In a tournament that saw 64 hopeful teams slowly turn into eight, it has been an interesting trip to the College World Series.
Thirty-one Forgotten programs started in the regional round, a round that reduces 64 teams to the round of 16.
Of those 16 regionals, five teams won their four-team pod and advanced to the Super Regional round. First-time tournament participant Davidson, Big West rivals Long Beach State and Cal State Fullerton, Missouri Valley champs Missouri State, and Southland representative Sam Houston State all entered the round of 16 with a shot at Omaha.
Once the dust settled and the final eight teams punched their tickets to the College World Series, only Cal State Fullerton stood as a Forgotten representative. Their trip marked the 18th time the Titans made the CWS.
Also making the field of eight are Florida, Florida State, Louisville, LSU, Oregon State, TCU, and Texas A&M.
Let’s take a Forgotten look at the College World Series.
- What: An eight-team tournament to decide the college baseball national champion.
- Where: Omaha, Nebraska. TD Ameritrade Park.
- Format: Double Elimination until only two teams remain. Those two teams will then play a best of three series to be played over three days (same format as Super Regionals).
- Previous Champions: LSU (6x), Cal State Fullerton (4x), Oregon State (2x).
Cal State Fullerton (39-22, Big West):
The Titans are the only team we really care about. No stranger to college baseball’s top stage, Fullerton has the ability to win the whole damn tournament if they play like they did in the postseason so far. The Titans can go three starters deep on the mound (Connor Seabold, John Gavin, Colton Eastman) and have been very productive at the plate during regional and super regional rounds.
Player to watch: Chris Hudgins, Catcher. The junior has been excellent behind the plate but was only a .242 batter on the season. Since the postseason started, he has been on fire with a .400 batting average, two home runs, and six runs batted in. His on-base percentage in the postseason is over .200 higher than during the regular season. If Hudgins continues to swing the bat well, the Titans could be holding the championship trophy in the end.
Oregon State (54-4, Pac-12):
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room right now. Luke Heimlich will not be at the tournament, so let’s just move on from that situation. The Beavers are on a 21-game winning streak and have the best pitching staff in the nation. Jake Thompson (14-0, 1.52 ERA) is the ace of the staff, but Vanderbilt proved in the Super Regionals that he is not invincible. Oregon State has depth all over on the mound, but get to the bullpen and anything can happen. Five batters are over .300 on the season, led by Nick Madrigal (.383/4 HR/36 RBI).
Player to Watch: Bryce Fehmel, Pitcher. Fehmel took a top two starter’s spot in the Super Regional and took out Vanderbilt with a complete game effort. He is not an overpowering pitcher, so a team with a good game plan can get to him.
Florida (47-18, SEC):
The SEC regular season champs have a roster full of players with CWS experience. The Gators are surprisingly not very good at the plate, relying instead on a very good pitching staff. No one starter scares opponents, but facing Michael Byrne in late innings situations is incredibly tough. Score early and the Gators are in trouble.
Player to watch: Ryan Larson, Outfield. One of two seniors on the squad, Larson finds a way to play at his best when needed. He is a sparkplug for the otherwise lethargic offense with a talent for putting pressure on the opposing defense.
Florida State (45-21, ACC):
The Seminoles are a talented team that honestly should be better than they performed this season. They have some power in Dylan Busby (14 HR) and Quincy Nieporte (10 HR) but have looked mortal on multiple occasions. A case could be made that though they got past Tennessee Tech in an elimination game, they were outplayed as a whole by the OVC program. They will lean on a select few relievers and try to ride Tyler Holton (10-2, 2.25 ERA) to the finals.
Player to watch: Taylor Walls, Shortstop. Walls has been pressing this season to impress scouts after a 2016 season that saw him bat .355 on the year. He finally heard his name called in the third round of the MLB Draft, so the pressure is off. He is set to make a big impact.
Louisville (52-10, ACC):
Apologies to Oregon State, but Louisville may be the odds-on favorite to win the CWS. They have pitching in starters Brendan McKay (10-3, 2.34 ERA), Nick Bennett (5-0, 2.70 ERA), and Kade McClure (8-3, 3.43 ERA). The Cardinals also bat nearly .300 as a team led by, guess who, Brendan McKay (.343 avg., 17 HR, 56 RBI). He and Drew Ellis (.367 avg., 20 HR, 61 RBI) may be the best one-two combination in college baseball.
Player to watch: Brendan McKay, Pitcher/1B. The fourth overall pick of the 2017 MLB Draft, there is no getting around McKay. How he performs in the CWS will determine whether Louisville is a disappointment or win their first baseball title.
LSU (48-17, SEC):
A fixture in Omaha, the Tigers are playing the best of any SEC team left in the tournament. Pitcher Alex Lange (9-5, 2.92 ERA) is capable of dominating any team in the country on any given night. He has been a bit too erratic this season for comfort. On the other hand, the LSU offense has been consistent and deadly all season long. Seven of nine starters bat over .275 and five have hit over .300 on the season. This team can mash.
Player to watch: Greg Deichmann, Outfield. The junior was recently selected in the second round of the 2017 MLB Draft, possessing the physical attributes that MLB scouts love. He leads the team with 19 home runs and 72 RBI, making him by far the most dangerous hitter in a very powerful LSU lineup.
TCU (47-16, Big 12):
The Horned Frogs are that one pesky team that finds a way to manufacture runs despite only one player hitting over 10 home runs on the year. They have stolen 102 bases and average approximately two steal attempts per game, surprising since they are not a big sacrifice team. Losing Luken Baker for the year will make things tough in the CWS.
Player to watch: Jared Janczak, Pitcher. The redshirt sophomore has been excellent this season but struggled with shoulder fatigue at points in the season. If TCU can get two quality starts from him in the tournament, they can make a run.
Texas A&M (41-21, SEC):
This is a weird team. They do not have only true shutdown starter, though Brigham Hill (8-3, 3.18 ERA) can be dominant in streaks. The Aggies are a very god pitching team that will literally throw anyone on their roster if needed. Nine different pitchers have 24+ innings pitched, eight have started a game, and five different pitchers have recorded saves on the year. They are a get on base and move runner type of team, accumulating 61 total sacrifice hits on the year.
Player to watch: Braden Shewmake, 2B. A true freshman, Shewmake is the team leader in average, hits, doubles, home runs, RBIs, and stolen bases. He has more than double the number of RBIs of any other player on the team and is already one of the scariest players to face in the nation. He has been a little less productive in the postseason, but he is due to explode in the CWS.
Who will win?
Cal State Fullerton. I am a homer and I will only choose the Forgotten representative. Let’s go Titans.