- The landscape of teams in the Super Regional features national favorites and even a Cinderella or two. Sixteen teams are on the cusp of a trip to Omaha, so we sort through the field.
College baseball's most frantic 96 hours delivered on every promise of chaos, and anyone who didn't spend last weekend glued to ESPN Bases Loaded missed a multitude of priceless moments. The defending national champion went 0–2 in a regional it hosted, starting with a loss to a team making its first tournament appearance in 45 years. Two teams held eight-run leads in elimination games on Sunday, only to suffer walk-off losses less than an hour apart. One of those teams was No. 15 national seed West Virginia, which endured baseball's ultimate gut-punch, giving up a walk-off grand slam with a three-run lead and Texas A&M down to its final strike.
There were rally caps, raves, calisthenics and cold showers. And now, there are 16 teams vying for eight spots in the College World Series. With six of our Magic Nine picks to win the national championship still standing, we'll provide picks for each best-of-three Super Regional series to get you ready for the second weekend of tournament action.
Los Angeles Super Regional: No. 1 UCLA vs. Michigan
The top overall seed had to battle its way through a tricky regional field, but the Bruins will take a few character-building wins vs. Loyola-Marymount over the embarrassing two-and-'cue suffered by Oregon State in the Corvallis Regional. Michigan was the beneficiary of that chaos, using a relentless offense that produced even with the limited services of Big Ten Player of the Year Jordan Brewer, who has been battling turf toe. The last time UCLA reached the Super Regionals, in 2013, it won the whole thing.
Pick: UCLA. The Bruins haven't lost a series all year, and that's not the kind of thing that happens by accident. The Wolverines appear to be outclassed on the mound.
Lubbock Super Regional: No. 8 Texas Tech vs. No. 9 Oklahoma State
The Big 12's last two teams standing come by their offense in different ways. Oklahoma State relies on the long ball, as illustrated by the walk-off three-run dinger by Trevor Boone that sent Nebraska to the loser's bracket, never to return. Texas Tech, whose 7.7 runs per game are good for 14th in Division I, sports a top-20 team batting average and on-base percentage. The Red Raiders didn't get a vintage performance from their offense during regional play, but the Cowboys know it well from the sweep they suffered in Lubbock in late April, losing three games by a combined score of 27–8.
Pick: Texas Tech. No. 8 overall pick Josh Jung is the star in Lubbock, but familiarize yourself with 6'3", 230-pound senior first baseman Cameron Warren, whose big-daddy hacks will astound and amaze. He has homered in every game this tournament.
Fayetteville Super Regional: No. 5 Arkansas vs. No. 12 Ole Miss
Six of the SEC's record-tying 10 tournament teams won their regional, and at least one is guaranteed to see Omaha after both the Razorbacks and Rebels held serve at home without breaking much of a sweat. The Fayetteville faithful have to like their chances with an offense that has absolutely raked at Baum-Walker Stadium and ace Isaiah Campbell setting the tone for the staff, but as Rivals's Chase Parham points out, if anyone can keep the 2018 runners-up from the College World Series, it's Ole Miss.
One thing you can bank on: the jerseys the Rebels will be wearing. Stumbling into the SEC tournament, Ole Miss switched to its ultra-clean powder blues and never looked back, reaching the final in Hoover and ripping through its regional. They are now 17–5 in the threads this year.
Pick: Arkansas. Away from the friendly confines of Swayze Field, Ole Miss's offense will cool off—its best hope is getting into the Razorbacks' bullpen early.
Baton Rouge Super Regional: No. 13 LSU vs. Florida State
Here's your marquee event of Super Regional weekend. After an inconsistent season that left them sweating out the selection show as one of the last four teams in the field, the Seminoles have caught fire to keep legendary head coach Mike Martin's farewell tour alive.
FSU scored 35 runs in three regional games and throttled No. 4 national seed Georgia twice to reach its fourth Super Regional in the last five years. A trip to Omaha for one last shot at the national championship that has eluded Martin so many agonizing times during his illustrious 40-year run in Tallahassee would stretch the limits of storybook endings. Standing in the way is another college baseball blueblood who overcame an imperfect season to heat up when it mattered most. Paul Mainieri's team isn't superlative at any one facet of the game but has a knack for big moments, as its late-inning rallies in two regional wins over Southern Miss showed.
Pick: Florida State. Magic is most opponents' best hope inside LSU's Alex Box Stadium, which was thrust into hosting duties after UGA crashed out of its own regional. The top of the FSU order (shortstop Mike Salvatore, rightfielder Reese Albert, third baseman Drew Mendoza) will be able to put enough early stress on the Tigers' suspect rotation to quiet the purple and gold masses.
Nashville Super Regional: No. 2 Vanderbilt vs. Duke
After decades of baseball irrelevance, Duke is back in the Super Regionals for a second consecutive year, having ambushed the regional hosted by West Virginia on the strength of dominant starts from top arms Ben Gross and Bryce Jarvis. The Blue Devils' reward? Two (or three) games against the hottest team in the country. Vanderbilt's explosive offense, led by national home run leader and Marlins first-rounder JJ Bleday, leaves little to chance, stringing together rallies that feel impossible to stop.
Pick: Vanderbilt. The Commodores can be held down for four or five innings at a time, but not for nine. After the trouble UCLA went through to survive its own regional, Vandy may be the new national title favorite.
Louisville Super Regional: No. 7 Louisville vs. No. 10 East Carolina
The Cardinals are on a mission after taking the business end of the worst ump show of the regional round. Flamethrowing Louisville closer Michael McAvene was ejected with two outs and a 3–2 count in the ninth inning of an elimination game for expressing his frustration over a ball-strike call with home plate umpire Ken Langford, and even though McAvene is a reliever, he was hit with the four-game ban designed to punish starting pitchers, rather than the one-game ban for position players who argue with the umpire. The moment may prove to be the spark the Cardinals needed, but they will be without their closer for the first two games this weekend.
ECU had its own awkwardness to overcome in a rain-delayed Greenville Regional that it opened by losing to spunky four-seed Quinnipiac before kicking things into gear.
Pick: East Carolina. It's the law of baseball that the Cardinals will be forced to rely on their bullpen in their final two games without McAvene. That's the kind of luck the Pirates need to finally break through for their first College World Series trip in 30 tries.
Starkville Super Regional: No. 6 Mississippi State vs. No. 11 Stanford
Like fellow West Coast regional hosts UCLA and Oregon State, Stanford had to work through the loser's bracket to reach the Supers. Its margin for error will drop considerably at Dudy Noble Field, where Mississippi State went 35–5 this year. Bulldogs star leadoff hitter Jake Mangum broke out of a mini-slump with a 3-for-4 performance Sunday in the regional final against Miami, and this round is right around the point last year where he took the Omaha-bound Bulldogs' fate into his own hands.
Pick: Mississippi State. Bulldogs fans are holding their breath over the status of freshman No. 2 starter JT Ginn, a first-round pick by the Dodgers last year who left Friday's game against Southern with an unspecified injury that leaves his availability in doubt. MSU can get to Omaha without him, but anything beyond that will be dicey.
Chapel Hill Super Regional: No. 14 North Carolina vs. Auburn
After a nervy opening game against UNC Wilmington that required a ninth-inning rally, the Tar Heels started playing like the ACC tournament champs, with drama-free wins over Liberty and Tennessee. Meanwhile in Atlanta, Auburn stunned No. 3 national seed Georgia Tech with a walk-off three-run homer that put the Tigers in the driver's seat for a second straight Super Regional trip. You may remember Williams from last year's Supers as the rightfielder who accidentally knocked Florida's series-clinching walk-off home run over the fence with his glove.
Pick: Auburn. The Tigers' heartbreak in the SEC tournament seems to have centered their focus for the big one, and they have the bats to counter UNC stars Aaron Sabato and Michael Busch.