It has been more than a decade since Stony Brook made its unbelievable run as a 4 seed through Miami’s Coral Gables Regional and LSU in the Super Regional to reach the College World Series. This time around it will be the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles who advanced through Oklahoma State’s Stillwater Regional as a 4 seed and upset Oregon in the Super Regionals to get to Omaha for a second time, but first since 1978.
Though the Golden Eagles will be a new name to most watching this year’s College World Series, the Summit League knows just how good this Oral Roberts team is. They ran through the Summit League this season compiling a 23-1 conference record during the regular season before going 3-0 in the Summit League Conference Tournament to secure their bid in the NCAA Tournament.
Despite their 4 seed status, the Golden Eagles have proven to be difficult outs. They’re lead by CF Jonah Cox who is batting .420 on the season with a .480 OBP and .668 slugging while also racking up 11 Home Runs and 67 RBI. But the rest of the lineup is potent as well featuring 8 players batting .281 or better with 6 of those batting above .302. RF Matt Hogan leads the team home runs with 18 and slugging at .671, but since Charles Schwab Stadium is so cavernous, the extra base hits are what wins games. The aforementioned Cox leads Oral Roberts with 8 triples on the year, but infielder Blaze Brothers (A+ name) leads the Golden Eagles with 18 doubles.
It’s difficult to judge ORU’s numbers due to the quality of competition they played all year in the Summit League, but over their last 6 games (Oklahoma State, Washington, Dallas Baptist, and Oregon three times) they’re averaging nearly 9 runs a game, but are batting under .250 in that stretch while striking out more than 9 times a game as well. To their credit though they are averaging more than 6 walks a game which includes 11 walks in their deciding game against Oregon last weekend.
On the mound they’ll feature three starters who have a combined 27-5 record on the season. Statistically they’re lead by sophomore Brooks Fowler who leads the starters with a 3.27 ERA and .226 batting average against. If Virginia falls to Florida on Friday and Oral Roberts drops their game to TCU, UVA would likely see redshirt Senior Harley Gollert, who is in his sixth year of college baseball after transferring from Austin Peay. Gollert started their Saturday game of the regionals against Washington only lasting 0.2 innings while giving up two home runs, six hits, and seven runs. He rebounded against Oregon lasting 4.2 innings allowing five runs on six hits.
Out of the pen they’ll be lead by closer Cade Denton whose 15 saves leads the team and has given up just three runs in five appearances (7.2 innings) in the postseason against stiffer competition. Other than Denton, Jacob Widener is another name to know as he has 29 appearances on the season and 27 out of the bullpen. On the season Widener has a 3.06 ERA and opponents are just batting .186 against him, but he’s struggled in the postseason giving up five runs on seven hits in just 4.1 innings.
As a staff the Golden Eagles have one of the best staffs in the country on paper. They have the 7th best ERA in the country, at 3.97 and the sixth best WHIP at just 1.28, but like the offensive counterparts, those numbers have slipped against the stiffer competition in the postseason. In the six postseason games they’ve allowed nearly seven runs and more than ten hits per game.
Oral Roberts’ run is something to behold and respected, no doubt. Their hitting and pitching has draw some questions against the better opponents and they may have gotten a little lucky with all but one of their postseason games being decided by three runs or less. Winning is winning though and if Oral Roberts can keep it up, they can hang with any of the other teams in Omaha.