Get Them While They're Hot!
Get Them While They're Hot!
We've been previewing Virginia's potential opponents on this side of the bracket all week. Should the Hoos escape their half of the bracket, taking out the College World Series favorites Florida Gators, they'll face the winners of the other half in a three game series. Let's take a look!
Here's how they got here: The Tigers have been dominant all season, sitting at 53-10. They only dropped one season this year, way back in March, to Kentucky, in a series where both LSU losses went into extra innings. The Tigers lost to Florida in the single elimination SEC semifinals. They then went 3-0 in their regional, beating Lehigh once and UNC Wilmington twice, scoring a total of 14 runs while only allowing three. The Tigers swept their Super Regional against UL-Lafayette.
Here's what you need to know: LSU has a right handed pitcher named Alex Lange. Lange was named this year's National Freshman Pitcher of the Year by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and the awards are just going to keep coming in the offseason. He posted an 11-0 record with a 1.89 ERA in 105 innings. He's struck out 121 batters and has limited opponents to a .214 cumulative batting average. That's really good.
Another name to keep an eye out on is Alex Bregman. The junior shortstop is one of four Golden Spikes Award finalists. He's posted a .323 batting average, and leads the team in runs scored (55) and walks (36), with an on-base percentage of .420. He also leads the SEC conference in stolen bases (34) and doubles (22). Oh, and he was the overall #2 pick in the MLB Draft.
The Tigers are the top remaining seed (#2), and this is their 17th appearance in the CWS.
TCU Horned Frogs
Here's how they got here: The 49-13 Horned Frogs looked like they were all but out of the final game of their regional. After defeating Sacred Heart, losing to NC State, beating Stony Brook and beating NC State, they had a miraculous comeback to defeat NC State in extra innings to win survive their regional. In their Super Regional, they used all three games to defeat Texas A&M, including a 16-inning rubber match to give TCU their program's fourth appearance in the CWS.
Here's what you need to know: The TCU pitching staff is collectively posting a 2.34 ERA, which is good enough to rank second nationally. RHP Preston Morrison is the winningest active pitcher in all the land, with 36 career wins, and he leads the country with 453 career innings. And in fact, we could spend the next 500 words on their pitching staff, because it's truly one of the, if not the, deepest, most talented in the country. Their achilles heel? They're slugging only .378 as a team.
Cal State Fullerton Titans
Here's how they got here: CS-Fullerton (39-23) swept their regional, defeating Pepperdine, Arizona State (14 innings) and Pepperdine again. They went on to defeat the third-seeded Louisville Cardinals in their Super Regional using extra innings in both wins of the series.
Here's what you need to know: This is the Titans' first time back to the College World Series since 2009, their longest in the program's history. You'll probably hear this approximately 1.2 million times, but Fullerton head coach Rick Vanderhook won the championship back in 1984 as a player. Oh and then again as an assistant in 1995. And again in 2004. Third baseman Jerrod Bravo has reached base a school record 44 times. The top of their batting order is potent, and where they'll do the most damage. They're not known to be a defensive team, though you wouldn't know that if you just watched their Super Regionals.
Vanderbilt Dream Killers
No, we're not still bitter. Why?
Here's how they got here: They were knocked out of the SEC tournament by none other than Florida, 7-3. At 47-19, the Commodores swept their own regional, defeating Lipscomb, Indiana, and Radford by a combined 36-5. They went on to sweep their Super Regional as well, over Illinois, by a combined 17-2.
Here's what you need to know: Vanderbilt is just as potent as the Vanderbilt that beat Virginia last year to win the College World Series. They are batting an NCAA Tournament-best .354 with nine homers in last five games, and lead the nation with 13 shutouts. You can tell just by their regional and super regional performances alone that fire power is no issue for this squad. They've got both talent and depth on the mound, and their batters will punish you if you make any mistakes. Shortstop Dansby Swanson was the overall top pick in the MLB Draft, and not far behind him was RHP Carson Fulmer at No. 8.