By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent
NCAA College World Series Recap
Of the 10 SEC teams that made the NCAA Tournament, Mississippi State probably had the longest odds to reach the College World Series. Former head coach Andy Cannizaro was fired just three games into the season for an off-the-field scandal. Assistant Gary Henderson took over, but the Bulldogs still started 5-10 in conference play.
After the halfway point of the conference schedule, however, Mississippi State started to turn things around. The Bulldogs were 10-5 in the second half of SEC play and earned a spot in the tournament. The Bulldogs caught a break in the Tallahassee Regional after top seed Florida State lost its opener to Samford. MSU took advantage of the favorable draw and advanced to the Super Regionals.
In the Super Regionals, Mississippi State took two of three games at Vanderbilt, a team that swept the Bulldogs earlier in the season. In Omaha, MSU continued its run by blanking Washington, 1-0, in its opening game. MSU dominated North Carolina, 12-2, to advance to the finals of Bracket 1. The Bulldogs now have two chances to beat Oregon State to advance to the College World Series finals.
Arkansas entered the NCAA Tournament as the No. 5 overall seed and has been rolling through the postseason. The Hogs went 3-0 in their regional and took two of three games from South Carolina in the Super Regionals.
In the College World Series, the Razorbacks exploded for 11 runs in their opening game in a win over Texas. In the following game, Arkansas jumped out to an early lead over Texas Tech and posted a 7-4 victory. Arkansas is only one win away from reaching the Co-llege World Series finals.
Florida is the defending national champion and top overall seed of the tournament. However, the Gators fell to Texas Tech, 6-3, in their opening game of the CWS. Florida bounced back and eliminated Texas, 6-1. The Gators dug themselves a hole by losing that first game and now must navigate out of the losers’ bracket. If they do, they will have to beat Arkansas twice to reach the finals.
College World Series previews
Mississippi State and Arkansas are in the best position to meet in the College World Series finals. But it’s far from a guarantee the two SEC schools will advance.
The Bulldogs must beat No. 3 overall seed Oregon State, which has won 51 games this season and has been one of the best teams in college baseball. The good news for Mississippi State is that it has two opportunities to knock off the Beavers and advance.
Despite being in a better position, Mississippi State is still probably the underdog. Arkansas, on the other hand, is playing better than anyone. It will be difficult to beat either Florida or Texas Tech but the Razorbacks also have two chances to defeat either team.
Three of the five remaining teams are from the SEC, and this could be the second consecutive season where two teams from the SEC make the finals. Last year, Florida took down LSU in the championship series. Other all-SEC finals in college baseball include South Carolina over Florida in 2011 and LSU over Alabama in 1997.
College World Series predictions
Bracket 1 winner: Mississippi State
Bracket 2 winner: Arkansas
CWS Finals: Arkansas 2, Mississippi State 1