A look at the best college baseball teams in the nation
1. Vanderbilt (51–21, 17–13 SEC)
2. TCU (48–18, 17–7 Big 12)
3. Virginia (53–16, 22–8 ACC)
4. Oklahoma State (48–18, 18–6 Big 12)
5. North Carolina (35–27, 15–15 ACC)
6. South Carolina (44–18, 18–12 SEC)
7. UCLA (25–30–1, 12–18 Pac-12)
8. Arizona State (33–24, 19–11 Pac-12)
Tracy Smith, the Indiana mastermind, comes to the desert and inherits a deep cupboard of talent. All three weekend starters are back on the mound, including lefty juniors Brett Lilek (4–5, 2.68) and Ryan Kellogg (8–3, 3.76), and fireballing bullpen stud Ryan Burr (3–3, 3.27, 12 saves) will back them. Last year’s youthful batting order has seven starters back.
9. Florida (40–23, 21–9 SEC)
10. Louisville (50–17, 19–5 AAC)
Dan McDonnell’s troops have become Omaha veterans. He’ll have All-America candidates in Kyle Funkhouser (13–3, 1.94) and Anthony Kidston (9–1, 3.40) in the rotation, along with Josh Rogers (3–3, 3.63), who started in the postseason. Double-play combo Zach Lucas (.270) and Sutton Whiting (37 SBs) will team with OF Corey Ray (.325) to wreak havoc on the basepaths.
11. Houston (48–18, 14–9 AAC)
This is a dangerous team. A few roles need to be filled in the bullpen, but beyond that, all three weekend starters are back, led by All-America candidates Aaron Garza (9–5, 2.92) and Jake Lemoine (6–8, 2.87). Leadoff hitter Kyle Survance (.308, 31 SBs) is one of the most exciting players in the country and teams with Justin Montemayor (.298) for a good one-two offensive punch.
12. Texas Tech (45–21, 14–10 Big 12)
Tim Tadlock has something special brewing in the panhandle. His Raiders return their two wins leaders in LHPs Dylan Dusek (8–0, 1.94) and Cameron Smith (8–3, 2.79) and 11 of their 16 saves in the bullpen. Plus, Quinn Carpenter brings his mid-90s heat to campus. Tech features the best infield in the country with SS Tim Proudfoot (.309) and 2B Bryant Burleson (.272).
13. LSU (46–16–1, 17–11–1 SEC)
14. Rice (42–20, 23–7 C-USA)
It’s an ominous sign for opposing batters when Wayne Graham has a stocked staff. Junior lefties Blake Fox (12–0, 1.46) and Kevin McCanna (8–3, 2.69) will team with All-C-USA flinger Jordan Stephens (8–4, 2.43 in 2013), who missed nearly all of 2014. The offense loses four of the top five hitters, but seniors John Clay Reeves (.317) and Ford Stainback (.258) are experienced leaders.
15. Nebraska (41–21, 18–6 Big Ten)
Nothing makes a coach smile like experience. Darin Erstad has a senior-heavy team for 2015, including returning pitchers Chance Sinclair (9–1, 2.15), Kyle Kubat (5–2, 4.55) and Josh Roeder (12 saves) and top hitters Blake Headley (.323) and Tanner Lubach (.282). Also watch for a pair of dynamos in OF Ryan Boldt (.311) and SS Wes Edington, who missed 2014 with an injury.
16. Stanford (35–26, 16–14 Pac-12)
Try to look surprised, but the Cardinal will again feature numerous blue-ribbon hurlers. A full 100 percent of last year’s starts and 90 percent of their innings pitched from last year come back, led by sophomores Cal Quantrill (7–5, 2.68), Brett Hanewich (4–4, 3.17) and Chris Viall (2–3, 4.74), along with wins leader John Hochstatter (10–3, 3.36). Only three returning starters are behind them, but the No. 8-ranked incoming class will help.
17. Mississippi State (39–24, 18–12 SEC)
18. Loyola Marymount (32–24, 17–10 WCC)
Yes it’s true — the hearts of the Lions will be big this year. The pitching staff got a few shots of adrenaline as third-round MLB draftee Trevor Megill returns, joining his incoming brother Tylor Megill to provide a pair of lively arms and big bodies. Friday ace Colin Welmon (10–2, 2.37) also returns. Freshmen All-Americans Austin Miller (.374, 25 SBs) and David Fletcher (.329, 17 SBs) were the top two hitters last year.
19. Ole Miss (48–21, 19–11 SEC)
Yes, there were some big losses to the roster, including every .300-plus hitter in the order and staff horse Chris Ellis. But Christian Trent (9–0, 2.05) and Sam Smith (5–4, 3.61) return to the rotation. Power-slugging Sikes Orvis (.294-14-53) will team with J.B. Woodman (.298, 10 SBs) and Errol Robinson (.294) to reload the offense. Watch for slick-fielding freshman Tate Blackman, a 20th-round Brewers draftee.
20. Cal State Fullerton (34–24, 14–10 Big West)
21. Florida State (43–17, 21–9 ACC)
We don’t usually see the Seminoles this far down, but there was a small exodus from 2014. The offense still has All-American D.J. Stewart (.351-7-50) and mercurial Ben DeLuzio (.281, 16 SBs), but they are the only returnees hitting better than .268. Four-year guys like Mike Compton (7–3, 3.23), Billy Strode (2–1, 2.62) and Bryant Holtmann (5–1, 3.68) will be the building blocks of a retooled pitching staff.
22. Oregon State (45–14, 23–7 Pac-12)
The Beavers need to re-dam the stream and will rely heavily on a top-flight recruiting class that features five drafted players. Andrew Moore (6–5, 2.77) assumes the Friday role and will have Jake Thompson (3–2, 4.25) and Zack Reser (5–0, 1.71) behind him. There will be strength up the middle with CF Jeff Hendrix (.351), C Logan Ice (.250), 2B Caleb Hamilton and SS Trever Morrison.
23. Texas (46–21, 13–11 Big 12)
24. Maryland (40–23, 15–14 ACC)
The Terrapins make the move from the ACC to the Big Ten confident and loaded for another postseason run. Most of the arms corps returns, so losing ace Jake Stinnett won’t be hard to overcome. Mike Shawaryn (11–4) and saves ace Kevin Mooney (13 saves) lead a deep, experienced staff. Seven starters are back in the order, led by top bat Brandon Lowe (.348) and Jose Cuas (.279-5-42).
25. UC Santa Barbara (34–17–1, 12–12 Big West)
The Gauchos are still steaming over their NCAA at-large snub, despite finishing just one spot lower than Fullerton. Well, revenge starts with All-America hurlers Justin Jacome (8–2, 2.61) and saves ace Dillon Tate (12 saves, 1.45 ERA). Offensively, Robby Nesovic (.325) and speedsters Peter Maris (.272, 16 SBs) and Andrew Calica (.310, 10 SBs) should keep the pressure on.