Each Monday until Memorial Day, when the NCAA announces its regional field of 64, we’ll offer a glimpse at the teams with an inside track to play in the College World Series. The first CWS at new TD Ameritrade Park opens June 18, ranking as a goal for every Division I program. Here’s the latest list of eight teams (in alphabetical order) playing CWS-caliber baseball in the final week of April.
Florida (31-10): The Gators held Alabama to three runs in sweeping a weekend series that lifted them back into a share of the Southeastern Conference lead. The Crimson Tide came into the series leading the SEC’s West Division but was no match for Florida, which hit .347 (34 of 98) in the three games with 11 doubles and four homers. Nolan Fontana led the onslaught, hitting .545 in the three-game series.
Florida State (31-10): The Seminoles are riding a season-high seven-game winning streak heading into this weekend’s series at Miami. Florida State leads the Atlantic Coast Conference Atlantic Division by three games. Collegiate Baseball named Seminole junior Sean Gilmartin its national player of the year after he struck out 13 and limited Duke to three hits in eight innings in the opening game. Gilmartin improved to 7-1 with a 1.38 ERA.
Georgia Tech (30-11): A sweep of Boston College allowed the Yellow Jackets to continue to keep the pressure on Virginia in the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Coastal Division. If Georgia Tech can’t make it to Omaha this season, pencil in the Yellow Jackets for a future trip. Seventeen of the 34 players on the roster are freshmen. All have played, and 10 have made at least one start this season.
Oregon State (29-8): A Sunday loss to Washington State snapped the Beavers’ 11-game winning streak but they retained their hold on first place in the Pac-10 by winning the series. Oregon State’s rise back to inclusion among the nation’s elite teams has taken some by surprise — the Beavers were picked eighth in the Pac-10 preseason poll. They face a key series this weekend, traveling to Los Angeles to take on a UCLA team that sits in third place in the standings.
South Carolina (31-8): For the second straight week, the Gamecocks suffered a key injury as outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. sustained a wrist injury against Mississippi State. Bradley, the most valuable player at last June’s College World Series, is out indefinitely. The Gamecocks also are without outfielder Adam Matthews, who is sidelined indefinitely with a hamstring injury. The injuries may force coach Ray Tanner to experiment with using pitcher Steven Neff in the outfield.
Texas A&M (29-11): Dominant pitching carried the Aggies to a three-game sweep of Oklahoma State and gave them sole possession of the Big 12 lead. Texas A&M, which has held opponents to two runs or fewer in 24 of 40 games, limited the Cowboys to a run in each game of the series. The Aggies have not lost a series this season and have opened Big 12 play with six straight series wins for the first time in school history.
Vanderbilt (35-5): The Commodores outscored Louisiana State 31-11 in a three-game sweep to move back into a tie with South Carolina and Florida in the Southeastern Conference. The heart of Vanderbilt’s lineup — Mike Yastrzemski, Jason Esposito, Aaron Westlake and Curt Casali — combined for 19 of the Commodores hits, scored 17 runs and had 15 RBIs against the floundering Tigers, who opened the season 16-1 but are 8-19 since March 18.
Virginia (40-4): The Cavaliers became the first team to reach 40 wins with Sunday’s 7-6 victory over North Carolina State. The victory also gave Virginia its 13th straight weekend series win. The Cavaliers’ pitching and defense continue to shine. They rank in the top seven nationally with a 2.31 ERA, and have notched 451 strikeouts while walking just 99. Defensively, Virginia has committed only 27 errors in 44 games, and its .983 fielding percentage ranks second nationally.