ESPN will finish up their coverage of the 2013 college baseball season by broadcasting all of the action from Omaha until a champion emerges. Kaylee Hartung, who will be reporting from Omaha for ESPN, swung by Friday's Daily Grind on Bulldog Sports Radio, and what follows are some highlights from that visit.
On the debate about the teams chosen as national seeds:
I'm not about to question the committee. I know how much work they put into this, and how carefully they think about their choices.
I think the fact of the matter is there are a lot of really good teams in college baseball. It is evident right now based on who has made it to Omaha. Vanderbilt is a good team, certainly one of the top ten teams in the country right now, and they are not here among the final eight. I don't think anybody would dispute the fact that if they were here, they would give anybody a good fight. I think whether you are talking college basketball and the March Madness bracket and the last couple of teams on the bubble that you thought should have gotten in but didn't, it's the same story with college baseball, and I think it speaks very well to the quality of baseball we are seeing because there are so many talented teams.
On storylines coming into the tournament:
Looking at this Mississippi State team, I've always loved when coaches return to their alma maters, and I think that what John Cohen is doing is so great, really rebuilding his program. How can those guys not be inspired by their head coach who played in a College World Series for Mississippi State himself? That is something that has got to drive these guys in a special way.
You are looking at LSU, a team who everybody talks about being such a powerhouse and so familiar with Omaha, and yet, no one on this team has played in Omaha. The last time LSU was here was 2009 when they left with the trophy.
In the ESPN research packet we got, one of the best lines in the "Top Things to Know" was the note that this year's College World Series looks more like a men's basketball Elite Eight than a College World Series grouping of eight teams. You are looking at Indiana and Louisville, and those are teams that you do not necessarily think of when you think of great baseball, but they are playing great baseball.
It's fun that we don't really have a Cinderella team of sorts. There's no Stony Brook. There's no Kent State. It's just good strong baseball teams that are going to give us good baseball to watch.
On the feeling that every team could make a case for winning the tournament:
I think that is absolutely the case. The fact of the matter is anybody that has made it to Omaha is hot right now. What happens when two teams are hot? In the case of Mississippi State and Oregon State, I think we look at the pitching. Oregon State has the starters, but Mississippi State has the relievers. When you go head to head with teams that have been hot for different reasons, you'll just have to see how it all shakes out, but I do think that the pitching in that matchup in particular will be something interesting to watch.
I saw one of the best pitching duels that I have ever witnessed in college baseball last weekend when I worked the LSU-Oklahoma Super Regional. Watching Aaron Nola and Jonathan Grey go head to head made me appreciate pitching in a way I don't think I ever have before, and it got me all the more excited for what I will see here.
Things to keep an eye on as the College World Series begins:
I feel like all of the coaches always talk about the mental battle that you get in during this point of the season. You're here; you've made it to Omaha. (LSU) Coach Mainieri told his team last week in Baton Rouge before that game two with Oklahoma that I don't want your mentality to be that if we win this game, we are going to Omaha. I want your mentality to be we are playing for a championship today.
If you lose one game in Omaha, you get into the losers' bracket, and it is so hard to fight your way out. South Carolina did it to win the title in 2010, and that was not an easy task.
These guys are so excited. The goal of getting to Omaha has been realized. They're here, and it is awesome. But, once you're here, what do you do with that?