These teams could surprise
Farnum, Kroll make darkhorse picks for College World Series
|LOUISVILLE CARDINALS||INDIANA HOOSIERS|
Louisville’s aggressive style of play and stellar pitching staff will be the keys to capping off the best season in school history by raising the national championship trophy.
The Cardinals combine a solid offense that is batting .291 and scoring 6.3 runs per game with a great running game. Louisville is second in the nation in stolen bases with 150, only three shy of tying the school record of 153 set by the 2007 CWS team. Adam Engel has been successful on 41 of 54 stolen base attempts, which ranks third nationally.
UofL is not shy about getting on base, either. The Cardinals have been hit by a pitch 128 times, which leads of the nation. In five NCAA postseason games, Louisville batters were hit 15 times -- the most of any team -- ultimately giving them a few more chances to take some risks on the base paths.
Left fielder Coco Johnson has shined for the Cardinals in the postseason, hitting .438 with two homers, six RBIs and a .550 on-base percentage in the cleanup spot, sparking a lineup that has recorded 16 of 31 postseason RBIs with two outs.
Coupled with a lineup that comes through in the clutch is one of the best pitching staffs in the nation. The Cardinals enter the CWS with the fifth-best ERA in the country at 2.50, and top Division I with 9.5 strikeouts per nine innings. With two go-to starters in right-handers Chad Green (10-3, 2.29 ERA) and Jeff Thompson (11-1, 2.00), and a deep bullpen, the Cardinals set it up nicely for closer Nick Burdi (3-3, 0.78 ERA), who has 16 saves on the year. The pitching staff is poised and consistent and has helped the Cardinals post a 46-0 record when leading after the eighth inning.
The Cardinals, who have compiled a school-record 51 victories this season, have shown they are ready for any opponent who gets in their way. Louisville knocked off No. 2 national seed Vanderbilt in the Nashville Super Regional, becoming the first team all season to post back-to-back wins against the Commodores.
And, if those reasons aren’t enough to convince you Louisville will make a CWS run, then maybe this will: Louisville is the first university to ever win a BCS bowl game, send teams to both the men’s and women’s Final Four and reach the College World Series in the same season.
Louisville will top off the incredible year with college baseball’s ultimate prize. It’s in the Cards.
-- Amy Farnum, NCAA.com
It’s tough to really call any of the eight teams in Omaha this year a darkhorse since they were all No. 1 seeds and hosted regionals. But for the purposes of this exercise, we’ll roll with a first-timer -- Indiana.
The Hoosiers can hit. The Hoosiers can pitch. The Hoosiers don’t really care who they are playing or where they are playing. After avoiding Florida in the Bloomington Regional, Indiana hit the road to take on Florida State in Tallahassee. It’s a place where teams don’t win a whole heck of a lot -- especially in the postseason. The Seminoles were 35-3 before the Hoosiers came to town last weekend.
When Indiana boarded the plane back to Bloomington, FSU was 35-5 at home. That’s right, a 2-0 sweep which showed off the firepower which this lineup has. And that is why Indiana can win the national championship, despite the fact the Big Ten hasn’t seen a team in Omaha since 1984 when Barry Larkin helped Michigan get to Rosenblatt Stadium.
Dustin DeMuth (.389), Kyle Schwarber (.376) and Scott Donley (.361) are Murderers’ Row in the IU lineup – a group that hits .306 and is 15th in the nation with 428 runs scored. Schwarber -- a sophomore catcher who stands only 6-feet but is 235 pounds -- hit a ball against the Seminoles which is still orbiting Dick Howser Stadium in Tallahassee. The dimensions of TD Ameritrade Park Omaha won’t worry him at all.
Then there’s the pitching. Aaron Slegers leads the way with a 9-1 record, a miniscule 2.13 ERA and a 6-foot-10 frame which can intimidate even the best hitters in the nation. But besides Slegers, they’ve got some other arms to throw at you. Joey DeNato won nine games as well and sports a sub-3.00 ERA. That’s a formidable one-two punch.
But the guy who arguably saved the day for the Hoosiers last weekend in Tallahassee was Will Coursen-Carr. He’s started 10 games for IU this year and has appeared in 16. It was that 16th appearance in Game 2 of the super regional which caught everyone’s attention. Coursen-Carr worked 4.0 innings out of the bullpen and allowed just two hits and one run. He stopped a charging Seminoles squad right in their tracks to help the Hoosiers put away FSU 11-6. If he doesn’t, who knows what happens in a winner-take-all Game 3?
It’s time for someone new to win a national title. Indiana will end the SEC and Pac 12’s reign on college baseball.
-- Douglas Kroll, NCAA.com