OMAHA, Neb. — The College World Series begins Saturday, and predicting a winner is as hard as hitting a ball out of the cavernous TD Ameritrade Park.
Of the eight teams that made it to Omaha, only No. 3 Virginia and No. 7 TCU are national seeds. UC Irvine and Texas Tech are the surprise teams that undoubtedly will be favorites of the local fans who love to cheer for underdogs. Here are 10 things to know as you try to figure out which two teams will make it to the finals:
1 BRAVO, BIG 12: Three of the Big 12’s nine baseball-playing members reached the CWS. Texas is in Bracket 1 and Texas Tech and TCU, which meet Sunday, are in Bracket 2. The only other year the Big 12 had three teams in the CWS was 2005 (Baylor, Nebraska, Texas). It’s the first time the Lone Star State has had three teams in Omaha in the same year.
2 HOMER HAVEN IT’S NOT: If you and your buddy are making a friendly bet on number of CWS home runs, take the “under” if the over-under is set in double digits. Only 22 have been hit in three years at TD Ameritrade, including three in 2013, and no one has cleared the fence in center field.
3 IF THE BALL DOES GO OUT: Ole Miss appears to be the team best-suited to knock it out of the park. The Rebels have hit six homers in six NCAA tournament games, and their total of 42 is most among CWS teams. Junior first baseman Sikes Orvis has hit 14 of his 18 career homers for the Rebels this season. UC Irvine, on the other hand, has gone deep just 12 times.
4 YES, THAT’S ROGER’S KID: Kacy Clemens, son of seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens, is Texas’ starting first baseman. The freshman is batting .220 with one homer and 18 RBIs. He wears No. 42, double the now-retired No. 21 his dad wore for the Longhorns when they won the 1983 national championship.
5 YES, THAT’S CALVIN’S KID: Lukas Schiraldi, son of former big-league pitcher Calvin Schiraldi, is in the rotation for Texas. Calvin was the Most Outstanding Player of the 1983 CWS and was teammates with Roger Clemens, not just at Texas but with the 1986 Boston Red Sox. Calvin was the hard-luck loser against the New York Mets in Games 6 and 7 of the ’86 World Series. Lukas, drafted in the 15th round by the Texas Rangers, is 7-3 with a 4.08 ERA.
6 FUTURE PROS: The highest draft pick in Omaha is Vanderbilt pitcher Tyler Beede, who went 14th overall to the Giants. Beede had a school-record 14 wins last year but enters the CWS 8-7 with a 3.58 ERA. Other first-rounders are pitchers Brandon Finnegan of TCU (17th, Royals) and Nick Howard of Virginia (19th, Reds).
7 WELCOME BACK, COACH: If Virginia coach Brian O’Connor feels at home at the CWS, it’s not just because it’s his third appearance in six years. He grew up in neighboring Council Bluffs, Iowa, and went to college a few blocks away at Creighton. O’Connor pitched on CU’s 1991 CWS team, and he was an assistant on Notre Dame’s 2002 team that reached Omaha.
8 REDEMPTION TOUR: Louisville, the only returning team from 2013, hopes to leave town in better spirits this time. The Cardinals went two-and-out a year ago, losing 2-0 to Indiana and falling behind 10-0 on their way to an 11-4, four-error loss to Oregon State.
9 RED RAIDERS STRONG-ARMED: The pitchers deserve lots of credit for leading Texas Tech to its first CWS. In six NCAA tournament games, the Red Raiders have scored a total of nine runs and are batting .208 with one homer. Seven pitchers, however, have combined for an 0.65 ERA in 55 innings, with opponents batting .166.
10 BEEN THERE, DONE THAT: Two members of the UC Irvine coaching staff were on the 2007 CWS team that infected Omaha with “Anteater Fever” by winning two extra-inning games in final at-bats. Pitching coach Daniel Bibona was a freshman on that team who was Big West pitcher of the year in 2009 and ‘10. Assistant Ben Orloff was a sophomore shortstop who was 2009 Big West player of the year.