College World Series Storylines

aroundtheacc3Mississippi State: The prodigal son – Under Ron Polk, Mississippi State earned six College World Series berths. One of those trips came in 1990, with John Cohen manning the outfield. Cohen returned to Starkville as head coach in 2009, assuming a squad that was 22-33, 9-21 SEC in Polk’s last year. Cohen needed just three seasons to return the Bulldogs to the NCAA Tournament, and another two years to come back to Omaha. They may not carry the clout or resume as their SEC counterparts across the bracket, but Mississippi State rolled over Virginia in the Charlottesville Super Regional.

Oregon State: These guys again? – North Carolina fans are probably groaning when they see Oregon State among the eight teams at the College World Series. In 2006 and 2007, the Tar Heels reached the championship series. Both those years, Oregon State defeated UNC in the finals, including a heart-wrenching defeat in the third game of the 2006 series, This is the Beavers’ first Omaha trip since the 2007 championship, but their No. 5 RPI and 14-7 record against the RPI Top 50 makes them just as formidable as before.

Indiana: A perfect (Big) Ten – Just two years ago, the Omaha World-Herald published a piece on Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany decrying the unfairness of college baseball for “cold-weather” schools. He feared that northern schools would either drop baseball or break away from the NCAA altogether in baseball due to the playing field’s tilt towards the southern states. Now, a year after Kent State and Stony Brook punched Omaha tickets, Indiana has snapped the conference’s CWS drought dating back to Barry Larkin’s days at Michigan in 1984. A good showing for the Hoosiers would be further encouragement that baseball in cold-weather climates isn’t a wasted venture.

Louisville: The year of the Cardinal – Louisville is making its second trip to the College World Series, with the first coming in 2007. It’s a nice bookend on what has been an exceptional year for Cardinal athletics. Defeat No. 4 Florida in the Sugar Bowl? Check. Win the NCAA Championship in men’s basketball? Check. Defeat Baylor and Tennessee to earn a spot in the women’s basketball title game? Check. With a move to the ACC in the cards for 2014, Louisville is another team that conference fans can cheer for, especially if they aren’t fond of those North Carolina schools on the other side of the bracket.

North Carolina: Is tenth time the charm? – This marks the tenth trip to the College World Series for North Carolina, including six of the last eight seasons. However – and maybe you’ve heard this before – an ACC team hasn’t won the event since Wake Forest in 1955. This is arguably the best UNC team to reach this stage, carrying the top overall seed into the NCAA Tournament, but the last two weekends have been anything but a cruise for the Tar Heels. Can North Carolina continue to grind out close games and finally claim that elusive title?

NC State: The Pack is back – For the second time in program history and the first time since 1968, the Wolfpack is in Omaha. In storybook manner, NC State will open against rival North Carolina and could potentially face them later in the double-elimination bracket with a berth in the championship series on the line. UNC has won five of the seven games between the two teams in the last two seasons, including both of their ACC Tournament meetings, but Omaha bragging rights will likely overshadow those results.

UCLA: California Dreaming – Like North Carolina, UCLA has made a habit of going to Omaha recently, with this marking the third trip in four years. Like North Carolina, they also haven’t won a championship. John Savage came to UCLA in 2005 after three seasons at UC Irvine and has built the Bruins into a perennial Pac-12 contender. Can the team make the next step forward this year? It’s always a challenge when going against the best teams in the nation, but UCLA hopes to be rewarded for its consistency.

LSU: Second Homecoming – LSU has been to the College World Series 16 times now, winning the title six of those years. However, this is the first time the Tigers have paid Omaha a visit since their 2009 national championship. With the SEC Championship and sweeps of the Baton Rouge Regional and Super Regional under its belt, LSU is arguably the favorite in this year’s Omaha field. In other words, it’s just like the 1990s, with fewer runs and a newer ballpark.
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