About a month from now, college baseball will be back. The race to Omaha begins with a fairly quiet opening weekend, with most Power Five teams opening against lesser-known schools. However, there is one high-profile event set to kick off the season– the College Baseball Showdown.
The showcase, hosted at Globe Life Field, is set to feature some of the best teams from the area. SEC teams Arkansas, Missouri and Vanderbilt will face off against the Big 12’s Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas.
Five out of the six squads traveling to Arlington are ranked in the preseason top 25, with Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Oklahoma State and TCU all falling inside the top 15. Both Arkansas and Texas made last year’s College World Series, and Arkansas advanced to the semifinals before being eliminated by the future champion Ole Miss.
It just means more
Although most think of the SEC as a football conference, they have long dominated the baseball world as well. Out of the top 10 teams in the preseason rankings, six of them are SEC members. Conference play later in the year could prove to be a bloodbath as 12 of 14 SEC teams are ranked in the preseason top 50. Let’s see how Arkansas, Missouri and Vanderbilt stack up.
Arkansas comes into the 2023 season after a spectacular run last season, ending in a 46-21 record. The Razorbacks may not return a ton of their roster, but coach Dave Van Horn inked the number one signing class, featuring seven MLB Pipeline top 100 prospects. Arkansas may be unproven, but the team’s potential is limitless.
Not everyone can win in SEC baseball. Last year, Missouri was one of the teams that struggled to consistently win in conference play. The Tigers finished 2022 with a 28-23 record, and a 10-20 tally in SEC games. Additionally, the Tigers lost a few players in the draft. It could be another tough season for Missouri, but the College Baseball Showdown should prove to be a good litmus test for this squad.
Vanderbilt baseball has been dominant under Tim Corbin. Since he took the helm in 2003, the Commodores have missed the postseason only twice– both in his first three seasons. 2014 and 2019 saw the trophy headed back to Nashville. The resume speaks for itself, and playing into the Summer seems like a safe bet for Vandy. This year, three preseason All-Americans– Enrique Bradfield Jr, Thomas Shultz and Carter Holton– look to lead the team as it starts the 2023 campaign.
Big 12 Teams
Oklahoma State, ranked number 12 going into the season, is coming off of a 42-22 season. Last year’s edition of the team was already elite, and the Cowboys managed to keep most of their team intact. Headlining the returning players is two-way star Nolan McLean, who is back despite being drafted in the third round of the MLB draft by the Orioles. McLean recorded a .992 OPS at the dish while racking up nearly 14 strikeouts per nine innings out of the bullpen. Oklahoma State looks to head into 2023 with a hot start at the showcase.
2022 was a solid year for TCU, seeing them obtain a 38-22 record and make the NCAA Regionals. However, the team has done nothing but improve since last year. The Horned Frogs added a top 10 transfer class. Flamethrower Ryan Vanderhei joins the pitching staff and outfielder Austin Davis brings his baserunning prowess to the lineup. The preseason number 15 team looks to prove themselves against some tough competition in Arlington.
Texas looks to follow up a College World Series appearance in 2022 with a strong start to the season in the College Baseball Showdown. Last year, the Longhorns went 47-22. However, Texas has lost a ton of talent from next year, and this year’s squad is an unknown. There’s no better way to see what a team has than to pit them against some of the nation’s top championship contenders, which is how Texas will open the season in about a month.
Overall, the College Baseball Showdown should be an exciting event. It’s great to see collegiate baseball follow some of the models of college basketball, now known for exhilarating non-conference matchups to kick off the season.