It takes anywhere from 112 to 136 games to fill the eight spots in the College World Series, and with all due respect to the pageantry of Omaha, the frantic first three days of double-elimination action at 16 regional sites around the country make for the best theater college baseball has to offer.
This year’s field has no shortage of storylines. Can Florida recapture the magic it bottled last June on the way to the first national championship in program history, or will one of the other nine SEC teams in the field outlast the Gators? Will western powers Oregon State and Stanford or Big Ten champ Minnesota keep the Sun Belt states from dominating the later rounds? Which mid-majors are built to potentially crash the Super Regionals? Read on for breakdowns of all 16 regional sites, with MLB draft prospects to watch, memorable baseball names to cherish and predicted winners for each regional.
1. #1 Florida
3. Florida Atlantic
Winner: Florida. The defending national champions have lost six of their last seven games and still kept their grip on the top overall seed for what they had already accomplished against one of the toughest schedules in the country. Their offense is paced by third baseman Jonathan India, a likely top-10 draft pick whose .723 slugging percentage was good for sixth in the nation. The Gators did lose to Jacksonville at home during the regular season, but the second-seeded Dolphins would likely have to crack imposing righthander Jackson Kowar, another potential first-rounder, to even put the hosts on the ropes.
Draft prospect to watch: Florida RHP Brady Singer. The junior righthander won two games at last year’s College World Series, striking out 12 in the first game of the final against LSU, and was the only SEC pitcher to reach double-digit victories this season. He’ll be gone in the first half hour of Monday night’s first round.
Extremely College Baseball Name to know: Florida Atlantic first baseman/catcher Gunnar Lambert.
1. #16 NC State
4. Army West Point
Winner: Auburn. In the first year that the selection committee seeded the top 16 teams in the field, NC State backed into hosting duties despite a quick exit from the ACC tournament and a homer-heavy offense that has quieted down since its final homestand of the season. It drew a tough No. 2 seed in the Tigers, who can score in bunches and whose staff ace Casey Mize is this draft’s consensus top prospect. Auburn opens against a Northeastern team many thought should not have made the field as an at-large selection. After that, the Tigers should get multiple shots at knocking off the Wolfpack if necessary.
Draft prospect to watch: Auburn RHP Casey Mize. With 140 strikeouts and 10 walks in 102.2 innings of work, the Tigers’ ace have the superhuman line of a player just days away from becoming the Detroit Tigers’ No. 1 overall pick.
Extremely College Baseball Name to know: Army RHP Carter Van Gytenbeek.
1. #9 Texas Tech
3. Kent State
4. New Mexico State
Winner: Texas Tech. Always bet on the bats at hitter-friendly Dan Law Field. As long as the Red Raiders don’t sleep on WAC champ New Mexico State, which averages 8.2 runs per game to Texas Tech’s 8.4 (both top-four marks in the nation), they should be able to emerge from their own regional over a feisty Louisville team that outperformed expectations in a reloading year and MAC champ Kent State, which made an improbable run to Omaha six years ago.
Draft prospect to watch: Louisville outfielder Josh Stowers. He stole 33 bases this season and can run down almost anything in centerfield.
Extremely College Baseball Name to know: New Mexico State catcher Mason Fishback.
1. #8 Georgia
Winner: Duke. After several down years, Georgia is back in the tournament for the first time since 2011 and the owner of a national seed for the first time since its runner-up finish 10 years ago. The Bulldogs were rewarded for their turnaround under Scott Stricklin with a set of regional opponents light on postseason experience but long on upset potential. Troy is one of the nation’s smartest baserunning teams (114 successful steals in 135 attempts), caught Auburn napping in a mid-May midweek game and lost its other three SEC tests by one run each. Duke is making its second tournament appearance in three years but just its third since the Eisenhower administration, but the Blue Devils have a more balanced offense than the one that went AWOL during the 2016 postseason.
Draft prospect to watch: Duke outfielder Griffin Conine. The son of 17-year MLB veteran and beloved Marlin Jeff Conine boasts back-to-back seasons with double-digit home runs, and Duke claims his 497-footer in early May against Gardner-Webb was the longest dinger in college baseball this season.
Extremely College Baseball Name to know: Georgia sophomore outfielders Tucker Bradley and Tucker Maxwell.
1. #5 Arkansas
2. Southern Miss
3. Dallas Baptist
4. Oral Roberts
Winner: Arkansas. The Razorbacks struggled mightily away from Baum Stadium (6–13), but they only lost three games at home all year, toppled Florida in last week’s SEC tournament and now won’t have to leave town until the College World Series. Southern Miss and DBU have both been around the block in postseason play, but their upset bid would have had more legs if they had been paired with a top seed that couldn’t match their lineups’ pop.
Draft prospect to watch: Arkansas starter Blaine Knight. He’s a perfect 10–0 this season, and his roommate and rotation-mate Isaiah Campbell could come off the board in the first 100 picks, too.
Extremely College Baseball Name to know: Arkansas infielder Jax Biggers.
1. #12 East Carolina
2. South Carolina
3. Ohio State
Winner: East Carolina. Expect a charged atmosphere in Clark-LeClair Stadium, with three of the four participants well within driving distance and the Pirates eyeing their second Super Regionals berth in three years. Leadoff hitter Bryant Packard, who was one of 10 qualified batters to hit .400 this season and hit safely in 32 consecutive games at one point, will set the pace for the hosts.
Draft prospect to watch: Ohio State RHP Ryan Feltner. He tied for the Cape Cod League lead with eight saves last summer, but his command in an unfamiliar atmosphere will be under a microscope.
Extremely College Baseball Name to know: South Carolina RHP Sawyer Bridges.
1. #13 Texas
3. Texas A&M
4. Texas Southern
Winner: Texas A&M. If the baseball gods are just, the Longhorns and Aggies will cross paths more than once this weekend at UFCU Disch-Falk Field. In a fitting tribute to legendary coach Augie Garrido, who passed away in March, Texas won the Big 12 regular-season title for the first time since 2011 and is spearheaded by the bat of Roger Clemens’s son Kody (.341 average, 19 home runs in his junior season). But after entering Hoover playing for their postseason lives, the Aggies ripped off an impressive run to the SEC tournament semifinals and should have no trouble staying hot with the carrot of sending their bitter rivals home early.
Draft prospect to watch: Indiana RHP Jonathan Steiver. The Hoosiers’ Friday night ace has lost four of his last five outings.
Extremely College Baseball Name to know: Texas A&M shortstop Braden Shewmake.
1. #4 Ole Miss
2. Tennessee Tech
3. Missouri State
4. Saint Louis
Winner: Tennessee Tech. Ole Miss won the SEC tournament in spite of its bullpen’s best efforts to sabotage the Rebels’ chances long before they made it to the weekend. That won’t fly on Saturday or Sunday against the Golden Eagles, the only team in the country with just nine losses. Tennessee Tech hit 128 home runs in 57 games, 34 more than any other Division I team, but its offense also led the nation in batting average thanks to outfielder Kevin Strohschein and first baseman Chase Chambers.
Draft prospect to watch: Ole Miss LHP Ryan Rolison. Drew Pomeranz is the only Rebel ever taken in the first round, and Rolison sets the tone for the Ole Miss staff in much the same way Pomeranz did as a college star.
Extremely College Baseball Name to know: Missouri State outfielder Hunter Steinmetz.
1. #2 Stanford
3. Cal State–Fullerton
4. Wright State
Winner: Stanford. Some reward Baylor gets for winning the Big 12 tournament to cap a 22–3 closing flourish to an excellent season: a trip to Palo Alto to face one of the two best teams in the West. The Cardinal replaced all but one everyday starter and still won its first Pac-12 title since 2004 under first-year coach David Esquer. A loaded pitching staff has helped ease the turnover elsewhere in the lineup. Keep an eye on the Beck brothers, Tristan (a junior and potential first-round pick) and Brendan (a freshman).
Draft prospect to watch: Stanford LHP Kris Bubic. Beck may be the Friday night starter, but Bubic led the staff in strikeouts and has no problem carrying the big-game burden.
Extremely College Baseball Name to know: Cal State–Fulleteron RHP Colton Eastman.
1. #15 Coastal Carolina
Winner: Coastal Carolina. After following up the program’s magical first national title by missing the tournament entirely in 2017, Coastal Carolina is back, hosting three far-flung programs in a sneaky deep regional. The Chanticleers posted the seventh-best on-base percentage and slugging percentage this spring and should hold serve on their home turf.
Draft prospect to watch: UConn LHP Tim Cate. The Huskies’ staff ace missed nearly two months of the season with forearm tightness but could be this regional’s wild card.
Extremely College Baseball Name to know: Coastal Carolina outfielder Kieton Rivers and shortstop Keaton Weisz.
1. #10 Clemson
3. St. John’s
4. Morehead State
Winner: Clemson. The top three teams in this regional met at this point in the postseason last spring, but this year’s Vanderbilt team is younger and much less reliable, which should open the door for the Tigers to get revenge for 2017’s early exit—as long as they can neutralize Morehead State’s dangerous offense in the opener.
Draft prospect to watch: Clemson outfielder/first baseman Seth Beer. He’s been a lefthanded masher since his breakout freshman season two years ago and a likely first-rounder.
Extremely College Baseball Name to know: Vanderbilt RHP Drake Fellows.
1. #7 Florida State
2. Mississippi State
Winner: Florida State. The Seminoles are, once again, lethally patient: They took 25 more walks than any other team in the country and had the rest of the offense clicking last week in Durham, where they won the ACC tournament. A potential championship game coaching duel between FSU institution Mike Martin and Mississippi State’s Gary Henderson, who was named interim head coach in late February after the team was jolted by the messy exit of Andy Cannizaro, would be fascinating to watch.
Draft prospect to watch: Oklahoma outfielder Kyler Murray. The former five-star recruit is in the running for the Sooners’ starting quarterback job this fall, but he has serious pop and can be a problem for opponents on the basepaths.
Extremely College Baseball Name to know: Oklahoma OF Steele Tucker (himself a potential first-round pick).
Chapel Hill Regional
1. #6 North Carolina
4. North Carolina A&T
Winner: North Carolina. The Tar Heels haven’t lost at home since March 25 and spread their offensive production pretty evenly throughout their lineup. We’ll save the upset pick for next weekend if Stetson comes to town.
Draft prospect to watch: North Carolina third baseman Kyle Datres. With a .917 OPS and 10 steals on the year, he should be off the board by the middle of the second day.
Extremely College Baseball Name to know: Houston shortstop Cooper Coldiron.
1. #11 Stetson
2. South Florida
3. Oklahoma State
Winner: Stetson. Looking to hitch your wagon to a Cinderella that plays like one of the big boys? Here’s your team. The Hatters take the nation’s longest active winning streak (15 games) into tournament play thanks to the best team ERA in Division I, paced by future first-rounder Logan Gilbert. They had a good case to earn a national seed; now they have good bulletin-board material for the next two weeks.
Draft prospect to watch: South Florida LHP Shane McClanahan. With a fastball from the left side that touches triple-digits, it’s no great mystery how he struck out 117 batters in 71.1 innings.
Extremely College Baseball Name to know: Oklahoma State outfielder Carson McCusker.
1. #14 Minnesota
Winner: Minnesota. Coming this far north to play a regional is foreign territory for most programs, and the committee did its best to account for that, sending teams from Spokane and Buffalo to Minneapolis. The Gophers lost to UCLA at home in early March, but that was inside U.S. Bank Stadium, the program’s indoor venue for the colder months of the season. Having swept their way through the Big Ten tournament and working on a nine-game winning streak, the hosts won’t waste their second chance at home field advantage.
Draft prospect to watch: UCLA RHP Jake Bird. He’s not a strikeout machine, but he posted an impressive 1.99 ERA after coming back for his senior season when he dropped out of the first two days of 2017’s draft.
Extremely College Baseball Name to know: Canisius catcher/outfielder Gage Lanning.
1. #3 Oregon State
3. San Diego State
4. Northwestern State
Winner: Oregon State. The Beavers get another crack at the Tigers team that knocked their record-setting 2017 squad out of the College World Series, this time on their home turf. All eyes will be on Luke Heimlich, the Beavers’ ace whose status as an admitted juvenile sex offender was revealed at this time last year and became the most talked-about story of the tournament. (Heimlich claimed innocence in an interview with SI this year.) Heimlich has an abundance of talent around him, even with Drew Rasmussen missing the entire 2018 season with Tommy John surgery.
Draft prospect to watch: Oregon State second baseman Nick Madrigal. He’s a big reason why the Beavers ranked third in the country in on-base percentage.
Extremely College Baseball Name to know: LSU outfielder Beau Jordan (whose twin brother Bryce plays infield and catches for the Tigers).