College World Series: #2 Stanford vs. Arkansas Preview & Prediction
On Saturday, June 18, the unseeded Arkansas Razorbacks will take on the #2 seed Stanford Cardinal in Omaha, Nebraska in Game 1 of a double elimination series for a shot at the College World Series title.
Stanford ace and Pac-12 pitcher of the year, Alex Williams, is likely to take the mound for the Cardinal in game 1 on Saturday despite his recent struggles. Williams allowed five runs through 4 2/3 innings in his outing against Texas State and followed that with a lousy 1 1/3 innings and 6 runs against UConn in the previous series.
Although they are the highest seed remaining in the College World Series, the Cardinal need not take for granted the holes they have had to climb out of to get to this point as such mistakes will eventually catch up to them. One can only fall behind so many times before a comeback becomes insurmountable.
As inconsistent as their pitching has been these playoffs, Stanford’s offense has not missed a beat. As a team, the Cardinal have a .311 batting average, .542 slugging percentage, and 117 home runs.
Credit: Pact-12 Networks
Braden Montgomery, a two-way player who throws 97 mph from the outfield and 91 mph off the mound, made the Freshman All-American second team as a switch-hitter with 18 home runs this season and a .297 batting average. Brock Jones, a top 30 prospect in this year’s MLB draft, bats .327 with a 1.134 OPS and 56 RBIs. To illustrate the firepower of Stanford’s offense, Jones’ .327 batting average ranks fourth on the team behind Carter Graham (.333), Tommy Troy (.347), and Brett Barrera (.355).
BA Credit: Pac-12 Statistics.
For the Razorbacks, catcher and clean-up hitter Michael Turner, who hit .311 in the regular season, has hit .407 this postseason with a .667 slugging percentage. Furthermore, leadoff hitter Braydon Webb has also seen a significant rise in his stats at the plate this postseason as he is hitting .296 with an on base percentage of .406 in just six games. Finally, third baseman Cayden Wallace is hitting .333 with an .833 slugging percentage as the three hole for the dangerous Razorbacks’ lineup these playoffs.
As for pitching, Connor Noland will likely take the mound for Arkansas in Game 1. The senior has a 3.86 era and was 7-5 in the regular season, but has been superb as of late. Additionally, Hagen Smith, Arkansas’ former starter and current closer, will play a significant role this series considering Stanford’s late-game offense was off the charts against UConn. Noland must put together another lengthy start to relieve some stress off of his bullpen and if he can do just that, Stanford may be in trouble in late-game scenarios considering Hagen Smith’s recent success in his new closing role.
Ultimately, Stanford will control its own fate and their offense will continue to shine. If the Cardinal pitching staff can regroup and dominant each game like they did in the regular season, Stanford will show the world why they deserve to be the #2 seed and advance to the championship series.
My prediction: Stanford sweeps.