COLUMBIA — Is it too early to book those hotel rooms in Omaha for the 2017 College World Series?
Coastal Carolina may still be celebrating its first national championship, but it’s never too early to look ahead, as a pair of national baseball publications did this week. And both have South Carolina in their very — very, very, very, very — early forecast for the College World Series in 2017.
Baseball America’s Ted Cahill writes that if South Carolina can find some offense to make up for the departures of Gene Cone, Dom Thompson-Williams and Marcus Mooney, “it has the pitching staff necessary for a deep postseason run.” Clarke Schmidt, Adam Hill, Tyler Johnson and Wil Crowe will provide USC with another stout rotation capable of extending the season into June.
Cahill’s other seven preseason Omaha favorites: East Carolina, Florida, Florida State, Long Beach State, LSU, Oregon State and TCU. He lists Clemson among his “eight more for the super regionals.”
Mike Rooney, a writer for the website Perfect Game, also has the Gamecocks among his eight favorites to reach Omaha in 2017. Head coach Chad Holbrook “orchestrated one of the nation’s best turnarounds in 2016,” he writes, and incoming freshman Carlos Cortes could give USC a middle-of-the-lineup bat to offset some of its losses in the lineup.
Rooney’s other seven Omaha favorites are Florida, TCU, LSU, Florida State, Oregon State, Vanderbilt and North Carolina State. He also lists Clemson along his next eight super regional teams.
Given the wealth of pitching South Carolina will have available in 2017, Omaha projections are hardly outlandish; if anything, the surprise was that this past year’s team got as close to the College World Series as it did. On paper, 2017 has always loomed as USC’s best chance to return to Omaha for the first time since 2012.
All this comes with a caveat, of course. Coastal Carolina was ranked No. 23 in the Baseball America preseason poll, and wasn’t an “eight for Omaha” choice this time a year ago. Neither was runner-up Arizona, picked to miss the NCAA Tournament altogether. Cahill points out that he picked just two CWS teams correctly for this season — Florida and Miami — so don’t wager the house on all this just yet.
But, just in case you’re tempted to make travel arrangements: the 2017 College World Series runs June 17-28.