First-round picks pepper rosters of eight teams in tourney beginning Saturday
By Cash Kruth
OMAHA, Neb. -- The eight teams remaining in the NCAA Tournament didn't reach the College World Series by accident.
Sure, luck always is involved and sometimes needed -- especially in the 16-inning marathon in which Texas Christian outlasted Texas A&M to reach Omaha. But talent, clutch hitting and pitching usually trumps all.
Baseball fans will see their fair share of talented arms in the 2015 College World Series, which begins Saturday at TD Ameritrade Park.
Play opens Saturday with Arkansas facing Virginia at 3 p.m. ET and nationally ranked No. 4 Florida and No. 5 Miami squaring off at 8 p.m.
Sunday's action pits No. 2 Louisiana State against No. 7 TCU at 3 p.m., while the nightcap features Vanderbilt and Cal State Fullerton at 8 p.m.
"It's a great honor to be here, because you know you're surrounded by seven other tremendous teams that all could tell the story of their journey here," LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. "The trials and tribulations during the season, we've all had them. For these eight teams to emerge and to be here, they've all earned their way here, and I would expect nothing but great baseball every ballgame out there."
All eight teams feature players who were taken this week in the Draft.
Vanderbilt has three first-round selections in No. 1 overall pick shortstop Dansby Swanson and right-handers Carson Fulmer (No. 8, White Sox) and Walker Bueller (No. 24, Dodgers), while Arkansas outfielder Andrew Benintendi (No. 7, Red Sox) was named the Dick Howser Trophy winner, college baseball's top honor.
LSU shortstop Alex Bregman (No. 2, Astros) and Florida shortstop Richie Martin (No. 20, A's) also were first-round picks. Miami left-hander Andrew Suarez (Giants), LSU outfielder Andrew Stevenson (Nationals), Cal State Fullerton right-hander Thomas Eshelman (Astros) and TCU lefties Alex Young (D-Backs) and Tyler Alexander (Tigers) were second-round picks.
While Saturday's games -- in which Arkansas right-hander Trey Killian (ninth round, Rockies) starts the opener with Suarez going in the nightcap -- should be compelling, it's difficult not to look ahead to Sunday's nightcap, which pits Cal State Fullerton's Eshelman against Vanderbilt's Fulmer.
Fulmer, a 6-foot, 195-pound right-hander, is 13-2 with a 1.82 ERA in 17 games, striking out 152 batters in 114 innings. Eshelman, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound righty, is 8-5 with a 1.58 ERA in 18 games (17 starts), including five complete games.
That matchup is just one of many potentially thrilling games in Omaha.
"The other seven teams out here, this is going to be very competitive," Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "We've played some teams that are out here, and we know how talented they are. It should be a great couple weeks of baseball. We just feel fortunate that we're here."
Cash Kruth is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @cashkruth. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.