For several years, Vanderbilt has had the reputation of being "the best team never to make the College World Series." Those ghosts are gone now, after Vanderbilt swept Oregon State to reach Omaha for the first time.
And now that they're there, the Commodores are primed to win.
First, a shout-out to the California Golden Bears, who have kept the College World Series from being the National Championship of the Confederacy. But the Bears will be gone quickly.
In the end, South Carolina will bring home another title.
The Gamecocks went through all the trials a defending champion faces and came out stronger for it. They went 19-6 in the SEC after a difficult 2-1 loss to Florida on March 26. They have the pitching depth and experience.
Michael Roth is the poster boy for the Gamecocks' growth. He was simply "a bullpen guy" in 2010, then won his only two starts in the College World Series. This season, Roth has a 13-2 record as South Carolina's Friday night starter.
Others can parse Cal's bullpen, Florida's rotation and Texas' OPS. This is about karma and firsthand observation.
Virginia was down to its last strike in the super regionals against UC Irvine. The Cavaliers trailed by one, had no one on base and appeared overmatched by Matt Summers' BBs. Three singles and a walk later, Virginia was headed to Omaha for the second time in three years.
That has been the Cavaliers' modus operandi all season: clutch hitting and stingy pitching (ace Danny Hultzen went No. 2 in the MLB draft to the Mariners). That's why they're a national-best 54-10. And that's why they'll become the first ACC team since Wake Forest in 1955 to win the CWS.
At the College World Series, pitching will win a championship.
But for which team? Florida? Vanderbilt? Virginia? Texas A&M? I'd put my safe money on the Gators and my gambling bucks on the Aggies.
Despite losing No. 2 starter Brian Johnson to a freak injury in the SEC tournament, Florida's young staff brings a 3.01 team ERA to Omaha. Sophomore Hudson Randall is 10-3 while freshman Kartsen Whitson is 8-0.
With their high-octane offenses, Texas A&M has two starters who each have sub-2.30 ERAs.
Don't be surprised if the Aggies get past defending national champion South Carolina on that side of the bracket. If they do, an arms race with the Gators looms in the final.