The College World Series bracket has been whittled down to just five teams, with NC State taking on Vanderbilt and Mississippi State squaring off against the winner of Thursday night’s game between Texas and Virginia.
NC State advanced to the semifinal contest by knocking off Stanford and Vanderbilt in consecutive matches thanks to timely, impressive defensive performances, only allowing five combined runs despite their season earned run average of 4.99.
The Wolfpack are led by the impressive duo of Jonny Butler (.379 batting average, 14 home runs) and Tyler McDonough (.339 BA, 14 home runs) and finished tied for sixth as a team in total homers with 92.
NC State’s upcoming opponent is the Vanderbilt Commodores, who they beat 1-0 on Monday. There were only a total of six hits in this contest, two for Vanderbilt and four for NC State. Terrell Tatum scored the game’s lone run with a solo shot to right field off of Jack Leiter.
Vandy has the best pitching tandem in America with Leiter (10-3, 2.16 ERA) and Kumar Rocker (13-3, 1.46 ERA) and has been one of the most prestigious programs in recent years.
The Commodores won a memorable 6-5 game against Stanford on Wednesday after a wild pitch got away from the catcher and allowed pinch-hitter Spencer Jones to sneak across home plate.
Vanderbilt will be considered the favorites to win the second clash between the teams in the CWS, but NC State has history and momentum on their side. They have also been granted more rest, while Vandy has played two games in the past three days.
On the other side
The other side of the bracket will feature Mississippi State and either Texas or Virginia; MSU punched their ticket to the semifinal behind two one-run victories, beating Texas 2-1 and Virginia 6-5.
Mississippi State produced two First-Team All-Americans this season in star junior Tanner Allen, who hit .392 and knocked in 10 home runs and 62 RBIs, and sophomore relief Pitcher Landon Sims, who finished the season 3-0 with 10 saves and a 1.28 ERA.
The Bulldogs have won seven of their last eight matchups, including two straight in the CWS, and have been playing as they belong in the championship game.
The highest-ranked team left in the field is Texas, who finished the season at #2 behind Arkansas and with a 40-13 record. They will be taking on the University of Virginia in the quarterfinal for a chance to face Texas in the semi.
Virginia was sub .500 twenty games into the season but reversed their fortunes and are one of the most dangerous teams in the field despite a loss to Mississippi State.
The last iteration of the College World Series was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and of the four teams that reached the semifinal in 2019, only one has reached the same level in this year’s tournament. Although the return to college baseball’s biggest stage may have taken an extra year, it has produced excellent performances thus far.
The semifinals will be held on Friday, June 25, with NC State and Vanderbilt kicking off the action at 2 p.m. ET, and Mississippi State and the winner of Texas and Virginia playing out the second game at 7:00 p.m. The winners will move on to a best-of-three matchup running from Monday, June 28 through Wednesday, June 30.
Grant Mitchell is a sportswriter and multimedia contributor for the Sports 2.0 Network dealing with basketball, football, soccer, and other major sports: you can connect with him on Twitter @milemitchell to stay up to date with the latest sports news and to engage personally with him.