Legends On Deck

College World Series Preview 2019

The baseball world turns to Omaha, Nebraska this weekend as the 72nd annual College World Series comes to town.  Like many sports fans who grew up in the North, College Baseball always seemed seemed like an afterthought to the high profile collegiate sports like football and basketball.  MLB was the only baseball that mattered.

There are several explanations for this.  The MLB Draft selects players from both high school and college who may not see time in the Big Leagues (if at all) for several years.  The path to the pros is very different than in the NFL or NBA, where high profile college athletes selected in the First Round of their respective drafts, often become immediate stars in their professional sport.  Baker Mayfield earned his spot as the starting Quarterback for the Cleveland Browns in 2018, just several months after being selected #1 overall in the NFL Draft.  Casey Mize, drafted #1 overall by the Detroit Tigers in 2018, threw a no-hitter for the Erie Seawolves last month, but may not even see an inning in the Majors this season.  

Another explanation is that College Baseball is largely a regional sport.  When you look at the schools dominating the sport in the last several decades, you will notice a trend.  Schools from the Northeast and Midwest are almost nowhere to be seen. The Michigan Wolverines find themselves in the College World Series this year for the first time since 1984.  The last Big Ten school in the CWS was Indiana in 2013. Weather plays a key factor in both recruiting and conditions of play. This has resulted in the Southern and Western dominance in College Baseball for the past several decades.  

This has also been the catalyst for my interest in the college game.  Living in Florida has allowed me to look at the college game in a whole new way.  Florida, Florida State and Miami are among the premiere programs in College Baseball.  Mid-Majors like Stetson and FAU have seen recent success. The recruiting baseball talent is simply richer than any state (per capita) in the country.  

If you are tuning into the College World Series for the first time (and you are someone like me) you may want a college baseball crash course to get your up to speed.  In terms of books, I strongly recommend The Road to Omaha by Ryan McGee.  This book paints a picture of the Omaha landscape, the traditions, rivalries and moments that makes the CWS so unique.  Check out Thunder and Lightning, an ESPN 30/30 documentary on the college careers of Will Clark and Rafael Palmerio at Mississippi State.  And for a full rundown on the teams and players in action this week, I really like the podcast, 11Point7.  

MLB has bought in to Omaha this year as well.  The Kansas City Royals will play host to the Detroit Tigers on Thursday at TD Ameritrade Ballpark.  College World Series action begins this Saturday.  Here’s a quick look at the Omaha 8:

Arkansas Razorbacks (SEC)

Overall Ranking: #5

Record: 46-18

Players to watch: Dominic Fletcher (OF), Isiah Campbell (P), Jack Kenley (SS), Matt Cronin (P)

Interesting fact:  Arkansas appears in 10th CWS and was runner up in 2018 to Oregon State. They have never won a National Title.  

Auburn Tigers (SEC)

Overall Ranking: Not ranked 

Record: 38-26

Players to watch: Will Holland (SS), Davis Daniel (P)

Interesting fact:  Auburn enters their 5th CWS appearance, but has not won a National Title.  

Florida State Seminoles (ACC)

Overall Ranking: Not ranked

Record: 41-21

Players to watch:  Drew Mendoza (3B), JC Flowers (P), Drew Parrish (P)

Interesting fact:  Florida State’s Head Coach, Mike Martin, is in his 40th season with FSU and is the all-time winningest coach in NCAA Baseball history.  He’s taken the Noles to the CWS 17 times (FSU has 23 total appearances), but has yet to capture  a National Championship.

Louisville Cardinals (ACC)

Overall Ranking: #7

Record: 49-16

Player(s) to watch: Logan Wyatt (1B), Michael McAvere (P), Nick Bennett (P)

Interesting fact:  Louisville enters the schools 5th appearance in the CWS, but still without a National Title.  

Michigan Wolverines (Big Ten)

Overall Ranking: Not ranked

Record: 46-20

Players to watch: Tommy Henry (P), Karl Kauffman (P), Jordan Brewer (CF)

Interesting fact:  Michigan has two National Championships (1953, 1962) and is entering their 8th CWS.  This is their first appearance since 1984.

Mississippi State Bulldogs (SEC)

Overall Ranking: #6

Record: 51-13

Players to watch: Ethan Small (P), Jake Magnum (CF), Colby White (P)

Interesting fact:  Mississippi State enters their 11th CWS, but remains without a National Championship,

Texas Tech Red Raiders (Big 12)

Overall Ranking: #8

Record: 44-18

Player(s) to watch:  Josh Jung (3B), Gabe Holt (P)

Interesting fact:  This is the 4th trip to Omaha for the Red Raiders, who have yet to capture a National Title.

Vanderbilt Commodores (SEC)

Overall Ranking: #2

Record: 54-11

Players to watch: JJ Bleday (OF), Drake Fellows (P)

Interesting fact:  Vanderbilt is traveling to Omaha for their 4th time and captured their first National Championship in 2014.

 

 

**Picture from Tallahassee Democrat 6/11/19

Brian Koss

Brian has been a contributing writer to Legends on Deck since April 2017. He’s a diehard Detroit Tigers fan, who grew up playing and following baseball in the suburbs of Detroit. He covers the Tigers and their farm system for LOD and also likes writing about the general state of baseball. Brian and his family reside in the suburbs of Orlando, where he enjoys coaching Little League and passing on his love of the game to the next generation.
Brian Koss
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