Road to Omaha: Miami Heads Back to the CWS

After winning their Super Regional series versus ACC foe Boston College, the Miami Hurricanes are headed back to Omaha for the second straight season. This marks the 25th time Miami has reached the College World Series – second most of any program. The Canes travel to Omaha with the highest winning percentage in the country (50-12, .806) and as the second-highest remaining seed. 

Canes Open CWS vs. Arizona

Miami’s first test will come Saturday night against another traditional powerhouse. The Arizona Wildcats are making their 17th CWS appearance, and like Miami, have won four national titles. Arizona is playing its best baseball at the most important time and boasts impressive pitching. 

The Wildcats’ team ERA of 3.42 is their best since 1976 – the year of their first national title. Their pitching has been even better of late, posting a team ERA of 2.49 over the past five games. Senior right-hander Nathan Bannister leads the team with three complete games and led the Pac-12 in innings pitched (132.2) and wins (11).

Arizona pitching will be pivotal against a potent Miami offense that has shown it has plenty of power. Of the remaining teams, the Canes rank first in postseason home runs and slugging percentage and second in postseason batting average and on-base percentage. 

A Look at the Rest of Bracket One

Joining Miami and Arizona in Bracket One are the Oklahoma State Cowboys and UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) Gauchos. The two teams are the only CWS participants playing in Omaha without a postseason loss. For the Cowboys, it is their 20th CWS appearance, but the first since 1999. The Gauchos will play in Omaha for the first time in program history. 

Oklahoma State comes in red hot at the plate and on the mound. The Cowboys won their first five postseason games by a combined score of 35-6 and are the first team to reach the CWS without trailing in the Regionals or Super Regionals since 2002 (Georgia Tech). After having the lowest batting average in the Big 12 during the regular season, the Cowboys have the second-highest batting average in the postseason (.339) while boasting the best ERA (1.00) in the NCAA postseason. 

The Gauchos bring to Omaha a different type of advantage: momentum and anonymity. UCSB punched their CWS ticket on pinch-hit, walk-off grand slam by freshman Sam Cohen against Louisville’s Zack Burdi, a first-round pick in the MLB draft. OSU players may not know much about the Gauchos, saying that they are going in with their same mindset of just doing their job. However, the Cowboys will need to study up on UCSB’s ace Shane Bieber, the Cleveland Indians fourth-round pick who has been dominant with a 1.88 ERA in his two postseason appearances. 

Miami’s Mr. Clutch

One of the reasons that Miami is heading to Omaha is the clutch bat of third baseman Edgar Michelangeli. Twice this postseason, he has connected on monster home runs late in the game: one, a game-winning three-run shot against NC State in the ACC Championship; the other, a seventh-inning grand slam in game three versus Boston College that sealed the Canes trip to Omaha. 

In that deciding game against the Eagles, Michelangeli went 3-3 with two home runs, seven RBIs and a walk. While TD Ameritrade Park is a notoriously tough ballpark in which to hit home runs, its big outfield also means big gaps. Michelangeli’s power and knack for the big hit could be huge for the Hurricanes.