LHP), ERA- 1.21 Navery Moore (JR, RHP), K- 119 Sonny Gray (JR, RHP)
All-around solid ball club with two big time starters and an excellent pitching depth. Offense is powered by Westlake and Carl Yastrzemski’s grandson Mike Yastrzemski, especially in the postseason. If their pitching is on target, look for Vandy to excel in the CWS, starting in the first game against UNC.
2011 Record: 50-17, 22-8 in SEC, 2nd in the SEC Eastern Division
Hosted and won both the Gainseville Regional and Super Regional
CWS Appearances: 7 (1988, 1991, 1996, 1998, 2005, 2010, 2011) CWS Titles: 0
MLB Notables: David Eckstein, Mark Ellis, Matt LaPorta, Al Rosen
Drafted Players: LHP Nick Maronde (104th Angels), RHP Anthony DeSclafani (199th Blue Jays), LHP Alex Panteliodis (282nd Mets), RHP Thomas Toledo (341st Brewers), 1B Preston Tucker (498th Rockies), C Ben McMahan (701st Brewers), RHP Matt Campbell (751st Phillies), CF Tyler Thompson (1387th Nationals)
Batting Leaders: BA- .376 Mike Zunino (SO, C), HR- 18 Mike Zunino (SO, C), RBI- 68 Preston Tucker (JR, UTL)
Pitching Leaders: W- 10-3 Hudson Randall (SO, RHP), ERA- 1.72 Steven Rodriguez (SO, LHP), K- 83 Karsten Whitson (FR, RHP)
Always a strong unit, the Gators rely more on offense, but have above average pitching. The entire staff goes through ups and downs, which could hurt in a very defensive CWS. Keep and eye on freshman RHP Karsten Whitson, drafted early 1st round last year but opted to go to school, whose stuff is filthy. They start the CWS against Texas
2011 Record: 49-17, 19-8 in Big XII, Conference Champions
Hosted and won both the Austin Regional and Super Regional
CWS Appearances: 34 (1949, 1950, 1952, 1953, 1957, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1989, 1992, 1993, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2009, 2011) CWS Titles: 6 (1949, 1950, 1975, 1983, 2002, 2005)
MLB Notables: Roger Clemens, Huston Street, Drew Stubbs
Drafted Players: RHP Taylor Jungmann (12th Brewers), LHP Sam Stafford (88th Yankees), SS Brandon Loy (167th Tigers), RHP Cole Green (295th Reds), LHP Andrew McKirahan (639th Cubs), 1B Tant Shepherd (732rd Mets), RHP Kevin Dicharry (1261st Phillies), C Kevin Lusson (1380th Rays)
Batting Leaders: BA- .358 Erich Weiss (FR, IF), HR- 5 Tant Shepherd (SR, IF), RBI- 44 Erich Weiss (FR, IF)
Pitching Leaders: W- 13-2 Taylor Jungmann (JR, RHP), ERA- 1.15 Corey Knebel (FR, RHP), K- 123 Taylor Jungmann (JR, RHP)
Texas has been plagued by the new college bats, in a power drought, but the pitching staff is one of their best of all time. Jungmann is a star, and the other starters are winners. Pitching will determine how far Texas can go, starting with Florida.
2011 Record: 37-21, 13-13 in Pac 10, 6th in the Pac 10
3 seed won the Fort Worth Regional and the Santa Clara Super Regional
CWS Appearances: 6 (1947, 1957, 1980, 1988, 1992, 2011) CWS Titles: 2 (1947, 1957)
MLB Notables: Jeff Kent, Bob Melvin, Xavier Nady, Conor Jackson
Drafted Players: RHP Erik Johnson (80th White Sox), SS Marcus Semien (201st White Sox), RHP Dixon Anderson (277th Nationals)
Batting Leaders: BA- .335 Tony Renda (SO, IF), HR- 7 Chad Bunting (JR, UTL), RBI- 42 Tony Renda (SO, IF)
Pitching Leaders: W- 9-6 Justin Jones (SO, LHP), ERA- 1.59 Kyle Porter (FR, LHP), K- 100 Erik Johnson (JR, RHP)
Cal, well, they stunned the college baseball world. No one expected them here, and now they are gaining the underdog fans. A well rounded team, doesn’t do anything spectacular, but they are getting the job done. They will have to battle to stay alive, the begin versus #1 overall Virginia.
2011 Record: 54-10, 22-8 in ACC, 1st in Coastal Division and ACC Champions
Hosted and won both the Charlottesville Regional and Super Regional
CWS Appearances: 2 (2009, 2011) CWS Titles: 0
MLB Notables: Eppa Rixey, Ryan Zimmerman, Mark Reynolds
Drafted Players: LHP Danny Hultzen (2nd Mariners), C John Hicks (123rd Mariners), RHP Will Roberts (158th Indians), 3B Steven Proscia (213th Mariners), RHP Philip Wilson (305th Orioles), C Kenneth Swab (636th Royals), RHP Cody Winiarski (1101st White Sox)
Batting Leaders: BA- .366 David Coleman (SR, OF), HR- 8 Steven Proscia (JR, IF), RBI- 58 Steven Proscia (JR, IF)
Pitching Leaders: W- 12-3 Danny Hultzen (JR, LHP), ERA- 1.49 Danny Hultzen (JR, LHP), K- 151 Danny Hultzen (JR, LHP)
A dominant team, which has held down the nations #1 spot in the rankings the entire year, the Cavaliers are very good, but not unstoppable–but close. Hultzen leads a ridiculous pitching staff, and the offense has excellent depth. The team has experience, and talent. Only way to beat the Cavs is by jumping on the pitching staff and score–a lot. They start out with Cal.
South Carolina Gamecocks
2011 Record: 54-10, 22-8 in SEC, 2nd in SEC East Division
Hosted and won both the Columbia Regional and Super Regional
CWS Appearances: 10 (1975, 1977, 1981, 1982, 1985, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2010, 2011) CWS Titles: 1 (2010)
MLB Notables: Adam Everett, Landon Powell, Justin Smoak
Drafted Players: OF Jackie Bradley (40th Red Sox), RHP Matt Price (184th Diamondbacks), SS Peter Mooney (649th Blue Jays), OF Adam Matthews (695th Orioles), LHP Bryan Harper (907th Nationals), LHP Steven Neff (1257th Giants), LHP Jon Webb (1465th Reds)
Batting Leaders: BA- .359 Christian Walker (SO, IF), HR- 10 Christian Walker (SO, IF), RBI- 60 Christian Walker (SO, IF)
Pitching Leaders: W- 13-3 Michael Roth (JR, LHP), ERA- 1.02 Michael Roth (JR, LHP), K- 95 Michael Roth (JR, LHP)
The defending National Champs are back, complete with last years CWS MVP Jackie Bradley Jr. USCeast has another strong team, also lead by pitching. The offense is even strong, leading me to think they will be hard to beat. If the Gamecock pitchers are getting outs, look out. South Carolina leads off against Texas A&M
Texas A&M Aggies
2011 Record: 47-20, 19-8 Big XII, 2nd in the Big XII
Hosted and won the College Station Regional and won the Tallahassee Super Regional
CWS Appearances: 5 (1951, 1964, 1993, 1999, 2011) CWS Titles: 0
MLB Notables: Chuck Knoblauch, Cliff Pennington
Drafted Players: RHP John Stilson (108th Blue Jays), RHP Thomas Stripling (288th Rockies), RHP Nickolas Fleece (415th Reds), RHP Adam Smith (779th Yankees), RHP Brandon Parrent (921st White Sox), C Kevin Gonzalez (1090th Astros), RHP Steven Martin (1120th Astros)
Batting Leaders: BA- .390 Tyler Naquin (SO, OF), HR- 7 Matt Juengel (JR, IF), RBI- 49 Matt Juengel (JR, IF) & Jacob House (JR, UTL)
Pitching Leaders: W- 14-2 Ross Stripling (JR, RHP), ERA- 1.68 John Stilson (JR, RHP), K- 110 Michael Wacha (SO, RHP)
The Aggies silently floated into the CWS defeating a good Florida State team to get here. The pitching staff is a strong point (surprise), but the offense may struggle at times. They are a scrappy team, almost feast or famine, but they’ve been lucky enough to feast most of the year. They will be hungry and will battle hard, starting off against the defending champs, South Carolina.
This College World Series will definitely be interesting; it’s the first year with the new, less bouncy aluminum bats (reason for the low homerun numbers and stud pitching numbers), and the new stadium. Scores will be low and pitchers will need to stay on the mark for all 9 innings, for letting up just one big inning could hurt any of these teams.
I see it coming down to Vanderbilt and Virginia, two strong, all-around teams whose bats can sustain a long enough run to win it all. Hultzen and Gray will be the headliner pitchers, their performances the turning point of the Championship Series, but the real test will be in the 2 and 3 starters for both. Who can keep the runs off of the scoreboard. Ultimately, Virginia will win it all, the second year in a row an team wins its first title. Hultzen will become a household name for his work on the mound, and Yaz 2.0 (Mike Yastrzemski) will capture a large audience as he performs well for Vanderbilt. Virginia has been good enough to be #1 all year, and rarely do I chose that season long #1 to win it all, but UVA has been consistently too good, they’re only misstep was against Miami in the regular season (you should know me, have to plug the Canes).
Sit down and watch starting Saturday, June 16th, live on ESPN. And if you chose to watch only a little, the championship series will surely be a dandy. It’s college baseball baby, and it’s hit the boiling point–let’s get it on!
Michael Schwartz is a staff writer for Home Field Advantage