And then there were eight. It’s the most wonderful time of the year in College Baseball, as the last eight schools standing are making their way to Omaha, Nebraska to compete for a National Championship. And with clear #1 Tennessee now out of the picture, it’s anybody’s race.
If you’re looking for big name draft prospects for next month, you’re not going to see a lot of them here. In fact, there are only 6 players in Baseball America’s Top 100 2022 Draft Rankings among the 8 teams:
OF Brock Jones, Stanford (#29)
3B/SS Peyton Graham, Oklahoma (#42)
RHP Jake Bennett, Oklahoma (#61)
3B Cayden Wallace, Arkansas (#77)
1B Ivan Melendez, Texas (#86)
2B Robert Moore, Arkansas (#100)
The field of 8 has been split into 2 double elimination brackets of 4 teams each. The winners of each bracket will meet for the National Championship series, which is a best of 3 matchup. Oklahoma, #5 Texas A&M, Notre Dame, and #9 Texas are in one bracket, while the other consists of Arkansas, #2 Stanford, Ole Miss, and #14 Auburn.
Game 1: Oklahoma (42-22) vs #5 Texas A&M (42-18)
The College World Series kicks off with a former Big 12 matchup between the Texas A&M Aggies and the Oklahoma Sooners. The Aggies offense will face lefty Sooners ace Jake Bennett, who dazzled in the Super Regionals with 7 one run innings over a lethal Virginia Tech lineup. The Aggies will likely start Nathan Dettmer, but expect to see them go to the bullpen sooner rather than later as Dettmer has a 4.75 ERA and rarely goes deep into games.
The big bat for A&M is Jack Most who has been scorching during the NCAA Tournament and will hope that continues in Omaha. He doesn’t hit a ton of home runs but is batting .391 on the season for the Aggies. On the flip side the Sooner have decent draft prospect Peyton Graham playing shortstop and the red hot Tanner Treadway.
Both teams will be desperate for a game 1 win, which is why I expect the Aggies to turn to their deep bullpen earlier in the game than expected. That being said, I think Jake Bennett hurls another gem and puts the Aggies on the brink of elimination.
Game 2: Notre Dame (40-15) vs #9 Texas (47-20)
Notre Dame shocked the college baseball world when they stunned #1 Tennessee in the Super Regionals last weekend, and they’ll be hoping that momentum will be enough to topple baseball royalty in #9 Texas.
Lefty ace Pete Hansen will go for the Longhorns on Friday, with Tristan Stevens expected to pitch for them in Game 2. Meanwhile the Irish will turn to John Michael Bertrand in the juiciest pitching matchup of the opening games in Omaha. This will be the primetime game on Friday night on ESPN, and I highly recommend tuning in.
If the pitching doesn’t excite you, then maybe watching Texas 1B Ivan Melendez will. The Hispanic Titanic leads the nation with an astounding 32 home runs this season while batting .396 and walking (52) more than he strikes out (48). He is more than likely going to win all the awards for the best baseball player in college baseball this season.
As hot and confident as Notre Dame are, I really like Texas in a close game here with Pete Hansen on the mound. I think they take Game 1 by a score of 4-2.
Game 3: Arkansas (43-19) vs #2 Stanford (47-16)
Arkansas was the #1 team in the country last year and couldn’t get to Omaha, but after a mediocre season by their standards, they have dominated postseason play and found themselves in the promised land facing #2 Stanford on Saturday to kick off their College World Series campaign. Stanford had to come back in their Super Regional against UConn after dropping Game 1, but they’ll be confident after a big slugging performance in that Super.
Stanford has been on the brink of elimination twice this tournament, both in the Regional and Super Regional rounds. In the Regionals they were down 3-1 in the 9th inning of the Regional Final when Drew Bowser and Tommy Troy came to the rescue to tie the game with home runs. For Arkansas to win, they’re going to need to keep the ball in the ballpark when the Cardinal are up to bat, as Stanford ranks #9 in the nation in home runs with 117.
This game features the most draft prospects of the Top 100 with 3B Cayden Wallace and 2B Robert Moore leading the Razorbacks lineup while OF Brock Jones leads the way for the Cardinal. These two teams did meet early in the season with Stanford winning 5-0 at the Round Rock Classic in February. But a lot has happened in the 4 months between these matchups. While Stanford had some inconsistencies throughout the year, they did win the PAC-12 Regular Season and Tournament titles.
The aforementioned Brock Jones was struggling massively early in the season for Stanford, but has found his stride down the stretch. He and Carter Graham both have over 20 home runs for the Cardinal while freshman stud Braden Montgomery has 18. Stanford ace Alex Williams has struggled in the tournament, so the Arkansas lineup should be looking to jump on him early after disastrous starts against Texas State and UConn.
I like Arkansas to win this game, as I believe Alex Williams will continue to struggle and the Razorbacks pitching staff will find a way to keep the Cardinal from hitting it out of the park.
Game 4: Ole Miss (37-22) at #14 Auburn (42-20)
Ole Miss, once the #1 team in the country just as conference play began, found themselves on the outside looking in before getting hot down the stretch. They’ve dominated in the NCAA Tourney, winning a region that featured #6 Miami and a good Arizona squad. Then they went to Hattiesburg and humiliated in-state rival Southern Miss in the Super Regionals. They’re playing their best baseball of the season and could be a dark horse to win the title.
The first team standing in Ole Miss’s way is fellow SEC Rival and #14-seeded Auburn, who are coming off a tough fought Super Regional victory over #3-seeded Oregon State in Corvallis. Now these two teams met in mid-March to start conference play but it’s safe to say that these are different teams. Auburn lost two of three to then #1-ranked Ole Miss at home while the Rebels slipped up following that series and only righted themselves just before the tournament.
Auburn was picked to finish last in the SEC West this year, so it’s a massive surprise to see them here in Omaha, but they’ll need to continue to steal wins if they hope to get by a red hot Ole Miss squad. The Rebels are led by their three-time captain in Tim Elko, who has been on fire this postseason. He’ll be the guy that Auburn needs to contain if they hope to win this game.
I like Ole Miss to stay hot and beat their conference rivals in a close game.
Texas will face Arkansas for the National Championship and the Longhorns will emerge victorious.
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