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State takes on unseeded Cal State Fullerton in 71st annual NCAA Division I Baseball World Series at Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb.

Saturday’s second game sends 4th seeded LSU against FSU, and Sunday has 7th seeded Louisville facing Texas A & M and 3rd seeded Florida squaring off against TCU

Arnie Leshin

By ARNIE LESHIN | June 17, 2017

The 71st annual NCAA Division I baseball World Series makes its first pitch Saturday, and you can’t be too hasty in checking off the team or teams who will hoist the championship trophy at Omaha, Neb.

Last year, Coastal Carolina made its initial appearance in the tournament and once in the Elite Eight there were seven other teams that ranked higher, but the South Carolina school stole the spotlight and carried off the trophy after turning back 2nd seeded Arizona in the best-of-three finals.

But it won’t be Coastal Carolina making the headlines this time. It did not win its Atlantic Sun Conference tournament and did not qualify for the 64-school field.

Florida was another choice to win it all last season, but the lone SEC team to win its super regionals went 0-2 at the World Series. The 3rd seeded Gators (47-18) return with two other SEC schools, but the consensus favorite is top-ranked Oregon State and its impressive 54-4 record.

The Ducks open the World Series against unseeded Cal State Fullerton (39-22), with the first pitch scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday. Unseeded yes, but Cal State is a program that has won four national titles and is always a threat to win another as it appears in the tournament for the 26th time, 17th at the World Series, same as 4th seeded Louisiana State (48-17).

Florida and its state-rival Florida State have made the tournament many times, but have always left frustrated, never winning it all. Now the unseeded Seminoles (45-21) are in for the 40th time, the most after Miami missed the field for the first time in 44 years. It will be their 21st time at the World Series, and the 10th time for the Gators.

For Oregon State and unseeded Texas A & M, it’s the fifth trip to Omaha. Also in the final field are 6th seeded Texas Christian (47-16) and 7th seeded Louisville (52-10), the Aggies for the fourth time and the Cardinals for the third time.

TCU is the first to make it four-straight here since North Carolina from 2006 to 2009. Not so for Cal State Fullerton, FSU and LSU, but other programs that had made it here four times in row are Arizona State, Miami, Oklahoma State, Southern California, and Texas, but none of them are here this time.

Following the Oregon State-Cal State Fullerton Saturday opener will be FSU-LSU at the scheduled start of 7 p.m.

The first round winds up Sunday. At 1 p.m., it’s Louisville-Texas A & M, at 6 p.m., Florida and TCU wind up the two days that will bring the winner’s and loser’s brackets of the double-elimination championships.

Plays continues Monday and Tuesday, with teams eliminated after losing twice, and the winners advancing. The best-of-three finals will be played June 27th and 28th. Last year, Coastal Carolina lost the opener to Arizona and won the next two.

It’s a quality final eight. The Pac 12 Ducks might be the team-to-beat, but they’ve got a tough task facing the Big West’s Cal State in their first test. In the same Bracket 1, LSU might have the edge over FSU, but the Seminoles arrived with 12 wins in their last 13 starts.

In Bracket II, The SEC Gators might be favored, but 6th seeded TCU of the Big 12 has been playing very well and is a formable opponent. Then there’s Louisville of the Big East favored over Texas A & M of the SEC, but the Aggies have twice come-from-behind to win its region and super regional.

No one gets a home field advantage here. Whoever gets hot could land on top of the heap, as did Coastal Carolina. There will be seven disappointing schools and one champion. Last year, Florida went two-and-out after losing to Texas Tech and Coastal Carolina.

USC has won the most championships, 12. LSU and Texas have won six, Arizona State five, Cal State and Miami four, and Oregon State won back-to-back in 2006 and 2007. But the Bayou Tigers haven’t hoisted the trophy since 1993, the Trojans since 1998, and Cal State since 2004.

Hopefully, the weather will bring sunny skies, comfortable temperatures, and no raining on the parade that could make for long delays before capacity crowds.

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