One of the most underrated sporting events will kick off later this week as the road to the College World Series begins with regionals. Across 16 different regionals all over the country, 64 teams will compete to advance to the super-regionals. I’ll break down which regional winner futures I’ve placed, along with some long-shot teams that are worth a look.
In a sport dominated by the SEC, it’s nice to see a mid-major team like Indiana State get to host a regional and fight for a shot in the supers in front of their home crowd. The Sycamores had a terrific season as they finished 42-15 and as MVC Conference Champions. Indiana State features an impressive lineup partially led by MVC Tournament Most Outstanding Player, Randal Diaz, and a phenomenal pitching staff that finished 5th in the country in ERA.
SU will take on four-seed Wright State in the opening game, while two-seed Iowa will take on North Carolina. The Raiders of Wright State are fresh off their third straight Horizon League Championship and have consistently made noise in regionals over the past few years. Wright State is the only team in this regional not ranked in the Top 50 in ERA, but they do have the Horizon League Pitcher of the Year in Sebastian Gongora.
If we’re talking pitching, though, the Iowa Hawkeyes possess the best staff out of all four teams. In 483.1 innings, the Hawkeyes struck out 590 hitters and were 5th in the country in K/9. Iowa is fresh off losing in the Big-10 Championship game to Maryland, but they can roll out either first-team Big 10 pitcher Brody Brecht or second-team pitcher Marcus Morgan.
Whichever pitcher they decide upon will face a dangerous North Carolina team, who happens to be my pick for this region. The Tar Heels will be without their star Vance Honeycutt, but that didn’t stop them from making the ACC Tournament Semis. North Carolina hit 83 home runs in the regular season and averaged 7.6 runs per game, and has the offensive capabilities to beat Iowa in the first game, which sets them up nicely.
The Pick: North Carolina (+200)
Headed out west, the Stanford Cardinals will host the two-seed Texas A&M Aggies, along with three-seed Cal State Fullerton and four-seed San Jose State. The Cardinals had a phenomenal season but fell short in the Pac-12 Tournament. Quinn Matthews leads Stanford on the mound and Alberto Rios at the plate, as they have helped the Cardinals rank 13th in the country in K/9 and 8th in slugging percentage.
Stanford will face Mountain West Champions San Jose State in the first round. The Spartans were a good story during conference tournament play and certainly have impressive players. Still, their team ERA of 5.76 is likely not good enough to shock a loaded Cardinals lineup. A Stanford win sets up a possible big-time matchup between them and Texas A&M.
The Aggies went into the SEC Tournament as the ten-seed and made it all the way to the Championship game, so they have caught fire at the perfect time. Cal State Fullerton is another strong team, but with the way the Aggies' pitching staff looked this past weekend, I think they are do for a showdown with Stanford. Ultimately behind the arms of Troy Wansing and Justin Lamkin and the bat of Jace Laviolette, I believe the Aggies knock off Stanford in their ballpark.
The Pick: Texas A&M (+175)
One of the eight SEC schools hosting regional will be the Auburn Tigers, who finished 34-21-1 and could only manage one win in the SEC Tournament. The Tigers will host three mid-majors, but the two-seed Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles is not a typical mid-major as they have become a team you don’t want to see in your regional. Rounding out the bracket is three-seed Samford and four-seed Penn.
Penn and Samford both won their conference tournaments, but ultimately this regional is a two-team race between Auburn and Southern Miss. Both team features a high-level ace in either Tommy Vail for Auburn or Tanner Hall for Southen Miss. The Tigers may hold a slight advantage at the plate with Bryson Ware, but it’s not by much, and with the Golden Eagles having a deeper pitching staff and playing for a coach set to retire, I like Southern Miss to make it out of this region.
The Pick: Southern Mississippi (+165)
Another SEC team and another regional host, as the South Carolina Gamecocks, who are the 15th overall seed, will host a loaded region. The Gamecocks will play four-seed Central Connecticut State in the first round. While the Blue Devils feature strong players in Dominic Niman and Ramon Jimenez, all eyes will be on this region's 2 vs. 3 matchup.
The two-seed Campbell Camels have a legitimate argument that they should be hosting a regional, and they will be playing three-seed NC State, who always seems to be a tough out in postseason play. This is arguably one of the best games set to be played on Friday and will feature a lot of future pros. If Campbell decides to throw Cade Kuehler, the matchup of him vs. Cannon Peebles is one to watch for.
Ultimately, I think the Camels have the better pitching staff for this type of game, and with an explosive offense, I like them to secure their spot in the winner's bracket. With other starters Chase Daqulia and Hunter Loyd, along with hitters like Tyler Halstead and Lawson Harrill, who is hitting .374 with 22 home runs, I like the Camels to win the region.
The Pick: Campbell (+180)
Those that follow the sport know that college baseball is one of the most unpredictable sports in the country, and over the years, the postseason has shown that. Plenty of talented teams could make headlines this weekend, and for bettors who like to make long-shot plays, we’ll wrap this up by reviewing some teams to consider.
Let’s start in the Fayetteville Regional, where three baseball powerhouses in Arkansas, TCU, and Arizona will be. Sometimes all it takes in this game is getting hot at the right time, and that is TCU, who just dominated their way to a BIG12 Title and currently sits at (+320) to win the region. Indiana is also a dangerous three-seed with (+390) odds in the Lexington Regional. Finally, Oral Roberts is the best 4-seed in the tournament, and they sit at (+450) to win the Stillwater Regional, which features some vulnerable teams.
Terre Haute Regional Winner: North Carolina (+200)
Stanford Regional Winner: Texas A&M (+175)
Auburn Regional Winner: Southern Mississippi (+165)
Columbia Regional Winner: Campbell (+180)
Boston College (-140) vs. Troy
Oklahoma (+105) vs. East Carolina