Monday night in Omaha, the 2016 College World Series Finals will get underway. The Arizona Wildcats and Coastal Carolina Chanticleers will meet in the best-of-3 series after winning elimination games Saturday.
Here is the CWS Finals schedule:
Game 1: Arizona 3, Coastal Carolina 0 (box score). Arizona leads series, 1-0.
Arizona starter J.C. Cloney twirled a four-hit shutout (six strikeouts, three walks), and second baseman Cody Ramer reached base four times and scored twice. Cloney's outing was particularly big since the status of Wildcat ace Nathan Bannister (forearm) is uncertain for the CWS final. So the bullpen got a much-needed night off. The run-suppressing nature of TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha was apparently in the late innings, as a pair of Coastal Carolina deep drives that looked good off the bat wound up dying at the track. The win puts Arizona on the brink of their second national championship in the last five years.
Game 2: Coastal Carolina at Arizona, 8pm ET on Tuesday (ESPN, WatchESPN)
Game 3 (if necessary): Arizona at Coastal Carolina, 8pm ET on Wednesday (ESPN, WatchESPN)
All CWS games are played at TD Ameritrade Park, which opened in 2011 and replaced legendary Rosenblatt Stadium. TD Ameritrade Park has proven to be pitcher friendly over the years. There's plenty of room in the outfield for hits to fall in, but it takes some real power to clear the fence for a home run.
Here are eight things to know about the 2016 CWS Finals.
1. The 2016 CWS bracket.
Eight teams qualify for the CWS each year, and they play a double-elimination tournament until only two teams remain. Those two teams then play a best-of-three series for the national championship.
Arizona beat Miami, lost to Oklahoma State, then beat Oklahoma State twice to get to the Finals. Coastal Carolina beat Florida, lost to TCU, then beat TCU twice to advance to the Finals. Here is the full 2016 College World Series bracket, via Wikipedia:
By the way, because Coastal Carolina beat TCU to advance to the Finals on Saturday, Cubs ace Jake Arrieta, a TCU alum, has to get a tattoo of the Chanticleers logo. He lost a tattoo bet to Coastal Carolina alum and Cubs teammate Tommy La Stella.
2. Arizona has four nationals championships. Coastal Carolina has zero.
Arizona has long been a college baseball powerhouse. They've been to the NCAA postseason 34 times overall and the CWS 17 times since 1954. The Wildcats have four national championships (1976, 1980, 1986, 2012) and have been the runner-up three other times (1956, 1959, 1963).
Coastal Carolina, on the other hand, had never qualified for the CWS before this season. They advanced to the Super Regionals only twice (2008, 2010) in their history before this season. Coastal Carolina is very much a program on the rise. The Wildcats are grizzled vets.
3. Coastal Carolina went into the CWS with better odds than Arizona.
Despite Arizona's historical dominance, the oddsmakers gave Coastal Carolina a better chance to win the CWS this year. Here are the odds to win for all eight teams before the start of the CWS, via Vegas Insider:
Florida Gators 9/5
Miami, Fl. Hurricanes 5/1
Oklahoma State Cowboys 5/1
Texas Tech Red Raiders 7/1
TCU Horned Frogs 7/1
Coastal Carolina Chanticleers 8/1
Arizona Wildcats 12/1
UCSB Gauchos 16/1
Needless to say, both Coastal Carolina and Arizona overcome some long odds to reach the CWS Finals. Neither was a favorite going in.
4. Coastal Carolina has a huge power advantage.
Following Saturday's victory against TCU, Coastal Carolina now leads NCAA Division I with 53 wins. They also lead the nation with 95 home runs. Mercer (93) was the only other school to go deep 90+ times in 2016. The Chanticleers have four players with 15+ homers on the season:
- Senior third baseman Zach Remillard (19)
- Junior catcher/DH G.K. Young (17)
- Senior outfielder Connor Owings (16)
- Junior shortstop Michael Paez (15)
That said, Coastal Carolina has hit only one home run in five CWS games so far. Senior infielder Tyler Chadwick went deep in the team's win over TCU on Saturday. The Chanticleers lead all teams with 13 steals in Omaha though, so despite all that power, they're not a one-dimensional offense.
Arizona, meanwhile, has hit only 26 home runs this season. Senior outfielder Ryan Aguilar hit eight homers and junior third baseman/right-hander Bobby Dalbec hit seven. No one else hit more than four.
5. Arizona might be without their ace pitcher in the Finals.
Arizona ranked 26th in the nation with a 3.26 ERA this season while Coastal Carolina ranked 31st with a 3.46 ERA. There's not a huge difference in the pitching staffs overall, but, in a playoff setting, the pitching staff shrinks and each team leans on their very best arms.
The Wildcats have better rotation options than Coastal Carolina, though they might be without staff ace Nathan Bannister for the CWS Finals. The senior right-hander left Friday's start in the third inning with a forearm strain, and his status for the Finals is in question. Bannister had a 2.59 ERA in a Division I leading 142 1/3 innings this spring.6. Both pitching staffs are worn out.
Neither team has announced their Game 1 starter, but thanks to the grueling CWS schedule, both pitching staffs are probably weary. Both teams were off Sunday, and before that, Coastal Carolina played three games in three days while Arizona played three games in four days.
With Bannister out, junior southpaw J.C. Cloney is the leading candidate to get the ball for Arizona in Game 1 on Monday. He threw seven shutout innings against UC Santa Barbara on Wednesday and will be on regular rest in Game 1. Cloney had a 2.66 ERA in 101 1/3 innings this season.
Game 2 is where it will get interesting for Arizona, especially if Bannister can't go. Dalbec threw seven innings of one-run ball Saturday, so starting Tuesday isn't really an option. He could get the ball in Game 3 on short rest, if necessary. Junior righty Kevin Ginkel made a spot start and allowed one run in 5 2/3 against Louisiana-Lafayette in the Regionals and could be Arizona's Game 2 starter.
Coastal Carolina will have to wait until at least Game 2 to use staff ace Andrew Beckwith, if not Game 3. The junior righty, who had a 1.94 ERA in 111 1/3 innings this season, threw a complete game Friday. He would be on short rest in Game 2 and normal rest in Game 3. Freshman righty Jason Bilous is a candidate to start Game 1 for the Chanticleers. He had a 4.43 ERA in 44 2/3 innings in 2016.
Both teams figure to turn to their nominal No. 3 starter (Cloney, Bilous) in Game 1 Monday because their No. 1 starters (Bannister, Beckwith) are unavailable and their No. 2 pitchers (Dalbec, Andrew Cunningham) both started Saturday.
7. A total of 13 players were drafted out of Arizona and Coastal Carolina this year.
Seven Wildcats and six Chanticleers heard their name called during the 2016 First-Year Player Draft earlier this month. Here's the list of Coastal Carolina players:
| Zach Remillard ||3B||10th||296th|| White Sox |
| Mike Morrison ||RHP||27th||806th|| White Sox |
| Alex Cunningham ||RHP||28th||835th||Tigers|
| G.K. Young ||1B||31st||824th||Padres|
| Connor Owings ||2B||34th||1,019th||Diamondbacks|
Owings is the brother of D-Backs supersub Chris Owings. Connor was born with a non-functioning left kidney, and while he takes medication to treat the condition now, he will eventually receive a transplant from his mother Sherri. Despite that, Owings played in every single game for Coastal Carolina over the last three seasons.
Now here are the seven Arizona players drafted this year:
| Bobby Dalbec ||3B||4th||118th|| Red Sox |
| Zach Gibbons || OF ||17th||516th||Angels|
| Cody Ramer ||SS||19th||576th||Angels|
| Kevin Ginkel ||RHP||22nd||659th||Diamondbacks|
| Trey Griffey ||OF||24th||717th||Mariners|
| Nathan Bannister ||RHP||28th||837th||Mariners|
| Ryan Aguilar ||OF||31st||921st||Brewers|
Yes, Trey Griffey is Ken Griffey Jr.'s son. The Mariners selected Trey in the 24th round to honor his father even though he hasn't played baseball since middle school. Trey is a wide receiver for Arizona's football team.
8. Arizona has produced way more big leaguers.
As you would expect, Arizona has produced way more big league ballplayers than Coastal Carolina. A total of 242 Wildcats have been drafted and 80 have reached MLB. Among those 80 are Terry Francona, Kenny Lofton, Scott Erickson, Trevor Hoffman, J.T. Snow and Mark Melancon.
There are six former Arizona players on MLB rosters right now: Pirates closer Mark Melancon, Rockies catcher Nick Hundley, Yankees infielder Robert Refsnyder, Orioles outfielder Joey Rickard, Angels catcher Jett Bandy, and Mariners righty Donn Roach. Andy Burns and Steve Selsky are currently in Triple-A but made appearances with the Blue Jays and Reds, respectively, earlier this season.
Coastal Carolina, on the other hand, has seen only 77 players ever drafted, only 10 of whom have reached the big leagues. Kirt Manwaring, who played with three teams from 1987-99, is the most notable MLB player to come out of Coastal Carolina, though Tommy La Stella could give him a run for his money when it's all said and done.
Technically there is only one former Coastal Carolina player on an active MLB roster right now, and it's not La Stella. He's currently on the DL with a hamstring problem. Rays utility man Taylor Motter is the only Chanticleer on a big-league active roster at the moment.