The College World Series is divided into a pair of 4 team regionals; they fight it out until one team is left standing. Today, we take a look at the teams that Cal will not be seeing- or, at the very least, not seeing until a national championship showdown. The teams there are Florida, Vanderbilt, North Carolina, and Texas.
Florida advanced by dropping a game to Mississippi State and then thoroughly dominating them in the other two games. Catcher Mike Zunino is the anchor of the offense, with a .376 average and 18 home runs in the nation’s toughest conference. He had a .686 slugging %. This kid is probably the best hitter in the country. Preston Tucker joins him with terrific power, as he’s hit 14 home runs. Daniel Pigott provides solid batting average with a .339 average. Nick Maronde and Greg Larson provide a great relief duo, with both having ERAs in the lower 2s. Hudson Randall, Karsten Whitson, and Brian Johnson are a solid rotation, but none of them strike out more than a man an inning.
Vanderbilt has been the best team all tournament long, not losing a single game and dominating every single one. They knocked Oregon State with a two game sweep where the Beavers were never close. Jason Esposito is a great shortstop and he hit .357. Meanwhile, Aaron Westlake hit .353 while knocking out 17 home runs. He’s a power hitter that has to be pitched around. They only have one regular on roster that hits under .300, meaning that 1 through 9 in the order this is the best team out there. On the pitching side, Sonny Gray was the A’s first round pick and posted a 1.97 ERA and a 12-3 record. He struck out more than a man an inning. Grayson Garvin was even better, with a 13-1 record and a pick of the Rays in the first round. He didn’t strike out as many man as Gray, but he still had a 2.36 ERA. Taylor Hill is just as good as any third starter in the country, with a 5-1 record and a 2.84 ERA.
North Carolina has a proud tradition, and they continued it by running through the tournament undefeated and taking down a good Stanford team relatively easily. They also continued their excellence in great young freshman, with Colin Moran leading the team in hitting and fellow underclassmen (but sophomore) Tommy Coyle being second. First round pick Levi Michael and fellow draftee Jacob Stallings combine to make a good but not great offense. Patrick Johnson is an ace who leads the team in strikeouts and had a 13-1 record. Kent Emmanuel is a quality #2, although Chris Munnelly has had struggles with a 4.11 ERA.
Texas doesn’t have any power bats- their team leader, Tant Shepherd, hit just 5 home runs this year. What they do well is getting on base, with a .374 OBP but just a .377 SLG. Erich Weiss led the team by hitting a .358 average, a .495 on base, and a .532 slugging. Their offense isn’t the most threatening, but they still have the capability to score enough runs to win. The team’s strength is their pitching. Taylor Jungmann was the Brewers first round pick, and had a 1.38 ERA and a 13-2 record. He’s a great pitcher. Deeper in the rotation, Sam Stafford (1.72 ERA) and Hoby Milner (2.53) have results that would be great for any pitcher, and Cole Green and his 8-3 record do just fine deeper in the rotation.
This is a powerhouse regional, with every team being a national seed and in the Top 8. Every team has an equal shot to make it all the way to the title game, and it should be interesting to see these powerhouses battle it out for the one spot in the final. Hopefully, they’ll meet the Golden Bears when they get there. Go Bears!