The NCAA Baseball Tournament will continue this weekend, as sixteen teams across the country will play for a chance to advance to the College World Series in Omaha. The teams will compete in one of eight Super Regionals around college baseball, with the eight champions comprising the CWS bracket.
The Gainesville Super will feature the host and top national seed Florida Gators against the visiting Auburn Tigers, who swept the Raleigh Regional to reach this point. Both teams are offensive powerhouses that also boast strong starting pitching. The Tigers will be coming into a tough environment for this weekend, but being the visiting team is nothing new to Auburn this postseason.
Gators Look for Return Trip to Omaha
The Gators are the top-ranked team in the country, and they have the star players to prove it. Starting with Jonathan India, who was the fifth overall pick in this week’s draft, the Gators have players across their starting lineup that can drive in runs and ignite a run. India has 19 home runs on the season and leads his team with a batting average of .360.
A great complement for firepower on offense is strong pitching, and Florida has just that. Brady Singer, another Gator’s first-round draft pick, has a strong arm and can strike out just about anyone that comes up to the plate. Along with Jackson Kowar and Michael Byrne, the Gators’ pitching staff is loaded with talented arms that can keep scoring low, even for teams with powerful bats.
Tigers Look to Continue Postseason Run
The Tigers are coming off of a weekend in which they put up 40 runs in three games and easily won all three. The prize for being able to dominate in Raleigh is that Auburn gets to play the best team in the country. If any team is going to be able to knock off the Gators, the Tigers have the pieces to do it. Auburn has efficient batters in every spot in the lineup, and they boast the top overall pick in the MLB Draft, in Casey Mize.
Offensively, the Tigers should have no problem stringing together hits to produce runs against the Gators. Auburn has five players in its starting lineup with at least 10 home runs this season, and freshman Edouard Julien leads the way with 17. Add in the strong hitting of Will Holland, Steven Williams, and Jay Estes, and the Tigers have the ability to put up double digits on a regular basis. Despite all of these Auburn batters, the player to watch for the Tigers this series will be 1B Josh Anthony. He has been on a tear in the postseason as the nine-hole hitter, and if he can keep his offensive efficiency up then the Tigers should be in great shape.
On the mound, the Tigers have no shortage of talent and strength. Mize will be the starter in Game 1 against Singer, in what will be a battle between two aces. After Mize, Auburn will have to rely on Tanner Burns and Cody Greenhill to lead the way to victory. Greenhill is a very strong closer with a 2.11 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 55.1 innings pitched. It will take extremely smart and accurate pitching from the Tigers for them to upset the top seed.
Auburn and Florida seem to be headed in opposite directions as far as postseason interest. The Tigers have been improving each game, and they seem to be fully interested in reaching Omaha, while the Gators have been playing as if they have little to no purpose lately. Fatigue could be a factor, but the Gators will have to get it together to be able to make another CWS run like last year.
Winner Prediction: I expect this series to go to three games after Auburn takes the first behind the arm of Mize. The Gators will likely bounce back on Sunday to take Game 2 before a showdown on Monday. The final game will come down to a late-game home run by the Tigers, and Auburn will be able to complete the upset behind strong closing pitching to advance to Omaha.