A long and hard-fought season across the nation has come down to this: the final eight teams laying it all on the line in the 2016 College World Series in Omaha, Neb. Plenty of newly drafted Major League prospects were on display in the opening day of games at Omaha's
A long and hard-fought season across the nation has come down to this: the final eight teams laying it all on the line in the 2016 College World Series in Omaha, Neb. Plenty of newly drafted Major League prospects were on display in the opening day of games at Omaha's TD Ameritrade Park, giving fans of big league teams a chance to see their squad's newest additions in action on the collegiate game's biggest stage.
Game 1: Oklahoma State 1, UC Santa Barbara 0
In the first game in Omaha, Oklahoma State handed the ball to its ace. Once he had it, Thomas Hatch did the rest.
The 6-foot-1 junior right-hander, a third-round pick by the Cubs, pitched like a top-of-the-Draft talent. Slightly erratic early, he recovered to turn in a masterpiece -- a five-hit shutout, with one walk and seven strikeouts -- as the Cowboys opened the College World Series with a 1-0 win over UC Santa Barbara.
"I was missing high arm-side, and when I tried to get the ball down, I was spiking fastballs, which was unusual," Hatch said. "But I was able to make adjustments ... I don't know how many in a row I went through, but I was able to calm down and make the pitches I needed to."
Hatch is now riding a 26-inning scoreless streak, and the past 23 of those innings have come in the NCAA Tournament. And yet, Hatch was nearly matched pitch for pitch.
Santa Barbara right-hander Shane Bieber, himself an early-round Draft pick, turned in a complete-game performance of his own. The 6-foot-3 junior, who was selected in the fourth round by the Indians, threw eight innings of one-run baseball, scattering six hits and striking out six without a walk.
"I don't see them making any adjustments in particular throughout the game," Bieber said. "I think it was just the fourth inning where I lost my sharpness. I compounded multiple mistakes in a row and they took advantage of it, hit the ball hard, and that was the game."
Oklahoma State pushed across the lone run of the game in the fourth inning, which they opened with three straight singles. Third baseman Garrett Benge -- a junior college transfer who was drafted by Cleveland in 2015 but did not sign -- delivered the RBI hit, and Hatch made it stand up.
The pitchers' duel produced a two-hour, 20-minute game -- the shortest in the College World Series since 2012.
Game 2: Arizona 5, Miami 1
Nathan Bannister and the Arizona Wildcats have made a habit of proving people wrong this year.
Saturday night proved to be no exception, as Arizona rode a dominant start from its senior to upset the third-ranked Miami Hurricanes, 5-1.
Bannister, who was Seattle's 28th-round Draft choice, tallied 11 strikeouts to tie his career high and stranded nine Hurricanes while allowing just one run over seven innings. He threw 118 pitches to lead the Wildcats, who feature just one player with College World Series experience, to a statement victory over a powerful Miami squad making its second straight CWS appearance.
"Lately, he's located the fastball so well, he didn't really need the curveball much," Arizona coach Jay Johnson said of Bannister. "But he needed more arsenal, especially against these guys. This was a team that required a little more."
The senior from Peoria, Ariz., struck out seven Miami hitters looking, and he tallied four punchouts when the Hurricanes had runners in scoring position. Right fielder Zach Gibbons, the Angels' 17th-round Draft choice, and center fielder Jared Oliva paced the offense with two RBIs each.
On a hot Nebraska night that resembled an evening in the Arizona desert, the Pac 12 representatives got off to a blazing start with three first-inning runs. Second baseman Cody Ramer (Angels' 18th-round pick) led off the game with a walk, and then Gibbons was hit by a pitch to put two runners on right away. Miami starter Michael Mediavilla then hit JJ Matijevic to load the bases before following with a walk to Kyle Lewis to bring in the opening run. A two-RBI double by Oliva staked the Wildcats to an early 3-0 lead.
That proved to be all the run support Bannister would need.
The righty used his curveball and circle change effectively all evening to keep the Hurricanes off balance -- especially in clutch situations -- while completing his fifth straight start with at least six innings while allowing three runs or fewer.
"The breaking ball just started working for strikes, and [Arizona catcher Cesar] Salazar did a great job of blocking it back there," said Bannister. "We just wanted to come out tonight and just really enjoy the moment and have fun and play baseball with our teammates."
Miami was able to get runners aboard in every inning from the second through the seventh, but pushed just one man across home plate against the Arizona starter.
Willie Abreu (Rockies' sixth-round Draft selection), Jacob Heyward (Giants' 18th-round pick) and Randy Batista led the way with two hits each for Miami. Zack Collins, one of the nation's top hitters and the No. 10 overall pick of the 2016 Draft by the White Sox, struck out twice as part of an 0-for-3 night.
• Oklahoma State, which remained undefeated in NCAA Tournament play, advances to the winners' bracket for its group, which includes four of the eight College World Series teams -- Oklahoma State, UC Santa Barbara, Arizona and Miami. The Cowboys play the Wildcats on Monday at 7 p.m. ET. The winner of that game would need to win just once more, against whichever team emerges from the losers' bracket, to make it to the College World Series finals.
• UC Santa Barbara falls into the elimination bracket with the 1-0 defeat, its first loss of the postseason. The Gauchos will face Miami in on Monday's opening game at 2 p.m. ET, with the loser of that game going home for good. To advance to the tournament finals, the Gauchos would have to win again after Monday's game, then beat the winner of the winners' bracket twice in a row.
• The second group of teams -- Texas Christian, Texas Tech, Coastal Carolina and Florida -- begins College World Series play. In the first of those games, at 3 p.m. ET, TCU takes on fifth-ranked Texas Tech in what is sure to be a hotly contested intrastate matchup. In fact, this will be the 164th meeting all-time and the second CWS opening game meeting in three years between the two Lone Star schools.
Texas Tech first baseman Eric Gutierrez, a 20th-round Draft choice of the Marlins, is the Big 12 Player of the Year and comes in to Omaha boasting a .326 average with 12 home runs and a conference-best 58 RBIs. Meanwhile, TCU third baseman Elliott Barzilli, the Astros' 29th-round Draft selection, has started all 63 games for the Horned Frogs and has posted a .352 average with four triples, seven home runs and 47 RBIs.
• In the second game on Sunday, No. 1 national seed Florida takes on Coastal Carolina at 8 p.m. ET. The Gators are determined to claim their first national title after falling a game shy of the tournament final last year, while Coastal Carolina shocked the college baseball world last week by knocking off LSU in the Super Regional final and punching its first-ever ticket to Omaha.
Florida will start right-hander Logan Shore, the 47th overall pick by the A's who has been the Gators' big-game pitcher throughout his three-year college career. Coastal Carolina third baseman Zach Remillard, a 10th-round Draft choice of the White Sox, has slugged 19 of Coastal Carolina's 94 home runs, which leads all Division I teams.
David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler. Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.