Mississippi State is just one win away from reaching the College World Series finals after defeating North Carolina 12-2 on Tuesday, behind freshman Jordan Westburg’s CWS-record-tying seven RBI.

With just 39 wins this season, the Bulldogs are on the verge of potentially becoming one of the more unlikely College World Series finalists in recent memory.

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Remember, this is a team that started the season 16-16 and entered the NCAA tournament 31-25. If Mississippi State wins its next game (against the winner of North Carolina and Oregon State), the Bulldogs could set themselves up to have the lowest season win total for a national champion since Southern California (43-12-1) in 1968.

Since ’68, the average win total for the DI baseball national champion is 52.9, led by Wichita State’s 68 wins in 1989. In the last 50 years, just 14 national champions have had less than 50 wins and four of those came before 1980, when the college baseball season featured fewer games than it does today.

Here’s a list of some of the most unexpected national champions in the last 50 years. The basis of the list is teams that won less than 50 games and were not a No. 1 seed (since 1987, when the championship expanded to 48 teams, before later expanding to 64).

Year School Seed Wins Record Entering NCAA Tournament Notes
2015 Virginia No. 3 44 34-22 Had five losing streaks of at least three games during the season
2008 Fresno State No. 4 47 37-27 Started the season 8-12; Ended the regular season 7-10 in final 17 games
2007 Oregon State No. 3 49 38-17 Went 4-8 in May; Became the first No. 3 seed to win title in 64-team format
2004 Cal State Fullerton No. 2 47 36-20 Started the season 15-16
1992 Pepperdine No. 3 48 40-10-1 Seeded seventh out of eight teams in the College World Series
1988 Stanford No. 2 46 37-21 Seeded seventh out of eight teams in the College World Series

Arkansas, North Carolina, Texas and Texas Tech each entered this year’s College World Series with the opportunity to win the national championship while having fewer than 50 wins on the year, but all four schools were No. 1 seeds, ruling them out from being considered a “surprise national champion.”

Mississippi State was a No. 2 seed this year and Washington was a No. 3 seed, making them the underdogs in Omaha.

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Note: The NCAA Division I Baseball Championship format has changed over the years. The tournament expanded to 48 teams in ’87 and later grew to 64 teams in 1999.

Also: Southern California won five consecutive national championships from 1970 to 1974 and 10 in 21 years from 1958 to 1978, so it’s difficult to classify the Trojans as a surprise champion when they were in the midst of a two-decade dynasty that has since been unmatched in college baseball. College baseball teams also played fewer games in the ’70s than they do now – USC’s 43 wins in a 56-game season in 1968 are 15 fewer total games played than 2017 national champion Florida played last season.

Andy Wittry has written for SI.com, Sporting News, the Indianapolis Star, Louisville Courier-Journal and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NCAA or its member institutions.


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