Coaching Confidential: SEC Coaches Pick College World Series Championship


Image credit: (Photo by Eddie Kelly/ProLook Photos)

The College World Series championship series is a matchup between two SEC programs, as Tennessee and Texas A&M are set to play for the national championship starting Saturday in Omaha.

With that in mind, there’s no one more qualified to break down the finals than other SEC coaches. After all, they spent all season competing against the Volunteers and Aggies. So, I reached out to more than a dozen of head and assistant coaches and asked them to pick a winner. They were granted anonymity in exchange for their candor in their picks.

The group provided a clear favorite.

SEC Coaches Predictions

Texas A&M2

Texas A&M’s Injury Situation Plays A Factor

Many of the coaches noted that Tennessee is fully healthy and playing as well as it has all season long. Texas A&M, meanwhile, is dealing with injuries to multiple key players.

The Aggies are 8-0 in the NCAA Tournament, but just in the last two weeks have lost All-American right fielder Braden Montgomery to a broken ankle and lefthander Shane Sdao, their No. 2 starting pitcher, to an arm injury. All-American outfielder Jace LaViolette is also dealing with a hamstring injury he suffered Monday and is less than 100%. Coach Jim Schlossnagle has also said DH Hayden Schott and catcher Jackson Appel are dealing with injuries of their own, though they have played through them throughout the CWS.

“It’s tough when your two best players aren’t feeling 100%,” one coach said. “One is out, and one is 50%.”

“Montgomery down, Sdao down, give the edge to Tennessee,” another coach said.

SEC Coaches Love Tennessee’s Offense

But the injury situation wasn’t the only factor for the coaches picking Tennessee. One cited the Volunteers’ powerful offense, which is led by All-Americans Blake Burke (.382/.453/.713, 20 HR, 11 SB) and Christian Moore (.385/.460/.816, 33 HR). They are averaging 9.2 runs per game this season and lead the nation in home runs with 178 (2.54 per game). Five Volunteers have hit at least 20 home runs this season, the first time any team in college baseball history has had that many 20-home run hitters on one team.

“I think the offense is too potent,” one coach said.

Which Team Has More Momentum?

Both Tennessee and Texas A&M are playing with plenty of momentum. A&M has swept through the NCAA Tournament despite its injuries. Tennessee did lose once in super regionals to Evansville but is 21-3 since the end of April. That run netted it both the SEC regular season title, chasing down Kentucky on the final day, and the SEC Tournament championship.

The coaches that cited momentum or current form both felt like it would be a close matchup but gave the edge to the Volunteers.

“It’s a toss-up, but Tennessee is playing so well,” one coach said. “It just seems like it’s their time.”

“Basically, came down to two of the three best teams all season,” another coach said. “So evenly matched it feels like a toss-up. A&M hasn’t lost a postseason game, I think they’re about to lose two.”

As overwhelming as the poll was in Tennessee’s favor, there were a couple votes cast for A&M and another coach laid out a path for the Aggies to win.

“Tennessee needs its pitching to hold up,” one coach said. “If it does, they dogpile. If not, they don’t.”

While the coaches were all generous in lending their opinions about who will win this weekend, a few did so between gritted teeth, as they aren’t eager to see their competitors win the ultimate prize.

“I would prefer both teams to lose,” one said after picking Tennessee.

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