Why you need to watch the College World Series
All eyes look to Omaha, Nebraska as the 2021 College Baseball World Series is set to take place. Since 1950, teams have made the trek to Nebraska to play for the NCAA Baseball Championship. In 2021 the tradition will continue, as eight teams will make their trip to Nebraska to play for the Division 1 NCAA Title.
The 64-team tournament began on June 4th, and has been narrowed down to North Carolina State, Stanford, Arizona, Vanderbilt, Texas, Tennessee, Virginia, and Mississippi State to play each other in three game series for the title.
The site of the games, TD Ameritrade Park, will soon be rocking with 24,000 fans to watch their team battle it out on the diamond. Millions more will tune in across the country, here’s why you should be one of them:
An Underdog Story
Baseball is a game of skill not a game of size. The size of the player largely does not determine the outcome of play. This is why 5 foot 6 Jose Altuve can play at an all-star level amongst the likes of 6 foot 7 Aaron Judge. The same goes for baseball programs. The smaller NC State Wolfpack is making their trip alongside schools like Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, and Stanford, and they earned it.
After a 1-8 start in ACC play, NC State fought their way to a 35-18 record, and to the No 2 seed in the tournament. After winning their first series, they then upset the No 1 seeded Arkansas Razorbacks, a team many picked to win the entire tournament, in the second round which punched their ticket to Omaha.
NC State will be headed to Nebraska for the first time since 2013, and will be playing for its first NCAA Baseball title. Standing ahead of them, however, is the Stanford Cardinal. Stanford has only lost one game all tournament, and is coming of a sweep of No 1 seed Texas Tech. They are ranked 9th on the power rankings from USA Today. NC State was not even ranked in the top 25. The Wolfpack looks to cool the red-hot Cardinal in the first game of the College World Series on June 19th at 2 p.m. ET.
A Tale of Two Pitchers
The Vanderbilt Commodores have must see baseball from their pitchers Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter. The potential first and second picks in the 2021 MLB Draft have steamrolled their competition this season, and do not look to let up under the pressure of the College World Series.
Kumar Rocker has already proved he can perform under the bright lights of Omaha after his stellar performance in the 2019 College World Series finals where he went 6.1 innings and struck out 11 batters, tying the second most by a pitcher in a College World Series finals game. Since then, he’s only gotten better. In 2021, he has tossed more innings than anyone in the SEC, and has been efficient while doing it. The 6 foot 5 righty has posted a 2.46 ERA this season and has held batters to a .157 batting average.
Jack Leiter, son of former MLB pitcher AL Leiter, has arguably been better. The sophomore leads the SEC in strikeouts with 156 in 96 innings pitched, followed closely by Rocker who has sat down 155. Leiter’s best pitch is his fastball. What sets his apart from the rest is not simply that it can reach 97 mph, but according to a scouting report done in 2020, averages 18.1 inches of vertical break with 8.1 inches of run. Since the report, he has only gained more control over the pitch. Leiter is no stranger to pressure either, although this will be his first College World Series appearance, he has proven he can handle the heat after he no-hit the South Carolina Gamecocks in March.
Mississippi State fans favorite noise maker is not limited to football. Their baseball games are filled with the ringing sounds of hundreds or possibly thousands of cowbells. Every strike, out, hit, walk, or run warrants a cowbell from Bulldog fans. It is as if they have a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell.
Crowd antics are a large part of college baseball, especially in a setting like the College World Series. Whether it is the excessive use of a cowbell, or fans simply getting under the skin of an opposing pitcher, they have a factor on the play happening on the field. This was on full display in the Super Regional Series where Tennessee was playing Louisiana State University. With Tennessee firmly in the lead, their fans, who had been especially loud all game, began to see a trip to Omaha in their future, and cranked up their cheers. This made its way under LSU pitcher Trent Vietmeier’s skin. The crowd got to Vietmeier enough to prompt him to flip them off on his way back to the dugout after he was pulled.
Every team’s fan will pack the streets and stands in Omaha. Chants will be yelled, crowds will be loud, and emotions will run high.
A Personal Look at Baseball
Major League Baseball is not the same as the NFL and NBA because the fans do not always get to get to know their players while they develop. College football and basketball are rich in recognizable players that fans can see grow into the professional players they will cheer for in the future. Yet the development of MLB players is largely unknown, as not many fans follow prospects through the minor leagues. The College World Series gives a spotlight into what the future of baseball looks like in a high energy, and highly televised environment where fans can develop connections to certain players.
A large issue with following the development of baseball players is they end up spending years in the lowly viewed minor leagues, where it is difficult to gain recognition. College baseball, however, is gaining in popularity, and the talent level is increasing as well. More players are opting to play in college, then go straight to the minor leagues and it has led to MLB talent clashing against MLB talent. It is what baseball has been missing for a long time, a memorable place where fans can see future stars face off, and gain excitement for the players future.
In the end, these are a bunch of kids playing their hearts out on the biggest stage the NCAA has. How could baseball fans not watch?