by Kevin Stott | Maybe not as celebrated or hyped as the NCAAs football and basketball championships, the College World Series has just as much as stake and an equally compelling history.
Last year, Oregon State captured their second straight championship but the Beavers failed to even make the field this season as North Carolina, Miami (Fla), Florida State, Stanford, Georgia, LSU, Rice and Fresno State all made this double-elimination tournament in Omaha by advancing from the original 64-team field.
Caesars properties (Caesars Palace, Flamingo, Imperial Palace, Paris, Harrahs, Ballys, Harveys, Bills Gamblin Hall & Saloon and the Rio) has made ACC entrant North Carolina (5-2) the opening favorite to win it all with Miami (2-1), FSU (4-1), Stanford (6-1), LSU (6-1), Rice (7-1) Georgia (8-1) and Fresno State (20-1) following in their order of odds.
Bracket No. 1 play will begin on Saturday at 11 a.m. PT with FSU (-150, Caesars) facing Stanford followed by Miami (-240) versus Georgia at 4 p.m. Both games will be aired on ESPN.
On Sunday, Bracket No. 2 play gets underway as Rice (-260) and their stellar starting pitching staff of Berry (8-4), Ojala (5-0), Kelley (5-1) and St. Clair (10-2) faces upstart Fresno State an upset winner over Arizona State in the Super Regionals at 11 a.m. (ESPN) followed by top-seed NC (-115)getting more than it wants in its' opener against an offensive LSU team that scored 21 runs in a must-win game to get to Omaha in Sundays late game at 4 p.m. (ESPN2).
Earlier this month, the College World Series signed a 25-year deal to stay in Omaha. The agreement goes into effect in 2011 when the World Series moves to a new 24,000-seat stadium in downtown Omaha.
The tournament runs through June 24/25 with all games being televised on ESPN or ESPN2.