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Quick Blitz II: Georgia, Illinois State, Miami, Baylor, & UCLA

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 Georgia, Illinois State, Miami, Baylor, and UCLA!


Georgia


A Look Back at 2019: Georgia's (46-17, 21-9 SEC) 21 SEC wins set a school record in 2019, as the Bulldogs had one of the most successful regular seasons in program history. Georgia hosted a Regional as the number four overall seed where they lost to a team of destiny, Florida State, twice, including in the Regional Final. Eight players from the 2019 Georgia team were selected in the MLB Draft, and importantly for the Bulldogs, 20th round selection, SS Cam Shepherd elected to return.


John’s (@johnny_omaha_) 2020 Prediction: Led by All-American RHP Emerson Handcock and RHP Cole Wilcox, the Bulldogs' pitching should continue to be formidable in 2020. Georgia also returns seven starting position players. The loss of Aaron Schunk, one of the best two-way players in the country, will be tough to replace. He led the Bulldogs in batting average, home runs, RBIs, and saves. Regardless, Georgia will be a top ten team heading into 2020 and is a legitimate Omaha contender.


Illinois State


A Look Back at 2019: For Illinois State (36-26, 14-7 MVC), 2019 was one of the most successful seasons in program history. The Redbirds finished tied atop the Missouri Valley Conference which contributed to them earning the third seed in the Louisville Regional and the fourth NCAA Tournament appearance in program history. Two quick wins earned Illinois State a spot in the Regional Final before the host, number seven Louisville, won back-to-back games to eliminate the Redbirds.


John’s (@johnny_omaha_) 2020 Prediction: LHP Brent Headrick (ninth round), LHP Matt Walker (13th round), and RHP Jeff Lindgren (24th round) were all drafted out of Illinois State's starting rotation. The Redbirds also lost their two of the best bats out of their lineup in OF John Rave (5th round) and INF Joe Aeilts (14th round). The losses will be tough for Illinois State to overcome, and I predict a retooling year for the Redbirds. They may have a shot at making a run in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, but it will be difficult for Illinois State to make it to a Regional in back-to-back years.


Miami


A Look Back at 2019: Miami (41-20, 18-12 ACC), one of the most storied college baseball programs in the country, ended their three year NCAA Tournament drought in 2019. The Hurricanes scored series wins over Georgia Tech and Florida State en route to a bounce-back season. Miami was seeded second in the Starkville Regional and ultimately lost to Mississippi State in the Regional Final.


John’s (@johnny_omaha_) 2020 Prediction: The Hurricanes bring in a lot of talent for the 2020 season, recruiting the ninth best class in the country (check out the top ten classes). On top of that, Miami returns one of the most talented rosters in the country. RHP Brian Van Belle was a ten-game winner with a 3.30 ERA in 2019 as the Friday night starter for the Hurricanes. On top of that, Miami returns three pitchers with 80+ career innings pitched and ERAs of less than 4.20 in RHP Daniel Federman, RHP Chris McMahon, and RHP Slade Cecconi. 1B Alex Toral smashed 24 HR in in 2019, and sluggers IF Adrian del Castillo and 3B Raymond Gil will bolster one of the most powerful lineups in the ACC. The Hurricanes will be a top ten team heading into 2020 and will be a popular pick for an Omaha run.


Baylor


A Look Back at 2019: A 35-19 (14-8, Big XII) year gave Baylor the right to travel to Los Angeles for Regional play. In an elimination game against Omaha, Shea Langeliers put up one of the best individual performances in Baylor history with 3 HR and 11 RBI, good for one of the top ten moments in the 2019 NCAA Tournament (see the full list of best moments from the NCAA Tournament here). Baylor ultimately was knocked off by the number one overall seed, UCLA. The Bears had six players selected in the 2019 MLB Draft.


John’s (@johnny_omaha_) 2020 Prediction: SS Nick Loftin is the guy to watch on Baylor. He is a plus defender and hit to the tune of .a 323 batting average in 2019. Losing closer RHP Kyle Hill who allowed zero runs in 29.0 IP will be tough to replace, and with several other teams in the Big XII improving (e.g. Texas, Oklahoma, etc.), the Bears will be battling weekend after weekend in conference play. They strike me as a two or three seed that should be competitive in a Regional but unlikely to make a deep run.


UCLA


A Look Back at 2019: UCLA (52-11, 24-5 Pac-12) had arguably the most successful regular season in the country in 2019. The Bruins won the Pac-12, had the best team ERA in the country and spent most of the season on top of the rankings. UCLA overcame some struggles in the Los Angeles Regional defeating Loyola Marymount in the Regional Final; however, they were not able to escape the Super Regional as Michigan came into town and knocked off the number one overall seed. The 2019 UCLA team was incredibly talented and saw 13 players drafted, a program record.


John’s (@johnny_omaha_) 2020 Prediction: UCLA lost five pitchers to the draft including their Friday and Saturday starters. The Bruins have consistently brought in talent, but I expect there to be a drop-off for UCLA in 2020. RHP Kyle Mora should provide some stability to the rotation, and RHP Holden Powell should be a force in the bullpen. OF Garret Mitchell will be the position player to watch, as many project him to be a top ten draft pick. UCLA has two big tests early in the year with the Frisco College Baseball Classic (versus Illinois, Oklahoma State, and Texas A&M) and the Southern California College Baseball Classic (versus TCU, Vanderbilt, and USC) (see the full 2020 tournament schedule here). Wins in these tournaments would raise the expectations in Los Angeles, but heading into the year I see UCLA as a borderline Regional host.


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