Arizona State Pros: When you look at teams that have successful stints in Omaha, it usually involves those with productive lineups. That's exactly what Arizona State has this season. While the Sun Devils aren't perfect, their offense is the nation's best. Not only do the Sun Devils enter the weekend with a .350 team batting average, they also have several starters hitting well above .330. First baseman Brett Wallace is one of the nation's top three hitters, while Eric Sogard and Kiel Roling produce at a high level. The Devils also have a solid weekend rotation with Mike Leake and Josh Satow leading the charge.
Cons: The Sun Devils are one of the gutsiest and most hard-nosed teams in the Omaha field, but their aggressiveness could become an issue at some point. Strange things tend to happen in the College World Series. Though the offense is in great shape, the Sun Devils do leave something to be desired on the mound. Leake and Satow headline an outstanding weekend rotation, but pitching depth could be an issue.
UC Irvine Pros: After spending a few seasons as an assistant at Cal State Fullerton, UC Irvine coach Dave Serrano brought some of the same philosophies to the Anteater program. While Irvine isn't the most talented team in the field, it is probably the scrappiest team in Omaha. Ollie Linton and Bryan Petersen love to make plays in the outfield, while veteran second baseman Cody Cipriano is a consistent contributor at the plate. The Anteaters also have a stellar weekend rotation led by Scott Gorgen and Wes Etheridge.
Cons: As one of the nation's leaders in stolen bases, the Anteaters aren't afraid to take some chances. Against the best of the best in the CWS, you have to wonder how the Irvine running game matches up with teams such as Oregon State, Cal State Fullerton and opening day opponent Arizona State. While the weekend rotation is in great shape, the Anteaters lack depth on the mound. For UC Irvine to have a successful run in Omaha, Gorgen and Etheridge must do what they do best – piece together lengthy starts.
Oregon State Pros: Much like Rice, Cal State Fullerton and North Carolina, the Beavers began the postseason knowing what it takes to compete at the high level in Omaha. While the Beavers aren't as talented as last year's title team, they have a load of heart and leadership. Veteran catcher Mitch Canham, Jordan Lennerton and Mike Lissman lead the offensive charge. The pitching staff is in great shape with Joe Paterson, Danny Turpen, Jorge Reyes, Mike Stutes and Eddie Kunz as the headliners. When the dust settles, the Beavers have the pitching necessary to win consecutive championships.
Cons: Just a few weeks ago, the Beavers were a team that many felt didn't belong in the postseason. Now they're competing for another national title. While Oregon State has played impressive baseball during the past few weeks, its lineup still leaves something to be desired. Given the fact that Arizona State and UC Irvine (in their bracket) are so offense-oriented, the Beavers must rise to the occasion. The Oregon State pitching staff is in great shape, but a productive offense is needed if the Beavers want to make a splash during the next two weeks.
Cal State Fullerton Pros: Anytime you have George Horton coaching your team, you have a chance to win a national title. While the Titans spent much of the regular season as one of the most unimpressive teams in the Big West, they peaked at the right time. Once again, Fullerton finds itself competing for a national title. The offense is in OK – not great – shape with hard-nosed outfielder Clark Hardman leading the charge. Veteran right-hander Wes Roemer and Jeff Kaplan are key cogs on the mound. If they hit, the Titans could make a move.
Cons: Much like Oregon State, the Titans were once a team that many thought wouldn't reach the postseason. But now they're in Omaha, and they have a chance to do something many thought they'd never do. While the Titans have played impressive baseball during the past two weeks, it's no secret that everything has gone their way. That probably won't be the case in Omaha. The teams competing at the College World Series have had to overcome major obstacles, so the Titans won't be alone. When Saturday comes, we'll find out if Fullerton has a date with destiny.
Kendall Rogers is the college baseball editor for Rivals.com. He can
be reached at email@example.com.