I have a pretty lengthy sports bucket list. A few items:
- Watch a game at every Major League Baseball stadium (woefully, only at five. I don't count Comerica, but I've toured it).
- Attend an Olympic baseball game.
- Make sure my next trip to London includes a Premiership match. *Witness the awesomeness of the All Blacks haka in New Zealand.
- Visit Omaha.
The next two weeks, eight universities will battle to win the elusive College World Series, in my opinion, at one of the best settings in American sports. It's quite amazing how the Omaha community, no matter which teams are playing, sell out every game generating an electric buzz fit to crown a new national champion. Last year, a bit of a surprise as Coastal Carolina won the school's first title against Arizona. This year's edition includes many of the nation's powerhouse programs, and a few players recently drafted by the Chicago White Sox.
Oregon State vs. Cal State Fullerton - June 17th 2:00 pm CT
White Sox players: None
Preview: The last time Oregon State lost a game was April 29th against USC. Since then, the Beavers have won 21 straight games and boast the best team ERA coming to the College World Series at 1.80. While at times it has appeared easy for Oregon State, recent news of Luke Heimlich's sex offender status does impact how the Beavers line up their pitching staff in Bracket I. They will face a tough opponent in Cal State Fullerton. The Titans won a tough Super Regional against arch-rival Long Beach State on the road. One of the elite programs in the country, this is Fullerton's 18th visit to Omaha, and they have won the National Title four times.
2018 MLB Draft Player to watch: Oregon State, Nick Madrigal, 2B/SS
LSU vs. Florida State - June 17th 7:00 pm CT
White Sox players: Hunter Kiel, RHP, LSU
The Tigers of LSU are red hot having not lost a single game in the postseason so far. Averaging 7.02 runs per game, this is an offense that scores in bunches and with a team batting average of .294 lends itself to extended rallies. 18th round selection, Hunter Kiel, for the Tigers has only appeared in 10 games this season.
What makes the first game a tall task for the Tigers is Florida State's offense is just as dynamic. It's been a bumpy ride for the Seminoles this postseason after losing their first Regional game against Tennessee Tech. That forced the squad to win the Tallahassee Regional from the losers bracket, which they did defeat Auburn twice to move to the Super Regional. Against Sam Houston State, the Seminoles booked their ticket to Omaha trouncing the Bearkats, 19-0.
2018 MLB Draft Player to watch: Florida State, Cal Raleigh, C
Elimination Game I: June 19th 1:00 pm CT
Winner's Bracket Game I: June 19th 6:00 pm CT
Elimination Game II: June 21st, 6:00 pm CT
Bracket I Winner Game I: June 23rd, 2:00 pm CT
Bracket I Winner Game II (if necessary): June 24th
Louisville vs. Texas A&M - June 18th, 1:00 pm CT
White Sox players:
Kade McClure, SP, Louisville
Logan Taylor, CF, Louisville
Lincoln Henzman, RP, Louisville
White Sox Director of Amateur Scouting, Nick Hostetler is a big Ohio State Buckeye fan, but he has a particular affinity for the Louisville Cardinals. It's not a bad idea seeing as how Louisville might be one of the deepest teams remaining. Brendan McKay grabs the headlines as he is the favorite to win the Golden Spikes Award and was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays at pick four. He'll be starting one of the games but so will new White Sox, Kade McClure, selected in the 6th round. McClure's performance on the mound could be the difference if Louisville first ever national championship.
It won't be easy in their first contest as they face a scrappy Texas A&M squad. After winning the Houston Regional as the third seed, the Aggies had to leverage their home field advantage to knock out Davidson University. Corbin Martin is the staff's Ace, and he will need to come up big if the Aggies want to keep the national title dream alive.
2018 MLB Draft Player to watch: Louisville, Josh Stowers, OF
Florida vs. TCU - June 18th, 6:00 PM CT
White Sox players: Evan Skoug, C, TCU
A contrast in playing styles when Florida and TCU face off. For the Gators, you have the nation's best starting rotation talent in Alex Faedo, drafted by the Detroit Tigers 18th overall, and two potential 2018 MLB Draft Top-10 picks in Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar. This starting pitching depth will be tested as they face the Horned Frogs. Even without first baseman Luken Baker, who has a broken arm, TCU still averages close to seven runs per game lead by White Sox 7th round selection, Evan Skoug. Florida's problem is scoring enough runs to support their starting pitching, while TCU's is their pitching staff not able to shut down their opponents. It's a fun matchup that has at least three players (Singer, Kowar, and Baker) that have first round grades in next year's draft. If you can only watch one opening round game, make it this one.
2018 MLB Draft Players to watch:
Florida, Brady Singer, SP
Florida, Jackson Kowar, SP
Elimination Game I: June 20th, 1:00 pm CT
Winner's Bracket Game I: June 20th, 6:00 pm CT
Elimination Game II: June 22nd, 7:00 pm CT
Bracket II Winner Game I: June 23rd, 7:00 pm CT
Bracket II Winner Game II (if necessary): June 24th
College World Series final is a best of three game series starting on June 26th.