So, what do we know about the Omaha 8? Five super regional host seeds — Arizona, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Texas and Vanderbilt — advanced while Arkansas and Texas Tech were ousted. The SEC leads the way with three schools with both the ACC and Pac-12 represented by two apiece. The state of Tennessee, by the way, leads all states with two teams left in the hunt.
Here’s the schedule:
Here’s a quick look at this season’s eight teams in Omaha:
Apologies if we sound like a broken record because we have admittedly written about this offense ad nauseam. But Arizona’s lineup has simply been sensational all season long. The Wildcats — now dubbed the WildBats — enter Omaha with the top scoring offense in the field, crossing home plate 8.6 times per game. They also have the highest batting average (.329), on-base percentage (.428) and slugging percentage (.513) of any of the eight remaining teams. Arizona advances to Omaha after a 16-3 blowout of Ole Miss in the super regionals and are making its 18th appearance in the CWS. This should set up a fantastic opening night from Omaha as the Wildcats’ offense draws the pitching of Vanderbilt on June 19.
Omaha is becoming a home away from home for the Diamond Dawgs. This is the third consecutive trip to TD Ameritrade Park for Mississippi State, which is the longest current streak in college baseball. The Starkville faithful certainly helped, packing Dudy Noble Field with 40,140 fans over the weekend series with Notre Dame, the new NCAA record for an on-campus three-game series. It was also Mississippi State’s fifth-straight super regional appearance… under four different head coaches. Chris Lemonis has settled in, a perfect 2-for-2 in CWS appearances as head coach. The Diamond Dawgs hope Omaha is deja vu all over again: Mississippi State opened the season with an 8-3 win over Texas, the same team it opens against in Omaha.
That Wolfpack win was something. Plenty has been made about the hurdles this team overcame, starting 1-8 in ACC play but then making it all the way to the ACC tournament final. Then, after a 21-2 bludgeoning in its super-regional opening game, NC State kept its composure and took down No. 1-seeded Arkansas in two thrilling one-run games. And it wasn’t simply No. 1-seeded Arkansas — it was a team that was headed to one of the greatest college baseball seasons in history, opening the season with three-straight victories against super-regional hosts and not losing a weekend series all year. Jose Torres and the Pack didn’t seem to care, and NC State is Omaha bound for the first time since 2013.
Here’s an interesting tidbit. This past Saturday in the DII baseball championship game, Wingate — a small school from North Carolina — took down the No. 1-seeded Central Missouri Mules in a historic upset for its first-ever national championship. Later that day, NC State — also a school from North Carolina — took down No. 1 Arkansas. But wait, there’s more. Central Missouri, one of the most storied programs in DII history, won its first title in 1994. Their head coach? Arkansas’ current skipper, Dave Van Horn.
What an impressive super regional win for the Cardinal. Stanford went into Lubbock and swept Texas Tech on its home turf, a home field that the Red Raiders were 4-for-4 in super-regional wins during the Tim Tadlock era. The series-clinching win was a dominant one at that: Alex Williams struck out 10 in a complete-game shutout, while Brock Jones (above) smashed three home runs, knocking in six of the Cardinal’s nine runs. Stanford returns to Omaha for a 17th time and first since 2008. David Esquer is making his first trip as Stanford’s head coach, but he has plenty of CWS experience as a Cardinal: Esquer played for Mark Marquess on the 1987 national champion squad.
It’s been a long time coming, but the Volunteers are back in the College World Series for the first time since 2005. They reached Omaha on the heels of a 15-6 victory over SEC adversary LSU, a game in which Tennessee set the NCAA tournament program record with six home runs. Jake Rucker led the way with two blasts as five different Vols homered. The win also kept Tennessee a perfect 5-0 against LSU this season, the first time a team beat LSU five times in a season since 1984. Blake Tidwell sealed the deal, picking up his tenth win of the season. He joins Chad Dallas as just the third duo in Tennessee history to each have double-digit wins in a season.
Texas is back in the College World Series. It’s the 37th time the Longhorns have made it this far in a season. To put it in perspective of how ridiculous that number is, the next closest team is Miami (FL) with 25. Texas swept through both the regional and super regional tournament for the first time since 2004, and as friend of NCAA.com Kendall Rogers pointed out, the Longhorns have trailed just one-half inning all NCAA tournament. Now it has a chance to add to more of its records. While the Longhorns are tied for second for most CWS titles all time (6), they hold the record for most CWS runners-up with six, most CWS wins with 85 and most CWS games with 146. Texas had the first-ever College World Series Most Outstanding Player in Tom Hamilton and have the second-most MOPs all time with six. The long-awaited return to Omaha is finally upon us — to have a little normalcy with one of the all-time great programs is quite nice.
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Remember way back in 2019 when the Vandy Boys won the College World Series? The Commodores freshman sensation Kumar Rocker (above) came of age quickly that June. It started with that legendary 19-strikeout, no-hitter in the super regionals against Duke and continued in Omaha, where he won two games and the Most Outstanding Player of the 2019 CWS. Rocker is up to his old tricks in the 2021 tournament. He dealt seven shutout innings to open the regional tournament and followed it up with 7.2 shutout innings against East Carolina in the supers. He’s also struck out 20 in 14.2 innings pitched. Vandy is chasing the first repeat CWS title in 10 years, and a red-hot Rocker will certainly help. NCAA tournament Kumar Rocker is just a different pitcher, and that’s bad news for opposing lineups.
The Cavaliers are back in familiar territory. Head coach Brian O’Connor led Virginia to the NCAA regionals for 14 straight years from 2004-17, including back-to-back CWS championship series in 2014-15. But the Hoos had a three-season hiatus from the NCAA tournament, and it looked like No. 4 was on the way at the end of March when Virginia was 11-14 overall and an unimpressive 4-12 in the ACC. But that’s been the story for Virginia all season. The Hoos dropped Game 1 in the Columbia Regional before reeling off three straight wins in the face of elimination, only to lose Game 1 to DBU in the super regional. The way Virginia is playing in the face of elimination, it’s not out of the question that O’Connor and Tim Corbin face off in Omaha for the third time since 2014.