It’s that time — prediction time. The predictions thus far have been a mixed bag. We had 4 of the 5 SEC Super Regional teams right (UT, A&M, Auburn and Arkansas, whiffing on Ole Miss, and giving too much credit to LSU and Florida), and picked 2 of the league’s CWS squads (A&M and Auburn) but missed on Arkansas and Ole Miss, and assumed Tennessee would still be around.
But with 4 SEC teams in Omaha for the College World Series, there’s no room for error.
SEC teams have won the past 2 CWS titles. Is a 3-peat on the horizon?
Here’s our final pre-CWS guestimate on how the SEC’s 4 squads will fare.
The pitching has been razor-sharp and they come into Omaha playing perhaps the best baseball in the nation. That said, the bracket is tough. If they were in the top bracket, we’d probably pick them to win a couple of games. But in the bottom? Uh-oh.
The Rebels open with Auburn, which they beat in a series in March. It is worth noting that the Rebels scored 33 runs in those 3 games. The Tigers’ pitching shouldn’t be giving up 11 runs a game this time around, and given Ole Miss’ torrid pace, the Tigers are a little more experienced in tight NCAA games. We’ll take Auburn in that one. Ole Miss would then get the loser of Stanford and Arkansas, which might be the toughest first-round game of the entire Tournament.
We’ve got Arkansas projected to be there, and the Razorbacks bested Ole Miss in a great series at the end of April. The rematch probably goes the same way.
(There, Ole Miss, I’ve been consistent. I’ve continued not picking you, so go get your trophy.)
Auburn pulled off an impressive Super Regional win at Oregon State and comes in looking like a team that’s ready to survive this CWS format. As noted, we have them over Ole Miss in the opener. That sets up a game with the winner of Stanford and Arkansas. That game promises to be red-hot, but Stanford is a hard-hitting team that has a UT-lite kind of vibe. We’ve got Auburn with a winner’s bracket loss to the Cardinal, which sets up an elimination game showdown against the winner of Arkansas and Ole Miss.
As noted, we’ve got the Razorbacks in that matchup, so the Hogs and Tigers play another SEC elimination game.
Arkansas won 2 of 3 in a May series at Auburn, and this looks like an absolutely fascinating matchup. The difference here is Arkansas’ pitching depth, which is just a little stronger than Auburn’s handful of dependable pitchers, who will be worn down after 2 games. We’ve got Arkansas late in this one, sending Auburn home after a single win in Omaha.
All of this brings us back to the Razorbacks. Brutal luck in their first-round matchup with Stanford — the Cardinal have 7 starters who hit .306 or better, and they have outhomered their opponents 117-34 on the year. It’s as bad of a first-round draw as Arkansas could get, and we’ll take the Cardinal in an 8-5 kind of game.
Arkansas then would move to the loser’s bracket and face (we think) Ole Miss, which they will outlast in a 5-4 sort of fingernail-chewing matchup. Next, we’ve got Arkansas eliminating Auburn with a late-inning rally to get a rematch with Stanford in the semifinals.
Arkansas would have to beat Stanford twice.
Arkansas will win the first game to set up a rubber match with Stanford. Put the Hogs in the top half of the bracket and they’d be dangerous. But Stanford just has a little too much hitting to lose twice in a row to Arkansas. We’ll take Stanford on to the CWS best-of-3 finals with an oh-so-close loss for Arkansas.
On the other hand, the Aggies draw the midwestern side of the bracket, opening with a tough game against Oklahoma. OU’s 5.41 team ERA gives some pause. So does A&M catcher Troy Claunch’s good work shutting down runners, which is where Oklahoma tends to live and die. We’ll take the Aggies to win a 9-3 type of game.
We project A&M to then face Texas in a gathering of 2 schools that officially don’t like each other. The Aggies outlasted the Horns 12-9 in their regular-season meeting, and this game feels destined to be a similar slugfest. Texas’ bullpen is a bit suspect, and the Aggies pick up a late rally to stay in the winner’s bracket.
From there, it’s a semifinal rematch with Oklahoma, which will come out of the loser’s bracket by eliminating Notre Dame and Texas.
We’ll take the Sooners to win the first game against the Aggies, who are trying to rest their pitching staff. But in the decisive semifinal game, A&M bounces back with a solid 5-2 victory to move on to the best-of-3 CWS finals.
Against Stanford, the Cardinal’s offense gets to the Aggies in the first game, picking up an 8-4 victory. But with their backs against the wall, A&M completes a dream season with a 6-5 series-turner and then a deceptively easy 9-2 victory in Game 3.
Texas A&M wins it all, Dylan Rock is CWS MVP, and that’s our story.