2016 Baseball College World Series Preview

Florida Baseball
2016 Baseball College World Series Preview
And then there were eight.
No. 1 Florida secured the final bid to Omaha after defeating Florida State 7-0 in a deciding game three Monday night setting up the eight-team field. Now the sprint toward the College World Series becomes a 10-day survival, as teams must battle through a double elimination format, with the winners of each bracket playing a best of three series for the crown.
The field includes three ranked teams, with the Big 12 having supremacy after clinching three of the eight bids.  Rounding out the field is one team each from the SEC, Big South, PAC 12, ACC and the Big West. Here’s a look at the field, how they got here and a detailed look at each team.
The Field
Bracket 1
No. 3 Miami (50-12) ACC
Road To Omaha: 3-0 in Regionals with wins over Stetson and Long Beach State. 2-1 in Super Regionals defeating Boston College 12-7 and 9-4 after falling 5-3 in game two.
Arizona (44-21) Pac-12
Road To Omaha: 3-1 in Regionals with wins over Sam Houston State and Louisiana. 2-0 in Super Regionals after sweeping Mississippi State 1-0 and 6-5 in 11 innings.
UC Santa Barbara (42-18) Big West
Road To Omaha: 3-0 in Regionals with wins over Washington and Xavier. 2-0 in Super Regionals after sweeping Louisville 4-2 and 4-3.
Oklahoma State (41-20) Big 12
Road To Omaha: 3-0 in Regionals with wins over Nebraska and Clemson. 2-0 in Super Regionals after sweeping South Carolina 5-1 and 3-1.
Bracket 2
No. 1 Florida (52-14) SEC
Road To Omaha: 3-0 in Regionals with wins over Bethune-Cookman, UCONN and GT. 2-1 in Super Regionals, defeating Florida State 5-0 and 7-0 after falling 3-0 in game one.
No. 5 Texas Tech (46-18) Big 12
Road To Omaha: 3-1 in Regionals with wins over Fairfield, New Mexico and Dallas Baptist. 2-1 in Super Regionals, defeating East Carolina 3-1 (11) and 11-0 after falling in 8-6 in game one.
Coastal Carolina (49-16) Big South Champion
Road To Omaha: 3-1 in Regionals with wins over St. Mary’s and North Carolina State. 2-0 in Super Regionals sweeping LSU 3-0 and 5-0.
TCU (47-16) Big 12 Champion
Road To Omaha: 3-0 in Regionals with wins over Oral Roberts, Gonzaga and Arizona State. 2-1 in Super Regionals defeating Texas A&M 8-2 and 4-1 after falling 7-1 in game two.
The Favorites
After suffering its first ever shutout at home in NCAA Tournament history, Florida showed why it’s the top team in the nation with back-to-back shutouts of Florida State to earn its second consecutive trip to Omaha. The Cornhusker State is one the Gators have become quite familiar with, making the final eight in five of the last seven years. However, they have yet to hoist the trophy as college baseball’s national champion.
Their journey begins Sunday against one of the two Cinderella teams in the field, Coastal Carolina. Florida’s powerful lineup led by J.J. Schwarz and dynamic one-two punch from the bump in Logan Shore and A.J. Puk pose a challenge for any team and the Chants will certainly have their hands full in the opening round.
Like the Gators, fellow Sunshine State member No. 3 Miami Hurricanes represent one of three ranked teams in the field after the underdogs stole the show in the Super Regionals. Making their 25th appearance in Omaha, the Hurricanes are no stranger to the big dance. Much like Florida, Miami returns for the second consecutive season with a lineup that is like a stick of dynamite in every bat. Edgar Michelangeli, Johnny Ruiz, Brandon Lopez and Willie Abreu have paced the Hurricanes offensive onslaught, ultimately taking the pressure off the pitching staff. With a trio of arms in the rotation and a closer that owns the school record for saves, don’t be shocked to see the Hurricanes paint Nebraska orange and green.
Rounding out the group of ranked teams is No. 5 Texas Tech. The Red Raiders are no stranger to the Midwest after punching its ticket to the CWS in two of the last three seasons. Tech is one of three teams from the Big 12 in the field and had to fight off elimination in both the Regionals and Super Regionals to advance. Tanner Gardner paces the Red Raiders’ attack at the plate and has many options from the bump including Davis Martin’s 9-1 mark over 82 innings of work this season.
The Contenders
TCU, Oklahoma State and Arizona all defeated Super Regional hosts to punch their ticket to Omaha, with all but TCU pulling out the brooms for the sweep. The Horned Frogs fought off a resilient West Virginia squad in the Big 12 Championship game, eventually taking an 11-10 decision in 10 innings. However, TCU’s best accolade on its resume came in the Super Regionals with a series win over Texas A&M.
Oklahoma State also flexed the Big 12’s muscle on its way to Omaha, knocking out ACC Champ Clemson in the Regionals followed by a sweep of SEC powerhouse South Carolina to earn its first trip to the CWS since 1999.
Arizona clinched its 17th trip to Omaha after taking down Mississippi State in the Super Regionals in Starkville. The Wildcats needed late-inning heroics to get by the Bulldogs and Cesar Salazar was just the man for the job. With two outs in the 11th, Salazar ripped a game-winning RBI single for a 6-5 win. While Arizona had a roller coaster of a year, it dispatched Louisiana in straight games in the Supers.
The Cinderellas
Coastal Carolina and UC Santa Barbara both showed the glass slipper still fits and the clock hasn’t struck midnight just yet for the underdogs. The Chants won the Big South Championship in a 1-0 win over Liberty, battled through the Regionals after taking 2-of-3 from N.C. State and sent another SEC stronghold in LSU packing, after sweeping the Tigers in Baton Rouge. Now the Chants hope their slipper stays put as they open with No. 1 Florida Sunday night at 8 p.m. in their first ever trip to the big dance. Of the two underdogs in the CWS field, Coastal certainly has the toughest road to the title.
Like its fellow underdog, UC Santa Barbara earned its first ever trip to Omaha, but in much more dramatic fashion. Trailing No. 2 Louisville 3-0 in the bottom of the ninth, Sam Cohen crushed a pinch-hit walk-off grand slam off Cardinals closer Zack Burdi to send the Gauchos to the CWS. Louisville was 47-0 this season when leading after eight innings and had not lost in back-to-back game at home all year. UCSB and Oklahoma State will kickoff the 2016 CWS Saturday at 3 p.m.
Looking Ahead
The key to winning in Omaha is not falling into the loser’s bracket early. An opening round loss forces a steep climb out of the bracket, with every game after being an elimination contest.
As shown during the Supers, anything is possible throughout the 10-day event and its all hands on deck in every game. Miami is the favorite in Bracket 1 with Bracket 2 being loaded with the big guns. While Florida is the No. 1 seed and the favorite to advance, it’s not going to be an easy path.
My upset special is UCSB over Oklahoma State in the opening game. The Gauchos are playing on house money, making them extremely dangerous. However, when the dust settles, it will be a battle for Sunshine State bragging rights, with No. 1 Florida and No. 3 Miami tangling for the title next weekend.