Question of the Day: Which team will win the College World Series?
Writers from around the Tribune Co. discuss the College World Series. Check back throughout the day for more responses and weigh in with a comment of your own.
Chris Foster, Los Angeles Times
First, a shout-out to the California Golden Bears, who have kept the College World Series from being the National Championship of the Confederacy. But the Bears will be gone quickly.
In the end, USC will bring home another title … relax UCLA fans, that’s the other USC, South Carolina.
The Gamecocks went through all the trials a defending champion faces in trying to repeat, and came out stronger for it (are you listening, Lakers?). They went 19-6 in the Southeastern Conference after a difficult 2-1 loss to Florida on March 26. They have the pitching depth necessary to win this double elimination.
Dom Amore, Hartford Courant
For several years, Vanderbilt has had the reputation of being "the best team never to make the College World Series." Those ghosts are gone now, after Vanderbilt swept Oregon State to reach Omaha for the first time.
And now that they're there, the Commodores are primed to win.
Vanderbilt was ranked No. 1 for long parts of the season, but, of course, the length of the season and the top-to-bottom quality of the SEC makes running the table impossible. Like other SEC teams in the College World Series, the Commodores (52-10) are battle tested.
More important, they have the ingredients. Their lineup, with Jason Esposito, Mike Yastrzemski and Curt Casali in the middle, is tough to get through. They hit .319 as a team. On the pitching side, they have the combo of quality and quantity it takes, with a 2.38 staff ERA and aces Sonny Gray (12-3, 1.97) and Grayson Garvin (13-1, 2.36). Vanderbilt had 12 players drafted last week, so the level of talent here is unquestionable.
Finally, the Commodores are hot -- 5-0 in the NCAA tournament without breaking a sweat, outscoring opponents 46-7. It hasn't happened overnight, or without disappointments along the way, but Vanderbilt's time has come.
Coley Harvey, Orlando Sentinel
It may be the most overused cliché in all of baseball, but at the College World Series, it will ring true: Pitching will win a championship.
But for which team? Florida? Vanderbilt? Virginia? Texas A&M? I’d put my safe money on the Gators and my gambling bucks on the Aggies.
Despite losing No. 2 starter Brian Johnson to a freak injury in the SEC tournament, Florida’s young staff brings a 3.01 team ERA to Omaha. Sophomore Hudson Randall is 10-3 while freshman Kartsen Whitson is 8-0.
Fresh off wins over Arizona and Florida State and their high-octane offenses in the Regional and Super Regional, Texas A&M is taking two starters to the World Series who each have sub-2.30 ERAs.
Don’t be surprised if the Aggies get past defending national champion South Carolina on that side of the bracket. If they do, an arms race with the Gators looms in the final.
David Teel, Newport News Daily Press
Others can parse Cal’s bullpen, Florida’s rotation and Texas’ OPS. This is about karma and first-hand observation.
Virginia was down to its last strike in the Super Regionals against UC Irvine. The Cavaliers trailed by one, had no one on base and appeared overmatched by Matt Summers’ BBs. Three singles and a walk later, Virginia was headed to Omaha for the second time in three years, shortstop Chris Taylor lacing a two-run, walk-off single.
And that’s been the Cavaliers’ MO all season: extraordinarily clutch hitting and stingy pitching (ace Danny Hultzen went No. 2 in the major league draft to Seattle). That’s why they’re a national-best 54-10 and the tournament’s No. 1 seed. And that’s why they’ll become the first ACC team since Wake Forest in 1955 to win the College World Series.
Photo: South Carolina players celebrate after defeating Connecticut, 8-2, on Sunday. Credit: Willis Glassgow / Associated Press