It was two weekends ago that the Women’s College World Series kicked off in Oklahoma City after the field of 64 was whittled down to eight. Last Wednesday June 8, it was the Oklahoma Sooners capturing their third national championship in school history.
The Sooners did not make the field of 64 for the Men’s Division I Baseball Tournament, but there is a possibility that both the baseball and softball titles can stay in the Sooner State for 2016 with OU’s in-state rival Oklahoma State a part of the final eight teams left standing in the College World Series.
The 70th edition of the CWS gets underway Saturday and runs through as late as June 29. This year’s field features a unique combination of traditional powers in the sport, upstart programs on the rise, and ‘Cinderella’ teams looking to crash the party. Despite the program names on the front of the uniform, it is a successful crop of teams posted up in Omaha for the next 10-12 days. The eight remaining ball clubs have combined to win better than 73 percent of their games this season.
The three ‘veterans’ of the group would have to be Arizona (44-21), No. 3 overall Miami-FL (50-12) and the aforementioned Cowboys of Oklahoma State (39-20). Those three alone have combined to win nine national championships and make an astounding 59 trips to Omaha prior to this go-round in their respective program’s histories. The Wildcats, Hurricanes and Cowboys are also the only three past winners among the eight finalists.
Then there’s the No. 1 overall seed in the field in Florida (52-14). The Gators will be making their tenth visit to Omaha after making the dance for a ninth consecutive season. They have a pair of runner-up finishes to their name in 2005 and 2011. Florida has played six games leading up to the CWS, outscoring their opponents 37-12 while going 5-1 in those six games played.
Florida has been a team loaded with big league-ready talent, some believe they had had one of the best crop of MLB prospects this year with three players in the top 25.
One of the more intriguing first-round match-ups in the CWS this weekend if not the most intriguing game is the one between Big 12 and in-state rivals TCU (47-16) and Texas Tech (44-16).
The Horned Frogs are a perfect example of gradually building a program to the top over a period of time. They have made the tournament in 12 of the last 13 years, winning the Big 12 Conference in eight of those years and an NCAA Regionals in six of the last eight. TCU has been in Omaha now for three straight years and much credit to manager Jim Schlossnagle for turning the Frogs into a perennial title contender.
The other dugout in that Big 12 showdown will feature a Red Raiders program that has seen a bit of a revival in the last few seasons. While their school isn’t supremely rich with baseball success, their heyday came in the 1990s and early 2000s when they made the tournament every year from 1995-2004. A ten-year drought has since then ended by and large thanks to fourth-year skipper Tim Tadlock, who has taken the No. 5 overall Red Raiders to Omaha in two of the last three seasons.
It should be a good one when those two get together. The two rivals separated by roughly 315 miles met for one weekend series in Fort Worth during the regular season, when the visiting Raiders took two of three in the series but were actually a -1 in the scoring department.
Then there is the two ‘dark horses’ of the College World Series – UC-Santa Barbara (42-18-1) and Coastal Carolina (49-16).
The Gauchos of UCSB (also not kidding) are without question the team this year sporting the glass slippers in Omaha. Despite being in a state flooded with baseball tradition up and down the borders, Santa Barbara’s program is not filled with rich history having only made the NCAA Tournament now 11 times in their 95-year existence. It is however two straight years and three of the last four now for the Guachos making the trip to the Heartland of America. They’re average margin of victory in their five games thus far (5-0 record) is less than three runs, including a nine-run victory to clinch the Nashville Regional title and this incredible walk-off grand slam to unseat No. 2 overall seed Louisville in the Super’s.
The Chanticleers (not kidding) of Coastal Carolina are a household name in the baseball world in terms of a mid-major, particularly going back to the turn of the century. Since the beginning of the 2001 season, they have won the Big South regular season title 11 times, including this past year and won the conference tournament each of those years as well. On their road to Omaha, they needed four games to top Raleigh Regional host NC State to take home their third Regional title in history. Then they traveled to Baton Rouge and stunned No. 8 overall seed LSU, sweeping them in the Super Regional to punch their ticket to Omaha.
For both C.C. and UCSB, it is the first time their teams have reached the College World Series. Florida, Miami-FL, and TCU are back for a second straight year while Texas Tech (2014) and Arizona (2012) are not far removed from their most recent trip to Omaha. And as we documented before about their program history, this is 20th time Oklahoma State will be partaking in the festivities, but the first time this century.
You can catch all the action on the ESPN family of networks beginning Saturday at 3 p.m. ET. Here is the complete schedule:
- Saturday June 18
- Game 1: UCSB vs. Oklahoma State – 3 p.m. ET on ESPN2
- Game 2: Arizona vs. Miami-FL – 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2
- Sunday June 19
- Game 3: TCU vs. Texas Tech – 3 p.m. ET on ESPNU
- Game 4: Coastal Carolina vs. Florida – 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2
- Monday June 20
- Game 5: Game 1 Loser vs. Game 2 Loser – 2 p.m. ET on ESPNU
- Game 6: Game 1 Winner vs. Game 2 Winner – 7 p.m. ET on ESPN
- Tuesday June 21
- Game 7: Game 3 Loser vs. Game 4 Loser – 5 p.m. ET on ESPN2
- Game 8: Game 3 Winner vs. Game 4 Winner – 9 p.m. ET on ESPN
- Wednesday June 22
- Game 9: Game 5 Winner vs. Game 6 Loser – 7 p.m. ET on ESPN
- Thursday June 23
- Game 10: Game 7 Winner vs. Game 8 Loser – 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2
- Friday June 24
- Game 11: Game 6 Winner vs. Game 9 Winner – 3 p.m. ET on ESPN2
- Game 12: Game 8 Winner vs. Game 10 Winner – 8 p.m. ET on ESPN
- Saturday June 25**
- Game 13: Rematch of Game 11, TBD
- Game 14: Rematch of Game 12, TBD
- COLLEGE WORLD SERIES: BEST TWO-OF-THREE
- GAME 11/13 WINNER VS GAME 12/14 WINNER
- Game 1: Monday June 27 @ 7 p.m. ET on ESPN
- Game 2: Tuesday June 28 @ 8 p.m. ET on ESPN
- Game 3: Wednesday June 29 @ 8 p.m. ET on ESPN (**)
- GAME 11/13 WINNER VS GAME 12/14 WINNER