Things are heating up in the college baseball world. Especially now that we are just a little over a month away from June. D1Baseball.com's Aaron Fitt and Kendall Rogers sat down to break down the latest storylines. You can watch the full video above or here, but here is what you need to know from the conversation:
LSU has competition at the top
It is important to note that this conversation did happen before Tuesday night (April 25), and therefore before LSU's most recent and surprising loss to Nicholls. But even before then, Fitt brought up that the Tigers have some competition for the top spot in college baseball, with both Wake Forest and South Carolina on their heels. The Tigers have yet to lose a weekend, but the two teams after them have very similar cases for the top spot.
"I think right now honestly you could make it you can make a point that South Carolina has the best body of work just based on their their top-end series wins," Fitt said. "They just swept Florida, they split a couple of games against LSU, and again they haven't lost a series all year long. They're right there with LSU as far as body of work, but I think maybe South Carolina feels a little more stable in the bullpen than LSU does given some injuries that LSU had."
Fitt still thinks that the star power for LSU is unrivaled... making comparisons of Dylan Crews to Mike Trout and Paul Skenes to Stephen Strasburg on Friday nights. It is quite hard to match that kind of talent, but here was his case for Wake Forest as well:
"Wake Forest might be the most balanced and complete team of all these teams, and they haven't lost a series either. They've got the best weekend rotation in the country. They've also got an elite bullpen and they've got real firepower in the lineup, too. So I feel like those three teams all have a case. If you're trying to pick one team right now who's the best team in the country? You know, I don't think there's a wrong answer between any of those three teams."
Red-hot teams around the country making strides
Like I mentioned earlier, this was recorded before the Tuesday night games on April 25. So again, before Campbell lost. But still, the Fighting Camels and other programs have been red hot as of late. Campbell earned the highest ranking in program history this week, coming in at No. 9, and with a scoring offense that ranks first in the country. Coastal Carolina jumped all the way up to No. 6. Boston College is another program making strides, jumping from 20 to No. 11 in the latest D1Baseball poll, and UConn entered the top 10.
"When you think of mid-majors around the country and red-hot teams I think it starts with the two teams in the Carolinas in Coastal Carolina and Campbell. Coastal is one of the better offensive clubs in the country. Derek Bender is having a great year, Payton Eeles is having a really nice year for them all offensively as well. They're 11th in the country in batting average," Rogers said.
"Then, Campbell. Cade Kuehler's one of the best starting pitchers in college baseball at the front end that rotation for the Camels and the offense ranks 14th in the country in terms of batting average. So two really offensive teams."
Then there is UConn. Rogers mentioned this team got their heart broken last year in the Supers. "They know what it takes down to get to the College World Series and I think when you look at this club overall, you know, Josh MacDonald had done a really nice job of retooling that pitching staff after losing Pat Gallagher and Austin Peterson," Rogers said. "Then when you look at the Huskies from an offensive standpoint, they've got some definite firepower throughout their lineup... UConn to me is a really dangerous team."
Moving on to Boston College. Rogers said he's not quite ready to say they will be hosting a Super, but wants to give them attention
"Give Mike Gambino and his program a lot of credit. They've certainly far exceeded expectations this year. They got a big-time bopper at first baseman Joe Vetrano and they just done a really nice job with Chris Flynn and company on the mound. It's not a great pitching staff.... but it's a solid pitching staff... They've done a terrific job this year."
The race for National Player of the Year
So it's honestly pretty crazy that this is even a conversation right now, considering Dylan Crews still plays college baseball. At the beginning of the season this guy was an absolute shoe-in for the NPOY, and with the absurd season he is having, it'd almost seem obvious that he still would be. But it is so crazy that we have multiple people putting up those kinds of numbers, and Ethan Petry over at South Carolina is doing it as a freshman. You might even want to look at Charlie Condon's stats at UGA, too.
Fitt said Crews is still very obviously the best player in the country as he's been flirting with .500 for most of the year and is top-five in the country in OPS.
"But if you look at what Petry has done as a true freshman in the SEC and this is again just just games in conference competition against the best arms that you're gonna face. No other conference comes close when it comes to the pitching caliber that you see in the SEC. He's got a 1.611 OPS, I can't even say it without laughing. It's so absurd," Fitt said. "I mean the guys hitting .446 with 13 home runs and 39 RBIs in 17 games. I mean, it's it's just laughable. It's unheard of what he's doing against SEC competition and you know for me watching him and talking to him, even, he's got a presence about him very easy going kind of friendly, easy to smile, presence that the first time I ever talked him reminded me of Kris Bryant when he was at San Diego. But then you watch him play a little bit and you're like, you know what his game's kind of like Bryant, too."
The Bryant comparison is not far off, and Fitt concluded by saying it's just a really special talent who is giving Crews a run for his money in that Player of the Year race.
Surprise pick for Omaha
I gave both Fitt and Rogers an opportunity to pick one surprise team to advance to the Men's College World Series this year. Here is what they picked:
Rogers: West Virginia
"I think it all starts with JJ Wetherholt, one of the more dynamic players in college baseball. He returned to in the TCU series from an injury, pinch hit in the middle of the game and ends the game with like three hits and three RBI. So it gives you an idea of the impact he makes. They've got a potent offensive lineup and if you look at what they've got on the mound with Blaine Traxel and Ben Hampton... then Carlson Reed on the back end who is up to 96, 97. Aiden Majors another really talented arm for the Mountaineers as well. So I think West Virginia, especially as you look at the Big 12 is kind of a just a hodgepodge and kind of a seesaw race. I think West Virginia is one of those teams that when they're clicking it all cylinders is a really good baseball team," Rogers said.
Fitt: Dallas Baptist
"They broke into the top 25 and and I feel like it's only a matter of time for this program to break through and get to Omaha right now. They're right there with East Carolina as the best programs that have never been in College World Series and maybe this is the year because they're pitching is really, really good. I mean, I love their rotation with Ryan Johnson and Braxton Bragg and Zach Heaton, but their bullpen feels elite. You know, it's one of the best bullpens in the country. I don't think this is one of the best offenses that they've had because they've had some great offensive clubs over the years, but I think it's good enough behind an outstanding pitching staff. And they're just playing it very high level. It feels like maybe this is the year DBU break through," Fitt said.