OMAHA, Neb. — Omaha’s annual summer party, the College World Series, begins Saturday at TD Ameritrade Park. Familiar faces like LSU and North Carolina, along with newcomer Indiana and quasi-newcomer North Carolina State, are among the eight teams vying for the national championship of Division I baseball.
Here are 10 things to talk about while you tailgate in the parking lot, sit in the stands or watch at home.
1. Busted bracket: The way the NCAA tournament has played out so far, it’s anyone’s guess which team will raise the championship trophy on June 25 or 26. Only three of the eight national seeds reached the CWS — No. 1 North Carolina, No. 3 Oregon State and No. 4 LSU. That’s tied for the fewest since the NCAA went to the current tournament structure in 1999. The five other teams that made it to Omaha won super regionals on the road, the most ever.
2. Pride of the Big Ten: No pressure, Indiana, but it’s been awhile — three decades, actually — since the Big Ten has made it this far.
The 1984 Michigan Wolverines were the last Big Ten team in the CWS, but the conference hasn’t won a game in Omaha since the Wolverines beat Stanford 11-4 in 1983. The last Big Ten national champion? Ohio State in 1966.
3. Beavers on a roll: Oregon State’s top three starters have done all that’s been asked of them and more. Andrew Moore, Matt Boyd and Ben Wetzler have combined to go 33-5, and they’ve pitched six innings or more in 35 of their 47 starts.
Moore, a freshman right-hander, has won nine straight, and his 14 wins are tied for most in the nation.
4. Bulldogs, by a whisker: In his first 22 years as a head coach, Mississippi State’s John Cohen required players to be clean shaven.
Sophomore pitcher Trevor Fitts convinced Cohen to ease the facial-hair ban after giving him a 10-minute PowerPoint presentation that showed all the baseball greats who sported beards and mustaches. Given the green light, about a dozen players put away their razors, and the Bulldogs rolled off 17 straight wins to start the season and reached the CWS for the first time since 2007.