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 Arizona State, UCSB, Florida State, Texas Tech, and Michigan!
A Look Back at 2019: After winning their first 21 games of the year, Arizona State (38-19, 16-13) struggled down the stretch against stiffer competition. The Sun Devils were 0-4-1 in their last five series of the year but still earned a spot in the Baton Rouge Regional. The Sun Devils finished the regional 1-2, with Southern Miss defeating them twice. Arizona State's offense was by far their strength, finishing the year averaging 8.2 runs per game (good for seventh in the country). Hunter Bishop, one of the best hitters in the Pac-12 in 2019 (see the full top ten list here), highlighted the draft class for Arizona State as the tenth overall pick in the MLB Draft.
John’s (@johnny_omaha_) 2020 Prediction: The biggest positive three factors for Arizona State in 2020 are 1) a huge amount of hitting talent returning, 2) the hiring of Jason Kelly (of renown for his success at Washington) as pitching coach, and 3) lots of talent coming in with their tenth ranked recruiting class (see a full list of the top ten 2019 recruiting classes here). Of course Spencer Torkelson is the most exciting guy in the lineup for the Sun Devils, and Torkelson will likely be a first-round pick in the MLB Draft.
Guys to watch on the mound include RHP Boyd Vander Kooi, LHP Erik Tolman, and RHP Tyler Thornton. Vander Kooi's transition to a full-time starter in 2019 was not without hiccups, but he finished strong down the stretch and will bring back experience in the rotation. Thornton, an immediately eligible transfer from Saint Mary's, was the NCBWA Freshman Pitcher of the year a season ago and should greatly factor into the Sun Devil's success in 2020. All signs point to a return to prominence for the Sun Devils in 2020. I see them as a top-eight seed in the NCAA Tournament.
A Look Back at 2019: At 45-11 (19-5 Big West), UCSB was one of the most dominant teams on the West Coast in 2019. Heading into the last weekend of the regular season, the Gauchos were on a 13-game winning streak and in position to host a Regional. A series loss to Cal Poly dashed those hopes, and UCSB was sent to the Stanford Regional as the second seed. There they faced and lost to Fresno State, one of the toughest three seeds in the NCAA Tournament, and Sacramento State, one of the toughest four seeds in the Tournament. The Gauchos had ten players selected in the MLB Draft.
John’s (@johnny_omaha_) 2020 Prediction: The Gauchos bring back a host of excellent pitching talent in 2020. LHP Rodney Boone and RHP Michael McGreevy were both tabbed as Freshmen All-Americans by multiple sources; both pitchers had sub 3.0 ERAs and they pitched a combined 141.1 IP. As of now, the Gauchos are the favorites in the Big West. It will be fascinating to see if Cal State Fullerton can bounce back from their worst season in decades, but for now, I am picking UCSB. I see the Gauchos as a two-seed in a Regional in 2020.
A Look Back at 2019: In Mike Martin's last season at the helm of Florida State (43-23, 17-13 ACC), the Seminoles put together one last run to Omaha. After being on the bubble for much of the season, Florida State earned the three-seed in the Athens Regional. A six-game winning streak saw the Seminoles sweep through Florida Atlantic and Georgia in the Regional and LSU in the Super Regional. The Seminoles' walk-off win of LSU was voted on by fans as one of the best moments from the 2019 NCAA Tournament (see the full list of best moments from the NCAA Tournament here). After defeating Arkansas to open up the College World Series, losses to Michigan and Texas Tech spelled the end for Florida State.
John’s (@johnny_omaha_) 2020 Prediction: The dugout won't look the same without Mike Martin in it, but the expectations will be the same in Tallahassee. 2019 Florida State was an incredibly young team, as evidenced by the fact the Seminoles only lost seven players to the draft or graduation. The do lose offensive talent like IF Drew Mendoza but will return an exceptionally talented pitching staff. RHP CJ Van Eyk, a ten-game winner in 2019, highlights the staff and has a good shot at being a first-round pick in the 2020 MLB Draft. I like the Seminoles to compete for a Regional host site in 2020.
A Look Back at 2019: 2019 brought the longest postseason run in Texas Tech (46-20, 16-8 Big XII) history. A regular season Big XII Championship helped earn the Red Raiders the eighth overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. They swept the Lubbock Regional and defeated conference foe, Oklahoma State, in the Super Regional. The Red Raiders went 2-2 in Omaha, taking down Arkansas and Florida State while losing to Michigan twice (a team they swept earlier in the season). Texas Tech saw eight players get drafted in the MLB Draft, including slugger Josh Jung who was selected eighth overall.
John’s (@johnny_omaha_) 2020 Prediction: The Red Raiders should be the favorites in the Big XII heading into 2020. They lose some important bats, but will bring back key contributors like IF Brian Klein who hits for average and has already been given preseason All-American honors. RHP Micah Dallas and RHP Bryce Bonnin both return from the starting rotation and notched ERAs just above 4.0 in 2019. They also have RHP John McMillon who can touch 100 mph with his fastball in the bullpen. If Texas Tech can once again take care of business in the Big XII, it is hard not to see them as a top eight seed in the NCAA Tournament.
A Look Back at 2019: Many saw Michigan (50-22, 16-7 Big Ten) as a top 25 team heading into 2019, but few predicted that the Wolverines would be one win away from a National Championship. A run in the Big Ten Tournament saved the Wolverines' season and sent Michigan to the Corvallis Regional, which they won without having to play host, Oregon State. In the Super Regional, Michigan defeated number one overall seed, UCLA, in three close pitchers' duels, sending the Wolverines to Omaha. Michigan swept through their bracket at the College World Series and won the first game of the National Championship Series before dropping two straight to Vanderbilt. Five Michigan players were selected in the 2020 MLB Draft.
John’s (@johnny_omaha_) 2020 Prediction: There is reason to think that Michigan will continue to be a force in 2020. OF Jordan Nwogu was the third best hitter in the Big Ten in 2019 (see the full top ten list here), and he will be back to provide stability to the lineup. RHP Jeff Criswell and his sub-3.0 ERA from a year ago will return to start Friday nights for Michigan, and RHP Willie Weiss was one of the most dominating relievers in the Big Ten with 50 strikeouts in 39.1 innings of work. The Wolverines will be the favorite in the Big Ten heading into 2020 and will be in competition for a Regional host site. As of now, I think they will just miss the cut and end up as a two seed.
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