Updated: Jan 6, 2020
We're taking a look back and a look ahead at college baseball teams from around the country. Next up we're doing a quick look at Auburn, Dallas Baptist, UNC, Indiana, and Oregon State!
A Look Back at 2019: On paper, Auburn (38-28, 14-16 SEC) had a respectable but not overwhelming resumé entering Regional play. This earned the Tigers the two seed in the Atlanta Regional which Auburn swept, defeating host, #3 Georgia Tech, twice in the process. The Tigers then eliminated #14 UNC in the Chapel Hill Super Regional, scoring 13 runs in the top of the first inning of the winner-take-all game three. An 0-2 finish in Omaha stymied the Tigers' run, but it is fair to say Auburn outperformed their postseason expectation.
John’s (@johnny_omaha_) 2020 Prediction: The Tigers have consistently been a year ahead of schedule. After a 23-33 year in 2016, Auburn made a Regional in 2017, a Super Regional in 2018, and then the College World Series in 2019. An influx of talent comes to Auburn in 2020 as the Tigers brought in the sixth best recruiting class in the country. (Check out the top ten classes.) Led by All-American RHP Tanner Burns, the Tigers should be contenders for Omaha in 2020 and have a legitimate shot at ending up atop the SEC West standings.
A Look Back at 2019: Dallas Baptist (43-20, 14-7 MVC) finished the year tied atop the Missouri Valley Conference standings. After a run to the the conference tournament final, DBU ultimately lost to Indiana State. The Patriots earned the two seed in the Lubbock Regional where they beat Florida twice to eliminate the Gators and fell to Texas Tech in the Regional Final.
John’s (@johnny_omaha_) 2020 Prediction: Dallas Baptist loses All-American and sixth-round pick RHP MD Johnson and 11th rounder LHP Jordan Martinson; both of these guys were key pieces in the Patriots' 2019 rotation. While the Patriots always seem to reload, it will be a challenge to extend their six-year Regional appearance streak. DBU feels like a bubble team to me in 2020.
A Look Back at 2019: The Tar Heels (46-19, 17-13 ACC) stumbled down the stretch in the regular season with series losses to Pitt and NC State but recovered in the postseason. North Carolina won four straight games in the ACC Tournament to win the tournament. In the process, the Tar Heels earned a top 16 seed in the NCAA Tournament. A sweep of the Chapel Hill Regional extended the Tar Heels' winning streak to seven games, but that streak ultimately came to an end when UNC was eliminated by Auburn in the Super Regional.
John’s (@johnny_omaha_) 2020 Prediction: A lot of attention will be on slugger Aaron Sabato in 2020 and rightfully so. In his freshman year, Sabato hit 18 HR with a .343 average. RHP pitcher Austin Love is another guy to watch; in his freshman year he marked a 3.09 ERA in 36 appearances. The departures of IF Michael Busch (1st round draft pick) and RHP Tyler Baum (2nd round) may prove difficult to overcome. I anticipate UNC will compete for a hosting position in 2020 but will ultimately end up as a two-seed in a Regional.
A Look Back at 2019: In Jeff Mercer's first year as head coach at Indiana (37-13, 17-7 Big Ten), the Hoosiers lengthened their streak of Regional appearances to three. Indiana's high-flying offense powered the Hoosiers who averaged 7.0 runs per game (best in the Big Ten) with a wOBA of .357 (second in the Big Ten). Indiana sputtered down the stretch, losing four of their last five games, including being eliminated from the NCAA Tournament by #7 Louisville. Of note, Indiana set a school record for draft picks with ten selections in the MLB Draft.
John’s (@johnny_omaha_) 2020 Prediction: Indiana scheduled aggressively in 2020, including a weekend series at LSU to start the year, a four-game series with Illinois State, and Ole Miss and ECU in the Keith LeClair Classic (see the full 2020 tournament schedule here). The Hoosiers do dodge Minnesota, Illinois, and Iowa in Big Ten play. I'm very interested to follow this Indiana team. They should be in position to finish in the top few spots in the Big Ten but will need to win some of the non-conference series to beef up their postseason resumé. I see the Hoosiers as a low two, high three seed in a Regional in 2020.
A Look Back at 2019: After winning the National Championship in 2018, Oregon State (36-20-1. 21-8 Pac-12) followed up that performance with a successful year. Pitching was the key for the Beavers who only gave up 3.7 runs per game in 2019 (second in the nation). Complement that with the Golden Spikes winner and first overall pick in the draft, C Adley Rutschman, and Oregon State was a dangerous team. Despite the talent, Oregon State exited the Corvallis Regional quietly with two quick losses.
John’s (@johnny_omaha_) 2020 Prediction: Closer LHP Jake Mulholland and RHP Kevin Abel are the guys to watch in 2020 for the Beavers. Mulholland is already a three-time All-American and has 30 career saves and a 1.75 career ERA to his name. The Beavers lost their entire weekend rotation to the draft, and it is hard not to imagine a little bit of a rebuilding year. I would be surprised if Oregon State finishes in the top three in the Pac-12 (2016 was the last time the Beavers failed to finish in the top three), but I do expect the Beavers to be a two or three Regional seed come tournament time.
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