College World Series field set: 5 top-8 seeds, including No. 1 Tennessee, head to Omaha

The eight-team field for the 2o24 College World Series is complete with NC State beating Georgia on Monday night to earn the final spot.

The Wolfpack will join three other ACC teams (North Carolina, Florida State and Virginia) and four SEC teams (Tennessee, Kentucky, Texas A&M and Florida) at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Neb.

What are the first-round matchups?

Friday: North Carolina vs. Virginia, 2 p.m. ET; Tennessee vs. Florida State, 7 p.m. ET

Saturday: Kentucky vs. NC State, 2 p.m. ET; Texas A&M vs. Florida, 7 p.m. ET

The curse of the No. 1 seed

Can Tennessee become the first No. 1 overall seed since Miami in 1999 to win the national title? The Volunteers head to Omaha with college baseball’s most frightening offense. They lead the nation with 173 home runs — 22 more than any other team — and have five regulars in the lineup with an OPS of at least 1.000.

Looking for a potential flaw? The pitching staff, while very good, lacks the elite No. 1 starter that we have seen on so many national championship-winning teams. Drew Beam is a solid veteran who has pitched in a ton of big games — including at the College World Series last season — but he has allowed more hits than innings on the season and hasn’t been at his best of late (nine earned runs in 8 1/3 innings in the postseason).

It will also be interesting to see if the Vols keep the Chris Stamos-AJ Causey combo for Game 1. It’s worked well for most of the season, but Stamos didn’t make it out of the second inning in the Regional (1/3 inning, one earned run versus Northern Kentucky) or Super Regional (1 1/3 innings, two earned runs versus Evansville). That followed five straight starts of pitching at least two full innings for the senior “opener.”

This team has plenty of options on the mound. It will be interesting to see how head coach Tony Vitello and pitching coach Frank Anderson deploy them on the sport’s biggest stage.

Cags on the big stage

We have been fortunate to watch some special college baseball players in recent years, but I’m not sure we appreciate just how good Jac Caglianone has been for the Florida Gators over the last two seasons. He was on the shortlist for best hitters in the nation last year as a sophomore and has made a significant leap as a junior. His home runs have stayed the same (33 each season) while his slash numbers have improved from .323/.389/.738 to .411/.523/.860. His strikeout-to-walk ratio has flipped from 58 strikeouts and 17 walks in 2023 to 25 and 52 in 2024. Oh, have we mentioned he’s also a starting pitcher who throws in the high 90s and has 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings?

Cags struggled at the plate in the 2023 CWS, going 5 for 26 with two home runs during the Gators’ march to the championship series. The guess is he will be far more productive in his final go-round in Omaha.

(Photo: Saul Young / News Sentinel / USA Today)

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