Yesterday, we took a glimpse at the teams Cal would not face, at least not in the early stages of the College World Series. Today, we’ll take a look at the threats the Golden Bears will face early: Virginia, Texas A&M, and South Carolina. Cal will open up against Virginia on Sunday, the #1 team in the country.
Virginia is 54-10 this year, and until their loss to UC Irvine they were the only team in the country with single digit losses. Danny Coleman leads their offense from the corner outfield with a .366 average, and posted a .891 OPS. John Hicks and Steven Proscia both have similar stats, both with averages a few ticks above .335 and either 7 or 8 homers. Meanwhile, shortstop Chris Taylor hit the walk-off that sent Virginia to the CWS. They are very lefty heavy in the line-up, but Justin Jones (bicep) is unavailable. Kyle Porter? We’ve already profiled Danny Hultzen in-depth; for more on him, take a look further down the main page. Other pitchers include Will Roberts, who twirled a no hitter against George Washington and threw 102 innings with a 1.58 ERA and a 11-1 record, and Tyler Wilson, who didn’t lose a game all year and struck out 117 in 94 innings. Cody Winiarski can also start if Virginia’s pitching depth is stretched.
Texas A&M is the second lowest ranked team in Omaha, and they were 47-20 on the year (19-8 in Big 12 play).Offensively, outside of Tyler Naquin’s .553 slugging and Matt Juengel’s .494 mark, along with his 7 home runs, there is no power. Outside of those two, there’s no slugging ability, but a lot of on base skills. That’s not necessarily the best line-up construction, but it works for the Aggies. This team’s pitching staff was top-notch, until probable first round pick John Stilson (5-2, 1.68 ERA) tore his labrum, ending his season. That doesn’t mean their following two pitchers can’t get the job done. Sophomore Michael Wacha has improved upon his great freshman year, with a 9-3 record and a great 2.12 ERA. Behind him in the rotation is Ross Stripling, a mid round draft pick who’s ERA was just a little behind Wacha’s at 2.29. He had more decisions, with a 14-2 record. Their starting depth behind those two is weak, as neither Estevan Uriegas, Dylan Mendoza nor Brandon Parrent has been able to get a foot hold on a starting job. Led by Nick Fleece, they have a solid bullpen to back the starters.
Finally, we look at defending champion South Carolina. They had an impressive year, going 50-14 with a 22-8 SEC record. Christian Walker, he of 10 home runs, is their primary home run threat, although the team as a whole hit 45 on the year. Scott Wingo has an impressive OBP, with a .432. Otherwise, you’re looking at a line-up that doesn’t have many impressive hitters, just a ton with a little power and an OBP above .350. The formula doesn’t deviate much for anybody outside of Walker and Wingo. Michael Roth is the best pure pitcher in the country, with a 1.02 ERA in the toughest conference in the country. The lefty doesn’t have the best pure stuff, but he gets by just fine with what he has. Behind him in the rotation are Forrest Koumas and Colby Holmes, both of an ERA in the 3s and average strikeout rates. Their bullpen is led by lockdown closer Matt Price (2.16 ERA, 18 saves) and a bevy of quality set-up men.
Overall, we’re looking at a very strong group where there is no team that we can say is the weakest. Every one of them is a top 10 team that has plenty of talent to back up that ranking. It should be intriguing to see how the Bears stack up against the best of the best. Go Bears!