Breaking Down How The Eight Teams In Omaha Were Built
Roster construction. Recruiting. Experience. Player development. All of these things go hand-in-hand for a coach to get a roster to the point that it’s ready to contend for a national championship, and even then you still need things to break right for you.
Here’s a comprehensive look at how all eight teams in Omaha were built, how they compare in terms of experience and what players had breakout seasons to get their respective programs here.
Almost 10 years ago—way back in 2013—UCLA stood atop the college baseball world after sweeping through the College World Series with five straight wins. That magical Bruins team, anchored by the likes of Pat Valaika and Adam Plutko, featured a grand total of zero transfers. The transfer portal? Five years away. Every single player started their collegiate career at UCLA, finished at UCLA and earned a ring in the process.
Now, that seems almost impossible in today’s game. While it’s not true of every CWS participant, the majority of teams have been able to supplement their rosters through graduate transfers or undergrad transfers. These pieces provide the final push a team needs to get over the finish line. Plus, some have proved particularly adept at finding gems that initially went the junior college route. Here’s a look at all eight teams remaining and how the coaches constructed their postseason rosters.
This is bucketed into only players that have made an appearance in the postseason thus far.
Starting with the pitching, you can see that Arkansas and Stanford have exclusively leaned on “homegrown” talent, developing them from when they first set foot on campus. The Razorbacks have the duo of Connor Noland and Will McEntire, while the Cardinal got eight-plus innings from each of Quinn Mathews, Ryan Bruno, Brandt Pancer and Drew Dowd over the tournament thus far.
On the other side of things, Notre Dame has anchored its staff with a pair of graduate transfers (22 innings between John Michael Bertrand and Austin Temple) while Oklahoma has supplemented the duo of Jake Bennett and Cade Horton with graduate transfer Trevin Michael alongside junior college product David Sandlin. Texas A&M has the highest percentage of undergrad transfer innings—all belonging to Micah Dallas (Texas Tech transfer), who totaled almost 10 innings pitched across a pair of starts.
Things spread out a bit more on the offensive side of things. Stanford remains atop, with just two at-bats from non-high school commits, while Notre Dame is right there with it thanks to a lineup filled with veterans.
Unsurprisingly, Texas A&M finds itself all the way at the other end of the spectrum thanks to a coaching change. Jim Schlossnagle scooped up three graduate transfers—Kole Kaler, Dylan Rock and Troy Claunch—as well as Arizona State’s Jack Moss. The Aggies, like many of the teams here, have also embraced the junior college route with three key pieces in their lineup coming via that path. Arkansas is another team that scooped up two important graduate pieces—Chris Lanzilli and Michael Turner.
Another way to look at roster construction is to consider experience. The following charts look—again filtered on players that have appeared this postseason—at the career innings pitched and at-bats by teams. This is a simplistic way to gauge which teams are veterans and which are newer.
For at-bats, this is filtered by hitters that had at least six-plus at-bats in the NCAA Tournament thus far.
One takeaway becomes very clear: Notre Dame is a veteran-laden team. On both sides of the ball, the Irish have an abundance of experience, and it has clearly paid dividends as they rolled through the Statesboro Regional and knocked off the No. 1 seed in the country. On the mound, it’s Bertrand and Temple that are two of the most experienced arms in the College World Series. They’ve accounted for 22 of the Irish’s 54 innings thus far and have over 500 collegiate innings under their belt.
Auburn and Stanford don’t sit far behind with a bevy of experienced arms. Most notably, Ole Miss sits in last by a healthy margin. The Rebels got hit with a plethora of injuries this year and leaned heavily on Hunter Elliott and Dylan Delucia in the first two rounds. The duo combined for 24 innings across four starts. Jack Dougherty, Josh Mallitz and Brandon Johnson all made two appearances apiece, but the pitching has stepped up this postseason despite being thinner than many teams.
Offensively, the Irish have four players with 500-plus career at-bats—Spencer Myers, Carter Putz, David LaManna and Jared Miller—and another four with 400-plus. The gap between them and Texas is slim, though, as the Longhorns have a balanced veteran group. Arkansas, unsurprisingly, comes up third—the Razorbacks reached into the portal with Lanzilli and Turner, their two most veteran players, while Brady Slavens, Robert Moore, Cayden Wallace and Jalen Battles all have at least two years of experience.
Bringing up the rear is Oklahoma. Former junior college transfer Tanner Tredaway and Peyton Graham are two prominent veterans, but John Spikerman, Kendall Pettis, Jackson Nicklaus and Wallace Clark have solidified a young, new core. How that’ll impact the Sooners in Omaha will be interesting to follow—they overcame an older Virginia Tech side to punch their ticket.
You don’t just get to Omaha on the back of new transfers or a lot of veterans, though. Teams need development from players as they grow that can step in to fill any departures. A golden example is the first hitter on this list: Notre Dame’s Jack Zyska. The Irish lost just one key piece from the 2021 squad and it was a big one—slugger Niko Kavadas—but Zyska has thrived with a 100-plus increase in at-bats. Without these leaps forward, some of these teams—see Texas A&M or Texas—might have had a much harder time getting to Omaha.
Not featured on the above table, which looked at the top five increases in OPS, are Texas’ Austin Todd, Silas Ardoin, Eric Kennedy and Trey Faltine. All four follow shortly after Campbell in the table and reflect how the Longhorns went from the 27th-ranked offense in 2021, per Massey Ratings, to the sixth-best this season.
The same goes for pitching. Replacing quality innings from upperclassmen can be difficult, but if your new or returning pieces can shoulder that burden then you’ll be in good shape. Here's two separate looks to try and capture that: First, pitchers that jumped into big roles and found success, followed by pitchers that improved in their former roles.
*Injury cut season short
Two newcomers stand out—Ole Miss’ Dylan Delucia and Arkansas’ Hagen Smith—but the other three went from throwing a combined total of less than 40 innings to all clearing the 65-inning mark. Connor Noland established himself as an ace for Arkansas, while Temple bounced back from injury and Lucas Gordon stepped up.
On the other side, what pitchers made the biggest gains year-over-year? It’s a top-five list—filtered by 50-plus innings in both seasons—and is highlighted by a pair from Stanford and Oklahoma.
John Michael Bertrand
Mathews, who has thrown 12 innings over three appearances for the Cardinal thus far this tournament, increased his innings thrown by 50% while lowering his ERA by three-and-a-half points. It’s been an excellent junior year leap for the California native, and teammate Alex Williams found similar success. For Oklahoma, meanwhile, Jake Bennett has doubled his workload and turned into a premium front-end guy in the rotation. Trevin Michael, meanwhile, has only gotten better despite jumping into the Big 12 from Lamar.