Quite a College World Series stew being cooked up for Omaha later this weekend. And like any good recipe, we should know the main ingredients.
▪️ The No. 2 seeded team in the NCAA tournament, Stanford. Also No, 5 Texas A&M, No, 9 Texas and No. 14 Auburn. That means 10 of the top 13 seeds did not get to the College World Series, including No. 1 Tennessee. For reasons known only to the college baseball gods, the last time the top seed won a national championship was Miami in 1999. The past three tournaments, No. 1 didn’t even make it to Omaha. The ranking has turned into a hand grenade with the pin pulled out.
▪️ Omaha’s most familiar face. This is Texas’ 38th CWS appearance. That’s 13 more than second-place Miami. Only 37 College World Series have been played without the Longhorns. When they meet Notre Dame Friday night, it’ll be the program’s 152nd College World Series game. Nobody else has more than 100. It will be Notre Dame’s eighth.
▪️ Three past national champions — Texas, Stanford and Oklahoma. But none of the schools that won the past 15 titles.
▪️ Four SEC schools — Arkansas, Auburn, Ole Miss, Texas A&M. If this were a couple of years from now, after Oklahoma and Texas move to the league, that would make six SEC teams — or 75 percent of the field.
▪️ One surging team that has gone 22-2 since May 1. Stanford.
▪️ Another that is 24-6 since April 9. Texas A&M.
▪️ A former SEC quarterback. Connor Noland completed 21 passes for Arkansas in 2018 as a freshman. This season, he’s 7-5 in 17 pitching starts for the baseball Razorbacks.
▪️ A program that before this weekend, had not been to Omaha in 20 years and only once in the past 64. Notre Dame.
▪️ A team that stole 142 bases this season — fourth most in the nation — or 96 more than last year. Oklahoma. That includes the package of power and speed named Peyton Graham, who has 20 home runs and 70 RBI to go with 32 stolen bases in 34 attempts.
▪️ The team picked by the SEC coaches before the season to finish seventh and last in its division. Auburn.
▪️ The team that has gone 5-0 in the NCAA tournament by outscoring its opponents 46-11 and just won its super regional by a combined score of 15-0. Ole Miss. The Rebel pitchers gave up only seven hits in two super-regional games against Southern Mississippi. The bullpen has not allowed an earned run in 17.1 postseason innings.
▪️ The team that hit eight homers in one super regional game, including four in the ninth inning — and still lost. Stanford. But the Cardinal recovered from that 13-12 punch in the gut to get past Connecticut.
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▪️ The Hispanic Titanic. That’d be the name the Texas website gives to Ivan Melendez, who leads the nation in home runs and RBI with 32 and 94, and is fourth in on-base percentage.
▪️ Four Academic All-Americans. That includes Stanford starting pitcher Alex Williams, the only first-teamer in Omaha, with a 3.42 GPA in management science and engineering. Also Notre Dame pitcher John Michael Bertrand and Stanford outfielder Brock Jones on the second team and Arkansas outfielder Braydon Webb — with his 4.0 in operations management — on the third team.
▪️ All the new guys at Texas A&M. The Aggies improved from 9-21 in the SEC last season to 19-11 in 2022, and one reason was how coach Jim Schlossnagle turned on the transfer portal faucet, with eight Division I move-ins. That includes four key bats in the lineup who have combined to drive in 184 runs. Jack Moss, from Arizona State, is hitting .563 in the NCAA tournament. Troy Claunch, from Oregon State, delivered a walk-off hit in the super regional. Dylan Rock, from UTSA, leads the team with 18 home runs and 59 RBI. Reliever Jacob Palisch got the last outs for the Aggies against Louisville to clinch the super regional. He pitched two games in Omaha last June — for Stanford.
▪️ No. 2 from Arkansas. Dave Van Horn had always worn No. 2 as both a Razorback player and now head coach, but offered to let shortstop Jalen Battles wear his number if he returned this season rather than go in the draft. So here Battles is hitting .293, and No. 2 on the scorecard.
▪️ The surest-handed defense in the nation. Texas, with 35 errors in 67 games.
▪️ The team that won a game this season against Baylor 9-5 with two grand slams in its last six at-bats. Oklahoma. Tanner Tredaway’s blast tied the game in the eighth, Peyton Graham’s shot won it on a walk-off grand slam in the ninth.
▪️ Mr. Get-on-base. Auburn’s Sonny DiChiara. The Samford transfer leads the nation in on-base percentage at .560.
▪️ The team that is 85-30 since the start of the 2020 season, second best in the nation. Notre Dame. The Irish also own the finest ERA in the field at 3.95.
▪️ The team that smashed its regional opposition with 51 runs in three games, including 11 home runs. Then scored 37 fewer runs that in three super regional games but won with pitching. Auburn. The Tigers slipped past Oregon State 4-3 in the clincher with Blake Burkhalter retiring the last eight batters for his 15th save.
▪️ The team that marched into the ballpark of the top sluggers in the land and knocked off a giant. Notre Dame. The Irish took down Tennessee in the super regional by nearly matching the Vols in homers, seven to Tennessee’s eight. Going into the series, the Vols had outhomered their opponents 150-57.
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▪️ The folk hero who in 2021 came back from an ACL tear — after one month — and hit two grand slams in the regional on one good leg. This season he’s driven in 71 runs to lead his unseeded team to Omaha. Tim Elko for Ole Miss.
▪️ The reliever who had two nine-out saves in the super regional. Stanford’s Quinn Mathews.
▪️ The team surely owed something good by postseason baseball fate. Arkansas. In 2021, The Razorbacks won their first super-regional game against North Carolina State 21-2, then were ousted by a pair of excruciating one-run defeats. Meaning they outscored the Wolfpack by 17 runs in the series but still lost. In 2019, they were two-and-done in Omaha, both defeats by a single run. In 2018, they needed only to catch a foul pop-up to finish off Oregon State and win the national championship. The ball dropped, the Beavers rallied and the title was gone.
Maybe it is Arkansas’ time. But seven other teams in Omaha have the same feeling.