The Men’s College World Series begins Friday in Omaha, bringing eight elite college baseball programs together to determine a national champion. This year’s field is stacked, as several preseason top-10 teams made the CWS.
For those romantic about baseball (and how can you not be?), Omaha also gives the non-MLB prospects a chance to become legends over the next 10 days. Schoch himself paved the way for his current career as a college baseball personality and analyst after performing well in the 2021 postseason for Virginia and going viral thanks to entertaining postgame interviews.
“I was gonna be a licensed insurance agent serving the Wilmington, North Carolina area,” Schoch said. “That was my post-career plan.”
The College World Series offers excitement for the athletes and fans, and with the NFL, NBA, and NHL seasons concluded, the game-by-game drama of the College World Series gives sports bettors more markets to check out during a relatively light time of year in the sports world.
Wake Forest is the team to beat
Wake Forest earned the No. 1 seed in the tournament, and the Demon Deacons are 5-0 this season in NCAA Tournament play. They’ve won the five games by a combined score of 75-16, looking every bit the part of a potential national champion. The Demon Deacons are the betting favorite (+220 on BetMGM, +225 on Barstool Sportsbook and BetRivers, +235 on Caesars Sportsbook, +240 on FanDuel, and +270 on bet365 and DraftKings) to win the national championship across multiple mobile sportsbooks.
“This is a team that hasn’t had a losing weekend all year,” Teddy Cahill, a national writer for Baseball America, told Sports Handle. “Their pitching staff has been the best pitching staff in the country. They have a really powerful offense.”
The Demon Deacons lead the country with a team ERA of 2.84, and they have incredible pitching depth. Rhett Lowder, Josh Hartle, Sean Sullivan, and Seth Keener have all started at least seven games and dominated opponents throughout the year, as all four guys have tossed at least 60 innings and all have ERAs below 3.00. The Demon Deacons’ pitching lab gets some of the credit for the success on the mound.
Brock Wilken (30 home runs) and Nick Kurtz (24 home runs) headline the team’s powerful lineup. Wake Forest opens its College World Series on Saturday against Stanford, and the Demon Deacons are a -235 moneyline favorite on FanDuel.
Assessing other contenders
The betting market suggests No. 5 seed LSU is as capable as any team of winning the national championship, as the Tigers’ national title odds are as low as +300 on Barstool Sportsbook. The Tigers are led by ace pitcher Paul Skenes, who has a 1.77 ERA and 188 strikeouts across 107 innings pitched.
“They were preseason No. 1 for a reason,” Cahill said. “They have the best pitcher in the country. They have arguably the best hitter in the country in Dylan Crews.”
Crews reaches base in an absurd 57% of his at-bats, leading LSU in hits with 97 and walks with 61. The Tigers are dangerous, and Skenes’ arm is unmatched.
LSU was Cahill’s preseason pick to win the championship, and he still believes in the Tigers’ chances.
“I’m not backing off my preseason pick, but … I fully understand why Wake is the betting favorite,” Cahill said.
Paul Skenes' Ridiculous Stuff.
If you ever wondered what an MLB ace would look like pitching against college kids…well…this is pretty much it. pic.twitter.com/W03QoXLfzo
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 11, 2023
Florida is another top contender, with championship odds hovering near +400. Caesars Sportsbook lists the Gators, who won their series with SEC peer Tennessee in the regular season but haven’t played LSU yet this year, at +400 to win it all.
Like Wake Forest and LSU, the second-seeded Gators do everything well. They’re ranked in the top 35 nationally in both team ERA and runs per game.
Virginia seems to be flying under the radar despite a tremendous season, and the Cavaliers have fluctuating odds across sportsbooks. DraftKings lists UVA at +450 to win the national title, the same odds as Florida. Barstool Sportsbook, however, has Virginia at +700 to win the CWS.
The Cavaliers have elite hitters in their lineup, including MLB prospects Kyle Teel and Jake Gelof, the program’s all-time leader in home runs and RBIs. UVA scored 26 runs over the final two games of its Super Regional to take down Duke.
“No matter who’s on the mound, they have a way to scrape runs across,” Schoch said.
Their pitching staff is among the most consistent in the country (Virginia’s 3.77 team ERA ranks fourth nationally), even if the top-end talent doesn’t draw headlines as much as the guys from Wake Forest and LSU. The Cavaliers are led by head coach and Omaha native Brian O’Connor, who is one of the four players from Creighton’s 1991 College World Series team depicted in a statue outside Charles Schwab Field Omaha, home of the CWS. He led UVA to a national title as a coach in 2015.
Virginia opens its tournament Friday at 7 p.m. against Florida. DraftKings lists the Gators as a -135 favorite.
“They are in for a tough first game having to face Paul Skenes and LSU, but even if they lose that matchup, they have the pitching depth to make a run after that,” Ziefel told Sports Handle.
LSU is a -190 moneyline favorite over Tennessee on DraftKings. The two teams with die-hard fans will meet Saturday night.
“I cannot wait to see that game,” Schoch said. “I think that game will probably get the most attention in the first round.”
Group of underdogs
TCU, Stanford, and Oral Roberts round out this year’s event.
TCU is red hot, having won 11 consecutive games. The Horned Frogs are favored over Oral Roberts in their opening game, and their national title odds sit around +800 at most mobile sportsbooks. They were just 31-22 before going on their winning streak.
Stanford battled past Texas in a Super Regional to advance to Omaha, and the Cardinal have a potent offense to go with ace pitcher Quinn Matthews. A lack of rotation depth may keep Stanford from contending for a title.
— Stanford Baseball (@StanfordBSB) June 13, 2023
“They have an offense that is capable of scoring a bunch of runs, but do they have enough pitching beyond Matthews to keep up?” Cahill said.
The Cardinal have title odds around +1000 across mobile sportsbooks.
Oral Roberts represents this year’s Cinderella, with odds of +3000 to win the championship on FanDuel. The Golden Eagles were a four seed in a regional, which they won before beating Oregon in a Super Regional to make it to Omaha. Ziefel liked Oral Roberts to defeat Oregon last week, but he’s not bullish on the Golden Eagles’ chances in Omaha.
“I don’t see a path for any underdogs to make a run, as this is one of the most loaded CWS fields we’ve ever seen,” Ziefel said. “You have the preseason No. 1, 2, 3, 5, 10, and 16 making up six of the eight teams. Teams like TCU and Oral don’t have enough depth to run through that gauntlet.”