The College World Series returns to TD Ameritrade Park on June 15. Each week until then, The World-Herald will take a look at eight teams that have a chance to end their seasons in Omaha.
South Carolina (38-13): The Gamecocks head into the final week of Southeastern Conference play trailing Kentucky by a half game with Louisiana State on deck. South Carolina split a pair of games with Georgia, winning the first when Michael Roth threw seven shutout innings to improve to 5-0. Roth is limiting opposing hitters to a .194 batting average. The Bulldogs came back to win the second game 6-5 in 10 innings to hand South Carolina just its second loss in its last 16 league games. Junior first baseman Christian Walker continues to lead the Gamecocks offensively, hitting .343 with nine homers and 45 RBIs. Walker has a .471 on-base percentage and a .556 slugging percentage.
Florida (38-14): Everyone’s preseason No. 1 team struggled in the middle of league play but, a series win over Mississippi State kept the Gators mathematically alive in the SEC race. Florida trails Kentucky by two games and will close conference action with a series at Auburn. Strong pitching carried the Gators in the Mississippi State series as Florida pitchers allowed only four runs and limited the Bulldogs to .167 hitting. Mike Zunino hit his team-leading 13th homer to break a 1-1 tie in Sunday’s series-clinching win. It was the 41st homer of Zunino’s career, putting him in third on the Gators’ all-time chart. Closer Austin Maddox returned to action and recorded his 12th save, one off the school record.
Kentucky (41-11): The Wildcats sweep of Alabama put them back in front in the SEC race, allowed them to become the first team to record 40 wins and helped them regain the Division I lead for wins. Kentucky plays its last four games on the road – Tuesday at Murray State and a three-game series at Mississippi State. The Wildcats, seeking their second SEC championship, hold a half-game lead on South Carolina and a one-game edge on Louisiana State. Kentucky’s 41 wins are three shy of the school record, while its 18 league wins trail only the 20 it recorded during the 2006 championship season. Closer Trevor Gott already has set a school record for saves with nine, and the Wildcats also have set a team record with 18.
Rice (36-14): Alabama-Birmingham rallied for a Sunday win to deny the Owls a sweep that would have put them in sole possession of first place in the Conference-USA race. Rice heads into this week’s showdown with Central Florida tied with the Knights with 15-6 records in league play. The Owls have won or shared the conference title for 16 straight seasons. Freshman shortstop Ford Stainback had a monster series against UAB, going 9 of 16 (.643) in the three games to win the league’s hitter of the week honor.
Oregon (37-14): The Ducks maintained a one-game lead over Arizona in the Pac-12 race after winning the first two games of their series against Southern California. Oregon also posted a win over in-state rival Oregon State, leaving it 10-1 in its last 11 games. The Ducks continue to excel on the mound and in the field, ranking seventh nationally in fielding percentage (.979) and 21st in ERA (3.06). Oregon also is second nationally in hits allowed per nine innings (7.25). Jimmy Sherfy picked up two saves last week to push his total to 15, putting him fifth nationally.
Florida State (41-10): A 2-4 week isn’t going to drop the Seminoles off the Omaha radar, but it does raise some concerns with the postseason looming. Florida State bounced back from losing the first two games against Clemson to post a 9-5 win Monday night, clinching the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Atlantic Division title for the sixth straight season. The Seminoles are assured of no worse than a No. 2 seed in the league tournament and have a magic number of one to win the ACC overall regular-season title. Florida State closes the regular season with a three-game series against North Carolina State.
Baylor (39-11): Oklahoma became the first Big 12 team to defeat the Bears, and the Sooners did it three times to sweep the series. Baylor dropped 1-0 and 2-1 decisions in the first two games before getting blasted 12-6 in the final game. The Bears already have clinched the league championship and carry a five-game lead into the final series against Texas. Baylor also plays a Tuesday game against Texas-San Antonio, which had ended the Bears’ 24-game winning streak late last month. Trent Blank, who ranks seventh nationally with nine wins, had a 11-game winning streak dating back to last season ended in the 2-1 loss to Oklahoma.
Texas A&M (37-14): The Aggies could be headed back to Omaha if Michael Wacha and Ross Stripling continue to dominate on the mound. Texas A&M gave up just three runs in a sweep of San Diego State, with Wacha improving to 8-0 with a 2.14 win with a 4-1 win in the opener. Stripling was even better in game two, throwing the Aggies’ first no-hitter since 2004 in a 1-0 win. Stripling allowed only one runner on a fifth-inning walk and struck out seven, improving to 9-2 with a 2.36 ERA. Texas A&M is 11-2 in weekend series but only 4-7 against Top 25 competition this season.