2018 CWS Preview and Prediction By: Peter Snyder

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The road to Omaha is finally complete and after two weeks of grueling regional play, we are finally ready to enjoy some World Series baseball. Eight hopeful teams will enter the week with high hopes and dreams of raising the trophy but by tournaments end, only one will remain and be crowned as the 2018 National Champions for college baseball. Throughout the article you will see of glimpse of all eight teams and in-depth break downs of each team will be provided as well as me telling you what each team will need to do to become a National Champion. By articles end you will find out what team I have predicted to win the World Series as well as what team that team will beat in the CWS final series. We will start by previewing a team that has never been on this stage before and is looking to make the most of this momentous opportunity

The Teams

Washington

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The Washington Huskies are making their first trip to the CWS in program history. They did not get here overnight however. Washington’s journey to Omaha began in Conway, South Carolina where the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers were hosting the Conway regional. The Huskies came into the tournament as the third seed and were expected to get eliminated in 2 games. They however, had different plans and thanks to an explosive performance from the offense in the first two games against the UConn Huskies and the top seeded Chanticleers, Washington found themselves just one win away from advancing to their first ever super regional appearance. Standing in their way of history was the Huskies of UConn, a team that they had previously defeated in regional play, Because Washington came into the game without a loss, UConn was going to need to beat them 2 times in a row in order to win the regional. After falling behind 6-1 in the first three innings of the game, it looked like Washington was inevitably going to have to play in a winner take all, game 3. The Huskies battled back however, scoring 8 unanswered runs in the remaining 6 innings, giving them a 9-6 win, clinching them a spot in the super regionals, the first time the Huskies have ever gone to such an event. The super regionals would take Washington to Cal State Fullerton, where they would face the Titans in a best of three series for the right to go to Omaha and play in the CWS. After splitting the first two games, the series was heading to a deciding game 3 and what would transpire can only be described as an instant classic. In the top of the 9th and with Washington leading 3-2, the Titans found themselves just one out away from elimination. Titan infielder Jacob Pavletich would not go down easy however as he hit an infield single, scoring Sahid Valenzuela which tied the game up a 3. As you could barely hear yourself think, outfielder Chris Prescott ripped a single into right field, scoring Pavletich and giving them the 4-3 lead. In just a matter of seconds, Washington had gone from one out away from going to Omaha to being 3 outs away from packing up their bags and going home. The Huskies refused to go down that way. In the bottom half of the 9th inning, Washington had found themselves clawing away and thanks to a clutch piece of hitting from infielder Jonathan Schiffer, the score was once again tied, this time at 4 a piece. After the Titans got out of the rest of the inning unscathed, it was time to play extra baseball with a trip to Omaha on the line. In the top of the 10th an unlikely hero for Cal State Fullerton stepped up in the biggest of ways. With two outs in the top of the inning, infielder Hank LoForte sent a ball over the right field fence, giving the Titans a 5-4 lead and again, putting them just 3 outs away from going to the CWS for the second straight year. In the bottom half of the tenth, Washington had done what they had done so well the entire year, fight like hell until the very last out. After junior, AJ Graffanino reached on a infield single, scoring shortstop Jack Johnson, tying the game at 5, the Huskies found themselves just one run away from going to their first ever CWS. Freshman Kaiser Weiss dug into the batters box and looked out to see the ducks on the pond with 0 outs on the scoreboard. All Weiss had to do was put the ball in the outfield and he would never have to buy a beer on campus again. He did just that and after a sac fly, the Washington Huskies had defeated Cal State Fullerton in a 6-5 thriller. They were headed to Omaha for the first time in school history and had reached a point nobody thought they would come the beginning of postseason play. Is this Washington team talented enough to win the CWS? I don’t think so. But heck, I love me a good underdog story and am excited to see what this team will do and just how far they can stretch out this epic, cinderella story.

Mississippi State

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You have to give Mississippi State a lot of credit because mid way through the season, you would have never of guessed where this team is today. They have a interim head coach in Gary Henderson who has done a spectacular job with this ball club and is more than deserving to be hired as the permanent head coach next year.  The Bulldogs’ road to Omaha started in Tallahassee where they would face tough competition such in the likes of Oklahoma, Samford and the 7th national seed in this year’s tournament, the Florida State Seminoles. The regional started on a bad note for the Bulldogs, as they were embarrassed by the Oklahoma Sooners by the score of 20-10. The deflated pitching staff needed to turn it around quickly as they were going to have to string together multiple wins in a row if they wanted to win the region and continue their season. In their second game of the regional, Mississippi State looked to fend off elimination against Florida State, the top seed in the regional who was upset in their first game by Samford University. The Bulldogs offense was seemingly non-existent and through 8 innings, they were scoreless. Fortunately for them, their pitching staff had kept them in the game and they found themselves trailing by only 2 heading into their final licks of the game. With 2 runners on and 2 outs in the inning, Bulldog first basemen, Elijah Macnamee did the unthinkable, hitting a walk off homer which not only gave the Bulldogs a huge win, but kept there season alive. Mississippi State was back in action the very next day, this time facing Samford, a surprise team in this regional looking to continue a cinderella like story. The Bulldogs would crush the glass slipper however, sending them packing after defeating them in a 9-8 slug fest. After losing the first game of the regional in embarrassing fashion, Mississippi State had battled all the way back into the regional final and was now just two wins away from winning the whole damn thing. In their way however, would be the Oklahoma Sooners, a team that had demolished the Bulldogs just a few days prior. Hail State was seeking revenge and were going to die if that’s what it took to leave Tallahassee with a win. The Bulldogs dominated the Sooners in the next two games and after outscoring them 21-6 in 18 innings, they were heading to the super regionals with a region championship in their pocket. A team that can come back and win a regional after losing the first game is usually pretty special and I think that it is safe to say that this Bulldog team is more than just special. The super regional took Mississippi State to Vanderbilt University to face a powerhouse team in the Vanderbilt Commodores who were coming off of an upset regional win in Clemson. Vanderbilt was coming into the supers with some of the hottest bats in the nation so the Bulldogs pitching staff knew they would have their hands full and knew they would have to cool them off in order to clinch a birth in the CWS. The first game of the SR was a classic. A back and forth battle between the two schools resulted in a walk off home run win for the Bulldogs, giving them a commanding 1-0 lead in the series. In game two, the script was flipped as Commodore outfielder, JJ Bleday sent a pitch in to the night sky in the bottom half of the 9th inning, keeping Vanderbilt’s hopes alive and sending the series into a winner take all game 3 on Sunday night. Game 3 heightened this already classic series, as both teams would not go down without a fight. Mississippi State would score 3 runs in the top of the 9th, and Vanderbilt would answer right back with 3 runs of their own in the bottom half of the inning. The game was finally concluded after Mississippi State broke the game open in the top of the 11th inning, scoring 4 runs, giving them a 10-6 win in a game for the ages and a super regional that will never be forgotten. The Bulldogs were going back to Omaha and I can assure you, this time has to taste the sweetest. With the adversity that this team has battled throughout the season, to end up at this point is nothing short of phenomenal. To compete well in this WS, they are going to need to continue to swing a hot bat and it is going to have start with Elijah Macnamee. If he can have a productive tournament and continue to produce clutch swings, this Bulldog team could pull off something very special.

Oregon State

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Oregon State is making their second straight appearance in the College World Series and in my eyes, are the favorites to take home the NC trophy come tournament’s end. Oregon State’s path to Omaha has been seemingly less stressful than the path of Washington’s and Mississippi State’s. The Beavers came into the postseason as the third national seed in the NCAA tournament and were given the opportunity to play at the comfort of their own home all the way up until the CWS. The Beavers cruised in the regionals, going 3-0 and outscoring their opponents by an insane margin of 35-4. Seemingly untouched, Oregon State headed into the Super Regionals with an array of confidence and a swagger to them that was uncanny. Making the trip up Corvallis to face the Beavers in the Super Regionals was the Minnesota Golden Gophers, a team that has a tremendous pitching staff and a bunch that would not be afraid of the moment. In game one of the supers, Oregon State continued to dominate their opponents and thanks to an offensive explosion, the Beavers had found themselves up 1-0 in the series after a 8-1 win. In game two, the Beavers found themselves in a place they had not been during the duration of the NCAA tournament. As crazy as it sounds, Oregon State trailed in a ball game for the first time in the entire NCAA Tournament. The feeling of being down was short-lived however as the Beavers battled back and took game two of the series by the score of 6-3. They had won the series and in dominating fashion, they had clinched their ticket to Omaha for the second consecutive season. The question now becomes, “How is Oregon State going to win the CWS?” The answer to that is quite simple. They need to just continue the brand of baseball they are playing and continue to play the type of baseball they have been playing the entire season. They have a dynamite pitching staff led by a hard throwing southpaw in Luke Heimlich which is matched by an explosive offense that is led by SS Nick Madrigal who was recently selected 4th overall in the 2018 MLB Draft. If this team plays the way that they have been playing throughout the entire NCAA tournament, do not be surprised if they walk into Omaha, dominate the entire field, win the National Championship and make the whole thing look easy.

North Carolina

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The North Carolina Tar Heels are making a trip back to Omaha for the first time in almost half a decade. Carolina came into the 2018 NCAA Tournament as the 6th national seed and were expected to make the trip back to Omaha in seemingly easy fashion. The road to the CWS for the Tar Heels started in dominating fashion as they won the Chapel Hill Regional in three games, outscoring their opponents by a wide margin of 34-14. When a team can score 34 runs in only 27 innings of play, they have to be taken seriously as those offensive numbers are almost unimaginable. The Super Regionals matched North Carolina with Stetson University, a team that had dominated the regular season and was considered as the biggest surprise of the regular season. Carolina had no interest in buying into the Stetson hype however as they jumped off to a hot start, taking game one of the series by the score of 7-4. North Carolina had now found themselves just one win away from going to the CWS and completing a perfect path to Omaha. In game 2 of the supers, the Tar Heels bats continued to stay hot and after fending off a late push by the Hatters, Carolina won game two by the score of 7-5. They were headed back to Omaha and had completely dominated every opponent that stood in their way. They finished regional and super regional play with a record of 5-0 and outscored opponents along the way by a margin of 48-23. It is safe to say that this Tar Heel team is riding a wave of confidence right now and if they continue to get production from their big bats in the likes of Michael Busch and Kyle Datres, this Tar Heel team could very well make a deep run in this series and could possibly take home a national championship.

Arkansas

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The Arkansas Razorbacks are an incredible baseball team. They are the fifth ranked team in the entire nation, have some serious pop in their bats and have one of the best bullpen’s in the nation. The Razorbacks journey to Omaha started in Fayetteville, where the Razorbacks played host to their respected region. The Razorbacks steamed through the regional, winning the minimal number of games, and allowing only 7 runs in the process. The Razorbacks would than be matched with conference foe, South Carolina in the super regionals with a trip to Omaha on the line. The top story from game one of the series would have to be the temperature as temps from the field reached up to 105 degrees. With a game that is being played in those types of conditions, two things are most likely going to happen. One the ball is usually going to fly off the bat and carry due to the hot temperatures and two, the losing team is going to be the team that burns out and the team that cannot handle the scorching heat. This was exactly the case during game one in Fayetteville. Arkansas bats were rocking and thanks to a big three run double in the bottom of the 7th by Razorback infielder Carson Shaddy, the Backs rolled to a 9-3, game one win. Game two however, was a different story. It seemed that the Razorbacks used so much energy in game one, that they were washed up and burnt out in game two. The Gamecocks of South Carolina however, were energized and were going to make sure that there season would not end on a hot Sunday evening. They dominated the game and although Arkansas came late with a late push, the Gamecocks had held on for a 8-5 game 2 win. We were headed to one of the great events that sports has to offer. A winner take all scenario. If you win, you head to Omaha to play in the CWS and if you lose, you go home with your heads down as your season is over. Arkansas was going to make sure that they were not going to be on the losing end. They came out of the gates guns a blazing and after a 3 run home run by Super Regional hero, Carson Shaddy, the game was blown wide open. Arkansas’ offense erupted for 14 runs and the Razorbacks were headed to Omaha after a 14-4, game 3 win. Arkansas now enters the CWS as one of the hottest teams in baseball. They also have one of the hottest players in the nation in Carson Shaddy who is hitting the absolute cover off of the ball lately. The key factor that will lead to Arkansas success in the CWS however, will be the production of the Razorback bullpen. If you have a good bullpen that can close out games and shut down good offenses, you put yourself in a position to win night in and night out and give your team the chance to accomplish big things.

Texas

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The Texas Longhorns are making their 36th appearance in Omaha this year, shattering a record for the most CWS appearances by a single program. This is however, the Longhorns first trip to Omaha since 2014, and are looking to make up for time missed. Texas’ journey to Omaha started in their hometown, as they hosted their respected region in Austin. The Longhorns cruised through the region without a problem and outscored opponents by a margin of 21-5 throughout 27 innings. This would than take them to a matchup in the Super Regionals where they would face Tennessee Tech, the main cinderella story of the tournament, who is coming off of a huge upset win in the regional, taking down Ole Miss who was the 4th national seed in the entire tournament. Although Tennessee Tech was considered as a “Cinderella” story, there was no real surprise that the Golden Eagles had got to where they are as they led the nation in wins with 52 victories coming into the super regional. In the first game of the Supers, the Golden Eagles continued their cinderella run and stole a game in Austin, winning game one by a shocking score of 5-4. The Longhorns were now on the brink of elimination and knew they were going to have to pull off something special if they wanted to make a trip back to Omaha. They needed a player to step up and in superstar fashion, the Longhorns best player, Kody Clemens put his team on his shoulders. Kody Clemens is son to MLB great, Roger Clemens and what his dad would do in the majors with his rocket arm, Kody does with his bat. Clemens is one of the best power hitters in the nation and is currently 7th in the nation in HRs with 24 big flies on the year. Clemens hit three key HR in the super regionals to go along to an array of extra base hits and thanks to his offensive production, Texas had battled back to win the next two games of the SR and had clinched their ticket to Omaha. If Clemens continues to swing a hot bat and continues to hit the ball out of the ball park, the Longhorns are going to make a deep run in the CWS and are going to be a fun team to watch.

Texas Tech

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PUT EM UP! Another Texas team is headed to Omaha, and is looking to make some noise. Texas Tech is making their third ever appearance to the CWS and making the trip down to Omaha for the second time in 3 years. The Red Raiders did not get here overnight however. Their road to Omaha started in Lubbock, Texas where the Red Raiders would be host to a regional as the 9th national seed in the NCAA tournament. In the regional, the Red Raiders would face opponents in the likes of New Mexico State and Louisville but neither foe could touch the mighty force that was Texas Tech. The Red Raiders had cruised to a regional win and were headed to the super regional where they would face Duke, a team with a never say die attitude who was making their first ever appearance in a super regional. Game one of the Lubbock supers was a back and forth affair, ending in a 6-4 Red Raider win. In game 2, Duke, who had faced elimination multiple times in the regional, showed their resilience and proved they were not just going to sit down and die. They had dominated game 2 by the score of 11-2, sending the super regional into a decisive game 3. The story of game 3 was timely hitting as both teams delivered clutch pieces of hitting in key scenarios. The difference of the game was a late home run in the seventh inning by Red Raider infielder Brian Klein, giving Texas Tech an insurance run and eventually, giving them a World Series clinching, 6-2 win. The Red Raiders now look to make noise in Omaha and they have the team to do it. With a great balance of starting pitching and a potent offense, the Red Raiders are definitely a team to keep an eye and are my dark horse to win the whole thing.

Florida

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It is only fitting that the last team we preview is the defending National Champion Florida Gators. Florida is looking to repeat as champions and have a decent chance of doing so, as they entered the NCAA tournament as the number one overall seed. Florida’s path to Omaha was seemingly difficult however as in the regional, the Gators were plagued with an abundance of Florida rain. Rain delay after rain delay, the Gators seemed to become more frustrated and this translated on the diamond, as they began to play sloppy and even lost a game to FAU. They would manage to win the deciding game of the Gainesville regional by the score of 5-2 and were headed to the Super Regional for what seemed like the umpteenth time in a row. The Gators would go on to face conference rival Auburn in the Super Regionals which featured a series that will be remembered for years to come. In game one, Florida roughed up Auburn sensation and the number one pick in the 2018 Draft, Casey Mize. After the Tigers pulled Mize, the Gators continued to put it on and won game one in style, 8-2. For the next 19 innings the Gators bats completely fell asleep and in the blink of an eye, the series became tied and the decisive game three was headed into extra innings. Florida needed a hero to keep their season alive. Florida called on freshman Austin Langworthy to lead off the bottom of the 11th inning. The score was tied up at 2 and Langworthy had one thing on his mind, to take a pitch deep and send his team to the CWS. Langworthy put a ball into the air and as many nervous Florida fans waited in angst, Auburn right fielder, Steven Williams raced to track the ball down. Just when it looked like Williams was going to make the catch, the ball bounced off his glove and over the fence, ending the game and breaking the hearts of millions of Tiger fans across the nation. Florida survived and was headed back to Omaha after winning the game in the most dramatic way you will ever see. In my opinion, the main key to Florida’s success is going to be the production from their starting pitching. We all know that this Gator team can hit, but besides righty sensation Brady Singer, the Florida staff can at times, look lackluster. I am also excited to see what kind of tournament Gator third basemen Jonathan India has as he is one of the best players in the entire nation and was recently selected with the 5th overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft. Overall, I think it is clear that this Florida team is capable of going in and repeating as champions, but I think it will be interesting to see if they can execute and seize the moment.

Predictions

CWS Final Series: Oregon State Vs Arkansas

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CWS Winner: Oregon State

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