The 2019 College World Series begins Saturday with a pair of nationally ranked seeds taking on the two Cinderella teams of the NCAA baseball tournament.
Texas Tech, the No. 8 overall seed, faces a Michigan team that survived a regional with defending champion Oregon State and knocked off top seed UCLA in the super regional round.
No. 5 overall seed Arkansas is 5-1 in the postseason, and it enters Omaha, Nebraska, off a 2-1 super regional win over fellow SEC side Ole Miss.
The Razorbacks face Florida State, who beat Georgia twice in the Athens regional and overcame LSU in the super regional.
The Seminoles are trying to win the national championship for legendary head coach Mike Martin, who is retiring at the end of the season.
College World Series Saturday Schedule
Michigan vs. Texas Tech (2 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Florida State vs. Arkansas (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Games can be live-streamed on Watch ESPN or the ESPN app. Can Michigan, Florida State Continue Cinderella Runs?
Michigan and Florida State were two of three teams to win on the road in the super regional round.
The Wolverines and Seminoles are the only programs to be seeded third in their regionals to advance to Omaha.
Michigan received a bit of luck, as Oregon State was eliminated in two games by Cincinnati and Creighton.
But the Wolverines were deserving winners of the Corvallis regional, as they scored 40 runs over four games, including 17 in the clinching win over Creighton.
Michigan displayed its ability to win close games against UCLA in the Los Angeles super regional, as it had to grind out a one-run win in Game 1 and a two-run win in Game 3 to stay alive in the tournament.
The Wolverines’ first opponent in Omaha is a Texas Tech team that swept them during a three-game series in March, but Michigan head coach Erik Bakich noted the circumstances are different this time around, per 247Sports’ Zach Shaw.
“Totally different team,” Bakich said. He continued:
” That was a few months ago. Texas Tech was ranked 19th, and I remember [saying] that they’re much better than 19th-they’re a top-five team in the country. They were a preseason top-five team in the country and are really really good.
“But we’re a completely different team since then. And we’re confident right now, and that’s probably the biggest change in us. We have a little bit more of an identity of a team and how we need to play to play our best, and that’s loose.”
Florida State has not played its first College World Series opponent this season, but it is 4-1 against SEC teams in the NCAA tournament.
The Seminoles outscored Georgia 22-4 in two games at the Athens regional, and they swept LSU with a pair of close wins at the Baton Rouge super regional.
Florida State could be seen as the sentimental favorite since it is trying to win a title for its coach for the first time in his career.
While they are a known quantity from their wins over Georgia and LSU, the Seminoles are still embracing the underdog mentality, per Wayne McGahee III of the Tallahassee Democrat.
“We’ve been doubted for most of the season, and it’s really fired us up,” FSU junior Drew Mendoza said. “That mentality isn’t going to change no matter what. … We’re going to keep that underdog mentality the whole way.”
Top-10 Pick Jung Looking to Lead Texas Tech
If you are watching the College World Series with an eye on players who could make an impact in the majors, Texas Tech’s Josh Jung is a good star to begin with.
The No. 8 overall pick in the 2019 MLB draft is one of two first-round selections who will be on display in Omaha, with the other being No. 4 overall pick J.J. Bleday of Vanderbilt.
The Texas Tech infielder has 77 hits, 14 home runs, 56 RBI and a .342 batting average going into Omaha.
In the clinching game of the Lubbock super regional against Oklahoma State, Jung went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBI.
He is expected to make a similar impact Saturday against a Michigan team he had three hits against during their three-game series in March.
If he is able to set the tone in the middle of the Texas Tech order, Jung could help the Red Raiders earn a coveted spot in the championship series.
Texas Tech has made it to the College World Series in four of the past six years, but it has not been able to earn a berth in the best-of-three final series yet.
Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90. Statistics obtained from D1Baseball.com.