College World Series
The biggest event in college baseball is upon us as the College World Series starts this weekend in Omaha, Nebraska.
The eight participants in the tournament this year have had an interesting road with five of the eight super regionals requiring three games to decide who would advance to Omaha. Among that group were a bunch of surprises like Notre Dame knocking out top-seeded Tennessee and Ole Miss going through sixth-seeded Miami and 11th-seeded Southern Mississippi to reach the College World Series. Only two of the top-eight seeds actually made it to Nebraska this year, and none of them have been as impressive as No. 5 Texas A&M.
The Aggies are a perfect 5-0 in the tournament this season, joining Ole Miss as the only unbeaten teams left in Omaha. It was the pitching that stole the show for Texas A&M in the super regional as the staff outdueled Louisville in a pair of low-scoring contests. Yet the bats got the job done in the regional with an average of nearly 11 runs per game in the three-game sweep at home.
At the plate, Texas A&M has plenty of power with Dylan Rock and Ryan Targac, both of whom have launched at least 15 homers this season. Rock leads the team with 18 home runs and 61 RBI, and he’s hitting a respectable .332 as well while also scoring a team-best 65 runs. Targac is a tick below .300 on the season after collecting just one hit in eight at-bats in the super regional, but he’s driven in 57 runs and smashed 15 homers this year for the Aggies.
Texas A&M relies a lot on its bullpen with a pitching staff that has been inconsistent this season. Micah Dallas is one of four pitchers with at least six wins this year, but he’s the only starter of that bunch. Dallas leads the team with 83 strikeouts, but he holds a 5.40 ERA, slightly worse than Nathan Dettmer’s 4.75 ERA as the only other consistent starter for the Aggies. Dettmer is 5-2 with 75 punchouts this season, which ranks third behind Dallas and reliever Joseph Menefee, who is 6-2. The Aggies have a team ERA of 4.68 and a team WHIP of 1.42, who although it isn’t a dominant staff, it still is a dangerous one. So crack open that Maroon & White bottle of GameDay for an early happy hour and Gig ‘Em. Game starts at 2pm EST.
Also on that side of the bracket is No. 9 Texas, which nearly found itself eliminated in the super regional round. The Longhorns eased past their regional, but then lost the opening game of the super regional at East Carolina and fell behind 7-2 entering the bottom of the second in Game 2. Yet Texas was able to rally for a 9-8 win on a walk-off then blasted the Pirates in the deciding third contest to book a record 38th trip to the College World Series.
The Longhorns’ big advantage is first baseman Ivan Melendez, who is arguably the best player in college baseball. Melendez not only leads the team with a .396 batting average, but has slugged 32 home runs and driven in 94 runs in a dominant season at the plate. Melendez went just 3-of-12 at the dish against ECU, but he hit two homers, drove in four runs and scored four runs to help in the offensive cause whenever possible. And Melendez’s power is obviously contagious as six other Longhorns have hit at least 10 home runs this season, including 19 from Murphy Stehly and 15 from Trey Faltine, and four other hitters have at least 50 RBI.
Texas also has one of the stronger rotations in the nation with Pete Hansen and Lucas Gordon at the top of the staff. Hansen is 11-2 with a 3.40 ERA and 115 strikeouts to just 19 walks in more than 100 innings pitched this season. Gordon is 7-1 with a 2.68 ERA in 15 starts across 17 appearances and has allowed just two homers in 84 innings on the mound. Both pitchers are keeping opponents to a less than .225 batting average and also have the only two complete games by a Texas pitcher this season. Tristan Stevens rounds out the typical starting rotation, but he’s complemented his 12 starts with 13 other appearances out of the bullpen, which includes a trio of saves for Texas. Horns up all ya Texas Exes! Head to your local liquor store and pick up a bottle of Burnt Orange & White before the game tonight at 7pm ET.
Both Texas and Texas A&M start the tournament with unranked foes who have been on a tear. The Aggies have to face Oklahoma which beat No. 13 Florida two out of three times to win the Gainesville Regional before outlasting No. 4 Virginia Tech in the super regional. The Longhorns face off with Notre Dame, which easily won its regional at Georgia Southern before shocking the Volunteers in the super regional.