The 2019 College World Series included six programs still searching for their first national titles. While Vanderbilt came out on top with its second championship, 2020 could see another group of strong contenders looking to break through in Omaha for the first first time.

Here are seven teams who could win their first College World Series titles in 2020.

CWS 2019: Final tournament bracket | Printable CWS bracket | Shop official Vanderbilt CWS champ gear

Arkansas

CWS appearances: 10
Best finish: National runner-up (1979, 2018)

Arkansas has appeared in two straight College World Series, following up a runner-up performance in 2018 with an early exit (0-2) this year in Omaha. The Razorbacks lose ace Isaiah Campbell and key cogs in their lineup in Dominic Fletcher and Jack Kenley, but should carry over enough firepower to be a major player in the SEC once again.

Arkansas returns its top two home run hitters, Heston Kjerstad (17) and Casey Martin (15), as well as top hitter Matt Goodheart (.345). All are juniors due for big seasons ahead of their 2020 MLB draft availability. On the mound, Arkansas brings back rising sophomores Connor Noland (3-5, 4.02) and Patrick Wicklander (6-2, 4.32) to replace Campbell’s production. 

The Razorbacks have advanced to the CWS four times since 2010 and have 24 NCAA tournament wins in the past six years under coach Dave Van Horn. Arkansas has never made it to Omaha in three straight seasons.

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Auburn

CWS appearances: 5
Best finish: Fourth place (1967)

Pitching could be the key to Auburn’s shot at a second straight trip to the College World Series. The Tigers made it to Omaha in 2019 despite limited availability of banged-up ace Tanner Burns (4-4, 2.82 ERA) down the stretch. The rising junior should be back to full health in 2020 and will be joined by lefty Jack Owen (4-2, 2.75 ERA) atop the rotation.

The Tigers also carry over the dependable bullpen arm of Cody Greenhill (3.45 ERA, 12 saves) and a nearly identical starting lineup from 2019. The Tigers lost just three players to the draft after Owen and third baseman Edouard Julien announced they’d bypass pro contracts for another year at Auburn.

Auburn may not have the same overall talent as some other SEC schools. But the Tigers should have top-end pitching and crucial experience in Omaha on their side as they seek a fourth straight NCAA tournament appearance and second consecutive spot in the CWS.

Watch Edouard Julien’s record-tying home run at College World Series

Florida State

CWS appearances: 23
Best finish: National runner-up (1970, 1986, 1999)

The Mike Martin, Sr. era is officially over in Tallahassee, but the reins to arguably the most successful non-title-winning  program in college baseball history remains in the family. Mike Martin, Jr. inherits a Florida State team that surprised everyone with a 23rd run to the College World Series after a 36-21 regular season.

The Seminoles lost four big-impact players in the 2019 draft: Drew Mendoza, J.C. Flowers, Drew Parrish and Mike Salvatore. Former walk-on Tim Becker, who hit three home runs in the NCAA tournament, also graduated.

But FSU is still a young team that returns tons of talent. C.J. Van Eyk will lead the pitching staff after compiling 10 wins in 2019, not including a solid 4.2-inning, two-run, nine-strikeout outing against Michigan in the CWS. Nander De Sedas, Matheu Nelson and Robby Martin all flashed potential in their debut seasons. Rising junior Reese Albert (nine homers) also returns after posting another fine year despite an early-season shoulder injury.

Florida State is fifth among all college baseball programs with 2,924 wins. But there’s still no title to show for it.

Louisville

CWS appearances: 5
Best finish: National semifinals (2019)

Louisville and coach Dan McDonnell finally got over their Omaha hump, winning twice in the 2019 CWS before bowing out in the national semifinals. That marked the first time in Louisville’s five CWS appearances (all under McDonnell) that the Cardinals made it past the second round of double elimination play.

Reid Detmers (13-4, 2.78 ERA) is back as the No. 1 starter and five of the top seven hitters from last year return to a potent lineup. In the bullpen, rising junior Michael Kirian (1.69 ERA, five saves) is primed to replace flamethrower Michael McAvene as the top relief option.

Louisville has only missed the NCAA tournament once in the past 13 years, winning eight regionals and five super regionals during this span. 

Reid Detmers an ace for Louisville

Mississippi State

CWS appearances: 11
Best finish: National runner-up (2013)

Mississippi State is one of only five programs in NCAA history to reach the CWS in five straight decades. The Bulldogs have been to Omaha 11 times overall, including three times this decade. But a 2013 finals loss to UCLA is the closest they’ve come to winning the title.

Mississippi State loses a strong veteran presence in 2020 with the departures of all-time SEC hits king Jake Mangum, All-American pitcher Ethan Small and postseason hero Elijah MacNamee. The Bulldogs do, however, still have reigning freshman of the year JT Ginn on the hill and offensive weapons Jordan Westburg, Justin Foscue and Tanner Allen ready to take on even larger roles.

BASEBALL HISTORY: Programs with the most CWS titles | Most CWS appearances | Winningest coaches

Ginn went 8-4 with 105 strikeouts and a 3.13 ERA in his debut season, giving Mississippi State a legit ace that’ll match up well with any other Friday night starter in the SEC. The trio of Allen, Foscue and Westburg all hit more than 20 doubles each and combined for 30 homers in 2019.

Chris Lemonis enters his second year as head coach in Starkville with plenty of pieces that make Mississippi State a strong contender for a third straight CWS bid.

North Carolina

CWS appearances: 11
Best finish: National runner-up (2006, 2007)

The Tar Heels lost in the CWS finals in back-to-back seasons in 2006 and 2007 against repeating champ Oregon State. That was part of a four-year CWS streak that ended in 2010, then picked back up in 2011 with three more appearances in the next nine years.

In 2019, UNC fell a game short of a second straight trip to Omaha after a disastrous 13-run first inning meltdown to Auburn doomed the Tar Heels in Game 3 of super regionals. 

Freshmen sensations Aaron Sabato and Danny Serretti headline UNC’s talented returnees. Sabato slashed .343/.453/.696 with 18 homers and 63 RBIs while Serretti had a .299 average with 18 doubles. That gives the defending ACC tournament champs the most lethal heart-of-the-order combo in the conference.

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Texas Tech

CWS appearances: 4
Best finish: National semifinals (2019)

Texas Tech didn’t reach its first College World Series until 2014. Now, the Red Raiders have made it to Omaha four times in six years. TTU had its best-ever CWS finish in 2019, winning two games in the loser’s bracket before being eliminated in the semifinal round.

Texas Tech loses its most dangerous power threats in Josh Jung and Cameron Warren, its dependable leadoff hitter in Gabe Holt and a top-end closer in John McMillon. But the Red Raiders do bring back high-upside talent that will keep them in the Big 12 title picture along with West Virginia and Oklahoma State.

Micah Dallas (7-2, 4.03), TTU’s ace as only a freshman, is joined by Bryce Bonnin (7-1, 4.08) in anchoring the starting rotation. Bonnin struck out seven and allowed just two hits in five innings of his only 2019 CWS start, a win over Florida State. Dallas was undefeated before losing twice to Michigan in Omaha.

Red Raiders need ‘rally gorilla’ power to rise in Omaha

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