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Breaking down the CWS teams

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The Road to Omaha is complete and eight teams from all over the country hope to make it a worthwhile stop at Rosenblatt Stadium, home of the College World Series.

LSU and North Carolina are the only teams that competed in last year's CWS. Virginia and Southern Mississippi are making their first appearances in Omaha.

It's time to breakdown the CWS field.

ARIZONA STATE
Record: 49-12
CWS appearances: 21 (Last: 2007)
How they got here: The Sun Devils won the Pac-10 crown and earned a national seed. They hosted the Tempe Regional and had little trouble getting through Kent State and Oral Roberts. The same situation played out in the Tempe Super Regional, where the Sun Devils outscored Clemson 15-6 in two games on the way to a series sweep.
Key players: The Sun Devils have several key cogs to watch in Omaha, but none more important than the two-headed monster in the weekend rotation – Mike Leake and Josh Spence. Leake is the nation's best pitcher outside of San Diego State's Stephen Strasburg. Spence is the nation's top newcomer. Leake enters the CWS 16-1 with a 1.36 ERA in 132 2/3 innings. He also has struck out 150 and walked 21 and teams are hitting him at a .175 clip. Spence is 9-1 with a 2.33 ERA in 88 2/3 innings. He also has struck out 109 and walked 25 and teams are hitting .234 off him. Fellow weekend starter Seth Blair has a 3.16 ERA in 77 innings and reliever Mitchell Lambson has appeared in 29 games, recorded five saves and has a 2.77 ERA in 74 2/3 innings. The Devils don't have a characteristically great offensive lineup, but it's certainly enough to win the national title. ASU is hitting .305 and Jason Kipnis lead the way hitting .385 with 16 homers and 71 RBIs. Also keep an eye on Carlos Ramirez and Matt Newman. Ramirez is hitting .349 with 18 homers and 72 RBIs and Newman is hitting .315 with seven homers.
CWS forecast: Arizona State already has far exceeded expectations this season. The Devils entered the season with one of their youngest lineups in years. However, that hasn't seemed to matter in the postseason. The Sun Devils have gotten in a groove at the plate in the postseason and that could be the key to winning the national title. There's no question the Devils have the pitching to win the national title with Leake and Spence leading the charge. Mitchell Lambson also gives the Devils a very reliable arm out of the bullpen. ASU may not have an offense littered with stars like some teams, but it is solid at the plate and the pitching staff will be one of the best in Omaha.
ARKANSAS
Record: 39-22
CWS appearances: 6 (Last: 2004)
How they got here: You can't say the Razorbacks didn't earn their trip to Omaha. Arkansas had one of the toughest roads to the College World Series. They competed in the Norman Regional and cruised past Washington State and Oklahoma to advance to the super regional round. To the surprise of many, the Razorbacks defeated previously red-hot Florida State in two games to advance to the CWS. Arkansas did a 180 from the last few weeks of the regular season to the NCAA postseason. It is red hot.
Key players: Arkansas is a tough team to figure out. The Razorbacks began the season on a hot note, struggled down the stretch in the regular season and has played exceptionally well in the NCAA postseason. This all was accomplished with very average numbers at the plate and on the mound. Somehow the Razorbacks seem to get things done. Andy Wilkins leads the offense with a .329 batting average, 17 homers and 51 RBIs. Ben Tschepikow is hitting .314 with nine homers and 46 RBIs and Chase Leavitt is hitting .302 with a home run and 30 RBIs. Also keep an eye on freshman Zack Cox, who only is hitting .273 but has 12 homers and 36 RBIs. Bo Bigham is another key cog. On the mound, left-hander Dallas Keuchel has the ability to be dominant and has a 4.04 ERA in 98 innings. He also has struck out 62 and walked 28. Brett Eibner also has much upside and is 5-4 with a 4.25 ERA in 65 2/3 innings. Relievers Mike Bolsinger and Stephen Richards could be the key to having success in Omaha. Bolsinger has appeared in 27 games and has a 2.83 ERA in 60 1/3 innings and Richards has appeared in 28 games and has a 1.09 ERA in 33 innings.
CWS forecast: The Razorbacks are in a tough bracket and certainly aren't expected to advance to the CWS championship series. But don't sleep on these guys. Sure, the Hogs don’t have the offensive stars like other teams in the bracket. But this team has attitude and always believes it will win. That attitude can't be underestimated. The Hogs need outstanding performances from starting pitchers Dallas Keuchel and Brett Eibner to start the CWS. This team thrives on momentum, so if it can start the CWS with a win or two, the sky is the limit. Arkansas is not a team expected to advance to the title series if it gets in the loser's bracket early in the tournament. It's all about the fast start.
CAL STATE FULLERTON
Record: 47-14
CWS appearances: 16 (Last: 2007)
How they got here: The Titans are one of the favorites to win the national title, but there's no question they had an easy road to the College World Series. The Titans stormed through the weakest regionals with wins over Utah and Gonzaga. They also hosted Louisville in super regional play and outscored the Cardinals 23-2 in two games. The Titans are playing fabulous baseball and will be tough to slow down in Omaha.
Key players: The Titans have played a great brand of baseball in the postseason and have several key cogs to watch at the plate and on the mound. At the plate, veteran outfielder Josh Fellhauer is hitting .399 with six homers and 55 RBIs. Jared Clark is hitting .363 with 17 doubles, 12 homers and 81 RBIs and Christian Colon is hitting .352 with 16 doubles, seven homers and 38 RBIs. Also keep an eye on Gary Brown and Khris Davis. Brown is hitting .337 with three homers and Davis is a big-time power threat and is hitting .336 with 16 homers and 57 RBIs. On the mound, the Titans have a strong All-American candidate in right-hander Daniel Renken. The sophomore is having a fabulous year and has an 11-2 record and a 2.36 ERA in 118 innings. He also has struck out 98 and walked 32 and opponents are hitting him at a .202 clip. Freshman Noe Ramirez is 10-1 with a 2.86 ERA in 107 innings and teams are hitting him at a .223 clip. Tyler Pill is 11-3 with a 3.95 ERA in 98 innings. Also keep an eye on relievers Kyle Mertins, Nick Ramirez, Michael Morrison and Ryan Ackland. Mertins has appeared in 25 games and has a 2.30 ERA, Ramirez has appeared in 21 games and has a 2.63 ERA in 37 2/3 innings, Morrison has appeared in 21 games and has a 3.10 ERA and Ackland has appeared in 26 games and has a 3.41 ERA in 29 innings.
CWS forecast: Cal State Fullerton is one of our two favorites to win the national title for a reason. The Titans, other than a couple weeks, have played an outstanding brand of baseball this season and also have displayed balance. The offense enters the CWS hitting .330 and the pitching staff has a 3.36 ERA. The Titans have a nice mix of high average and power hitters and the pitching staff has two elite starting pitchers in addition to a wealth of talented relievers. The Titans have all the attributes of a national title team, but coach Dave Serrano knows more than anyone the favorite isn't always on top in Omaha. The Titans will be a fun team to watch this weekend.
LSU
Record: 51-16
CWS appearances: 15 (Last: 2008)
How they got here: The Tigers are perfect in the postseason and hope to continue that trend in Omaha. The Tigers cruised past Southern, Baylor and Minnesota in the Baton Rouge Regional before taking care of Rice in two games in super regional action. The Tigers head to Omaha with a wealth of confidence.
Key players: The Bayou Bengals are hitting .315 and have several offensive cogs to watch. LSU second baseman DJ LeMahieu leads the team in batting average at a .340 clip. Ryan Schimpf is hitting .335 with 19 homers and 63 RBIs and Blake Dean is hitting .333 with 15 homers and 65 RBIs. Also keep an eye on Jared Mitchell, Mikie Mahtook and Sean Ochinko. Mitchell is the most versatile player on the team and is hitting .325 with nine homers and 43 RBIs. He also has recorded 35 stolen bases in 44 attempts. Mahtook is one of the nation's most talented freshmen and is hitting .320 with six homers and 31 RBIs. Ochinko is hitting .330 with seven homers and 50 RBIs. On the mound, the Tigers have the two-headed monster of Anthony Ranaudo and Louis Coleman. Ranaudo is 10-3 with a 2.95 ERA in 109 2/3 innings and Coleman is 13-2 with a 2.76 ERA in 114 innings. Ranaudo has struck out 147 and walked 41 and Coleman has struck out 124 and walked 19. Also keep an eye on freshman reliever Matty Ott. Ott has been fantastic this season and has appeared in 34 games and has a 2.17 ERA in 45 2/3 innings. Ott also has recorded 16 saves and has impeccable control with 63 strikeouts and just four walks.
CWS forecast: The Tigers are right there with North Carolina, Arizona State and Cal State Fullerton in the favorites department. The Tigers have a pair of excellent weekend starters in Ranaudo and Coleman. They also have a fabulous closer in Matty Ott. The only thing that could hold the Tigers back in Omaha is a team getting deep into their bullpen. Outside of Ott, the Tigers don't have too many reliable arms in the pen. Still, LSU has absolutely dominated opponents without a great bullpen this season. So, having a wealth of success in Omaha wouldn't be a surprise. Oh yeah, the Tigers also have a very solid offense and a speedster in Jared Mitchell.
NORTH CAROLINA
Record: 47-16
CWS appearances: 8 (Last: 2008)
How they got here: The Tar Heels have had a rather dominant road to the CWS. UNC dominated Dartmouth, Kansas and Coastal Carolina in the Chapel Hill Regional before sweeping East Carolina in impressive fashion in super regional action. The Tar Heels outscored the Pirates 19-4 in two games.
Key players: The Tar Heels are hitting .310 and have several players to watch, but first baseman Dustin Ackley is the table setter. Ackley is hitting .412 with 22 homers and 70 RBIs. He also has recorded 17 doubles, four triples and 194 total bases. Third baseman Kyle Seager is hitting .386 with 24 doubles, five homers and 59 RBIs and catcher Mark Fleury is hitting .315 with 12 homers and 59 RBIs. Also keep an eye on freshman Levi Michael, who's hitting .298 with 13 homers and 56 RBIs. The Heels also have several pitchers to watch beginning with weekend starters Alex White and Adam Warren. White is 8-4 with a 4.13 ERA in 98 innings. He also has struck out 109 and walked 41 and teams are hitting him at a .234 clip. Warren is 9-2 with a 3.23 ERA in 92 innings. He also has struck out 97 and walked 34 and teams are hitting him at a .239 clip. Relievers Brian Moran and Colin Bates are two of the nation's best. Moran has appeared in 34 games and has a 1.95 ERA in 64 2/3 innings and Bates has appeared in 31 games and has a 2.84 ERA in 57 innings. He also has recorded seven saves.
CWS forecast: North Carolina definitely is one of the favorites to win the national title. The Tar Heels have two excellent weekend starters in Alex White and Adam Warren. Matt Harvey, who didn't have to pitch against East Carolina last weekend, also has the ability to be dominant. The Tar Heels also have a solid bullpen with Moran and Bates leading the way. The Tar Heels don't have a great offense but Ackley and Seager do a fantastic job of producing runs. Balance is the name of the game for UNC.
SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI
Record: 40-24
CWS appearances: First
How they got here: The Golden Eagles are this year's Cinderella story. The Golden Eagles were on the good side of the bubble entering Selection Monday and the NCAA put them in the Atlanta Regional. The Eagles went 3-1 in Atlanta with wins over Elon and Georgia Tech. The Eagles got back to work in the Gainesville Super Regional, taking care of Florida in just two games.
Key players: The Golden Eagles enter the CWS only hitting at a .308 clip, but they certainly have some key hitters to watch. Bo Davis is hitting .372 with 13 homers and 52 RBIs. He also has walked 43 times and struck out just 39 times. Kameron Brunty is hitting .347 with seven homers and 53 RBIs and Corey Stevens is hitting .329 with eight homers and 58 RBIs. Also keep an eye on Joey Archer, who's hitting .307 with 10 homers and 59 RBIs. In what could be a huge return to the lineup, there's a chance veteran infielder Brian Dozier comes back in Omaha. Dozier has been out with an injury for a while, but was hitting .394 with four homers and 39 RBIs in 137 at bats. On the mound, the Golden Eagles have a solid arm in C-USA Pitcher of the Year Todd McInnis. McInnis is 9-4 with a 3.21 ERA in 89 2/3 innings. He also has struck out 80 and walked 27 and opponents are hitting him at a .247 clip. JR Ballinger also has had a good year. Ballinger is 6-3 with a 3.89 ERA in 83 1/3 innings. He also has struck out 59 and walked 35 and teams are hitting him at a .269 clip. Also keep an eye on reliever Collin Cargill, who has appeared in 26 games and has a 3.41 ERA in 37 innings.
CWS forecast: Opponents beware of the Golden Eagles. Sure, the Eagles may be a long shot to win the national title, but everyone said the same thing about Fresno State last season. The Eagles have a number of veterans and are battle tested. In other words, don't expect the Eagles to be intimidated by anyone. The Eagles have a solid offensive lineup and a good one-two punch on the mound with McInnis and Ballinger. However, pitching depth could be an issue as the CWS progresses. Still, what an amazing job the Eagles have done to get to Omaha in coach Corky Palmer's final campaign.
TEXAS
Record: 46-14
CWS appearances: 33 (Last: 2005)
How they got here: The Longhorns had a rather eventful road to the CWS. The 'Horns played well down the stretch in the regular season and earned a national seed. Though there were some tense moments, the 'Horns won the Austin Regional with wins over Army and Boston College. They also won the Austin Super Regional in three games over in-state foe TCU. UT is back in Omaha for the first time since winning a national title.
Key players: The Longhorns are hitting just .287 but have a couple hitters to watch in Omaha, including Brandon Belt, Kevin Keyes and Michael Torres. Belt is hitting .336 with 17 doubles, eight homers and 40 RBIs. Keyes is hitting .305 with seven homers and 40 RBIs and Torres is hitting .304 with four homers and 32 RBIs. UT's offense may still leave something to be desired, but it has the deepest pitching staff in the CWS field. The Longhorns have a fabulous 2.84 earned run average. Starting pitchers Chance Ruffin, Cole Green and Taylor Jungmann lead the way. Ruffin is 10-2 with a 3.02 ERA in 116 1/3 innings. He also has struck out 101 and walked 23 and teams are hitting .220 off him. Green is 5-3 with a 3.02 ERA in 95 1/3 innings and Jungmann is 8-3 with a 2.27 ERA in 79 1/3 innings. Also keep an eye on relievers Austin Wood and Austin Dicharry. Wood has appeared in 37 games and has a 2.19 ERA in 78 innings. Dicharry has appeared in 23 games and has a 2.40 ERA in 56 1/3 innings.
CWS forecast: The Longhorns haven't been to Omaha since 2005 but enter play with a wealth of confidence and a strong class of veterans. The Longhorns certainly leave something to be desired at the plate, but can frustrate opposing pitchers if they consistently get the leadoff runner on base. UT's style of play also sets up well in Rosenblatt Stadium, which plays big like Disch-Falk Field. The pitching staff is the unit that could help this team win the national title. There's no question UT has the deepest staff in Omaha. Still, the offense must rise to the occasion.
VIRGINIA
Record: 48-13
CWS appearances: First
How they got here: The Cavaliers might've had the toughest road to Omaha. Despite winning the ACC tournament and playing well down the stretch, the Cavaliers were sent to the Irvine Regional. There, the Cavaliers defeated San Diego State and pitcher Stephen Strasburg and also beat national seed UC Irvine twice. The Cavaliers advanced to the Oxford Super Regional and defeated Ole Miss in three games. It truly was a magical run for coach Brian O'Connor and his team.
Key players: The Cavaliers are hitting .327 and have one of the better offensive units in the CWS. Jarrett Parker is the spark plug for the Cavaliers and is hitting .364 with 16 homers and 65 RBIs. Dan Grovatt is hitting .365 with seven homers and 50 RBIs and Steven Proscia is hitting .332 with nine homers and 57 RBIs. Also keep an eye on Tyler Cannon and Danny Hultzen. Cannon is hitting .339 with a home run and 37 RBIs and Hultzen is hitting .333 with three homers and 33 RBIs. On the mound, the Cavaliers have a trio of solid starters in Danny Hultzen, Robert Morey and Andrew Carraway. Hultzen is 9-1 with a 2.09 ERA in 86 innings. He also has struck out 95 and walked 27 and teams are hitting him at a .242 clip. Morey is 3-0 with a 3.11 ERA in 63 2/3 innings and Carraway is 8-1 with a 4.13 ERA in 85 innings. Also keep an eye on relievers Kevin Arico and Tyler Wilson. Arico has recorded 11 saves and has a 2.06 ERA in 35 innings and Wilson has appeared in 28 games and has a 2.73 ERA in 62 2/3 innings.
CWS forecast: Virginia is one of the hottest teams headed to Omaha and that's one of many reasons why this is a scary bunch to deal with. The Cavaliers hit the ball with consistency and there are several big-time hitters to watch. On the mound, Robert Morey, Andrew Carraway and Danny Hultzen provide a solid one-two-three punch and relievers Kevin Arico and Tyler Wilson also are consistent. The Cavaliers are playing their best baseball and have the tools to accomplish something big in Omaha.