CWS APPEARANCES: First
KEY PLAYERS: The Hoosiers enter the College World Series with an extremely potent offensive lineup, hitting .305 on the season. For the Hoosiers, everything seems to start with hard-hitting catcher Kyle Schwarber, who's hitting an impressive .376 with 10 doubles, 18 homers and 54 RBIs, while fellow All-American Dustin DeMuth is hitting .389 with five homers and 41 RBIs. Meanwhile, designated hitter Scott Donley is hitting .361 with five homers and 58 RBIs, and first baseman Sam Travis is hitting .313 with 10 homers and 56 RBIs. I'd also keep an eye on shortstop Michael Basil, who has had some key hits the past couple of weeks, and who has 48 runners batted in this spring. From a pitching standpoint, the Hoosiers have an excellent ace pitcher in Aaron Slegers, who has an imposing 6-foot-10 frame and a 2.13 ERA in 97 innings. He also has struck out 54 and walked 15, while teams are hitting him at a .263 clip. Joey DeNato is a crafty pitcher who has a 2.76 ERA in 94 2/3 innings, while freshman talent Will Coursen-Carr has the ability to start or work out of the bullpen, showing a lot of mental toughness last weekend against FSU. Also keep an eye on talented relievers Ryan Halstead (2.40 ERA, 11 saves), Scott Effross (2.47 ERA, 62 IP) and Luke Harrison (2.82, 38.1 IP).
THEY CAN WIN THE TITLE IF: It'll be interesting to see how the Indiana offense matches up with TD Ameritrade Park. Though the Hoosiers aren't ultra powerful from top to bottom in their lineup, almost all of their key hitters have tallied impressive power numbers this spring. However, keep in mind that TDA plays very much in pitchers' favor, facing against the wind most of the time. The Hoosiers should be fine, but this is something to watch moving forward. Meanwhile, most importantly, the Hoosiers have some solid arms on the mound, but must play better defense. Poor defense kept FSU in the game in some big situations last weekend, and that can't continue in Omaha if IU wants to play and perhaps win the program's first national title.
PROSPECT WATCH: P Aaron Slegers (5th round, Minnesota) -- 3B Dustin DeMuth (8th round, Minnesota) -- P Ryan Halstead (26th round, Minnesota)
CWS APPEARANCES: 2
KEY PLAYERS: The Cardinals play a high-octane style of offense that puts much pressure on opposing defenses, and that might just be something that leads to success in Omaha. The Cardinals hope to have Nick Ratajczak back from a shoulder injury, while reliever Joe Filomeno is listed day-to-day after being removed from last weekend's game against Vanderbilt because of an injury. From an offensive standpoint, UL is hitting .291 with hard-hitting Jeff Gardner leading the charge with a .335 with nine homers and 43 RBIs, while third baseman Ty Young has four homers, 57 RBIs and 26 stolen bases. Meanwhile, keep an eye on outfielder CoCo Johnson, who has eight homers 50 RBIs and 22 stolen bases, along with Cole Sturgeon and Sutton Whitting, who each are hitting well over .300 and have a combined 37 stolen bases. Last but not least, speedster Adam Engel might not have the best batting average, but he's a terror on the base-paths with 41 stolen bases. Pitching-wise, the Cardinals have a very stable weekend rotation with Chad Green and hard-throwing Dace Kime and Jeff Thompson leading the charge, while Nick Burdi, who can get his fastball up to 100, leads the bullpen. Cody Ege, who has appeared in 36 games and has a phenomenal 1.19 ERA in 30 1/3 innings is another talented arm to watch. UL is a very balanced club.
THEY CAN WIN THE TITLE IF: The Cardinals will have a chance to take the national title in Omaha if the offense meets expectations. UL plays much better offensively than its .291 batting average would indicate because of the way it moves around the bases and puts pressure on opposing teams. UL must execute that style of play flawlessly throughout the next week. Meanwhile, the Cards just need starting pitchers Chad Green, Dace Kime and Jeff Thompson to continue their impressive ways. Thompson was fantastic last weekend against VU, topping out at 93 with great location.
PROSPECT WATCH: P Dace Kime (3rd round, Cleveland) -- P Jeff Thompson (3rd round, Detroit) -- 3B Ty Young (7th round, Tampa Bay) -- OF CoCo Johnson (11th round, Miami) -- P Chad Green (11th round, Detroit) -- P Cody Ege (15th round, Texas) -- OF Adam Engel (19th round, White Sox)
CWS APPEARANCES: Nine
KEY PLAYERS: Mississippi State is one of the more intriguing teams to watch in this CWS for a good reason. The Bulldogs are playing an exceptional brand of baseball and showed very well last weekend against Virginia with some key hits, clutch pitching, and of course, great defense, led by middle infielders Adam Frazier and Brett Pirtle. From an offensive standpoint, it doesn't get much better than outfielder Hunter Renfroe, who's hitting .360 with 16 doubles, three triples, 15 homers and 61 RBIs. Meanwhile, Frazier is an outstanding overall player with a .359 average, while Alex Detz is hitting .323 and Wes Rea is a very intriguing bat to watch. Rea has really progressed well offensively this season, and especially in the past few weeks. Rea has a .288 average, seven homers and 37 RBIs. MSU is most impressive on the mound, where it doesn't necessarily have an elite weekend rotation, but top-to-bottom it doesn't get any better. Right-hander Kendall Graveman and left-hander Luis Pollorena are gritty and good starting pitchers, while in the bullpen, closer Jonathan Holder is outstanding with 18 saves and a 1.31 ERA in 48 innings. Holder seems to change the feeling of the game when he comes in with a hard-nosed and attacking approach. Also keep an eye on other talented arms such as Chad Girodo (1.38 ERA, 45.2 IP), Ross Mitchell (1.35 ERA, 86.2 IP), Ben Bracewell (1.48, 30.1 IP) and Myles Gentry (3.69, 31.2 IP), among others.
THEY CAN WIN THE TITLE IF: State made several outstanding defensive plays last weekend against Virginia, led by second baseman Brett Pirtle. MSU is a solid defensive club, from Frazier and Pirtle up the middle to ultra-athletic Hunter Renfroe in right field. But the Bulldogs will need to keep that level of play going this weekend to take home the program's first national title. Meanwhile, though the Bulldogs have hit the ball well the past few weeks, there have been times this season when the offense has gone into some lulls. Recent trends suggest the Bulldogs will show up to Omaha and continue to perform well at the plate, but it's certainly something to watch. Pitching-wise, this club is setup well with a unique ability to roll out 8-9 high quality arms.
PROSPECT WATCH: OF Hunter Renfroe (1st round, Padres), SS Adam Frazier (6th round, Pittsburgh) -- P Kendall Graveman (8th round, Toronto) -- P Chad Girodo (9th round, Toronto) -- P Evan Mitchell (13th round, Cincinnati) -- P Darryl Norris (22nd round, Detroit) -- P Luis Pollorena (23rd round, Texas)
CWS APPEARANCES: 5
KEY PLAYERS: Oregon State certainly wouldn't be classified as a potent offensive club, but this club is very opportunistic and typically takes advantage of big situations. With that said, the Beavers do possess a few very impressive bats, including All-American outfielder Michael Conforto, who's hitting .320 with 11 homers and 45 RBIs, while leading hitter Dylan Davis is hitting .343 with five homers and 58 RBIs. I'd also keep an eye on shortstop Tyler Smith, who's hitting .313, and second baseman Andy Petersen, who's hitting .329, while Danny Hayes has some pop in his bat with six homers and 39 RBIs. Where the Beavers excel the most is on the mound with starting pitchers Matt Boyd, Andrew Moore and Ben Wetzler leading the way. Boyd, Moore and Wetzler are all high pitchability guys who have had tremendous campaigns. Meanwhile, Tony Bryant (1.76, 30.2 IP) and Scott Schultz (2.03, 10 saves) are impressive arms, while freshman left-handed pitcher Max Engelbrekt, who reminds the OSU coaching staff of a younger Matt Boyd, should be back this weekend from back spasms.
THEY CAN WIN THE TITLE IF: The Beavers actually matchup pretty well with the rest of the CWS field. OSU has an outstanding weekend rotation, the best in the field of eight. The Beavers, though, really need to get Engelbrekt back in the mix this weekend. If not, that puts much pressure on Bryant and Schultz to take care of business. From an offensive standpoint, the Beavers have gotten key hits when needed the past few weeks, but more offensive production definitely is needed to capture the program's third national title.
PROSPECT WATCH: P Ben Wetzler (5th round, Philadelphia) -- P Matt Boyd (6th round, Toronto) -- SS Tyler Smith (8th round, Seattle) -- 1B Danny Hayes (13th round, Chicago White Sox) -- P Scott Schultz (17th round, Miami) -- P Dan Child (18th round, Philadelphia) -- C Jake Rodriguez (19th round, Houston)
CWS APPEARANCES: 16
KEY PLAYERS: The Tigers enter the CWS with the field's most balanced offensive lineup. LSU enters the weekend with a .308 batting average, with impressive freshman shortstop Alex Bregman and first baseman Mason Katz, both PG All-Americans, leading the charge. Meanwhile, second baseman JaCoby Jones has been on an offensive tear lately and now has a .299 average with six homers and 31 RBIs after having an average around .250 around midseason. Also keep an eye on slick-fielding third baseman Christian Ibarra, who also has some good pop at the plate with six homers, while Mark Laird and Andrew Stevenson, both hitting below .300, can cause a lot of issues for opposing teams because of their speed and versatility. Pitching-wise, the Tigers have one of the best in the business in right-handed pitcher Aaron Nola, while a big key to Omaha is the arm of right-handed pitcher Ryan Eades. Eades has been very good at times this season with a fastball up to 93-94, but he's also had some bad moments, too. Meanwhile, Cody Glenn missed the NCAA Regional because of a suspension and didn't pitch last weekend because the Tigers went 2-0 against Oklahoma, so it'll be interesting to see if he's a bit rusty in Omaha. In the bullpen, left-handed pitcher Chris Cotton is as good as it gets, entering the CWS with an astonishing 16 saves.
THEY CAN WIN THE TITLE IF: LSU is the favorite to win the national title in Omaha, which would be the program's seven overall national title. However, Tigers fans should be warned that often than not the team favorited to take care of business in Omaha doesn't actually win the title. Aaron Nola is a rock in the rotation, but Glenn's time off and Ryan Eades' erratic nature at times are at least two causes for concern. Otherwise, the Tigers look outstanding on paper heading into this CWS.
PROSPECT WATCH: P Ryan Eades (2nd round, Minnesota) -- 2B JaCoby Jones (3rd round, Pittsburgh) -- 1B Mason Katz (4th round, St. Louis) -- P Nick Rumbelow (7th round, New York Yankees) -- P Will LaMarche (9th round, Detroit) -- C Ty Ross (12th round, San Francisco) -- P Chris Cotton (14th round, Houston) -- OF Raph Rhymes (15th round, Detroit) -- 3B Christian Ibarra (32nd round, Pittsburgh)
CWS APPEARANCES: 10
KEY PLAYERS: Though the Tar Heels have been pushed to the brink of elimination the past couple of weekends, they've shown a lot of resiliency and are still one of the more balanced clubs in this CWS field. From an offensive standpoint, the Tar Heels enter the weekend with a .306 batting average, with first baseman Cody Stubbs providing a nice boost throughout the season, hitting a team-high .366 with eight homers and 76 RBIs. Meanwhile, third baseman Colin Moran is hitting .343 with 18 homers and 88 RBIs, while Brian Holberton, who's hitting .309 on the season, has come up with some big hits, including 11 homers this season. The Tar Heels really would like to get freshman outfielder Skye Bolt back on track. Bolt has struggled offensively in the postseason, and really hasn't recovered from that injury several weeks ago. UNC already has a solid offensive lineup, but Bolt is a nice piece of the puzzle to have on track. Meanwhile, on the mound, left-handed pitcher Kent Emanuel, who has been a workhorse to say the least the past couple of weeks, has a 2.93 ERA in 123 innings, along with 89 strikeouts and 28 walks. Meanwhile, Hobbs Johnson and Benton Moss have just been average in the postseason, while in the bullpen, Chris McCue is a quality arm with a 2.17 ERA in 58 innings, while freshman right-handed pitcher Trent Thornton has recorded eight saves and has a 1.28 ERA, thanks in part to a rising fastball that sits around 92-93 on the radar gun.
THEY CAN WIN THE TITLE IF: The Tar Heels have a potent offensive lineup and a very good bullpen with Thornton leading the charge. However, it has to be a little alarming going into the CWS with Emanuel struggling last weekend against South Carolina, while fellow starting pitchers Hobbs Johnson and Benton Moss weren't exactly impressive. UNC will have the bullpen and offense to get the job done in Omaha, but the starting pitching must be what it was for much of the spring. If it isn't, the Tar Heels could have a quick trip to the CWS.
PROSPECT WATCH: 3B Colin Moran (1st round, Miami) -- P Kent Emanuel (3rd round, Houston) -- 1B Cody Stubbs (8th round, Kansas City) -- C Brian Holberton (9th round, Houston) -- P Hobbs Johnson (14th round, Milwaukee) -- OF Chaz Frank (20th round, Toronto)
KEY PLAYERS: Opposing coaches aren't shy about the North Carolina State offensive lineup. Most feel like if you can slow down shortstop Trea Turner, you can shut down the Wolfpack at the plate. Well, that's not exactly the case, as Rice found out last weekend as Jake Fincher, Tarran Senay and others recorded some big hits. With that said, Turner certainly leads the offense with a .370 batting average, 13 doubles, four triples, seven homers and 41 RBIs, while Fincher is hitting .327 with 29 RBIs and 14 stolen bases (Turner has 27). Also keep an eye on third baseman Grant Clyde, who performs at a higher level than his .278 average indicates, while Brett Austin and Brett Williams have a combined 32 stolen bases and are more of a threat than batting averages of .258 and .251 would indicate. On the mound, sophomore left-handed pitcher Carlos Rodon has been as good as anyone nationally over the past few weeks and enters the CWS with an astonishing 170 strikeouts in 118 1/3 innings of work, while Ethan Ogburn, Logan Jernigan and Brad Stone are all guys with the ability to start and perform well in Omaha. Also keep an eye on a steady diet of solid bullpen arms in Grant Sasser (1.10 ERA, 41 IP), Chris Overman (0.34, 26.1), Josh Easley (1.44, 43.2), Andrew Woeck (3.09, 46.2) and Ryan Wilkins (4.02, 47).
THEY CAN WIN THE TITLE IF: North Carolina State heads to Omaha with a lot of confidence, and who can blame it? The Wolfpack has had a knack for huge hits over the past couple of weeks, and they always feel fantastic with Rodon on the mound. The big key to the CWS is just how the rest of the starting rotation performs. The Wolfpack has at least three quality options, but all three have had injury or consistency issues at points this spring. I'm a believer that North Carolina State's offensive woes are overstated, while the bullpen is in very good shape. For me, N.C. State's success in Omaha hinges on the performance of the rotation.
PROSPECT WATCH: P Josh Easley (23rd round, Miami) -- P Anthony Tzamtzis (32nd round, Tampa Bay)
KEY PLAYERS: It's safe to say the Bruins are very opportunistic when it comes to their offensive production. UCLA enters the CWS with a highly unimpressive .251 batting average, but it does a terrific job of taking advantage of even the smallest opportunities. The Bruins have received solid production at the plate from Eric Filia and Pat Gallagher in the postseason. Filia is hitting .278 with a home run and 25 RBIs, while Gallagher is hitting .277 with 20 RBIs. Leading hitter Kevin Kramer is hitting .279, but really hasn't been a big contributor in the postseason, while Cody Regis, who's only hitting .232, could be a guy to watch in Omaha with his experience, having been to Omaha three of the last four seasons. From a pitching standpoint, the Bruins have a phenomenal one-two punch on the weekend in Adam Plutko and Nick Vander Tuig, both guys who can touch 91-92 on the gun with great pitchability, while left-handed Grant Watson typically is solid with a 3.22 ERA in 86 2/3 innings of work. Also, the Bruins have two of the nation's elite relievers in David Berg and freshman right-hander James Kaprielian.
THEY CAN WIN THE TITLE IF: It's pretty simple what needs to happen for the Bruins to compete for the national title while in Omaha -- more offensive production. The Bruins certainly have the pitching to get through their bracket, and the defense has been solid down the stretch. But again, the Bruins leave little room for error at the plate and must improve in that area this weekend and beyond. Watch out for UCLA should that offense get rolling. This is a very dangerous club despite hitting just .276 so far in the NCAA postseason.
PROSPECT WATCH: P Nick Vander Tuig (6th round, San Francisco) -- P Zack Weiss (6th round, Cincinnati) -- SS Pat Valaika (9th round, Colorado) -- P Adam Plutko (11th round, Cleveland) -- OF Brenton Allen (20th round, Washington) -- 2B Kevin Williams (29th round, Miami) -- P Ryan Deeter (32nd round, Milwaukee)