2020 MLB Draft Picks Who Could Debut This Season

The MLB is just three games into the season and already getting alarming news, with two games cancelled last night due to a COVID outbreak in the clubhouse of the Miami Marlins, who saw 14 positive tests. Both the Marlins and the Phillies  – Miami’s opponent this past weekend – cancelled their Monday-night contests while awaiting more results. It was a definitive risk of playing with no bubble, and it only took one weekend for the virus to rear its ugly head. 

That being said, it’s far too early to call the season a bust. The outbreak, as far as we know, was contained to just one team, so let’s not announce it doomsday just yet. Rather, what more exciting way to talk about baseball than to look at some of the promising young talent on its way to the league. In the piece below, we’re taking a look at players selected in the recent MLB draft that could make an appearance in the show this season. This would be historic in that, due to no minor league season, any prospect to do this would be the first to make the college-majors jump without a pitstop in the minors since Mike Leake did so in 2009. Only a small handful of players have gone from the collegiate game to the major league game in the same season in that window, each of those athletes requiring a small showing in the minors. That being said, this is a weird season, and the shortened schedules seem like a perfect chance to try out the unexpected. So here are a handful of college athletes I think may ascend to the majors this season – because why wouldn’t 2020 get weirder? 

Miami Marlins – Max Meyer, RHP0

Even in this wacky 60-game sprint with expanded playoffs, the Marlins aren’t expected to really come close to a playoff berth in 2020. Coming off a 57-win season, they are a clear pick to finish last in the National League East. They don’t fit the bill of a team that would be rushing a prospect to the majors, but they did include Meyer in their 60-player pool. They’ll toss their third-overall selection into some intrasquad games and see what they have. If Miami is well out of contention entering the final 12-15 games (which is about what qualifies as the ‘stretch run’ this season), and Meyer has performed well in intrasquad action, I wouldn’t be entirely surprised to see the Marlins give their new star prospect a little taste of the majors in some low-pressure situations, likely with no fans. 

Max Meyer was added to the Marlins’ 60-player pool

Los Angeles Angels – Reid Detmers (LHP), Adam Seminaris (LHP) 

The Angels put two of their draft selections into their player pool, highlighted by first round selection Reid Detmers. Detmers was the second southpaw taken in the draft, and he’s considered the most polished pitcher in the draft. A quick jump to the majors was very possible regardless of the unusual circumstances. The Angels have only made the playoffs once since 2009 (in 2014) and they haven’t posted a winning record since 2015. But the Angels are not a normal rebuilding team. They have the best player in baseball in Mike Trout, a dynamic two-way player in Shohei Ohtani, and a bevy of solid pitchers and a loaded lineup that features free agent signee Anthony Rendon, and the legendary Albert Pujols. After bringing in the ingenious Joe Madden to manage this talented roster, the Angels look primed to breakthrough, particularly with an expanded playoff. 

Enter Detmers and Seminaris, who I like to potentially debut this summer for different reasons. Detmers is obvious enough – he’s a polished left-hander with a fastball that plays beyond its normal 90-94 range and two plus offspeed offerings. If Detmers shows maturity facing big league talent in intrasquad games, he might be an intriguing late-season call-up for the Angels. Madden may also look to include the Louisville product in his taxi squad at some point, allowing the potential rookie to add some pitching depth to the roster for road trips. 

Seminaris was one of my favorite selections of the draft in that he was considered a prototypical left-handed pitching prospect, according to the MLB.com’s scouting analysis. The same report also said Seminaris has a limited ceiling, but that almost makes him perfect for a 2020 promotion. Seminaris has already learned to be a pitcher – not just a thrower – and scouts rave over his high-IQ pitching while utilizing an impressive four-pitch arsenal. There are question marks as to whether he has much room to improve, so Madde may not even be sacrificing tons of development in exchange for adding a pitcher that could be a very nice asset in a playoff push. 

Los Angeles Dodgers – Bobby Miller (RHP), Landon Knack (RHP), Jake Vogel (OF)

The theme of straight pitching prospects is broken by outfielder Jake Vogel, which we’ll get to in a minute. First off, let’s address the sheer number of prospects here. If there’s any team that will do absolutely anything to win, it’s the Los Angeles Dodgers. Although they seemingly increased their window to win via their recent extension of Mookie Betts, Dave Roberts’ squad has been knocking on the door for far too long. They were the only unanimous pick to win their division by ESPN, and they are once again considered the National League favorites. So, if there seems to be a prospect from this draft class that looks ready to contribute at the major league level, expect the Dodgers to immediately call their number. They’ve put five of their selections in their player pool; It’s all-in in L.A. 

Miller was the Dodgers’ first round selection out of Louisville, and his stock trajectory has been trending nothing but up for a year now. After moving into the Cards’ weekend rotation in his sophomore season, Miller continuously impressed with a mid-to-high 90s fastball that he maintained into the later innings, to go with an array of offspeed offerings that included a changeup, split change, and slider/cutter hybrid. Some scouts think Miller may be an elite bullpen piece rather than a starter down the road, and the Dodgers may be inclined to try him in that role, at least in the short term, if his stuff is proving good enough to miss big league bats. 

Landon Knack is a curious case. Drafted a little earlier than expected by the Dodgers in the 2nd round, the fifth-year senior hadn’t been considered a big prospect by any stretch, but he came into his final collegiate season and put up astounding numbers. He went 4-0 in four starts with a 1.08 ERA and led D-1 baseball with 51 strikeouts and in strikeout-to-walk ratio, 51:1. After pitching in the high-80s, and low-90s for most of his career, but he bulked up and came back touching 98 this past spring. Already 23 years old, Knack has plenty of experience and his improvement has been remarkable. How sustainable that improvement is remains to be seen, but I would hardly be shocked to see the Dodgers try to capitalize on Knack, who may prove to be a 2nd-round gem. 

Finally, we come to the only non-pitcher on this list, and there’s one specific reason. Vogel is also the only high school prospect on the list, because there’s almost zero reason you would ask a high school player to make that jump. But Vogel may just be the fasted prospect in this draft class, and speed will play at any level. Need a guy that can come in and steal a base, or maybe score that winning run from second on a single? Vogel, who hails from baseball-hotspot Huntington Beach, may just be the guy they want.Speed doesn’t make a good baserunner by itself, but it sure helps, and if Vogel proves to have the maturity and IQ to do the job for the Dodgers, they might be watering at the prospect of adding an 18-year old who could change the momentum of a postseason game with a timely steal. Keep an eye out for Jake Vogel this summer.

Best College World Series Stories of the 2010s

The College World Series at a magical time in the baseball season – as the major league season hits the dog days of June and July, the best collegiate talent gathers in Omaha, Nebraska for a double elimination tournament that has produced some classic moments. However, with the coronavirus pandemic cancelling this past CWS, it gave me time to reflect on some of the best stories from Omaha over the past decade. Here are my top 5 inspiring CWS runs from the 2010s. 

#5.  2013 UCLA

UCLA wasn’t necessarily a massive underdog to reach Omaha, as they were a top-20 team in the nation and a top seed in their region entering the NCAA Tournament. After breezing through the Los Angeles regional with a 3-0 record, the Bruins surprised fifth-ranked Cal State Fullerton, a titan in the college baseball world, sweeping the favorites in a two-game Super Regional on the road. At 44-17, the Bruins entered the College World Series with the worst record among the eight teams, with no CWS titles to their name and just a 4-9 overall record in Omaha. 

However, UCLA continued to breeze through the field – you would have hardly known they were the 6h seed in the event. Facing traditional powerhouse and 57-win LSU in the opener, UCLA won 2-1, and they matched that score against NC State to reach the semifinals. There, they had two chances to take down the #1 team in the nation in UNC, but the Bruins needed just one. Their pitching continued to dominate, as UCLA won 4-1. In the best-of-three championship series, UCLA got a somewhat welcome surprise as Mississippi State, the 7th seed in Omaha, emerged as their challenger for the championship. The Bruins eked out a 3-1 victory in the opener, and they sealed their dominant championship run with an 8-0 victory in the championship, giving up just four runs in five CWS games. 

UCLA’s pitching staff was led by tournament MVP Adam Plutko, who’s Game 1 gem (6 IP, 4 H, 1 R) gave the Bruins the jump in the championship series. 

#4. 2010 TCU
The Horned Frogs are one of two teams on this list that didn’t win the title, but their run to the College World Series semifinals in their first ever appearance was still inspiring enough to land them at #4. TCU played the 2010 season in the Mountain West Conference, so although they put together 51-win regular season, the Horned Frogs entered the NCAA Tournament ranked just 15th in the country. They cruised through their regional on their homefield, but they found themselves in a battle versus #2 Texas in the Super Regional. After winning a 3-1 opener, TCU was clubbed 14-1 in Game 2, seemingly shifting all the momentum to the Longhorns in the winner-takes-all battle. However, TCU rebounded and stunned their in-state rival with a 4-1 victory that got them to Omaha for the first time in program history. 

TCU found themselves facing Florida State, who was making their 20th appearance in the College World Series, second most in the field. The Horned Frogs didn’t blink, dismantling the Seminoles 8-1. After a setback to #6 UCLA, TCU proved their victory over FSU was no fluke, beating the tradition-laden program 11-7 in an elimination contest. 

TCU reached the semifinals and gave the sixth-ranked Bruins a big scare, winning the first game 6-2 to set up a winners-take-all clash with a championship series berth on the line. Despite their ultimate defeat in the semifinals, TCU’s season was regarded as a highly successful one and an extremely unexpected run given their lack of history and mid-major conference. Head Coach Jim Schlossengale was named the national head coach of the year. 

#3. 2019 Michigan

The 2019 Wolverines are the other team not to win a title that makes our list. Michigan entered the season with no College World Series appearances since 1984, and their last title coming in 1962. Not only that, but the Big 10 themselves were in the midst of a ridiculous cold streak in college baseball – since Michigan’s 1984 appearance only Indiana in 2013 had reached Omaha. The Wolverines didn’t look like the class of the conference for most of the season, and they didn’t win the Big 10 championship, but they slipped into the NCAA Tournament as a three-seed in their regional. However, once in the tournament, the Wolverines turned up the heat. 

Michigan smacked Creighton and Cincinnati to quickly reach their regional final. After suffering a setback to the Blue Jays, Michigan rebounded to beat Creighton for a second time and earn a date with the #1 team in the nation in UCLA. The entire three-game Super Regional was must-see baseball, with the Wolverines clawing out a 3-2 victory in Game 1, before succumbing 5-4 in extra innings of Game 2. The series came to Game 3, and Michigan wasn’t about to waste their deep tournament run, as they edged out the Bruins 4-2 in the elimination game, earning their first CWS berth in 35 years. 

Michigan was understandably a huge underdog in Omaha, as, with the exception of Auburn (1997), every team had been to the College World Series this decade. Five of the top-8 teams had survived this far, so Michigan didn’t have a cushy schedule by any means. However, the Wolverines were rolling, and they weren’t slowing down, beating Texas Tech and Florida State to reach the semifinals. They matched up with the Red Raiders once more, absolutely dismantling the boys from Lubbock, 15-3, to reach the championship. 

Michigan didn’t quite bring the Big 10 to glory, but they came extremely close against SEC powerhouse Vanderbilt. Michigan beat the Commodores, ranked second in the country, 7-4 in the opener, but they couldn’t quite get over the hump, losing the series in three games. Despite the final result, Michigan’s resurgence put the Big 10 back on the map and was one of the best stories of the decade. They were led by Tommy Henry on the mound, and Jimmy Kerr (1B), middle infielders Ako Thomas and Jack Blomgren, and outfielder Jesse Franklin, all of whom made the all-tournament team. 

#2. 2015 Virginia

If not for the #1 team on this list, Virginia may have been the most unlikely champion of the decade. The Cavaliers had finished as the CWS runner-up in 2014, but their 2015 season had been an absolute roller coaster, as UVA went 15-15 in ACC play, and with just 39 wins in the season, they held their breath on selection day, getting into the tournament as a 3-seed in their region. However, the Cavaliers cruised, with a 3-0 record to reach the Super Regionals, where they faced and swept a fellow three-seed in Maryland. 

The Cavaliers entered the College World Series faced with a daunting field including #2 LSU, #4 Florida, #5 Miami, and #7 TCU. Virginia got unranked Arkansas in the first round and escaped with a 5-3 win, before slipping past the Gators in a 1-0 shutout to reach the semifinals. There, they matched up with Florida once more, needing one win with two opportunities to do so. They needed both, losing 10-5 in their first effort. The Cavaliers scraped through to the championship round on the strength of a 5-4 upset of Florida, earning UVA a title-series rematch with Vanderbilt. 

The championship series looked bad for the Cavaliers, who appeared overmatched in a 5-1 Game 1 loss. However, buoyed by an elite start from Josh Sborz, Virginia bounced back with a 3-0 shutout victory in Game 2, and they closed out the Commodores in Game 3, 4-2 to cap off one of the most unlikely championship runs in recent college baseball history. 

#1. 2016 Coastal Carolina

This was the obvious choice, as even though Coastal Carolina entered the NCAA Tournament as a higher seed than Virginia, the Chanticleers had zero history in the College World Series and as a member of the Big South, they weren’t taken seriously as a title contender by most major media outlets. However, the Chanticleers beat #9 NC State in two of three contests throughout their regional to reach a Super Regional against #8 LSU. There, the Big South representatives swept the Tigers to reach Omaha for the first time in school history. 

The Chanticleers earned a stunning victory to start their College World Series journey, toppling the top-ranked Florida Gators 2-1. That win alone may have been enough to call their debut journey to Omaha a success, and it looked like that would be the high point when they were smacked by TCU 6-1 in their next contest. However, Coastal rallied to edge #5 Texas Tech 7-5, followed by a pair of victories over the Horned Frogs to reach the championship against an unseeded but heavily favored Arizona team. The Wildcats blanked Coastal 3-0 in the first game, but the Chanticleers responded with a 5-4 victory in Game 2. In the deciding battle, Coastal turned to Andrew Beckwith, the national leader in wins, who had already pitched two complete games in Omaha. He didn’t go the distance in Game 3, but his 5 ⅔ innings were enough to keep Arizona at bay. The Chanticleers built a 4-0 lead in the sixth inning and staved off the Wildcats just enough for a 4-3 title-clinching victory. An absurd and unprecedented run by the Chanticleers that was the no doubt choice for the #1 slot here.

Daily Headlines: Bowling Green Baseball Saved By Alumni Donations

Many universities across the country have been facing financial hardships in their athletic department, with the lack of a spring sports season, and potential cancellation or delay of the fall sports season, threatening budgets and forcing college to make tough decisions. One such tough decision came from Bowling Green, who had announced that they, in response to a 2-million dollar shortfall in their budget, would be cutting the baseball program, whcih, by their estimates cost $750,000 a year to run. However, the Falcons were saved by an impressive donation campaign by their alumni and fanbase, which committed about 1.5 million dollars over the next three years, giving Bowling Green a temporary respite to their crisis. The Bowling Green athletic department officially reinstated the baseball team, and they’ve said they are currently pursuing potential long-term funding solutions, working with a select group of baseball alumni. The Falcons last made the NCAA Tournament in 2013, as they’ve struggled in their past few years in the MEAC. 

ND-Navy Dublin game moved to Annapolis

For the first time in the lengthy history of the Notre Dame vs. Navy football rivalry, their annual clash on the gridiron will take place at Navy’s home stadium. Although the game has been played in Maryland on several occasions, it has always taken place at various naval bases. The 2020 match-up was originally scheduled to be their second ever meeting in Dublin, but the COVID-19 concerns caused those plans to be scratched. Long assumed to be moving stateside, it was announced on Tuesday that the Irish and Midshipmen will play in Annapolis for the first time ever. This makes the most sense as programs, and the NCAA as a whole, scramble to try and set up a feasible way for the season to proceed as scheduled. 

Mountain West cuts several postseason tournaments

As part of an 18% reduction in their operating budget, the Mountain West Conference announced that they would be eliminating the postseason tournaments for baseball, men’s and women’s tennis, and women’s soccer, meaning that the regular season champions for those sports will represent the school in the NCAA Tournament. Swimming, Diving, Indoor and Outdoor Track and Field, and Golf were among the other postseason tournaments modified or shortened. Other cost-cutting methods included shortening baseball and softball series to two days, with a doubleheader, while the volleyball conference slate was reduced by two games.

GREATEST NCAA BASEBALL MOMENTS COUNTDOWN – #1: The Greatest College World Series Ending Ever

After a countdown that included two epic pitching performances, three Cinderella runs to the championship, and a stunning walk-off grand slam, our countdown of the best moments in NCAA Baseball postseason history brings us back to 1996, to what is nearly universally considered one of the best moments in baseball history, and the greatest finish to a College World Series ever. 

The 1996 College World Series was a battle of heavyweights – seven of the top eight teams from the original field of 48 made it to Omaha, making for a highly competitive tournament. The most impressive teams throughout the tournament were LSU and Miami, who were both top-10 teams that sailed into the title game. For Miami, they overcame a loss in their tournament opener, posting four straight victories to reach the College World Series, and another three once they were in Omaha. LSU was even more dominant, cruising to a 7-0 NCAA Tournament record en route to the championship game. They scored 61 runs in four regional games and pulled a few small upsets in bracket play at the World Series, beating Wichita State and #2 Florida twice to bully their way into the title game. They scored 20 runs in those three contests, bringing their running total 81 runs, an average of 11.6 runs per game. 

When the Tigers faced off with the Hurricanes, it was a much anticipated duel between college baseball powerhouses. LSU, the preseason #1 team, trailed virtually the entire game, falling behind the Hurricanes 2-0, 7-3, and then finally, 8-7 after Miami shortstop Alex Cora drilled a RBI single to put Miami on the brink of the title. 

Miami  went with their best, giving the ball to All-American reliever Robbie Morrison, despite his eighth inning struggles. Morrison, boasting a 1.11 ERA on the season, had allowed LSU to tie the game on two runs in his first inning of work. LSU had the 6-7-8 batters due up in their lineup, with second baseman Warren Morris hitting out of the nine-hole if anyone reached. The inning got off to an ominous start for Miami as the slumping Brad Wilson managed to slap a double down the third-base line, just beating the tag with his slide into second. A ground-out moved Wilson to third, but Morrison came up huge with a strikeout on a nasty curveball to bring up Morris with two outs. 

Morris was a pre-season All-American, but he had missed 39 games with a broken bone in his right hand, and he hadn’t even begun to swing a bat again until May 20, a week before the NCAA Tournament. Never really a power threat at 5’11 and 170 pounds, the junior was even less likely to hit a home run due to his injury. He had hit .400 in 28 contests overall, but with only one home run. 

Miami had to like the spot they were in, but Morris changed their minds in a heartbeat. Morrison delivered a sharp curveball down headed for the inside corner, but Morris turned on it, hitting an absolute seed into right field. At first, it wasn’t clear if it would stay high enough to clear the fence, but it did exactly that, giving LSU a stunning 9-8 victory for the national championship. To this date, it is the only walk-off home run to win the College World Series, and it is the only two-run walk off home run hit with his team losing in college or professional baseball championship history. “A storybook ending!” screamed Wilson as he tapped the plate with the tying run and waited with his teammates to mob Morris at the plate. 

The Aftermath

Warren Morris was a fifth round draft pick of the Texas Rangers, and he went on to a five-year MLB career with the Pirates, Twins, and Tigers. He hit .288 with 15 home runs in his rookie season in Pittsburgh, finishing third in the Rookie of the Year voting. He only hit eleven more long balls in his career, however, and finished as a .267 lifetime hitter.
Meanwhile, LSU defended their title in 1997, going back-to-back for their fourth championship in seven years. They fell a few wins short of a 3-peat in 1998, and they won it all again in 2000. LSU has not won a national championship since.

GREATEST NCAA BASEBALL MOMENTS COUNTDOWN – #3: The Most Unlikely College World Series Winner Ever

Far and away the most unlikely College World Series champion ever, Fresno State’s miracle run in 2008 comes in at #3 on our countdown of the top postseason NCAA baseball moments. Fresno State was not an unknown in the college baseball world entering the season, as they were ranked #21 by Baseball America’s preseason poll, but the Bulldogs quickly fell off everyone’s radars with a wildly mediocre regular season. In a mediocre Western Athletic Conference, Fresno State put up just a 33-27 overall record. And they weren’t exactly firing on all cylinders heading into the postseason, having won just 7 of their past 17 games. A run through the conference tournament was the Bulldogs’ only route to the NCAA Tournament, a far cry from the beginning of the year, when they seemed to be a lock. 

However, the Bulldogs were far from done. The two-time defending WAC champions, Fresno State proved once more that when they turned it on, they were the class of the conference. The Bulldogs won four consecutive games, taking down Nevada in the title game and securing an auto-bid for a third straight season. The Bulldogs were ranked 51st out of 64 teams in the field, and as such, they were granted a 4-seed in the Long Beach Regional. 

Fresno State sent an immediate message in their opener, dismantling top-seeded and #14 overall Long Beach State, 7-3. But even low-seeded teams have a good game, or have an ace, so it wasn’t until the Bulldogs shut out second-seeded San Diego in the winners’ bracket contest that their chances seemed seriously improved. The Bulldogs drew San Diego in the championship, and they had two chances to win, which they needed. They looked horrible in dropping a 15-1 decision in the first game, but they rebounded with a 5-1 victory to push into the Super Regionals. 

However, the Bulldogs’ little mini-run was supposed to end brutally with their next obstacle. Fresno State encountered Arizona State, the third-ranked team in the country. Not only that, but they were battling history, as no four-seed had ever made it to the College World Series. The Sun Devils were a particularly fearsome opponent, having averaged 12 runs a game in their previous three NCAA Tournament games, giving up a total of ten. It looked to be a quick series when Arizona State took care of business in the opener, dominating Fresno State 12-4, putting the Bulldogs on the brink of elimination. The Sun Devils got off to another hot start in Game 2, opening up a 5-2 lead, but the underdogs weren’t done yet, striking back with a grand slam from Gavin Hedstrom that gave them a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Fresno State won 8-6 and forced Game 3. 

The deciding contest was a slugfest, particularly in the final frames. Tied 5-5 in the seventh, Arizona State turned to their ace in Mike Leake, who had fired 118 pitches in their Game 1 victory, but Leake did not have anything in the tank. Two walks and a hit batter led to a run and a 6-5 Bulldogs’ lead, but it didn’t stop there. Second baseman Erik Wetzel drilled one into the gap for a bases-clearing double. Left fielder and WAC player of the year Steve Susdorf deposited Leake’s next offering over the fence, and suddenly the Bulldogs led 11-5. They added another run later and appeared in control, up 12-5 into the ninth. But nothing was going to come that easy, as the Sun Devils struck four times and loaded the bases, allowing Matt Newman, who had already slammed two home runs in the game, to come to the plate as the winning run. Newman blooped one into left field, where Susdor made a sliding catch, sending Fresno State to Omaha. 

Six of the top-8 ranked teams in the country made it to Omaha, and Fresno State took on one of those squads, matching up against #6 Rice in the first game. It was never a contest. Justin Wilson took the mound for the Bulldogs, and he danced in and out of trouble, allowing Fresno State to build a massive lead. Wilson left the game after seven frames and leading 11-1. The Bulldogs cruised to a 17-5 victory. Game two was a closer ordeal against #2 North Carolina, but Fresno State survived once more. On the strength of home runs from Susdorf and Ryan Overland and a sterling pitching performance from five Fresno State hurlers, punctuated by a four-out save from Brandon Burke, the Bulldogs dispatched the Tar Heels, 5-3. 

Fresno State had to take on the Tar Heels once more in the semifinals, and again they needed two chances to secure one victory. After a 4-3 loss, Fresno State turned to pitcher Clayton Allison, sidelined for two weeks with tendinitis, to deliver them from elimination. Allison gritted out a six-inning performance, surrendering a single run while striking out six. Burke later said it was “one of the gutsiest things he ever saw on a baseball diamond”. Fresno State extended a 2-1 lead to 6-1, and their bullpen sealed the deal, leading the Bulldogs into the national championship, a best-of-three series against Georgia, the #8 team in the country. Georgia was 5-0 in elimination games to that point, and they hadn’t lost in Omaha, going 3-0 en route to their title game appearance. 

Game 1 was a thriller, as Fresno State took a 6-3 lead in the top of the eighth, only to give it all back in the bottom half, as Georgia took the opener, 7-6. Much like the Arizona State series, this one looked all over early in Game 2, as Georgia went up 5-0 by the third inning, but once more, Fresno State responded. They mauled Georgia for fifteen runs in the next three innings and cruised to a 19-10 victory, fittingly bringing this one to Game 3. In a historical and miraculous run to the championship, Fresno State needed just a couple of legendary performances in their final contest to bring home the title. Offensively, it was Steve Detwiler getting the job done, as Detwiler brought home a whopping six runs with two home runs, a double, and a single. Meanwhile, on the mound it was Wilson doing it all. On three day’s rest, Wilson silenced Georgia’s bats for eight innings, giving up a mere one run over 129 pitches. In the meantime, Fresno State built a 6-1 lead, setting up for a ninth inning celebration. Burke did the honors, collecting the final three outs and inducing a massive dogpile. All in all, Fresno State went 6-0 in elimination games, and they set a record for losses by a College World Series champion with 31 on the season. 

The Aftermath

Fresno State saw five people named to the All-Tournament team, with Susdorf and Detwiler among those honored.The Bulldogs weren’t darlings in the MLB draft, as only five Fresno State players heard their names called. Wilson was the first off the board, 144th overall, and he was followed by Wetzel, Miller, Susdorf, and Allison. The Bulldogs have made four appearances in the NCAA Tournament since 2008, but they are yet to go back to Omaha.

GREATEST NCAA BASEBALL MOMENTS COUNTDOWN – #4: Pepperdine stuns everyone in 1992

Coming in at #4 on our Top-7 moments in NCAA Baseball history countdown is the miracle that was the 1992 Pepperdine Baseball team. Compared to the 2006 Oregon State team – the first underdog run we covered in this countdown – Pepperdine was a slightly bigger Cinderella for a few reasons. One is that Pepperdine was barely ranked for most of the year, whereas Oregon State was a top-15 team entering the NCAA Tournament. Pepperdine wasn’t even favored to escape their regional, which was a spot they had struggled in for years. In their past seven trips to the NCAA tournament, each appearance had ended in the regional. They had only played in one College World Series, which came back in 1979. 

Pepperdine entered the year with expectations of making the NCAA Tournament, but playing in the relatively obscure and irrelevant West Coast Conference, nobody was paying attention to the Waves on the national scene. After dropping two of three to Saint Mary’s just over halfway through the regular season, the Waves stood at 18-8-1 – a very good record, but hardly anything groundbreaking, especially considering most of their success was fueled by an 11-0-1 record at their own Eddy D. Field Stadium. However, the Waves were able to crack the rankings by ending the year with victories in 22 of their final 24 games, including a twelve-game winning streak to end the season. Their remarkable streak was punctuated with a 16-8 victory over a strong UCLA squad that would end up falling one game short of the College World Series. 

Pepperdine entered the 6-team West regional as a 3-seed, and they got some favorable luck in the first few rounds. Arizona and Hawaii, the top two teams in the regional respectively, both lost their first round games, allowing Pepperdine consecutive winners bracket match-ups with lower seeds. The Waves took advantage; after squeaking past Fresno State, Pepperdine dispatched Southeastern Louisiana and hammered sixth-seeded Washington to advance to the championship. 

There, however, the Waves finally had to do battle with Hawaii, and they immediately lost their one-game cushion with a 6-3 loss in their first battle with the Rainbow Warriors, producing a winners-take-all finale. However, Pepperdine re-adjusted and drilled a nail into Hawaii’s coffin, slaughtering the favored squad 9-0 to push their way into the College World Series. 

Pepperdine was seeded seventh out of eight teams in Omaha, meaning that, as had been the case for most of the year, nobody expected much out of the Waves. They were heavy underdogs against second-seeded Wichita State in the opener, as the Shockers were perennial contenders and boasted the top-ranked offense in the country in 1992. However, Pepperdine countered with ace Patrick Ahearne, who was nothing short of marvelous. Outside of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth inning, Ahearne was never in trouble and allowed just three singles and struck out nine in 7 ⅓ innings of work. He gave way to Steve Montgomery, who closed the game out with five straight outs. 

However, Pepperdine then had to deal with Texas, who was making their 26th appearance in Omaha, including a record sixteenth for head coach Cliff Gustafson. But Pepperdine’s Derek Wallace was up to the task, silencing the Longhorns over six innings of work, scattering seven singles. Montgomery finished with three clean innings of relief for the save, and Pepperdine was into the national semifinals. After the game, Gustafson made a comment about Pepperdine’s chances: “They’re going to be hard to beat if people can’t start putting up runs on them…I don’t remember the last time we were shut out [in the College World Series]”. 

Pepperdine drew Texas again in the semifinals, and they had two chances to beat the Longhorns, but the Waves only needed one. It was certainly a more dramatic victory, as Pepperdine did surrender a few runs, but it took a while. Steve Duda, the #3 starter for Pepperdine, one-hit Texas over six innings. He got one out in the seventh but hit a batter and gave up a single, giving way to Montgomery. Montgomery could not work his magic this time, as Texas bashed a three-run home run, ending Pepperdine’s record shutout streak in stunning fashion. The Longhorns manufactured another run and led 4-1 into the bottom of the 7th, but Pepperdine was not to be denied. After leaning on pitching and defense for two and a half games, the Waves needed some clutch hitting, and they got it from second baseman Steve Rodriguez.

 Rodriguez, all of 179 pounds, slammed a grand slam in the bottom of the seventh, flipping the script on the Longhorns and giving Pepperdine a 5-4 lead. Montgomery worked out of an eighth-inning jam and spun a perfect ninth to send the Waves to the title game. After the game, Gustafson commented “I’m not giving Pepperdine the title yet, but with Ahearn on the mound, I like their chances”. It was high praise considering Pepperdine had not even been considered a threat to win the tournament and had to face powerhouse Cal State Fullerton in the championship. 

The Titans were making their seventh appearance in Omaha, having played Division One baseball for only 17 seasons. They had already claimed two titles, and after ripping through the losers bracket and stunning #1 Miami twice in a row, Cal State Fullerton was ready to add a third championship to their trophy case. 

Pepperdine sent Ahearne to the mound, and he dazzled once more for the Waves, giving up just one unearned run on three hits over 6 ⅔ innings. Wallace came on and got the final out of the seventh inning, and the game went into the eighth with Pepperdine leading 3-1 on the strength of a two-run first inning and fifth-inning dinger from Eric Ekdahl. 

Montgomery entered for the Waves, and he got into immediate trouble, loading the bases with one out. He gave up a sacrifice fly, putting runners on the corners with two outs. And, after winning the previous game with a home run, Steve Rodriguez came up huge for Pepperdine in the field. Fullerton’s Tony Banks hit a sizzling grounder to Rodriguez’s left, who took a step and dove to snag the ball right at the lip of the outfield grass. Rodriguez bounced up and threw out Banks by a step to keep Pepperdine ahead by a run. Montgomery fired a perfect ninth, and Pepperdine’s improbable title run was complete. 

The Aftermath

Ahearne was one of four Pepperdine players to receive All-Tournament honors, with battery-mate Scott Volmer, first baseman Dan Melendez, and Rodriguez also being honored. They did see eight players, including five pitchers, drafted from their title team. Wallace was a first-round pick of the Cubs, and Melendez, Ahearne, Montgomery, and Rodriguez also heard their names called in the first seven rounds. Pepperdine has not made the College World Series since 1992, with a run to the 2014 Super Regionals the closest they’ve come.

GREATEST NCAA BASEBALL MOMENTS COUNTDOWN – #5: Steve Arlin’s rubber arm and 20 strikeouts

Much like our last two moments on our Top-7 NCAA Baseball moments countdown, this one is all about pitching. After reliving Ron Darling and Frank Viola’s epic 12-inning duel, and the ridiculous accomplishments of the 2006 Oregon State’s pitching staff during their title run, we turn our attention to another superhuman feat on the mound – bringing us back to 1965. 

Steve Arlin was a sophomore and the ace of the Ohio State pitching staff in 1965. The Buckeyes were relevant in the college baseball world for the first time in a long time, and Arlin was their ace up their sleeve. He posted a 13-2 record and had 165 strikeouts that season, which is still a program record, but it was one particular postseason performance that made Steve Arlin a household name. 

After a 3-0 run through their regional, Ohio State advanced to their second ever College World Series, winning their first two games in Omaha, with Arlin pitching both and giving up just two runs combined. However, Arlin needed a breather, and without him on the mound, the Buckeyes did not fare well, dropping a 9-4 decision to Arizona State.

Facing elimination, Ohio State manager Marty Karow called on Arlin for his third start in four days. The sophomore took the ball and spun an absolute dandy. Arlin took on Washington State, who had finished the year 31-6. He had held the Huskies to a single run two days earlier, when the Buckeyes triumphed 14-1, but this game was an entirely different tale. Arlin was even more dominant, but Ohio State could not scratch together even one run to back up their ace. 

Arlin racked up a bevy of strikeouts, but the game would go to extra innings at 0-0. Washington State’s bullpen continued to match zeroes with Arlin, and the game rattled on into the fifteenth inning. Arlin notched his nineteenth and twentieth strikeouts in the fifteenth, setting the stage for a Buckeyes’ walk-off in the bottom half of the inning. When it was all said and done, Arlin had pitched a 15-inning complete game victory, with his 20 strikeouts still setting an individual College World Series game victory, pushing Ohio State into the championship.

The Aftermath
Ohio State beat Arizona State without Arlin in the first game, forcing a winners-take-all contest. Having pitched over 30 innings in four days, Arlin was not able to start, but he did pitch the final two innings. It wasn’t enough as the Buckeyes fell 2-1 to the Sun Devils, settling for a 2nd-place finish. 

The following year, Arlin went 11-1 and pitched in five of six college world series games, leading the Buckeyes to their first and, to this date, only national championship. He’s the best pitcher to ever wear an Ohio State jersey, and his #22 was the first number to be retired by the Buckeyes. He had a six-year career in the MLB after being the thirteenth overall pick. He pitched five years for the Padres and a year for the Indians, retiring with 34 career wins and a 4.33 ERA.

GREATEST NCAA BASEBALL MOMENTS COUNTDOWN – #6: Oregon State pulls a miracle or six in 2006

Coming in at #6 on our countdown of Top 7 all-time postseason college baseball moments is Oregon State’s shocking run to the 2006 College World Series title. The run wasn’t stunning because of Oregon State’s ranking – they were a 1-seed and ranked 14th in the country heading into the NCAA Tournament. Rather, what makes this run special was the adversity the Beavers overcame once they reached Omaha, and the upsets they swung to claim the title. Read a little about their season, and check out some great videos below!

Junior Cole Gillepsie led the ‘06 Beavers with a .374 average and outstanding .493 on-base percentage. His thirteen home runs also led Oregon State, who was built on speed and great pitching. The Beavers had 79 stolen bases, including four players with at least eleven, to just 36 home runs. On the mound, they were led by ace Jonah Nickerson, who pitched his way to a 13-4 record and 2.24 ERA. Kevin Gunderson was a superb option out of the bullpen, with twenty saves and a 1.03 WHIP. 

The Beavers started their season just 12-7, which saw them slide off the national radar, but they rebounded by winning 27 of their final 34 games, claiming the Pac-10 record with a 16-7 mark in conference play. Their strong finish was rewarded with a #1 seed in the Corvallis regional, but the Beavers weren’t even close to being considered favorites, not even to make it to Omaha. 

Oregon State worked quickly in Corvallis, sliding past fourth-seeded Wright State 5-3 in the opener before dominating Kansas and Hawaii by a combined score of 23-6. The Beavers advanced on to the Super Regionals where they received a welcome gift. Rather than third-ranked Texas awaiting Oregon State, the Beavers were met with Stanford, the third-seed out of Texas’s regional. However, the Cardinal were no joke, having scored 42 runs in three games. 

Oregon State’s #2 pitcher – Dallas Buck – took the mound for the Beavers and put together a quality outing against Stanford’s lethal offense, limiting the Cardinal to three runs, which was enough for Oregon State to edge out a 4-3 victory. The second game was nowhere near as close, as Oregon State cruised to a 15-0 victory, riding a five-game winning streak into the College World Series. 

However, Oregon State’s momentum came to a screaming halt in their opener in Omaha. Buck took the mound again and got absolutely lit up by Miami, a team that did not even finish the season in the Top 25. The Hurricanes scorched the Beavers 11-1, sending Oregon State tumbling into the loser’s bracket. After giving up just twelve runs in five prior NCAA Tournament games, it looked like the elevated competition was far too much for the Pac-10 champs. But the Beavers’ run was just starting.

Oregon State trusted Nickerson with the ball against #7 Georgia in their first elimination game, and their ace delivered, leading the Beavers to a 5-3 victory. That led Oregon State right back to Miami, but this time, the Beavers emerged on top. Sophomore Mike Stutes delivered a gem, and Oregon State cruised to an 8-1 victory. The win put the Beavers into the semifinals, but they were going to have to beat Rice – the #2 team in the country – twice in order to advance. 

To start, with their top three starters unavailable, the Beavers turned to Daniel Turpen, who had started just two games all year. Turpen responded with a dazzling performance, firing 6 ⅔ innings of scoreless baseball, allowing just five hits. Oregon State won 5-0, earning a winners-take-all battle with the Owls. There, Oregon State could have given the ball to Buck on three days of rest, but given his struggles in the opening game, the Beavers went with Nickerson on just two days of rest. And there, Nickerson put forth the effort of a lifetime. Two days after he went seven innings and 114 pitches, Nickerson blew Rice away with 7 ⅔ innings of scoreless baseball. Meanwhile, the Beavers scratched out single runs in the second and fifth innings to piece together the 2-0 win. The win completed their gritty run through the loser’s bracket – their championship appearance marked the first time a team from the Northwest had made it that far in 57 years. 

However, the road wasn’t over for the Beavers. After winning four straight elimination games, they found themselves back on the edge after dropping the opener of the best-of-three championship series, 4-3 to the North Carolina Tar Heels. It looked like Oregon State’s feel-good run would come to an end in a harsh way, as they fell behind 5-0 in the top of the fourth inning of Game 2. But Oregon State struck for seven runs in the bottom half of the inning, punctuated by Bill Rowe’s three-run home run. After getting the last out of the fourth inning, Kevin Gunderson finished the game with five innings of two-run ball, a season-high in innings and pitches for the Oregon State closer. Oregon State won 11-7. After the game, Gunderson confirmed he would be available for Game 3, saying “There’s no time to be sore”. 

With their entire pitching staff taxed, Oregon State went back to their rock, giving Nickerson the ball one more time. Nickerson performed once more, hurling 6 ⅔ innings, giving up just two unearned runs, but he would not get the decision, leaving with the game tied 2-2. At that point, Oregon State brought in Dallas Buck again, despite Buck having started Game 1. Buck got five outs for the Beavers, which was long enough for Oregon State to claw out an unearned run in the bottom of the eighth inning. With one out in the ninth, the Beavers brought in Gunderson, who collected the final two outs for his twentieth and biggest save of the year, bringing a conclusion to one of the most stunning runs in College World Series history. Oregon State went 6-0 in elimination games. 

The Aftermath
Nickerson was named the Tournament MVP, while Rowe, Gillespie, Gunderson, and infielder Shea McFeeley were added to the All-Tournament team. All five players, along with four others, were drafted in the 2006 MLB Draft, with Dallas Buck being the first Beaver off the board in the third round. Despite the major losses, Oregon State defended their title, winning it all again in 2007. 

Greatest NCAA Baseball Moments Countdown – #7: Darling and Viola fire 22 scoreless innings

To start our countdown of some of the top postseason moments in NCAA Baseball history, we have one of the greatest pitching duels to ever occur on a baseball diamond in an NCAA Tournament game between Yale and St. Johns. 

When: May 21, 1981

Who: Yale vs. St. Johns

What: NCAA Opening Round

Where: Yale Field 

The setting of the game hardly seemed like that of a postseason contest, as the two squads set to clash at Yale, with a modest crowd of 2,500 settled into the wooden bleachers set around the small field. But the pitchers that took the mound both had a reputation for being among the most feared hurlers in the game that year. Ron Darling took the ball for the Yale Bulldogs. An All-American, Darling was a two-way stud that year, having hit .386 and also pitched to a 4-3 record that didn’t do justice to his blazing fastball and sweeping slider, widely regarded as the best pitch in college baseball. Meanwhile, Frank Viola flashed a devastating curveball that led him to a 26-2 career record and a sparkling 1.67 ERA. In the Northeast regional, the loser of the opener game would have to make a four-game crawl out of the loser’s bracket, making this upcoming dual a pivotal one. 

Viola was excellent that day for the Red Storm, scattering seven hits and four walks. Although there was a Yale base runner or two in most innings, Viola rarely flirted with danger, with no Bulldog even touching third base until the ninth inning. On nearly any day, such a performance would be plenty enough to win with ease, but Viola had a worthy counterpart on the rubber. 

Darling had undoubtedly the tougher task, matched up against St. Johns, whose 31-2 record was largely fueled by one of the best, if not the best, offenses in the country. But Darling was up to the task – his only slip ups in the first nine frames were five walks, which he nullified with ten strikeouts. Not a single Red Storm batter recorded so much as a single against Darling, who was nearly untouchable. But, much like Viola, his extraordinary performance was not enough to win in nine innings, as the two teams battled on into the tenth inning. 

Both pitchers went out and put up another two scoreless frames, with Darling continuing to fire no-hit baseball. He tacked on four more strikeouts to his total, and the game entered the 12th inning with the 0-0 score still flashing on the scoreboard. 

In the 12th, the Red Storm finally broke through with a base hit, blooping a single over the shortstop’s head and into left field for a soft single. One out later, Darling was victimized by an error that put two men on and one out. While Darling was busy striking out the next batter, the Red Storm signaled for a steal of third base, putting runners on the corners. There, with two outs, St. Johns decided to go for it, figuring another hit against Darling may not come easily. They called for a delayed double steal. 

Darling said later that the play shouldn’t have happened because Yale normally doesn’t throw down to second base on such a steal. But with Darling falling off to the side after delivering a brutal slider, and the crowd making tons of noise as the tension rose, the Yale hurler failed to recognize that the runner was stealing and wasn’t in position to cut the throw to second. St. Johns scored on the delayed steal and took a 1-0 lead. Darling polished off the hitter with his 16th strikeout, and he exited to a standing ovation from the crowd at Yale field. Remarkably, Viola also emerged from the dugout to applaud Darling. Viola later called Darling’s performance the most dominant outing he ever saw. Viola’s day ended with 11 scoreless innings, as he gave way to the Red Storm’s bullpen, which easily retired Yale to secure the breathtaking 1-0 victory. 

The Aftermath
Yale’s tournament ended in their very next game. A lack of offense proved to be the fatal flaw for the Bulldogs as they scraped just two more runs against Central Michigan and fell 7-2, leading to an unceremonious exit from the NCAA Tournament.
St. Johns went 2-2 in the rest of the tournament, losing to the University of Maine and beating Central Michigan, setting up a championship with the Black Bears. After beating Maine 10-5 to set up a winner-takes-all finale, St. Johns faded badly, losing 15-0. 

However the real story of this game, evidently, was the pitchers, and their paths crossed again in the years to come. Both were high draft picks in that year’s MLB Draft, and by 1987, they had both won World Series; Darling started for the Mets in Game 7 of the infamous 1986 World Series, and Viola won the ‘87 World Series MVP a year later with the Twins. In 1989, Viola joined Darling on the Mets’ rotation.