After five months of baseball action, the 2021 college season will culminate in Omaha. Following two year’s absence, the CWS returns to the state of Nebraska. Eight of baseball’s best teams will square off for the right to be named the National Champions. Below is a preview of each of the teams, as well as their tools and their path to College Baseball History.
Bracket #1: Vanderbilt
The tournament’s number four overall seed, and the reigning national champions are the Vanderbilt Commodores. Holding a 45-15 record, Vanderbilt enters the tournament on the back of a two game series sweep of their Super Regional opponent East Carolina. The biggest strength of the Commodores is their pitching, behind the performances of Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter. Kumar Rocker, the likely number one pick in the upcoming MLB draft, is the Dore’s ace. Boasting a 2.43 ERA and 13-3 record, Rocker has shut down nearly every opponent that comes his way. Rocker’s skills combined with Vandy’s #2 starter Jack Leiter, Son of former MLB pitcher Al, makes for a dangerous 1-2 punch that has the potential to do serious damage in the CWS.
Dominic Keegan and Enrique Bradfield Jr. are the star batters for Vanderbilt, both of whom have batting averages over .350. Vanderbilt has the tools to go very far in the playoffs. They will look to do it when they open their run against Arizona on Saturday Night.
Bracket #1: Arizona
Battling Vanderbilt are the Wildcats out of Arizona. Arizona is a fitting foe for their first round adversaries given the offensive firepower they bring to the table. After posting 26 runs in three games over Ole Miss, Arizona finds themselves just a few steps away from the national championship. Arizona has multiple 10 HR hitters that have allowed them to average nearly 10 runs a game. However, even with the offensive strengths the Wildcats have, Arizona finds themselves in deep water. The Wildcat’s #1 starter has an 8.22 record in the NCAA tournament, and the team in general holds a 4.32 ERA on the season. In a bracket that holds many teams with the potential to put up a 10 spot, Arizona has a lot of work to do on the mound if they want to go far.
Bracket #1: Stanford
No team dominated the Super Regionals like Stanford who enter the tournament as the #9 seed. The Cardinal of Stanford enter Omaha after crushing national seed Texas Tech in back to back games on the road. Offense is the M.O. for the Cardinal, however pitching has also put them in a good enough position to last this long. One of the biggest things for the Cardinal is their strength throughout the entire lineup. While Stanford only has a couple of .300 hitters, the Cardinal manage to bring it every game and pose themselves as a threat to the CWS field. They start the tournament off Saturday afternoon vs NC state.
Bracket #1: North Carolina State
Before last week, everyone assumed that this bracket spot would belong to Arkansas. However, following back to back huge upsets, North Carolina State has become the tournament’s biggest story. Jose Torres and Jonny Butler have been the Wolfpack’s heroes who have propelled them this far. Before the Wolfpack turned things around, NC State lost 8 of their first 9 conference games. Since then, NC State has come alive. Subsequently, this theme was seen in their Super Regional. After getting trounced 21-2, NC State bounced back and defeated Arkansas in back to back games, something done by no other school this season. The Wolfpack’s statistics are quiet in the box scores, but they have proven they can make noise in the CWS.
Bracket #2: Texas
The highest remaining seed in the NCAA tournament is Texas. The Longhorns come in as the #2 National Seed behind the back of a tough overall team. After starting the season 0- 3, Texas dominated both conference, non-conference, and NCAA Tournament action. While the Texas offense produces in spades, the statistical beats are on the Longhorn pitching staff. Ty Madden, Cole Quintanilla, and Pete Hansen all have on the mound and thus garnered many national accolades as a result. This Longhorn team is dangerous and will have a chance at winning it all if they can get through their bracket. Texas opens their Omaha stint when they take on Mississippi State in a rematch of their season opener on Sunday Night.
Bracket #2: Mississippi State
After competing in the most intense Super Regional this year, Mississippi state enter the CWS eyeing their first ever National Championship. The Bulldogs go as their offense goes, and that offense has been hot as of late. Tanner Allen, the SEC Player of the Year, has led the Dogs at the plate and in the dugout. Allen’s .392 BA stands out among a strong 1-9 lineup. Other Dogs like Rowdey Jordan and Josh Hatcher have also shown out at the dish, making every man a threat. On the mound, MSU rests on the shoulders of both their key starters as well as key closer Landon Sims. Will Bednar and Christian MacLeod, MSU’s 1-2 starting punch, has oddly enough pitched significantly better on the road than at home which sets up nicely for the Bulldog club. Landon Sims has dominated in relief for MSU, posting 85 strikeouts in his 45 innings of work. The Bulldogs are poised to make a run, but will first have to get through Texas.
Bracket #2: Tennessee
Tony Vitello’s Volunteers find themselves undefeated in the NCAA tournament heading into Omaha. Wins over tough teams in Liberty and LSU have shown Tennessee’s grit and determination. While the Vols don’t hit for average, they do hit for power with three 15 HR hitters. Batters like Pete Derkay and Evan Russell set the table for the Vol lineup and for the Tennessee pitching staff to shut the door. Tony Vitello has gotten the Volunteers playing with a lot of passion and zeal, which makes for a tough out in College Baseball. If any team wants to take down the Vols, they will have to fight against a ballclub who has a ton of energy and excitement to be there. The #3 National Seed starts the tournament against Virginia on Sunday afternoon.
Bracket #2: Virginia
Virginia enters Omaha as the lowest overall seed in the tournament. After winning their regional as the #3 seed, the Cavaliers then has to take 2 of 3 from a tough Dallas Baptist ball club. Virginia lost both opening games of their first two playoff rounds, and has since won six elimination games in the NCAA Tournament alone. While most other teams in this article have some hard stat lines backing their credentials in Omaha, that simply is not there for the Cavs. That being said, Virginia has proven just like every other team that they deserve to be in the NCAA tournament. This Cavalier team has had their backs against the wall countless times this season, and has fought all the way to the grandest stage. It would be a foolish decision to count out Virginia in making a run for it all.