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STAFF PICKS - College World Series

Jake Mastroianni, @ShortStopBall

With six of the top eight national seeds, including number one Tennessee, not making it to Omaha, it really is anyone’s guess as to who will win the College World Series.

Winning this tournament typically comes down to the team who has the most pitching depth and doesn’t make mistakes. There aren’t many teams in this field with great pitching depth, but they all can mash. Texas and Arkansas were two early season favorites and they seem to be clicking at the right time. They will meet in the College World Series final with Texas winning it all.

Bracket Winners: Texas, Arkansas

National Champion: Texas

Kyle McKelvey, @kylemckelv

This Omaha group feels more wide open than the last few years, with the elimination of the number one overall seed, Tennessee, by Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish are a team that can pitch and play really solid defense, but their trip to Knoxville showed just how hot their bats are at the moment, exploding for seven home runs against Tennessee’s pitching. I think they can keep playing their style of baseball under the lights of (and in the expansive outfield of) Charles Schwab Field in Omaha.

None of the teams on this side of the bracket would surprise me if they advanced to the final series, though, because all of them can hit. Texas A&M is the highest seeded team (and only national seed) on this side of the bracket and their offense is probably the most clutch of these teams, but their defense is questionable enough to make me doubt them.

Texas is the trendy pick for this side of the bracket because of their historical success in this city…and their offense..and their pitching…and their defense. But I’m going with my gut here and picking Notre Dame.

For the second bracket, all three of the SEC teams are coming into The Heartland on incredible hot streaks. Ole Miss and Arkansas are now playing up to their early season expectations that had them ranked so highly by everyone. Auburn just keeps mashing the ball, led by first baseman, Sonny DiChiara, and a streaky lineup. Stanford is the highest remaining national seed in the whole field, but their pitching has left a lot to be desired lately. If they can get Alex Williams back on track, I may regret my pick of Arkansas here, but it just feels like the OmaHogs have the pitching to limit the Stanford lineup and send them to the loser’s bracket early. I have Ole Miss as the runner-up because they're on a hot streak themselves lately and have the pitching depth to maybe eliminate Stanford if the bracket works out that way.

Bracket winners: Notre Dame, Arkansas

Bracket runners-up: Texas A&M, Ole Miss

Champion: Arkansas

John Peters, @johnny_omaha_

I can't believe it's that time of year again, but here we are picking winners for the College World Series which starts this weekend.

Charles Schwab Field in Omaha has played more offensively in recent years than in years past, but it still takes pitching to win the minimum of five games required to take the College World Series crown. On the SEC West (plus Stanford) Invitational side of the bracket, give me Arkansas and their deep pitching staff. Connor Noland and Will McEntire have been consistent producers for the Hogs, and Hagen Smith joining Brady Tygart and co. in the bullpen gives the Razorbacks the best pitching staff in Omaha.

The big question mark for me on this side is which Alex Williams shows up. If the Alex Williams who had a 1.98 season ERA pitches against Arkansas, Stanford may be the favorites. But if the Williams who's given up 11 earned runs in six NCAA Tournament innings shows up, the Cardinal will be cooked.

On the Southwest Conference (plus Notre Dame) Reunion side of the bracket, I like Texas. The story for the Horns is similar to Arkansas, but Texas has a few more question marks in terms of pitching and a more potent offense. Pete Hansen and Lucas Gordon have become a formidable 1-2 punch, and Tristan Stevens in the bullpen or as a number three starter is a fascinating wildcard. After that, the bullpen depth is a concern for Texas, but Ivan Melendez, Murphy Stehly, and the rest of the Texas lineup will bring the power to Omaha.

The Aggies are my runner-up pick on this side. If Texas A&M finds enough pitching to make it through Oklahoma in game one, I like the Aggies' chances of winning the College World Series. The margins are slim for the Aggies who don't have the pitching to make it out of the losers' bracket.

If the final matchup is Texas vs. Arkansas, give me the Hogs with their superior pitching depth.

Bracket winners: Texas, Arkansas

Bracket runners-up: Texas A&M, Ole Miss

Champion: Arkansas

Riley Zayas, @ZayasRiley

Coming into this season, Texas was one of the main frontrunners to claim the national title in Omaha. Rarely is it the preseason favorite who emerges as the eventual champion by the season’s end, but in this case, the Longhorns very well might be an exception.

It is hard to think of a more complete team than that of head coach David Pierce’s squad. And that is an interesting statement to make, considering that many, including myself, had doubts about Texas’ potential for a deep tournament run as they rode the wave of Big 12 play. But they rank fifth in the country in batting average, and nobody has found a way to slow Ivan Melendez’s bat yet. Plus, their fielding percentage of .986 is the best in the nation. Even a five-hour weather delay did not halt Texas’ momentum in the opening innings of Sunday’s decisive game three duel against ECU that saw the Longhorns clinch a trip to Omaha.

For this reason, Texas emerges from bracket one, overcoming charges from a very strong field of four teams that also features Notre Dame, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma, all of whom looked sharp last weekend.

The Horns’ opponent in the CWS final will be Ole Miss. Statistics and rankings are indications of who has the advantage in a particular matchup, but confidence is one of those intangibles that cannot be captured in numbers. And the Rebels have plenty of it, coming off perhaps the most one-sided super regional performance seen from any team this year. They had little trouble shutting out Southern Miss in consecutive games, and if the pitching can remain consistent, head coach Mike Bianco’s team will not be easy to stop. With plenty of veteran leadership, Ole Miss also has experience on its side, which is yet another intangible on the road to victory.

With a future SEC program (Texas) taking on one of the conference’s founding members (Ole Miss), I give the edge to the Longhorns, with the CWS final decided in three extremely competitive contests. Both teams can hit, but I believe the Longhorns have the edge on the mound, which will power them to their first national title since 2005.

Bracket Winners: Texas, Ole Miss

National Champion: Texas


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