The 2013 College World Series Championship Series between UCLA and Mississippi State is set to begin in less than an hour from TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha. The Bruins and Bulldogs are both looking for their first national title in baseball, and the next step towards that goal is winning Game 1 tonight.
To get you ready for the finals, we’ll highlight some of the key players to watch from the Mississippi State dugout. These Bulldogs have led the way all season and should be fired up to carry MSU to the finish line. If UCLA is going to come out on top this week, the Bruins will have to find a way to shut down this cast of Starkville stars.
1B Wes Rea
Covering the bag at first for Mississippi State is Wes Rea, one of the newly crowned fan-favorites in Omaha. The sophomore from Gulfport, Miss. has been an integral part of the Bulldogs’ success at the CWS, hitting an astounding .462 with six hits and three RBIs in three games. Swinging a strong bat is nothing new for a guy of Rea’s size (6’5″, 272 pounds), but his abilities on defense make him a multi-tooled talent worth watching. Rea has a perfect fielding percentage so far in Omaha, and had one impressive dig on a sloppy throw to salvage MSU’s 5-4 win over Indiana in the ninth inning. If the Bulldogs are going to win their first NCAA Championship, Rea will be a major reason why.
RF Hunter Renfroe
While Rea has been swooping on the spotlight the last few weeks, the MSU player getting it done all year long was right fielder Hunter Renfroe. The First Team All-American boasts a season batting average of .355 to go with his 88 hits, 16 home runs and 65 RBIs. Renfroe’s power at the plate, coupled with his range of skills in the outfield, earned him a first-round pick by the San Diego Padres in the MLB Draft. And even though Renfroe has been less productive at the CWS (hitting just .250), he did have perhaps the biggest hit of the Bulldogs’ season, a 3-run homer versus Oregon State that helped clinch MSU’s spot in the finals. UCLA fans should be holding their collective breath every time Renfroe steps into the batter’s box.
RP Jonathan Holder
For as stellar as the Mississippi State offense has been, the bullpen has been equally as important on the long road to the CWS finals. Leading the charge for the Bulldogs on the bump has been Jonathan Holder, an All-American closer who—much like Rea—is a sophomore from Gulfport. Holder enters the championship series with a 1.24 ERA, 21 saves and 86 strikeouts in 50.2 innings of work, which shows just how dominant he has been. Holder recorded a save in each of his team’s three wins in Omaha, giving up only one hit and one walk along the way. By the time the Bruins get to Holder, they better already have the lead in hand. Otherwise, it could be another long summer stuck at 108.